Better IPhone Pictures: The HDR Setting

One feature you might find on your cell phone camera is the HDR setting.  IPhones have had it for years, and I see that the latest Galaxy phones as well as Google Pixels have it, too. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  What it does is that it gives a better range of color values in your pictures.  For instance:

HDR Setting comparison
Two photos, one with the HDR setting enabled, the other without.

In this image that I took with my IPhone, I had the HDR setting enabled.  It recorded both a regular image (left) and an HDR image (right).  At first glance the two images look the same, but if you look at the sky, you’ll see that it was totally washed out in the regular image.  Whereas, in the HDR image you’ll see that the blue of the sky has returned.  If you look even closer you will see that the dark areas are a little less lost in shadow as well.

It’s a subtle change, but such small differences can make the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph.

On IPhones, you  enable the HDR setting directly in the camera app in two touches, first select “HDR” at the top or side (depending on the orientation, then select “On” :

Enabling HDR Setting on IPhone
Enabling HDR Setting on IPhone

You may have noticed the “Auto” option.  That’s on newer IPhones and, in theory at least, has the IPhone determining when best to take an HDR photo.  I tend to not trust the auto feature, and prefer to force the HDR setting to on.

There is one other setting on the IPhone involved with HDR.  If you go into the Settings app and down to the camera settings, there is a toggle switch that you can enable to keep both an HDR and non-HDR version of any photos you take while the HDR setting is enabled.  I suggest keeping this toggle on as sometimes, the non-HDR photo turns out to be the better of the the two.

Yours in Art,


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A Quick Look at Topaz Studio


Topaz Studio is the flagship product from Topaz Labs.  I’ve always like Topaz products and Studio is no exception.  It’s single job is to enhance digital images, and it does a great job at it.

The majority of my art, I create digitally using 3D rendering algorithms and digital painting programs.  For almost all of my art, I have a post production phase where I adjust the final images, working the color balance, contrast, saturation, etc.  For years, I used GIMP for this.  GIMP however is a fully featured image editing program that allows everything from painting to tweaking colors.  It does a bit of everything, but it’s not a specialist.  Plus, it’s got a steep learning curve. 
Later on, I discovered Topaz Adjust which was a tool specifically for enhancing images.  It was a plugin for Photoshop and did okay.  Rather than spending several hours in GIMP in post production, I could spend about half the time in Topaz adjust.  There results were pretty good, but not great. 
A shot showing the Studio enhanced version on the left overlaying the original photo on the right.

Now there is Topaz Studio.  I recently downloaded this stand-alone application to give it a try and I LOVE it.  It’s got a lot more tools than Adjust, is easier to use, and seems to handle memory better, being more responsive and less crashy.  Quite often just a single click on the “Basic Correction” gives me the perfect results.

Topaz Studio is FREE.  You have to create an account on the Topaz site to download it, but that’s it for most of the foundation level image filters.  You can however add plugins to Studio.  Many of Topaz’s products have been converted into plugins.  For instance, I almost immediately picked up the new plugins for Topaz Impression and Topaz Glow, two applications that have always impressed me.  The plugins might cost a bit, but for someone like me who sells prints of art created using Impression and Glow, I think they are well worth the cost.
Note: The link to get Studio is an affiliate link.  Though Topaz Studio is free, some of it’s premium plugins cost money.  If you click on this link then buy one of those plugins in the next 30 days, I get a small commission (at no additional cost to you).