Lightroom Mobile’s new HDR mode means even better iPhone photos

Your iPhone photos can look more spectacular than ever, thanks to an update to Lightroom Mobile that brings an HDR mode capable of capturing three RAW DNG files.

We’ll explain all the acronyms in a bit, but here’s the gist: Adobe Systems’ popular image processing app can now capture the kind of rich photographic details you previously could get only with a conventional digital camera.

Shortly after Apple’s release of the iPhone 7 and iOS 10 last fall, Adobe beefed up Lightroom Mobile to capture RAW DNG files inside the app. DNG stands for “digital negative.” It’s a kind of RAW file format that is uncompressed and can accept a wider range of adjustments to details like while balance and the recovery of highlight and shadow detail.

Lightroom Mobile HDR

HDR is the latest superpower added to Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

Dynamic range in photography refers to the ratio of light to dark in a picture. High Dynamic Range allows photographers to capture a scene with three different exposures that can be blended with software to provide a picture with a full range of details in both the shadows and highlights.

Typically, a photographer must expose for one area or the other (or somewhere in between) and try to recover details in a photo editing program later. But the final picture with HDR capture looks more like what your eye would see.

The iPhone, as well as cameras on some Android devices, have an HDR mode that provides decent results but does not rise to the level of quality because the setting combines JPEGs, which are compressed and provide fewer details and less latitude for light and color correction.

“The new HDR mode works automatically scanning the scene to determine the correct exposure range and then capture three DNG files, which are then automatically aligned, merged, de-ghosted and tone mapped in the app,” Adobe’s Josh Haftel explained on the Lightroom Journal blog about Monday’s update. “You get a 16-bit floating point DNG, with all of the benefits of both an HDR and a raw photo, which is processed by the same algorithms with the same quality as the HDR technology built into Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom.”

Lightroom Mobile with HDR is only supported with iPhone SE and iPhone 6s and higher. On the Android side, users of Google Pixel, Pixel XL and Samsung S7 and S7 Edge can get the update.

Adobe released a brief tutorial on YouTube (seen below) to show how HDR works in Lightroom Mobile.