The newest iPhone models include a camera feature called Smart HDR which aims to extend the High Dynamic Range feature to bring out even more details in the shadows and highlights of a photo. This is done automatically by iOS by blending together multiple exposures of the picture taken by iPhone camera, which is then saved as that Smart HDR version. While most iPhone users will want to keep Smart HDR enabled on their iPhone, there are some photography situations where it might be desirable to disable Smart HDR on the camera of iPhone too.
Note that disabling Smart HDR will also re-enable the manual HDR controls on iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and iPhone XS Max.
Smart HDR is currently only available on the newest model iPhone cameras, including iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Earlier model iPhone do not have Smart HDR, though they do have HDR or Auto HDR, which are generally similar but different and have less detail for extreme lighting scenarios. Nonetheless since not all iPhone models have this feature, not all iPhone models will be able to disable or enable Smart HDR either.
How to Disable Smart HDR on iPhone Camera
Turning off Smart HDR is simple:
- Open the “Settings” app on iPhone
- Go to “Camera”
- Locate the switch for “Smart HDR” and toggle that OFF *
- Exit Settings
With Smart HDR turned off, you can still use regular HDR with the iPhone camera if desired, it just doesn’t automatically use the multi-exposure tricks offered by Smart HDR.
Once Smart HDR is disabled, using HDR manually or automatically or not at all is done from the iPhone Camera app by tapping on the “HDR” button on the screen and then choosing On, Off, or Auto.
* If the iPhone setting here is shown as ‘Auto HDR‘ instead that means the devices camera does not support the Smart HDR feature.
What is Smart HDR on iPhone?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which aims to improve the detail and luminosity of a photo by combining several different versions of the same photo into a single version of the same picture. This happens automatically with the HDR feature on iPhone, and Smart HDR is an enhanced version of that.
In the iOS Camera Settings, Smart HDR is described briefly as: “Smart HDR intelligently blends the best parts of separate exposures into a single photo.”
On the iPhone XS camera product marketing page here, Apple describes Smart HDR as follows:
” Smart HDR – Leveraging multiple technologies — like faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms — Smart HDR brings more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.”
Accompanying that description is the following photo, which demonstrates Smart HDR capability of bringing out more details from both the highlights and shadows of the photo, and as you can see this is an excellent picture and pretty amazing to be taken with an iPhone camera:
How to Enable Smart HDR on iPhone Camera
You can also turn Smart HDR back on again if you’d like at any time:
- Open the “Settings” app
- Go to “Camera”
- Locate the switch for “Smart HDR” and toggle to the ON position
- Exit Settings
Another setting you can adjust as needed on an iPhone (or iPad) is whether the iPhone camera saves two photos from an HDR picture or not. Most heavy photographers will want to keep that feature enabled since they can manually choose the best looking photo, but some users may prefer to simply keep the HDR version.