App Review: Take More Control Of HDR Photography With Pro HDR


One of the nice features of the iPhone 4 is the ability to take HDR pictures.  HDR – High Dynamic Range Imaging – allows for more dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image. In the simplest of terms, you take a picture with several different exposures, combine them, and presto, you’ve got a picture that retains detail in bright and shadowy areas.

Apple did a nice job implementing the feature in iOS 4.1. You tap “HDR On” in the camera app, take your picture and that’s it. You have a photo that retains more of the bright and dark areas. A little hint, it works best if you focus in an area that’s darker.

But what the Apple process doesn’t allow is the ability to tweak the final picture. For most people that’s fine, but what if you want to have a little more control? That’s where Pro HDR comes in.

This is a very powerful photography app. When you launch it you are given three choices. You can pick Auto HDR, Manual HDR, and Library HDR.

The first option is similar to Apple’s implementation. It launches the camera, you tap to take the picture, and the application does the rest. It’s not even close to being as quick as Apple, but in the end you can make changes to the final photo.

Manual HDR gives you even more control. Once the camera opens, you tap a bright area of what you’re taking a picture of, then you tap a dark area. The pictures are taken, combined, and once again you can tweak the final output as you please. Just a note, you can adjust the Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Warmth, & Tint.

The third option is Library HDR. To use this option you’ll need to have taken two pictures previously with different exposures and have them in your photo library. I’m guessing a lot of people don’t go shooting pictures with different exposures. But in Pro HDR, if in the settings you select to save original images, you can tweak the outputting HDR photo many times.

There is also a little cheat that I use sometimes to get different exposures from one picture. I’ll get into that in another post.

I highly recommend this app if you love HDR photography. Yes, Apple’s application of HDR in 4.1 is free, quick, and does a pretty good job – but it doesn’t allow you to tweak the picture. Pro HDR gives you that extra control and in my opinion gives you a lot better results.

You can download Pro HDR from the iTunes Store. It’s only $1.99 and works with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and the 4th Generation iPod Touch.

If there are any photography apps you’d like me review, or if you have any iPhone photography questions, please feel free to ask. You can also find me on Twitter @KMPhotographer.


  • Aloombox

    I had this app on my 3gs phone, and while it’s nice it kept crashing and making a high pitched screech during the processing; it was so bad it made all the other photography apps I have (the ones that have a processing feature, like Hipstamatic) produce the same screeching sound. I immediately removed it and everything was fine after! Is there a latest upgrade to this app with this bug removed?

    I do like the app a lot though.

  • I was a bit worried for the Pro HDR guys when Apple announced their new “HDR feature” but after using it, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t come close to what Pro HDR does – not by a long shot. Apple’s HDR seems to retain a bit more in the highlights but tends to wash the image out. Pro HDR captures WAY more dynamic range in both the shadows and highlights and intelligently manages highlight and shadow contrast while still giving a great amount of control over the final product. I’ve been a professional photographer for 8 years and using Pro HDR on my iPhone4 brings back that giddy feeling I used to get when I was playing around with my first digital camera. I only wish they could find a way to get it to work on my DSLRs!

  • Bailey

    Ya, it’s bug free now. Give it another try. Simply much better than the iPhone’s version.

  • Canladdie

    Pro HDR often leaves halos of brightness around dark parts of images, and while I find the ability to manually tweak settings useful, I’m so distracted by the occasional halos that I prefer using True HDR. I also use PerfectlyCLR to get more dynamic range from iPhone4 photos.

  • Kris Meador

    I haven’t tried True HDR or PerfectlyCLR but I’ll have to take a look at them. Thanks for the heads up.
    As for the halo effect, I find you can usually get rid of it with a little work.

  • Kris Meador

    Wow – that sucks. My wife has the 3GS and it works fine.
    You might try re-downloading it.
    If you’re still having problems I suggest powering down the iPhone, then starting it up again. That usually works for me if I’m having problems with certain apps.

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