What is HDR in Camera? How It Works

Last Updated on September 23, 2020 by The Soft Best

Know what is hdr in camera? how it works: The phones have long in their cameras with an option called HDR. However, this remains an unknown for many users, who do not know exactly what it is and when to use it.

What is HDR in Camera

To understand what HDR is, one must first understand what the dynamic range is, that is, the relationship between the minimum and maximum intensity of light in a photograph. The HDR is the name in the acronym of a function called the high dynamic range. It allows a scene to look bright completely, without burning any part and avoiding shadows in another, when there is a light source that causes both, for example, the sun in front of the camera lens.

What is HDR in Camera

The shortcomings in previous years of the HDR led manufacturers to improve it. In this way, Apple proposed the Smart HDR, while in that same improvement in Android, it was already known as HDR+.

What is HDR?

According to Wikipedia, the HDR or High Dynamic Range “ are a set of techniques that allows a better dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods can offer and allows to obtain images more in accordance with those visualized by the human eye… ”. Okay, but what does this technique really do?

Whether with Android, iOS, Windows Phone or any other product with the ability to use HDR, this function causes a slight delay when taking pictures because it captures three images from using the same shot. Of course, different exposure lights – without exposure, with excess light and composition of the two – that will finally be mixed to get the mixture that appears in our device.

Moreover, the mobile display often allows you to take a look at all the images taken during the process.

The human eye carries its own HDR system, and that is why we find it so “fascinating” the result achieved with this technology, but as you know, the excess is not good and in many cases, the HDR is useless.

Although it is activated automatically on many mobiles when the camera faces an intense light source, it may also not be the case, and the user may see the option on the screen display when taking a photo. Therefore, it is good to know that the HDR must be activated when facing a scene where there is a lot of contrast between lights and shadows.

The HDR is one of those functions present in mobile phones that have allowed photography from these devices to increase so overwhelmingly in recent months and years. However, it is often difficult to discern when the HDR should be used or not, especially since users are unaware of its true meaning and, of course, usefulness. In this article, we will try to give a didactic vision of this function and teach it when it should be used.

HDR, What It Is and How It Works

Before understanding how HDR works, you first need to understand what dynamic range is. To understand it in a simple way, we talk about the relationship between the minimum and maximum intensity of light in a photograph. In a photo with an excellent dynamic range, we can see how the shadow areas in which the light index is more aggressive, and the exposure is correct. Here is an example.

Leaving aside the skin treatment and aggressiveness of the HDR, this photograph illustrates well what we want to convey. Although there is a great backlight that should make the main subjects underexposed, the HDR manages to lift its shadows and make the whole scene bright, not to burn the sky, letting the sun see as it has been captured. Its own name – high dynamic range – explains its operation.

Historically, phones have had problems precisely with this, since most are unable to expose correctly when we have a strong rear light source. Samsung or Huawei cameras are clear examples of deficiencies in the HDR since it is extremely easy to burn a background if we have the sun behind. This is what we call a bad control over the highlights, corresponding to the right side of the photo.

Apple suffered the same problem until they introduced the Smart HDR. This is not a new concept, and Google has already introduced it several years ago in the Nexus 5X, under the name of the HDR+.

The HDR+ and Its Importance in Android

The HDR+ made Nexus 6P was so groundbreaking at the time when it came to photography, and the Google Pixel 2 XL achieved the same results. The Google camera takes several photographs with different levels of exposure, from the lowest to the highest. In this way, It manages to combine them all in a final photograph with perfect exposure, both in the front and rear cameras.

Something similar Huawei does with its night mode, taking pictures with different ISO levels, and combining them to create the ultimate night photography. Apple has followed this pattern, and now its devices shoot with a Smart HDR that combines several photographs of different exposure, finally achieving good control over the focal point.

When to use the HDR?

The guidelines are clear: landscapes with a lot of contrast between heaven and earth since, in this way, all shades will be taken correctly. From the bluest sky to the darkest portion of land, portraits where sunlight predominates and places with low light since the HDR allows to clarify the most shaded areas so that the details are much clearer.

Now, when should it not be used? While in landscapes, it is interesting. In the case of a more “ordinary” scene with high contrast, it is best to turn off the HDR, as well as when there is a moving object since when taking all three images, it will be moved.

The HDR mode is already a feature that we find in almost all camera apps that come by default or that we can install on our smartphones. However, there are surely many users who are not clear about what is hdr in camera and what results they can achieve with this option. Therefore, here we explain what exactly the HDR mode is and what it is for.

In the vast majority of terminals, the HDR is activated automatically. The mobile is able to analyze the scene and know when it is necessary to apply it in one way or another, especially in the case of high-end terminals. However, if your smartphone only has manual HDR, you should know that it should be activated in situations where you appreciate the contrast between lights and shadows.


Whenever you want to expand the dynamic range of your photography, the HDR will be welcome. Unless the terminal does a bad job and causes bad results, activating this option is usually quite practical for improving your photographs. Be it a day, night, and regardless of the situation, the HDR usually makes us get more information in the photo, and therefore the final result is therefore better.