Have you ever seen those photos on Instagram that look so vibrant and surreal and wonder how they are created? Usually, they are photographed with expensive DSLR cameras but today I am going to show you have to achieve similar results with your iPhone. The old saying is true, the best camera is the one you have with you. In today’s world we always have a phone on us and most phones today have amazing cameras built-in. I decided to make this tutorial to show you how to take stunning HDR photos on your iPhone, these techniques will work on most other smartphones as well.
What is HDR Photography?
HDR stands for high dynamic range and is simply a way of capturing all low lights and high lights of a scene in one single photograph. An example of this would be if you are taking a picture of a tree against a bright beautiful sky. If you just take a normal picture, one of two things usually happen. (a) You will get a good focus on the tree with nice detail but the sky will be blown out and too bright to pick up any color or cloud detail, or (b) the sky will be full of detail and color, but the tree will be dark will little detail.
This is where HDR photography comes in by taking a series of (usually 3) bracketed photos in various exposures, one normal, one overexposed, and one underexposed. The 3 photos are then merged together into one single photo. This technique will make the entire photo explode with color and detail in both the sky and the tree. Here is an example of a series of 3 bracket photos taken on an iPhone.
Now here is the problem. This is simple to do on expensive DSLR cameras, but smartphones for the most part are not set up for this. There are many apps you can download that will run filters over your existing photo’s to try and emulate an HDR photo, but for the most part, the results are not desirable. There is a simple way to take bracketed photos right on your iPhone or smartphone with the help of an app called ProHDR or ProHDR X if you’re using an iPhone 6/7 series. ProHDR is an all in one app that does it all, takes bracketed photos in different exposures and then merges them for you all with one click of a button. We are going to take it one step further and not use the final image it creates. Instead, we will only be using the 3 bracketed photos it produces and creating our own merged HDR photo on our PC.
Tools you will need to take HDR and bracketed photos on an iPhone.
- ProHDR App for iPhone or similar bracketing photo app.
- Photomatix software for PC (there is a free demo version)
- iPhone or Android Smart Phone.
- Tripod (recommended)
Before we begin I recommend using a tripod as the camera will be taking 3 images and they need to line up, any slight camera movement will cause ghosting and blurry images. You don’t need a fancy tripod, there are inexpensive ones available at Walmart for less than $40 and you pick up a smartphone adaptor mount to attach your iPhone to the tripod at most dollar stores.
Step 1: Mount your iPhone on the tripod and line up your shot.
Step 2: Launch the Pro HDR app and go to the settings. There are a few changes we need to make from the default settings. The main changes to the settings are (a) turn off “Auto Save Captured Image” and (b) set the save original bracketed photos to three. See the attached image for settings.
Step 3: Now press the shutter button on the phone and it will capture 3 bracketed images and automatically save them to your phone’s camera roll. When you close the app it will prompt you that you haven’t saved the merged photo. Just ignore it, we are going to create our own merged photo in the next step.
Step 4: At this point, you need to transfer the 3 bracketed iPhone photos you just shot to your PC. This can be done many ways. Just make sure you transfer them in original full resolution.
Step 5: Now the fun begins. We will take our 3 bracketed photos and merge them into one photo using Photomatix by HDRsoft. If you haven’t done so, download Photomatix from the HDRsoft Website. This will be a free trial version and will have limitations. Once downloaded launch the application. At the top left-hand corner select the option to “Load Bracketed Photos”. Browse to the location of your 3 bracketed iPhone photos you saved to your PC and load them. A dialogue box will appear, make sure the settings are matched to the diagram below. There are many options but for now, we will stick to some basic settings.
Once ready, click on the “align and merge to HDR” button this can take several minutes while it works its magic.
Step 6: Once the image is ready it will appear in the workspace. You can take time at this point to play with sliders and settings, however, there are many ready to go pre-sets on the right-hand side. Find a look that you like, then click the apply button. This will render your final image. Once complete, save the new HDR Photo that you created.
At this point, your photo will look great and you can print or share them as is, or you may want to take them a step further with some Photoshop tweaking. Here is an example of an HDR photo taken on an iPhone 6s. You can see the original iPhone bracketed photos and the final merged HDR Photo. Take notice of how detailed the sky is and all the wonderful detail in the old schoolhouse.
Things to consider when creating HDR Photos
When it comes to HDR Photography some people love it and some people very much dislike it. Sometimes the effects and color saturation are way overdone to the point the photo looks cartoonish. By my philosophy is that there is no right or wrong, after all it’s your photo and you are expressing yourself. If you like the end result, then the photo is perfect. Practice makes perfect! Continue trying different things, play with different angles and settings and you will find your own style.
I hope this article helped those looking to take bracketed HDR photos on your iPhone or smartphone.
Best USB-C Power Bank For Your 2018 iPad Pro
In this video review, I go over what I believe is the best USB-C power bank you can get for your new 2018 iPad Pro. One of the new features of the 2018 iPad Pro is its USB-C port, this new port supports fast charging. The charger included inside the box is pretty fast at 18 W but the 2018 iPad Pro does support even faster charging. I was in the market for a new power bank to use with my new iPad as well as many other devices I use daily, my wants were simple, I wanted USB-C with PD and a large capacity to keep all my devices running.
I already own a few USB-C compatible power banks however none of them supported fast charging or Power Delivery. PD for the most part in simple terms means it can charge larger devices such as laptops via USB-C. Not to mention many of the USB-C power banks on the market still have to be recharged by micro USB or a combination of micro USB and a second USB-C cable…and they can take up to 14 hours to recharge.
I decided to go with the Anker 30W PowerCore+ 26,800 mAh with USB-C PD, this package also included a USB-C cable and a 30 W PD charger. This power bank can charge at 30W and is powerful enough to charge some of today’s USB-C laptops and MacBooks. The included 30W charger can recharge the power bank in as little as 4.8 hours, and can also be used to charge USB-C devices directly such as USB-C smartphone or in my case a USB-C iPad Pro and because its 30W it will charge my iPad significantly faster than the included stock charger that comes with the 2018 iPad Pro. But what’s really nice is the power bank can charge my iPad Pro at 30W as well resulting in almost an hours difference than using the stock charger. This power bank also has 2 USB-A ports for charging using a standard USB cable. You can purchase an optional 3rd party case for it. It keeps all the accessories together in one convenient kit and if you have it packed in a camera bag or backpack keeps it and your other gear protected. Watch my YouTube review of the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 mah 30 Watt USB-C Power Bank with PD down below.
iPhone XS Max Smart Battery Case Review
If any of you are familiar with my YouTube Channel you know I am what I would call a minimalist YouTube creator, and by that I mean I film and edit all my YouTube videos on an iPhone with some editing done on an iPad. The reason I chose to be a minimalist creator is purely out of convenience and at the end of the day, the quality is quite good.
Apple last week announced a new accessory for the iPhone XS series and that being a new smart battery case. There is a version for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. The price is the same for all 3 models and that is 129 for US customers and 179 for Canadian customers…ouch! Even with the high price tag, I thought that this new battery case would be quite beneficial to me considering I am what I would call a power user, I film YouTube segments every day, I am constantly editing and posting/managing social media so the demand on my battery can be quite substantial. Now really I can not complain about the battery of the iPhone XS Max, most days I can get by without having to recharge or top off, but there are those extra demanding days where I find my battery dead mid-afternoon with quite a bit of work still needed to be done. This Is where this new smart battery case will come in super handy.
Upon receiving my Apple smart battery case earlier this week I was actually surprised at how small it was, now don’t get me wrong this case is massive and it does add a lot of bulk to your phone, but in the photos online it looked bigger than what it turned out to be. Needless to say, this case is definitely not for everyone, it could be quite cumbersome for the casual user. In typical Apple fashion, they don’t really give a lot of specs about the device, Apple tends to present information about user experience, Apple states with the iPhone XS smart battery case you can expect 37 hours of talk time, 20 hours of internet usage and 25 hours of video playback. So really you can expect to get an extra 50% to 70% longer usage out of your phone. The smart battery case as of right now is only available in black and white. As for the design I was quite pleased, the smart battery case is styled similarly to the silicon cases they sell, which I am a big fan of. With all my iPhone over the past few years, I have always used the Apple brand silicon cases. They fit great and have a nice sleek minimalist look while still offering decent protection.
The new iPhone XS Smart battery case supports wireless charging, so if you have a QI wireless charger it is fully compatible. The case can be charged independently from your phone either by lightning cable or even by just laying it on a wireless charger, There is a tiny LED light on the inside of the case to signify charging. There are many cheaper battery cases available on Amazon, I have never used any third party battery cases so I cannot make any statement to usability or quality, however, one benefit to using the genuine Apple brand is that the Smart battery case integrates nicely into the iPhone operating system. You can get both your iPhone battery level as well as the battery level of the battery case bu swiping from the left as long as you have the battery widget set up.
All in all a nice battery case for the iPhone XS lineup, a bit pricey and a little bulky but perfect for those who have a demanding battery usage.
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