Let’s face it: when we buy a smartphone we do not fully know its features. We often find goodies like HDR photos only later. Do you know how to use HDR mode on your brand new Android well?
Do not worry, in fact only true photography enthusiasts know perfectly what the HDR means. In this guide I will show you how to best use this mode on your device and, above all, I will suggest a couple of free apps for Android that, at least according to my experience, are the best. You can play field tests at the end of this guide I bet you will be completely master of HDR photos and you can also boast to friends.
But I have to ask you one thing first: do you know what HDR is and what it means? Well, it’s only right to make a little preamble first, so you’ll understand what we’re talking about and you’ll be able to put my advice into practice even more successfully.
What does HDR mean?
HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range Imaging“. For those who chew a little ‘English will be easier to understand in which area of the photos we’re going to work on: in practice, HDR photos increase the dynamic range of a shot, i.e they can better balance – compared to normal photos – the parts more dark and lighter than an image.
The real advantage of this mode is that the final effect will be much more “realistic”, it will approach what our eyes are actually watching. To do so, your camera with HDR will take three photos in rapid succession, all with different exposure: one with little light, the other medium and finally with a lot of exposure. The final result will, therefore, be a sort of ideal “average” of these three mini-shots, going in fact to cancel the defects of color rendering in conditions of poor (or too much) lighting that characterizes the photographic sectors even of smartphones of a certain value.
Small postillion: the question of the three shots captured one after the other also explains why when you use the HDR photo mode you will notice a bit of delay compared to normal in the final image processing.
Native HDR photos on Android
I’ll tell you immediately that if you have a recent smartphone, of a medium-high level, certainly you will have the HDR photo mode already pre-installed on your Android. I’ll tell you more: you could have the option in front of your eyes every time you take a picture and, probably, you have never given it particular importance.
Well, after starting the Camera app of your Android smartphone, first of all, check if you already find the HDR option (in many cases the related item is positioned at the top). Otherwise, tap on the camera options, and you’ll see that you’ll almost certainly find the option in question. If you do not see it, it may mean that the mode is not supported by your smartphone natively.
Once you have identified the HDR mode, you will generally have three options: you can disable it by default, always activate it or set the automatic mode. Personally, at least at the beginning, I suggest you try this last solution: when you are more comfortable with this feature you will know how to choose when to use it and when to avoid it.
Free App HDR Photos Android
If for any reason you are not satisfied with the native HDR on your Android smartphone, I suggest below two apps that you will find on the Play Store and that is probably the best I’ve tried. They are both free but still manage to meet all the requirements you are looking for to have HDR photos.
Android HDR photos with Snapseed
Snapseed is an application produced by Google: this detail is enough to guarantee the security of the app, but also provides a variety of really interesting tools to be a free option. I’ll tell you more: even if with your native HDR you’re already “satisfied”, I still recommend you try it, also because you will have a lot of material to operate during photo editing.
First of all, I leave you the link: you can download Snapseed by clicking here. Install it and launch it immediately: after clicking on the “+” symbol that you will find almost in full screen, you can browse your local folders to select the photos to work on. Once you have chosen the image, you will see three tabs appear at the bottom. Choose the one in the middle, “Tools“.
Once this is done, among the many items that will appear, you will see more or less in the middle the HDR option. At that point, you will have two choices to better modify your photo: “Nature” and “People”. Obviously, you will choose the first solution in case you are editing a “landscape” photo, or the second if it is a “portrait” photo. In each of the two cases, a “medium” filter will be pre-set: you can increase or decrease the effect by sliding your finger to the right or left. The same applies to the other two options. In short, you have several choices to have an HDR effect on a picture already taken.
When you have finished, click on the bottom right of the “v” and then choose “export”. In this way, a ” Snapseed ” folder will be created in your gallery where all the photos you will modify with this app will be saved. Or, alternatively, you can also share them directly on your social profiles or on WhatsApp.
Android HDR photos with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
Even in this case, I point it out, it is a 100% free and secure application, produced by Adobe. Unlike Snapseed, however, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC (here the link to download it on Play Store) basically goes to integrate the native HDR of your smartphone.
Once the app is installed you will need to create a new account or choose quick access via Facebook. At that point, you’ll notice the camera icon, at the bottom left, that will bring up the Adobe interface for the camera. The HDR mode is one of the main features of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, so you will find it well highlighted. This time you have two options to use it: automatic and professional. As you can easily imagine, this last solution allows you to go into more detail by adjusting the available filters or using other tools available. In short, if your native HDR does not satisfy you, this could be a very convenient solution.
When taking HDR photos
As I mentioned earlier, taking an HDR photo is not the best solution for all environmental conditions. So I’ll point out three cases where the use of HDR is recommended to improve image quality.
- Photos of natural landscapes or panoramas: In this case, your camera will have to manage the sharp contrast of colors between the sky and the landscape and will consequently struggle to have a good overall color rendering.
- Photos in low light conditions: This time your smartphone will try in every way to accentuate the backlighting, thus determining an apparent decompensation in the various details of the shot.
- Photo-portraits in the sunlight: Here the opposite is true: the shadows that are created on the face are often accentuated by a normal photo, the HDR brings the effects much closer to what we perceive with the human eye.
When not taking HDR photos
In the same way, I’ll list three situations where you should completely disable HDR photos instead. Be careful, they are only advice from my practical experience: on balance you will judge if in one of these cases it is considered more appropriate to use the HDR.
- Photos where one deliberately tries a strong contrast of colors.
- Photos with a moving subject: For the reason that I explained to you at the beginning (the three shots captured one after the other), it is not advisable to use the HDR when there is a moving subject. The end result could be really bad.
- Photos with flashy colors: When we find ourselves, for example, to draw a red rose, using the HDR there is the risk that the colors are almost “washed out”, thus losing the original power. The speech is especially valid when you are very close to the object of your photo.
I really hope I helped you better understand how and when to use HDR photos and then take advantage of one of the most “powerful” mode of your smartphone!