Google Photos can automatically create pictures that look like paintings! Professional photographers use this HDR technique all the time. Google Photos makes it available for the rest of us! This video will show you how.
When you’re taking pictures of pretty, outdoor places, you will often encounter a wide range of light. The shaded areas are dark, and the sun-drenched sky is bright. This is called a High Dynamic Range, and it requires special camera techniques to avoid overexposing the sun, and/or underexposing the shade. If you have an HDR setting on your camera – try it!
This picture was taken with my smartphone with the HDR setting Off:
Here is the same photo with the HDR setting On:
Pretty dramatic, don’t you think?!
Why the Galaxy S5 is the best!
I have a Samsung Galaxy S5, and it has the best HDR capability of any smartphone or tablet I have used. My iPad’s camera HDR setting will improve the picture, but nowhere near as much as the S5. Most camera HDR settings will not show you the difference until after the device ‘processes’ it. The Galaxy S5 shows you the difference, before you snap the picture. Just tap the place on the camera screen where you see the icon for HDR. If you don’t see such an icon, look in your settings. In addition to “HDR” it is also called “Rich Tone.” It is even available for videos!
The HDR setting is not available while using the front-facing lens, and I miss it! I love taking selfies, but I hate not having the HDR capability. I might just have to go back to asking strangers to take our picture!
Here’s another photo taken with the HDR option turned off:
And the same scene with the HDR option On:
Take a look on your smartphone’s camera. If there is an HDR setting – use it! Just remember it’s purpose … it’s to keep shadows and sunlight properly exposed. It doesn’t help indoor photos and should probably be left off while inside.
I love taking pictures. I have an expensive Canon T3i Digital SLR camera and I do still use it, but the percentage of pictures I take with my smartphone continues to grow. My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy S5, Jim has a Samsung Note 3, and I just gotta show you some of the pictures we’ve taken this month! Below each picture I’ve written a note about the phone’s feature that is being used.
We’ve been in some beautiful places this month, starting with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida; then a visit to the Denver Botanical Gardens during a Chihuly glass exhibit, and an evening at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, also in Denver. When we left Denver we traveled thru the Rocky Mountains; we hiked by Sundance in Utah, slept at a winery in Idaho, and headed to the Pacific Northwest. We stayed at a Thousand Trails park by the San Juan Islands and took some ferry rides, parked in a friend’s driveway on the Olympic peninsula and visited the Olympic National Park. And we took pictures of it all. Here are just a few taken with our smartphones.
Just a note to the professional photographers out there – I’m not suggesting that these pictures would be good enough for you! I am not a professional photographer, I’m just a traveler who likes to have lots of pictures for memories, and I want them to be as easy to take as possible. I also never print. These pictures might make decent 5X7 prints, but probably nothing larger. I view my pictures on the web, on a computer, and often just on the little screen of the smartphone. These look great there! I did take my Canon camera to Rialto beach and took a couple of photos with the telephoto (300mm) lens that could never be captured with the smartphone:
In case any of you reading this will be attending the FMCA Convention in Redmond, OR during August … we will be teaching our short smartphone photography workshop. You need to come to our table in the Convention info center before the rally begins to register for the class. See the Rally Program for further details.
We will also cover many of these photo-taking techniques in our weekly web-broadcast show about using smartphones and tablets. Check it out at GeeksOnTour.com/weeklyshow, and Follow us on our Google+ page to be informed of each new episode.
Your 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
#2 taken with stock camera app, chose to set exposure to outside windows, copper kettle is too dark
#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.