Lately I’ve become enamored with HDR photography. The depth and colors give HDR images a surreal 3-D like quality that has me clicking the like button when I see them on various social media platforms.

I only recently learned that HDR stood for High Dynamic Range. I knew that my Droid Turbo had a HDR function on the camera but I always assumed that it was some gimmicky filter or effect that was supposed make my photos look like a van Gogh painting. I thought maybe HDR stood for Hyper Dramatic Reality or something. (Glad I Googled it before I wrote this article:)

Since there are plenty of photo editing apps available for juicing up my photos, I saw no need to use the HDR function. My philosophy has always been to start with good basic photo before applying any effects. That way, I’d always have a clean raw image that I could revert to should I become overzealous in my photo editing.

Just for fun, I tried to edit some of my favorite travel photos to see if I could replicate the depth and quality that the HDR experts have in their photos. I could not. So I did a bit of research and learned that using the HDR function actually snaps a series of three photographs, each at a different exposure, and layers them together. It’s the high dynamic range (HDR) of the different exposures that give images that super cool quality.

On a recent trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I began experimenting with HDR photography on my smartphone.


The famous Denny Chimes on the campus of the University of Alabama was the subject of my first HDR photography experiment.



The smartphone’s HDR feature takes 3 photographs each at a different exposure: light, medium, and dark.

I learned that HDR is not good for just anything you want to take a picture of. Since HDR takes three consecutive pictures, any movement of the camera or of anything within the frame will cause the finished image to come out looking a little out of focus. My biggest lesson from this experience is to use a tripod or at the very least make sure to use something to stabilize your phone/hands.


I love the colors and depth, but there was obvious movement of the camera. Note the hat on the statue and the out of focus stadium in the background.

Though these photos certainly won’t win any photo contest, I had a lot of fun and look forward to developing my HDR skills. If you haven’t tried the HDR function on your smartphone’s camera, give it a go!

The smartphone I used for these photos was a Droid Turbo provided to me by Verizon Wireless

Are there any apps on your smartphone that you’ve been reluctant to try?




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