I was excited to see what HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities the iPhone iOS 4.1 update brought. I was excited to see that it required just one click to function properly and I was equally as excited to see how fast it worked. However, my initial test (below) left me feeling like they had forgotten to include the dynamic part of the HDR process.
So my initial tweets this morning reflected my reaction to the quick test above. This also prompted @big_eyebrows to send me a link to Gizmodo’s post on improving your iphone HDR photos. I appreciated the link, but Gizmodo’s post was really about making any HDR photo better and didn’t address the iPhone specifically, in my opinion. Their suggestions, hold still, focus, make sure the photo is HDR worthy and play around, are all good, but these rules apply to all HDR photo apps.
The Real Key To Better iPhone HDR Photos
So, as I was stopped at a traffic light on my way to the gym, I decided to see whether or not initial exposure had any impact on the iPhone HDR.
As you can see from this first test, letting the iPhone find it’s own automatic exposure produces an entirely different final HDR than forcing the camera to focus on the darkest portion of the image, the dashboard. So, I decided to try a few more tests. In each case, initial exposure had a definite impact on the final HDR.
In the test above, using the default focus didn’t produced and extremely underwhelming HDR. But both focusing on the darkest and lightest areas produce better results. In this case, the top example, focused on the darkest area, still left the windows overexposed. Again, focusing on the brightest area created a completley different result.
In the next example, focusing on the darkest area created the best HDR result.
All of the hints given in the Gizmodo article are good, but if you really want to make a difference in your iPhone HDR photos, the tests above seem to indicate that your initial exposure focus will have the most dramatic impact. Learning what settings require which initial focus will result in better HDR results from the iOS 4.1 update.
Let me know what your tests show.