26 July 2010

iPhone photo apps Camera+ and Pro HDR = fun

Summary: Camera+ allows you to pick the focus with one finger and the exposure area with another. Pro HDR uses a dark and a bright exposure (with the same focus thanks to Camera+) to create photos which are closer to what you actually see. $4 total for two fun and useful apps.

HDR photos are great but usually take expensive equipment, programs, a tripod, and time. The iPhone camera is okay to good but with two apps it can be used to make reasonably good HDR images which are much more like what you see in real life than a camera usually can give you.

Camera+ reached high into the best selling apps for the iPhone recently due to a great update. In addition to quite a few good filters and adjustments, a clever part of that update (v1.2) uses the iPhone's multi-touch capacity to allow you to pick the focal point with the first finger you put on the screen (shows up as a square) then pick the exposure level with your second finger (shows as a circle). It’s fun to move each point around to see different exposures and foci.

Pro HDR (high dynamic range) is the better of two HDR apps available (TrueHDR is the runner up: fewer features, rarely the same quality results, no post-processing adjustments). It has two modes:
Camera HDR mode: Take two photos, 1st touch where dark, 2nd touch where bright.
Library HDR mode: Pick two photos of the same thing (one dark, one bright) from your “camera roll” (the normal place for photos on the iPhone).

Camera+ has a filter to make photos look like they were processed using HDR. It’s silly.
Pro HDR allows you to take photos in the app asking you where it's dark, where light, but it just uses the camera's generic multipoint focus ... normally you'd "tap to focus" but instead you're "tapping to select a dark/bright" area.

Combining Camera+ and Pro HDR gives all the focal and exposure options you could reasonably want with adjustable HDR processing:

1. Take two photos with Camera+
  • Photo one: touch the focal point with your first finger. Keeping that finger pressed on the screen at the focal point, use another finger to pick a dark area on the screen. When the photo looks WAY over exposed (dark areas are clearly visible), remove your fingers and snap your photo.
  • Photo two: touch the same focal point with your first finger. Keeping that finger pressed on the focal point, use another finger to pick a VERY bright area on the screen. This should result in underexposure of dark areas (they look even darker, maybe black) and bright areas should be clear (i.e., you can make out the blinds and the light between them in a bright window … whereas in the above image it would have just been all bright white). Snap your photo.
  • Export the dark and bright photos to the camera roll from the “Light Room” (not automatically done in Camera+ because they give you a first change to apply one of their filters, but easy).
2. Load Pro HDR, select “Library HDR", select images as instructed (dark then bright), [processing/merging], adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, or warmth to taste (HDR can screw with images so these adjustments are very helpful). Save to camera roll.

3. …

4. Profit(?)

HDR is hard to do, usually it takes a tripod, a fairly expensive camera, a fairly expensive program, and some time. On the iPhone with Camera+ and Pro HDR it takes a couple minutes and gives incredible results … not on par with the professional jobs, but with each of these programs clocking in at $1.99 each, the price and results are excellent.


Under exposed (dark):

Over exposed (bright):


Just for fun, the finished image (Camera+ photos processed by Pro HDR) with the Camera+ HDR filter (which is silly as explained above):

1 comment:

Michael Kallweitt said...

Many thanks for your advice. When I read that the new version of Camera+ is available, I thought about giving it a try. But I didn't want to give up on HDR, which was my main reason to use Pro HDR for my recent photos. Now I'm going to try the combination of these 2 apps.