The human eye is wonderful when it comes to adjusting to lighting conditions. We see in glorious colour the full and natural beauty of the world around us. Replicating that visual experience via iPhoneography can be a challenge.

How many times do you see a blown out sky or a beautiful sky with a wonderfully artistic silhouetted landscape or figure. Sometimes these decisions are forced upon us – even more so with iPhoneography where fill flash is unlikely to be a viable option.

iPhone photography apps used:

iPhoneography - HDR / sunrise

{ sunrise ~ iPhoneography and exposure }


At it’s most basic level understanding the capabilities of the Camera App you use is essential. Most apps have the ability to choose separate exposure and focal points so setting the exposure at the point of capture will satisfy most situations. However, there are occasions where the range of light and dark is so extreme that finding a suitable exposure point is impossible.

One solution is to try to use the principals of ‘High Dynamic Range’. This is a process of using multiple images to capture a wider range of light and dark and the points in between than would be possible via a single image. These images are then combined to produce a HDR image. There are apps available that capture images in HDR but if motion is involved the images they capture won’t line up and the result whilst ‘artistic’ may not be what you want.

So what we want is a HDR type solution but from a single image and this is the approach I’ve adopted on occasion. Let’s be clear though, any time you make radical adjustments to a JPEG you are going to risk reducing the quality of the image and the result is noise. You can mitigate some of these issues by adopting smoothing and sharpening techniques. I covered using High Pass filter as a preferred method for sharpening in this post.

Process and apps used

ProCamera ~ Initial capture:

{ image one } Note this was purposely captured at an exposure level to show the detail in the sky and the sky reflected in the water. These are the key elements in this image and the surrounding landscape was a secondary concern:


capture dynamic range - histogram

ProCamera - iPhoneography / High Dynamic Range / Exposure

PS Express ~ Boost Exposure:

{ image two } With experience I have discovered that you can boost exposure up to 3 times and retain decent quality in the image. The fewer times you need to boost exposure the better. This one was boosted 3 times and resulted in the blown out sky and reflection but a more accurately exposed landscape:


exposure dynamic range - histogram

PSExpress - iPhoneography / High Dynamic Range / Exposure

Pro HDR ~ Intelligent combination:

{ final ‘base’ image } Pro HDR not only captures images but also allows images to be imported and intelligently combined to capture the dynamic range across the two images. Both images were imported into Pro HDR (note the Histogram shows a wider spread in the dynamic range with minimal clipping or concentration at either the light or dark end of the scale). In this example I accepted the Pro HDR output without adjustment but you can tinker with levels:


hdr (high dynamic range) - histogram

ProHDR - iPhoneography / High Dynamic Range / Exposure

The following thumbnails show the process in ProHDR:

This for me is the base image and from here I can go on to process in any style that I choose. In this case I decided that as I was facing roughly East and rarely actually see one in reality I would fake a sunrise…

Snapseed ~ add ‘Grunge’ filter:

iPhoneography - Snapseed

LensFlare ~ add ‘Sol Invictus’ filter:

LensFlare - sol invictus effect

Pixlromatic+ ~ add ‘Adrian’ filter:

Pixlromatic+ - adrian filter


Update: Featured blogger at iPhone Life Magazine

I am incredibly honored to have been invited to be a featured blogger for iPhone and iPad Life Magazine.

My first article has been published and expands on this post, looking at this process as one of three options in tricky exposure conditions. The blog is visited by over a quarter of a million visitors each month and has almost 100,000 subscribers.

See my debut post here..


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  1. Dave says:

    Nice! Well done, Skip. I’m glad I met you before you got famous. The canal shot is savage.

  2. Skip Junior says:

    It’s great dad!!! 🙂

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