First off, what is HDR, anyway? You’ve likely seen the concept all over the Web this year. It’s all the rage now that Adobe and Apple have made this once difficult-to-master photography trick as easy as pointing, shooting and… waiting—the software does everything else for you.
HDR (high dynamic range) imaging allows photographers access to a greater range of light levels between the darkest and lightest areas of an image. If you’ve ever taken a picture of a sunset over the mountains and bodies of water, you might notice that the area where the sun appears is very bright and washed-out, while the mountains and streams are very dark. HDR techniques can fix this and make the rock and water much more visible, while toning down the sun. When done right, and HDR’d image looks a lot more like what you can see with the naked eye.
On Wednesday, Apple released their highly anticipated 4.1 software update for the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4. The upgrade offers various features for all iPhone users, but you must either jailbreak your phone or own the latest iPhone 4 in order to take advantage of the new HDR photography option.
But, never fear. If you’re like me and own a 3G or 3GS, and you want to shoot HDR, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several.
The one I’ve used for this piece is called “Pro HDR.” It works for iPhone 3GS or newer, and can be purchased for $1.99 via the App Store. It’s not perfect, but for two dollars worth of smartphone software, it does the trick pretty well.
Below are three pictures depicting my MacBook Pro and part of my dining room. The first is overexposed, so that you can see the dining room. The second is underexposed, and while the dining room is very dark, you can easily make out what I have up on my screen. (Click any image for a larger version):
Using Pro HDR, I was able to combine the images and use the best parts of each, all right on my iPhone.
If I wanted to, I could also use Pro HDR to further edit the end result by manually adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation and other image elements.
All in all, I would recommend Pro HDR to casual users who want to improve the look for their “mobile uploads” folders on Facebook. If you’re looking to take particularly stunning photos, I’d suggest investing in a real camera that can’t make phone calls.