Jul 9, 2013

An Artistic HDR Look for Your Photos

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography combines multiple photos at different exposures to create a single photo with enough contrast that lighter areas and darker areas of the photo both look good. The iPhone has the ability to do with the included Camera app. There are also other apps, such as Pro HDR and True HDR that do a much better job of this.

Many photographers will use an HDR post-processing technique called tone mapping to achieve very artistic, even surreal looks for their photos. Often these photos can have painting-like qualities to them. However, to achieve a tone-mapped or even realistic HDR look has typically required the following:

  1. A PC or Mac, sometimes using an expensive app.
  2. Two or three photos of the same subject, taken one after another, preferably with a tri-pod. Some cameras, especially DSLRs, have the ability to do this automatically using a feature called autobracketing.

I use an app called Simply HDR on either my iPhone or iPad, to get a nice, tone-mapped look out of only one photo. Often I'll use that app on a photo I've already taken as HDR with the Camera app or with Pro HDR. Simply HDR comes with a large set of HDR filters to choose from, but with the ability for you to tweak the settings further after choosing a filter. I find that for a given photo, I'll experiment until I get the look I want. If you find yourself wanting to keep a set of tweaks, you can save that as a new filter for reuse later

Below are two photos of a waterfall at Falls Park in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. One I took with Pro HDR. The other is the same photo after using Simply HDR.

With Pro HDR
With Pro HDR
After Processing with Simply HDR
After Processing with Simply HDR

As you can see, the first photo is vivid, but realistic. The second photo has more of a painting-like quality to it.

I use Simply HDR in a number of photos that I post to Instagram, often in conjunction with Pro HDR. On Instagram you can find me as @tlatkins.


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