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Snappy H’appy Photo Challenge Week 2 – HDR and Saturation

Welcome back to Week 2 of the Snappy H’appy Photo Challenge hosted by weliveinaflat and firebonnet ;) This challenge asks you to (1) share a good photo that you took or edited last week, (2) run it through a photo app on your smartphone or mobile device and share with us the result. 

For more details about the challenge, check out our Week 1 Bokeh post and also the Photo Challenge page.

Thank you Meghan (Firebonnet) for co-hosting with me, and Melinda (1stWorldDog), Christy (Sassmuffins), CompletelyDisappear, Gretchen (Zeke’s Adventures), Meg (Little Dogs Laughed) and Blogagaini for joining us in the challenge! To see their respective works for week 1, just click on their names in the previous line or scroll all the way down this post and click on the links provided for each of their photo grids! :)

If you didn’t join us in week 1, it’s not too late. :) We are only in Week 2 and you can join us starting this week. A backdated post for week 1 is optional. ; )

Our theme for this week is HDR and Saturation. So let’s talk more about it before we dive into the challenge posts.

HDR and Saturation


What do you think about when you hear HDR?

I think about vibrant, cinematic photographs. These images are created using the blending of three identical photos at different exposures (shown in the video above) to produce a final photo. The result looks realistic with more saturated colours than a single shot would produce. It could even look out of this world (with some post processing involved).

The process creates a photo that looks a lot more vibrant than the camera could capture in a single shot because it creates a larger range of luminescence (light). This helps to preserve the detail that would otherwise have been obscured in shadow or overly bright areas due to the scene having too high contrast for the camera to adequately process. Hence the term high dynamic range or HDR.

Example of an HDR photo and the three photos that were used to generate it.
Mariano Szklanny cc some rights reserved.

HDR on mobile devices

Some smartphones like the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 includes the option to take the photograph in HDR mode. There are also mobile apps like HDR Camera (and its paid brother HDR Camera+) that takes the shot three times to generate the final photograph.

However, even if one takes a photo in auto mode, there are still apps available to generate “HDR” photos. They do this by way of “tone mapping”. These apps are programmed to follow a set of algorithms or rules to process the photo and create a simulation of HDR.

So let’s say I take an original photo of mine and attempt to use the Snapseed HDR Scape feature on it. The photo below has a park in shadow as I had exposed it for the sky.

How to use HDR Scape filter during post-production in Snapseed

1. Before, the original photo in Snapseed. 2. After, HDR Scape default level applied to photo.

I felt the photo in #2 looks overly processed and unreal once HDR Scape has processed it to the default strength. The sky looked more ominous than it really was and the park looked pretty washed out. But at least now, I can see the detail in the park that was lost in shadow in screen #1.

I have the option to tweak not just the filter strength, but also the brightness and saturation values within HDR Scape so that the unnatural-looking sky and the washed out green of the park can be tempered. The smoothen option in HDR Scape tweaks the contrast in the photo to given a silkier or grittier effect, according to Google’s Snapseed support page. I don’t really see any discernible difference for my photo.

Left, before HDR Scape. Right, after HDR Scape.

Before, the room is lost in shadow due to the contrast from the brightly lit window. After, the HDR filter removes some of the shadow so that the interior and exterior appears to be more evenly lit and it returns the details around the W cushion on the chair.

So there you have it, HDR can give landscapes a more dramatic look, and it can bring out the details that were lost in shadow on the face or in a dark room. As with most things, the better the original photo taken, the better it will render in HDR.

What makes a bad HDR photo?

Overly-filtered and overly-saturated HDR images can also look very unnatural, creating halos around objects, and look overly noisy or gritty.

a bad hdr photo with halo and graininess
a bad hdr photo with unnatural shadow, fogginess and graininess
HDR filters can enhance some types of photos but not all. I suspect different HDR apps may work better with certain types of photos and worse with others. So go forth and experiment! And if you find that the HDR filter does nothing to help improve your photo, you could always go to Tune Image in Snapseed and fiddle with the brighten, saturation and shadow controls there instead. :) In fact, I use those more frequently then I use the HDR Scape feature! :P

Get inspired!

More information about HDR, and in the first link, what the author of that link considers are good examples of HDR in mobile photos.

Get to it!
HDR photo apps for mobile editing and devices

iPhone/iPad users:

Andriod users:

Host Challenge Post

My photo of the week

Taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ35, unedited.

App challenge image

Edited in Snapseed – HDR Scape, Crop, Tilt shift created the blurring, VSCOcam to further edit the colour and warm up the photo.

In general, it appears that different people will have different opinions of what makes a good or a bad HDR photo. HDR apps can make a photo look vibrant and realistic, it can look bright and airy, sort of glowing like a beautifully rendered computer game visual than a photo of somewhere real, it can also look gritty. When overdone, it could look well, over-done or artistic depending on a person’s perspective.

Here I have two photos that were edited some time back using HDR Art on iPhone. Notice the halo surrounding the silhouette of the playground helps provide contrast from the background? HDR Art is a paid app that adds special effects to the image to create “fantastic HDR art” as claimed by the HDR Art app from Mediachance.

I guess for myself, it just takes looking through more HDR photographs and HDR art and getting a better understanding of this particular genre as part of the learning curve to appreciating the photos in this category.

Snappy H'appy Photo Challenge badgeNow it’s your turn to share!

Create your challenge post from now until Sunday, 23 Feb end of your day. Post your Photo of the Week and your App-ed version of that photo on your blog. (You can follow my format above if you like).

Pic 1 – Your Photo of the Week can be taken with any equipment – a regular camera, a DSLR, a smartphone, hack even a pin-hole camera if you so choose!

Pic 2 – Pic 2 is optional. The theme this week is HDR and Saturation, but if that is not your cup of tea, you are free to choose other app effects for your app-ed photo. In all cases, it would be helpful if you can name the app effect used so we can understand what you are doing ; )

Add the challenge badge and link your post to the host and co-host sites. Be nice and visit with some of the other challengers for this week! :) And do remember to leave me your blog post link in the comments below, in case I do not receive the pingback/trackback from your link.

For more information, you can read in detail more about the challenge and the instructions at the About page here. You can also grab the badges here.

Questions? Feel free to pose any questions in the comments below or email me at weliveinaflat@gmail.com.

Next up, what happens after you have linked up? Why you start getting your challenger photo grid filled up!

Challenger Photo Grids

Every week, challenger grids get updated with the new photos!
At the end, you get to grab your grid off this blog for your own pleasure. :D

Meanwhile, you can view one another’s photos on the blogs by clicking on the linked numbered weeks above each challenger’s photo grid. I will try to keep it up to date as quick as I can ;)

Host| weliveinaflat.com
[ photos tagged “snappy happy” ]
weliveinaflat's Snappy H'appy Photo Grid

Host| firebonnet.com
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
firebonnet snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| Blogagaini
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
Blogagaini snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| 1stworlddog.com
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
1st world dog snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| Little Dogs Laughed
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
Little Dogs Laughed snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| Roxy The Traveling Dog
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
Roxy the Traveling Dog snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| sassmuffins.com
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
sassmuffin snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| completelydisappear.com
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
completelydisappear snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| Zeke’s Adventures
[week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12]
Zeke's Adventures snappy happy photo challenge photo grid

Challenger| Claim your photo grid, join the challenge today!

Next week, we’ll get Snappy H’appy with Watercolour effects in photo apps! Thanks for checking out this Photo Challenge and making it all the way to the end of the post! ;)

*The polaroid frame template used in this post is sourced from FreePSDFiles.net


Phoneography Weekly: Panorama shot using Galaxy Note 3


Talk to the Paw, human!


  1. Thanks for the great information and tips! Snapseed is my favorite editing tool but I haven’t spent much time with the HDR tools. I’ll give them a second chance. :)

    • I use it gently and continue to edit it with the other features to polish it up. By itself, the results from HDR Scape tend to be very raw. Have fun :)

  2. I have the same views on HDR. It can be cool but easily overdone. I am going to try and do this challenge. Looks fun!

    • Agree, I don’t think it will make a picture, I usually have to continue to edit the photo with something else. But what I find is that just a few tiny bars of HDR scape can make the details pop and make the landscape look more alive in my photos. Beats taking the time to muck around in photoshop, so says lazy me.

      You asked me about VSCOcam before, and then I was new to the app so I gave you some wrong information. VSCOcam does have editing functions, and what is pretty cool is that it has some editing features that snapseed doesn’t have – sharpen, fade, tinting and also specifically just tinting the shadow or the highlight. Thought you may be interested to know :)

      Looking forward to your participation :)

  3. Just want to say thank you for including my post in the resource list. It’s an honour.
    In the topic of HDR, you might want also to check out Fotor HDR app. This one takes 2 photos and combine it to create HDR image.
    I have the tutorial here: http://moblivious.com/tutorials/easy-steps-to-create-mobile-hdr-photo-with-fotor-hdr/

    One question about the challenge, apologise for my confusion; so we take one photo every day in the week and blog about it?

    • Hey! The honour is mine! :D

      I work off my Samsung Note tablet, and Fotor HDR doesn’t appear to be available for Android. That explains my unfortunate lack of focus on this particular app. So thanks for the tutorial link! It’s definitely going to be helpful for the challengers using the iPhone or iPad.

      As for your question, the challenge occurs on a weekly basis. In general, we pick 1 photo we took the previous week and blog about it. The background is that we use the challenge as a motivation for processing through our photos on a weekly basis to pick the “best” or more personally significant photo out of the lot. It is up to the individual if they want to do more than that.

      The current iteration of the challenge lasts for 12 weeks, and we have an optional component of editing the photo to the theme of the week with a mobile app and blogging about it. The challenge post is published late Tuesday/Wednesday (depending on your location on earth) and challengers have until Sunday end of your day to blog about it.

      Hope that clarifies :)

  4. This has been more of a challenge than I thought! I’ve used Snapseed for a long time on my iPhone. I haven’t used the ‘HDR’ function but have used the ‘Dramatic’ edits (I see them as quite similar). They can be over the top if not toned down, as you have said, BUT can also be used for an ‘artsy’ effect.

    This time I decided not to do what I’ve done before and I actually used the HDR setting to take the shot. Thank you once again for giving us such detailed instructions and resources to learn to expand our abilities!

    • Trees are a cool subject matter, Meghan. I was trying out the HDR feature on the phone myself to take pictures. The bark does come out looking clearer, but maybe because of the contrast with the sky, the picture does come out with a gritty feel, not something I don’t like… although I would prefer lush and green if there were creepers crawling up the truck. Still experimenting over here as well.

      I love the twisty nature of your tree ;)

  5. HDR sounds amazing. I wish I had time to add doing better photography to my list of things to do. You’re amazing! I really like that one of Donna under the towel. So very creative. :)

    • It is amazing looking at the photos by the pros, Dawn. But I’m sure it takes them a lot of time and effort too! I’m just mucking around, haha.

      That one with Donna under the towel was done in the early months of having Donna. I didn’t yet understand very much about dog signals yet, so I did stress her out a bit having something covering her head like that. Thankfully she’s not the worse for it :P

  6. I have HDR in some of the photo editors that I use. I have not really liked any I tried. Maybe I will have to experiment more. :)

    • It gets time consuming, but its true… some editors have a greater halo effect, some have a foggier effect. One I had worked better on landscape if its not too high contrast. In the end, I found snapseed HDR scape to have a good middle ground… since I didn’t want to waste time trying all sorts of HDR editors out there. Android apps … le sigh… If I have an iPhone, I would probably try Fotor HDR that Chris recommended. Have fun, I kind of wonder if it works for snow scapes ;)

  7. Here is mine attempt for this week’s challenge:

    It has been an interesting challenge-the HDR apps seem to vary so much in what they can do the effects they can achieve-this has pushed me to try other things and I have not given up on it-but will keep experimenting-thanks so much for this week’s challenge-I look forward to the coming weeks!

    • Thanks for joining. HDR works well for landscape, which you would know since you take a lot of landscapes in your travels :) I’ve enjoyed your before and after pics, thanks for sharing! Happy Sunday!

  8. Ok, here is my link to my post this week. Still having so much fun! And will definitely have to check out the HDR Art app from Mediachance. That’s pretty cool!

    Like Firebonnet, I have played more with the dramatic effects than I have with the newer HDR setting on Snapseed. I too normally think it’s over the top, but it worked pretty well on my challenge photo which was a rather “light” colored outdoor image.

    • HDR Art app is a paid app and while it is pretty cool, it does take some memory to process the images. I find that it sometimes will take some time on my iPhone 4s when I was using it. So if you have an iPad that has greater memory, go for it. :)

  9. sorry this is last minute! I had phone/comp/photo problems galore! But its done & I learned a lot…

    • I totally understand phone/comp/photo problems and thanks for pushing through despite all that! ;) And I love that saturated, colourful turtle ;) Nice work and have a great week ahead!

  10. Those logs look so clear and well defined in the first photograph. I have missed a few weeks but I am trying to fill in some gaps. Here is my contribution to the HDR challenge

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