HDR Mode on Your iPhone - What Is It and How Can I Use It?

Aug 09, 2013

If you are not familiar with this feature yet on your iPhone this will come as quite a treat!  I’m talking about the HDR mode on your iPhone when taking photos.

So what is HDR?  HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range”.  Now that’s settled I’m sure you’re ready to go right? …No?

If you were like me when I first discovered this feature I’m sure you’ll need a bit more of an explanation than that.  But I think I will show you first with an example and then explain it in the easiest way possible.

nonHDRsample HDRsample

The first photo on the left was taken with my iPhone without using the HDR mode.  We were standing in a fairly shaded area and there was bright sun in the background over the rocky shoreline of the riverbed.  You can see fairly bright areas on my arms as well and on my forehead.

In the second photo, you will notice right away that the rocky shoreline of the river is completely visible and the bright highlights on my arms and forehead are gone.  Even some of the trees in the background are now more visible.  This second photo was taken in HDR mode on my iPhone.

So here is the best way I can explain what HDR mode is based on what you see in these two photos.

If you are shooting something in a high contrast area, bright background dark foreground or dark background light foreground, for example, using the HDR mode could be very beneficial to you for getting that perfect photo.

Essentially your iPhone is taking two photos at the same time and blending them together.

As in the example above, the iPhone is exposing one shot so the background, the rocky shoreline, is perfectly exposed, and then taking a second shot so that the foreground, or me in this case, is perfectly exposed.  Then it blends the two images together to create an image that is exposed properly overall.

But here’s the beauty of your iPhone…

If you choose to shoot in HDR mode, the iPhone still takes a regular photo of what you intended and just gives you an additional HDR version of it.  So for every photo you take you actually are taking two photos.

I’ll leave my camera in HDR mode just so I can see which image I like best.  In many cases I find I like the HDR version better as it’s more creative, but there are times when the original photo still looks better despite the exposure differences.  But this is something you will want to play with and decide for yourself.

So how do I turn HDR mode on?  Well that’s the easy part.  iphonephotomodeHDRmodemenu

If you look at the image on the left you’ll notice I’ve set my iPhone up in camera mode to take a photo.  In the menu on the top you will notice a button called ‘Options’.  Touch that button and you will see a menu pop up with a couple of choices. (See image on the right)

If your HDR mode button is off, slide the bar across to turn it on.  Then hit ‘Done’ at the top and your iPhone will go back to shooting mode.  That’s it.  You’re all set.  Now your camera is in HDR mode.  If you want to turn the HDR mode off, just do the same steps as described here and turn HDR mode off.  Again, in HDR mode your iPhone is now going to take two photos each time you take a photo which you will notice in your photos folder on your iPhone.  You will see…

1. One photo taken as you see it on your screen


2.  One photo that has been “blended” together from two differently exposed photos to make the HDR version.

So knowing that your camera is taking two photos every time you take a picture, you might have to be a little bit more patient as it will take a bit longer to save the photos to your folder now.

If this posting was helpful, please let me know in the comments section below.  If you have other questions please feel free to email me as well.  I’d love to hear from you.