HDR for Mobile Photos

Here is a little mobile phone photo tip for today.  Did you know that many smartphones today have the option to take HDR photos right in the camera app?  HDR stands for High Dynamic (or Definition) Range, and if you want to read a little more about the benefits of HDR photography, just do a quick Google search on the topic.  I won’t attempt to try to explain the detailed ins and outs of HDR imaging because I can’t, but I can share that it is definitely worth using at times.

I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, which I love, and on our trip last weekend to the canyon, I took the photo below with the HDR feature of my phone camera.  I was walking directly toward the sunset, which was breathtakingly beautiful but I also had good golden hour light on the trail, too.  I knew that the camera would have a difficult time capturing proper exposures in both areas, since I was pointing right toward the sunset, so I switched over to HDR mode.

By taking the picture in HDR mode, it actually produces two images with one click of the shutter.  Here are the images straight out of my phone in the order that they were produced.

Normal image
First Image – Normal Exposure
HDR Image
Second Image – HDR Combined Exposures

HDR seems to work a little photographic “magic” by taking several images with various exposures and merging them into one final image, using the correct exposure for each part of the photograph as best it can.  HDR is not a perfect process by any means, but it can help to compensate for difficult exposures at times.  While I’m not sure exactly how many images my phone camera uses to produce the final HDR image, my camera gives me what appears to be a normal picture and a HDR picture each time I use that setting, and the pictures have the same file name.

I don’t think that either of the pictures above is a good one.  In the first image, the sky was over-exposed and did not capture the beauty of the sunset at all, which is what I wanted to capture the most.  However, if I made an in-camera adjustment to the ISO, I knew that the trail area would be overly dark.  So, I opted to give the HDR option a try, to see which photo would give me the most detail to work with once I got home and had my regular photo software to make additional adjustments.  The HDR photo definitely gave me more to work with, despite the fact that it has a bit of a flat, unnatural feel to it.  I was able to make just a few more slight adjustments to get the image to more closely resemble the magnificent beauty that my eyes actually saw that wonderful evening on the trail.

On the Canyon Rim Trail just before sunset
Final image after a few more adjustments in PSE

If you haven’t explored this neat feature in your phone’s camera, give it a try sometime and see what results you get.  (On my Galaxy S3, this option is found under Settings in the camera app, then under Shooting Mode.  That is also where several other helpful modes are found, too, such as Panorama.)  I get varied results, depending on the lighting conditions, but often I like to use the HDR image for final processing adjustments.  Just keep in mind that your camera is quickly taking multiple images, and you will want to hold it very still until the processing is done. 😉

We are still in the midst of “The Big Chill” here.  Saturday’s high… the high… was just 17 degrees, and the low was 12 degrees.  Fortunately, we may get above freezing for a little while later today, even though we had another thin layer of ice fall overnight, making the roads slippery once again.  If the temperature rises to the predicted 41 degree “heat wave” later today, we will no doubt get out of the house for a while and try to take Girly Girl out for a walk, too.  The roads cleared a bit for a few hours on Friday afternoon, which was just long enough for me to slip out to do a little Christmas shopping.  Unfortunately, it is supposed to turn colder again tomorrow and remain below freezing once again for at least a couple of days.  Brrrr!!!

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I Love Autumn & Photoshop Elements 9!

I just adore Autumn!  After enduring the heat of summer, it is literally a breath of fresh, cool air again!  It seems the older I get, the less I like the hot, hot days of summer.  I much prefer the more moderate seasons of Autumn and Spring now.  It is tolerable to take the dog for a walk again, and I don’t risk burning to death when I get in my car after a shopping excursion to the mall or the grocery store.  Pumpkins are everywhere, and the holidays are just on the horizon.  Colors are beginning to burst forth in the trees, and people seem to generally be in a much better humor.  Football makes a comeback, which can be a good or not-so-good thing, depending on whether or not my team is winning.   I guess it is a not-so-good thing for me this year because my teams are losing… big time.  Don’t get me started… ;-).  But, I still love Autumn… really, really love it.

Recently, I also upgraded to Adobe Photoshop Elements 9… on my new laptop, of course.  (See earlier post.)  I missed several previous upgrades to Elements, so this is a real treat for me.  After getting things up and running with PSE9, I am now on the hunt for some updated action sets, brushes and textures on the web.  Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has some nice action sets that I have already downloaded, and I am also checking out some sets from The Coffee Shop Blog.

If you know of some nice downloads for Elements on the web, preferably free at this point because I am now saving my pennies for a cruise in December, please let me know.  No, I am not letting the fire on the Carnival Splendor scare me off of the cruise.  I seriously need a vacation right now.  Despite how much I love Autumn, I’m ready to get out-of-town and take a little break from the real world.

I still use my first generation Lightroom software, too.  I really love that program, too… almost as much as I love Autumn.  But I must admit that I think I am a bit partial to Elements right now.  It’s nice to have both, though.

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Water Lilies

I have been absent online for a bit, but it’s been fun… learning more about using PSE9 that was just recently released.  It is a great tool, although I still use Lightroom for my basic photo editing.  I have found many great free action sets online that run in PSE9, and I like them better than most of the actions I have in Lightroom so far.

I have a favorite photo from a 2009 trip to Grand Cayman that I recently pulled from my trip archives to re-edit, and it is now much closer to what I envisioned when I took it.  By adding an adjustment layer and removing much of the yellow that was in the background and taking away from the beautiful floral bloom, the flower itself now stands out more.  Using a black brush to remove the opacity of that adjustment over the yellow in the center of the flower kept the bloom vivid while muting the background just a bit.  I love the end result, and I think it’s finally time to send it for printing and framing.

Taken at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens in Grand Cayman

Isn’t the water-lily just one of the most beautiful, delicate flowers ever?