Do HDR photos use more memory?

Do HDR photos use more memory?

iPhone capturing an afternoon scenery of houses by the river bank. - HDR photos use more memory
Are HDR photos worth the full storage space?

Who doesn’t want to take accurate, stunning photos? If you own an iPhone, it’s almost inexcusable not to take good pictures. However, all beautiful things come with prices. For instance, HDR photos. They may be the enhanced versions of your photos, but do HDR photos use more memory?

High Dynamic Range or HDR photos use more memory in your iPhone because each of them is made of multiple photos blended into one. When you enable HDR or Smart HDR, your camera will take three up to nine photos, each having different exposures. After that, it blends them into one stunning, more detailed photo. Moreover, HDR also eats up storage fast because your iPhone will simultaneously save two photos—the HDR photo and the normal photo.

Below, we’ll discuss why HDR photos fill your storage faster than how regular photos do. We’ll also answer other related questions. 

Why does HDR save two photos?

When you switch on the HDR feature, your iPhone camera takes three photos in three different exposures—the mid-point exposure photo, the underexposed photo, and the overexposed photo. It blends those three photos into one, which is now the HDR photo. iPhone saves the mid-point exposure photo and the combination, probably so you can use them for comparison.

Why do you need multiple photos for HDR?

The older iPhone models can take up to three photos to create an HDR photo. Meanwhile, newer models can take up to nine photos. However, professional photographers can even take 11 photos to capture a great HDR photo. This is because the more photos you capture in one scene, the more details you can get. In this case, they can get a more dynamic range—more details, more accuracy, more colors, etc. 

How to adjust your HDR settings to save more memory 

Hand holding an iPhone that shows a gallery. Pictures of happy, smiling friends show. - HDR photos use more memory
Adjust your HDR settings to take more (or fewer) HDR photos!

HDR photos may help you look at a semi-pro in your Instagram feed. However, they also take a lot of space, so you also have to be practical. Here’s how to adjust your HDR settings, so you can save on memory. 

1. Disable your “Keep Normal Photos” button.

As mentioned, your iPhone saves two photos at the same time if you enable HDR. Good thing you can disable it. Just follow the steps below!

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap on Photos and Camera. 
  3. Under HDR (High Dynamic Range) option, disable the “Keep Normal Photo”. 
  4. After disabling it, your camera will only save one photo, which is the HDR one.

2. Set your HDR to Auto, instead of always On. 

If you own older iPhone models, you can try this tip. The Auto HDR means your iPhone’s AI will decide for you if a scene should be captured using HDR. Meanwhile, if you set it to On, you will always take HDR photos, no matter where you are. Therefore, if you use Auto instead of On, you won’t always take space-eating photos. You can do this by simply tapping the camera’s Auto button at the top. 

3. Turn off Automatic Smart HDR. 

Now, if you own a newer iPhone model, such as the iPhone XR or the iPhone 11, the camera automatically takes HDR photos where it deems necessary. This works for both the rear and front-facing camera. If you don’t like it, don’t worry—you can disable it. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap on Camera. 
  3. Switch off the Smart HDR. 

Free up some memory on your storage. 

person taking a photo of a scene - HDR photos use more memory
If you really want space, you have to let go of some memories.

While HDR photos use more memory, you can always give your iPhone’s storage space a breather. Here are some small steps to free up your device’s memory. 

  • Unclog your memory by uninstalling apps you haven’t used for months now. It’s just time to let them go.  
  • Start transferring your photos and videos to an external hard drive or your iCloud to give way to newer memories.
  • Turn off some of your apps’ internal downloads. For example, do you really need to stash in those 20 playlists and 800 songs in your Spotify app? 
  • Set your messages to expire automatically. You can change this setting by Going to Settings > Messages > Keep Messages > 30 Days or 1 year. After that, your messages will expire in one month or after a year. 

Where can you best use HDR? 

Two hands holding an iPhone in landscape position, capturing a scenery of old buildings, blue skies, and skyscraper. - HDR photos use more memory
There’s a right time and place for using HDR or Smart HDR.

Another way to save space on your storage is knowing when to use HDR. Surely, you don’t want to waste this cool feature on something mundane, right? Of course, using HDR entirely depends on you, but we suggest using HDR only when necessary to let your storage breathe.

1. Capturing close-up photos of faces, food, flowers.

Capture your kids’ toothy smiles and yummy iced dessert with HDR. You will get more accurate details, which will make your portraits richer and crisper. You can even use a clip-on macro lens to capture depth in your close-up photos easily.

2. The outdoors during the day.

If you live near greeneries and mountainous areas, you might be used to capture photos with harsh lighting. Worry no more by using HDR. Turning it on will help you take photos with the best-exposed skies and shadows. And, if you’re taking photos on a hot and bright day, you can get a clip-on polarizer filter for your iPhone to avoid overexposing your photos. 

3. Poorly-lit rooms.

HDR also works best for capturing romantic, low-light scenes. If you’re in a cozy bar, in a candle-lit dinner date, or in a stargazing date, you can immortalize the moment better with HDR. It will help you expose the right shadows and highlights, giving you clearer, sharper details in the photos. To make your photos clearer, you can also get a clip-on light for your iPhone.

When not to use HDR

Person recording a video of the city from a bird's eye view.
Using HDR in these situations will only ruin or complicate your photos.

1. You want the colors to stay the same.

Sometimes, the HDR will change the colors to make up for the underexposed or overexposed highlights and shadows. Depending on the scene, the colors might become muted or even more vibrant. Meanwhile, you can get clip-on colorized filters for your iPhone if you want to control the hues in your photos.

2. Moving scenes or objects.

We advise against using HDR when capturing moving or shaky scenes. So, when you’re walking, sprinting, or taking photos of running animals or people, it’s pointless to use HDR. Since it takes several photos of one scene or object, it will require stillness and less to no movement. Instead, you can use a gimbal for your iPhone if you want to take good photos of moving objects.

3. You want the contrast to stay as-is.

Another thing is when you want a dramatic contrast in your photo. HDR corrects overexposure or underexposure, so if you want the contrast to stay as it is, then don’t use HDR.

Do live photos take more memory? 

Yes, they take up more space than regular photos. Live photos include two images besides the one you captured—images that were captured before and after you pressed the shutter button. With this data, even though they have the same resolution as a normal photo, they still take more space. If you’re planning to take more HDR photos, you might want to invest in an extra flash drive for that extra storage space and security.

Smart HDR of iPhone 11 Pro: What can you expect? 

Black matte iPhone 11 Pro.
Are you excited about iPhone 11 Pro’s Smart HDR updates?

With the iOS 11 models already available, you might expect some bigger and better camera updates. And you are right. The Smart HDR, especially, has some big improvements in the store. In a review by The Verge, they compared two similar portraits, each taken with iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone XS. The former definitely showed more details than the latter—even though both were cropped at the same size! 

In particular, the huge Smart HDR improvement was all thanks to its so-called semantic rendering, which recognizes a photo’s individual elements and adjusts them to produce a crisp, accurate image. Smart HDR also checks if it’s capturing a sky, hair, food, etc. and then grabs details from the over- and underexposed frames to produce a sharper photo. 

In a nutshell… 

Even though HDR photos use more memory, it will be worth it once you use it appropriately. If you’re planning to take mobile photography seriously, knowing when to use it is just one of the fundamental lessons you can learn. Not only will you save time but also storage space!