Don’t Settle for the Camera that Came with Your Smartphone

2013-08-01 15.10.18Your smartphone has a camera lens, a sensor, and a shutter, but it’s the software, the Camera App that makes it a camera.  All smartphones come with a stock Camera app, but there is so much more!  Here is an article by CNET on the 12 best Android camera apps around.  And, here’s an article from howstuffworks on 10 Great iPhone Camera Apps.

What is HDR

I just want to tell you about the one extra camera app that I use – it’s called Pro HDR.  No, HDR doesn’t stand for High Definition something … it stands for High Dynamic Range.  It is a special photographic technique intended for scenes that have a wide range of exposure needs.  A lot of light, and a lot of dark. 

The HDR technique takes 3 separate photos of these scenes at 3 different exposures.  This way it can get the perfect exposure for the light parts AND the perfect exposure for the dark parts.  It also takes a middle exposure.  When these three pictures are put together, you not only get a great exposure but also depth in the color.  I love taking HDR photos – they look so special.

Professional photographers actually take 3 different exposures manually and put them together later to produce HDR photos.  See some excellent examples here.

HDR on a Smartphone

To take an HDR photo with a smartphone, you just need an app that automatically takes the 3 exposures and puts them together.  On the iPhone with iOS 6 HDR is a simple on/off option on the stock camera app.  It takes the 3 exposures so fast, you don’t even know it.

On my Android phone, I downloaded the Pro HDR app – I think I paid $1.99 for it.  Now when I want a special picture, I just open the Pro HDR app instead of the camera app and take my picture that way.  I works slow enough that you can see the three exposures being taken.  In the examples below, I show an inside/outside picture taken with the stock camera app and explain the problems.  The last picture was taken with the Pro HDR app.


#1: taken with stock camera app, chose to set exposure on the copper kettle, scene outside window is washed out

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#2 taken with stock camera app, chose to set exposure to outside windows, copper kettle is too dark

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#3 taken with Pro HDR cameraapp, it took 3 exposures: 1 for outside, 1 for inside, and one medium, then put them together for perfect exposure and rich colors


If you want to learn more about making the most of your smartphone camera, look for Geeks on Tour at RV rallies and computer clubs where we teach our smartphone photography class.  You can also request a class for your group if you see we’ll be in your area.  Take a look at our Calendar and then fill out a request form.


8 replies on “Don’t Settle for the Camera that Came with Your Smartphone”

  1. I downloaded the HDR app but I can’t view the picture later. How do I get it into my photo stream of photos. There is no way to delete , etc. please give me a little more info as to how to use it and store-delete photos.

  2. With all do respect, I don’t know how you can call photo #3 the perfect photo. It is washed out with poor contrast.

    Photo #1 and photo#2 should have been combined giving a very sharp photo with brilliant colors.
    I know it is all in the software, but it seriously has to be reworked, IMHO.

  3. Just downloaded the app to my Verizon 4G lte Samsung Galaxy SIII . I have taken 3 pictures and I love it already. THANKS !!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Think I cancelled my comment unintentionally….
    I asked if you are planning any Escapade Seminars in AZ this coming winter? Would love to be able to attend one closer to our home.

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