Friday, April 26, 2013

Photo app for Painters

The Challenge of Getting Photos Good Enough to Paint From:
As painters we all know that working from life is the best approach.  Our eyes can pick up so much more than a camera can.  Sometimes, however, there are scenes that just won't hold still long enough for us to grab them with a we do it with a camera.

Cameras lie.  Not intentionally.  It's just their nature.  This shot, taken early on the last morning in Mexico is a great example.  The sunset was glorious but impossible to paint, even if I had the time.  The scene changes second to second and I don't have a photographic memory.   (that black stripe down the middle is actually the trunk of a palm)

The second shot I believe I could use as a reference for a painting.

What's the difference?

The first shot was with the standard iPhone camera.  The second was with one of several HDR apps I have on the phone.  The first takes only one shot with the best exposure it can figure out.  The HDR app takes three photos in quick succession, using differing exposures for the differently lit areas.  It processes the three, combining the best from each into a composite piece.  Pretty cool!

There are quite a few different apps to pick from:  HDR FX Pro, True HDR, Pro HDR, HDR, Top Camera are the ones I have.  Each has a little different twist but they are all inexpensive, some are free.  These photos were taken with True HDR.

Yes, there are drawbacks.  Because three photos have to be taken it doesn't work well for any scene with too much movement in it.  People walking, for example, will have some blur where the figures are.  Still, for most landscape shots, they work great to capture more of what it's like to see with our own eyes.  I'm sure they will get even better.

Yes, they have a little of an 'other worldly' quality about them but I'd rather deal with that than a photo like the first one.

Here are two more taken that same morning.  I think you can see how difficult this would be to get with a regular camera.  (check your camera.  some newer ones have HDR built in)  Snap.....


  1. Wow! Great info Darrell! First I have heard about these apps...(more ammo to talk my wife into letting me get an iphone)

    Your Mexico paintings are full of color and energy!

  2. I didn't know about those apps! Thanks for writing about them- I'll be checking them out.

  3. This is great information Darrell - and thanks for taking the time to show the difference.
    I am an admirer of your work and did not know you had a blog. I consider this a great find!

    1. Thanks, Julie. Let me know how it works for you. I haven't tried painting from it yet but it is appealing to give it a try.


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