One of the things I’ve been diggin’ about using the Sony A7R II (you can see my first thoughts on the camera here), is the app system it has. It’s a great way to extend the features of the camera. One of those apps was just released, and I had the chance to test it out the other day. It’s called Sky HDR and there’s a quick 4-minute video intro here.
What Is Sky HDR?
Basically it’s an app that takes the place of a Graduated Neutral Density filter. And if you don’t use a Grad ND filter, and prefer to darken your skies in Lightroom or Photoshop, it takes the place of that too because it does it in-camera.
To me, this is such a HUGE step in the right direction of using technology to help common shooting situations. One of the main reasons I really like it, is because it shoots in Raw. I’ll be honest. When I first heard about it, I figured it would be some processed JPG that I’d end up with. Nope! It’s still a raw photo. It’s actually merging two high quality raw photos together, which gives you the best image possible. Which means the image quality and your raw workflow (and the apps you use in this workflow) don’t need to change.
Is it Better Than A Grad ND or Lightroom?
Well that’s the magic question right? Think about it this way. What would be the best (meaning “best” quality photo) way to get the best sky and best foreground from a photo? It my opinion, it would be by taking two photos. One properly exposed photo for the sky. And one properly exposed photo for the foreground. Then merge those two photos together using layers in Photoshop. That way, you’re getting the right exposure in each photo, and you’re just layering the best parts on top of each other.
The problem with that is it takes a lot of time. So most of us do one of two things to make this process easier.
• We use a Graduated ND filter while shooting, to darken the sky so we have the right photo, right in-camera. If you like to walk away with the photo as right in-camera as possible, then this is the option to go with.
• We use the Graduated Filter in Lightroom or Photoshop to darken the sky. If you’re not opposed to some post processing and spending some time on the back-end, this is a great option (and the way that I’ve used in the past – see “Why Grad Neutral Density Filters Are Dead to Me”).
(Photos taken with Sony A7, Sony 16-35mm: f/16, ISO 100, .4 seconds)
Each works well, and is faster than always taking two photos, and merging two layers on top of each other. But they’re not ideal. One involves putting a piece of glass/plastic in front of your lens, and the other involves tweaking the exposure of your photos after the fact.
That’s why I think this is such a big step in the right direction. It takes two photos, with the CORRECT exposure for each (foreground and sky), and simply blends them together in-camera for you. You have to watch the video to see how it happens, but there’s total control through the whole process. So you always know where the boundary between sky and foreground is, and you can control it even after you take the photo.
Some Common Questions
Q. Does it shoot in Raw?
Q. Can I change the angle of the sky?
Q. Can I control the exposure for the foreground and sky separately?
A. Yes. You can control the exposure, ISO, and white balance.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. It’s 9$. Way cheaper than a Grad ND filter 🙂
Anyway, if you shoot Sony it’s definitely something to check out. Here’s the link to the Sony App Store website.
Have a good one!