Daily iPhone App: Fotor HDR brings some new tricks to iPhone photography
Fotor HDR is a new iPhone app for those of you who like to take high dynamic range (HDR) photos. The US$1.99 app adds some very sophisticated processing options after you take the multiple images required for an HDR image.
The main feature Fotor HDR offers is preset styles. Rather than simply providing filters, the Fotor styles are geared to HDR images, and are similar to what you see in the pro HDR apps you see on the Mac, such as Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro 2 from Nik/Google.
Here's how the app works: you frame your image on screen, with Fotor offering a grid to help you compose and level the camera. There are two picture-taking modes -- one mode grabs the images and processes them, while the other mode allows you to continue taking photos rapidly without waiting for processing and aligning (you can do that after your photo session). Processing and aligning are pretty quick on an iPhone 5s, and I think it's quite acceptable on older hardware as well.
Once the images are done, you have the option to select a style for your photo, or leave the HDR image alone. Some of the styles were a bit over the top, but may appeal to some photographers. Some, like surreal, worked well if there were lots of clouds and a contrasty sky. With each style, you can adjust saturation, brightness, contrast and create a vignette.
I was able to turn out some really nice photos using Fotor HDR. In my tests, I found it far superior to the built-in HDR feature of the iPhone Camera app, and similar in quality to one of my favorite photo apps, Pro HDR. Apple's HDR is very subtle, but when there are deep shadows it doesn't do very well. It does work well when faces are in front of a bright sky, brightening the faces while still revealing the great outdoors. When I gave Fotor HDR my "dark room with bright window" test, it did very well, revealing details in the room without overexposing the bright scene outside. What also makes Fotor HDR stand out are the style presets and the ability to adjust within those parameters. Readers can view some comparisons in the slide show above.
I'm impressed with what Fotor HDR brings as an iPhone imaging tool. In future versions, I'd like to see the option to combine three images rather than two for greater dynamic range.
Fotor HDR is not a universal app, so it's best used on your iPhone or iPod touch. It requires iOS 6.0 or later, but the user interface has a nice iOS 7 look to it.
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