Given that for lots of us, phones are now our camera of choice in most cases, I thought I'd do a slightly different kind of tutorial for you today.
You may know that when you are composing a photo on your phone, if you tap the screen on a certain spot, the focus and exposure will be set for that specific spot. But what happens when you have a scene where part of it is in shadow and part of it in sunlight? You can tell your phone to expose the shadows properly, but you end up with the rest of the photo blown out, like this:
Alternatively, you can expose for the sunlit area, and you end up with indistinguishable shapes in the shadows, like this:
But there is an alternative! The new iPhones (4 and above) have a function built into the native camera app called HDR, otherwise known as High Dynamic Range. Basically what the function does is take two photos, one that exposes for the shadow and one for the light, and then it automagically merges them into one well-exposed photo like this one:
To turn on the HDR function, start your camera app then touch the Options button at the top of the screen. Move the HDR slider to ON, then touch Done.
Now the fun starts! Experiment with touching the light and shadow areas on your screen to see the difference it makes in your HDR photo. You can even try using HDR on photos that don't necessarily call for it, you might be surprised at the effects you get.
One thing you do need to remember is that since your phone is taking two photos and merging them, it is a bit slower than taking a regular picture. So if you're taking photos of fast moving kids, it might not work out so well, but for scenery shots it's a great way to go.
Here are a couple more photos I took on my iPhone. Neither of them actually needed to be HDR, but the effect that it gave was almost like slightly oversharpening the pic, in addition to popping the color a bit, which I thought was pretty cool. These are completely unretouched, straight out of the phone. Mouse over the pictures to see the same photo without using HDR.