Snapseed got a nice update recently that adds a new filter, HDR Scape, along with some updates to improve tune image and the drama filter. I decided to do a little write up to help you all out, because I know HDR Scape is going to “ruin” some photos if you overdo it. I say ruin in quotes because it’s really just my opinion, but HDR has a bad rap since people can easily go overboard with it. Subtlety is your friend :).
First, let me quickly mention the changes to tune image and drama. In tune image, there are 2 new sliders, shadows and warmth. Shadows is a great way to bring back detail in your shadows and extend the dynamic range of your image without an HDR look. Warmth replaces white balance, but performs a similar function. White balance had some wild colors you could cast on the image, but warmth appears to make more gradual and realistic adjustments to the white balance, allowing you to cool an image down or warm an image up.
Drama has one subtle change to it. The saturation slider starts at -40 now instead of +30. The starting looks are the same, but starting with a negative makes more sense because it has less saturation than the original image. Now there is no guess work as to what number you have to adjust it to to get the saturation back to the original levels.
Ok. HDR Scape. I’m so glad to see Google is still updating Snapseed because its my favorite app. Go download it if you don’t have it…its free, you know. There are 4 presets in HDR Scape. Really, they aren’t presets, but appear to be 4 different algorithms for creating an HDR style. They are Nature, People, Fine, and Strong. People is my early favorite because its not too wild. The 4 sliders in HDR Scape are filter strength (starts at +85,) brightness, saturation, and smoothing. I’m having a hard time figuring out what smoothing actually does. I think I’ve seen it subtly affect the transition from shadows to highlights. Its really hard to notice any difference when you have it set to 0 or 100.
Let’s look at an example of each algorithm now. This image was taken in a post office in NY. It’s not a fantastic image, but there is so much going on that it will make for a good test image. Each preset is left to the default settings of +85 filter strength and everything else at 0. Keep an eye on the ceiling, the darkest areas on the walls, the shadows on the ground, and the highlights in the window.
Notice how the shadows are unnaturally dark in the Nature and Strong presets. It looks odd because the blacks on the wall to the right are lightened, while the shadows on the ground are darkened. I’m not saying don’t use those presets. By all means, use them to create some awesome images.
Nature is close to being ok. The highlights in the window appear to have a blue hue to them now. The contrast is off because the blacks have been lightened too far and some midtones have been darkened. Some adjustments would need to be made in tune image and probably selective adjustments to fix the problem areas. I bet if the filter strength was dialed back, I would like it more.
People has the most natural look to it. The shadows aren’t overly dramatic. The highlights look the most natural. The ceiling looks very good. There is still decent contrast in the scene. This is the preset I’ll probably start with every time I think of using HDR Scape.
Fine has a problem with keeping contrast. The highlights have been muddied. The darkest parts of the walls are now midtones. Everything looks like a midtone to me. Very unnatural.
Strong looks like something I would have created when I first started HDR. It’s wild and may look cool on your screen, but to me it looks like it was created by someone still learning the craft. The highlights have a blue hue again. The darkest areas have been lightened too much, messing up the contrast in some spots. Having said that, I do love the ceiling in this preset the most.
Here is what I came up with, using tune image along with HDR Scape. I could have also use selective adjustments to work on the ceiling a little more
My advice for using HDR Scape is to dial down the filter strength and be sure to also use tune image to at least make adjustments to the contrast. Instead of doing one big adjustment, like HDR Scape at +85 filter strength, make a few subtle adjustments to create a nice image.