Whether your smartphone is your behind the scenes, some of the time, or primary camera… it’s important you make the most of it. While the sensors in many smartphones often rival point-and-shoot cameras, I frequently see people underutilize their capabilities.

For example, here’s a single image taken on the iPhone 5s.  You’ll note that the image lacks sufficient contrast.


An untouched iPhone 5s photo

This particular scene is difficult to shoot due to the wide dynamic range of the subject.  Many phones include an in-camera HDR mode.  While this mode is frequently better, it often produces results that are negligibly better.

An in-camera iPhone 5s  HDR photo

An in-camera iPhone 5s HDR photo

This is where an in-camera upgrade comes in.  Buy an app! There are many HDR apps. My absolute favorite is Pro HDR which is available for both Android and iPhone.  It takes two photos with a much wider exposure range, then fuses them together.

A HDR created with PRO HDR uses a wider dynamic range.

A HDR created with PRO HDR uses a wider dynamic range.

Taking the photo takes much longer than the in-camera HDR mode. As such, you’ll need to hold the camera fairly still.  I recommend tucking your elbows into your sides or even bracing the camera against a flat surface.  The results it produces however are superior.


You’ll note that not only are colors richer, but textures and details are much better preserved.


For shooting landscapes, interiors, or high contrast scenes, I can’t recommend the app enough. It also works well for portraits in tough lighting if you can get your subject to hold still for two seconds.


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Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. I agree whole heartedly. VividHDR is my go to camera for my iPhone 4S. Was showing a friend why I prefer HDR last night. Rarely use a “regular” camera any more

  2. I like the results, but rarely can stand a 2 sec exposure. Is there an in-between app that is better than the iPhone 5 in camera HDR mode, a bit slower, but (sadly) not as good as the Pro HDR app?

  3. […] an HDR photo app. As we’ve covered on an earlier post, a HDR photo has much more information than a standard camera phone one.  Plus the app will store […]

  4. I recently started shooting with hdr on my Motorola G phone and was quite taken aback with the quality of the pictures. The standard of the new photos would give my camera a run for its money!


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


HDR, Phoneography, Software