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I've noticed that when shooting some environmental/city/sea/etc. scenes phone cameras expose both the background sky as well as the subject (person/building/street) pretty well.

On the other hand if I try to get an identical photo with my camera (Canon M50) I keep having to struggle with either the subject being properly exposed and the sky being completely blown out OR vice-versa where the sky is properly exposed (clouds visible, some blue is visible) but the subject is completely underexposed.

This is really frustrating for me and I'm trying to figure out how I can remedy this. I've come across the concept of Exposure bracketing, which seems to address such a problem but this would cause an additional overhead of post-processing images instead of having a good overall exposure captured initially. Was hoping to understand how proper settings might correct this issue.

Your suggestions would be appreciated!

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    What phone are you using? Some do HDR without you knowing it.
    – Eric S
    Jun 5 at 13:59
  • I've noticed this on an Samsung galaxy s9 plus and also on a relative's LG phone (don't know the model).
    – Mr. Nicky
    Jun 5 at 15:36
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The answer to why your phone pictures are better that your “camera” pictures depends on what you are comparing and how you do photography.

If you like fiddling with your photographs in editing then by all means use a manual camera. Turn off auto-focus. Turn off auto-exposure. Shoot RAW and fiddle away. Editing is a power tool for creative photography, but with better images coming from smartphone cameras, it is less and less necessary to waste time adjusting the defects in the images as recorded.

Comparing images recorded by a state of the art phone camera, like an iPhone 11 or Android equivalent, to the JPEG output any DSLR or other dedicated digital camera (DDC) is like comparing a Tesla with a microwave oven - the processing power of the iPhone is thousands of times higher than any DDC. That’s one reason the phone pictures look better out of the camera.

There are other factors - Most DDCs, including DSLRs still output the obsolete sRGB color standard. Their images look muddy and dull compared to modern phone cameras shooting P3 color, which is now used in all movie theaters, big screen TVs, Apple desktop computers, modern PCs, good laptops and modern smartphones.

Next, modern smartphones use the far better HEIC compression format that has replaced the obsolete JPEG standard. However, most DSLRs and other DDCs are still outputting JPEG. Therefore, critical photographers have to record in RAW format, then process the images on their computer to get decent results. This adds mountains of complexity to the workflow and is not necessary for people who just want to shoot good pictures out of the box.

I’ve been shooting since the days of Ansel Adams, and I know that the iPhone 11 vastly improves my photographs compared to the dark ages of DSLRs. Better color, better dynamic range, better exposure and focus controls, where I can make changes and see the results before taking the picture. FAR better image stabilization and dark mode performance. Resolution above 12 megapixels is pointless since 99.9% of our images are viewed on electronic screens with 8.8 megapixel resolution, or printed in sizes of 13x19″ or less.

Do I edit my photographs for “creative control?” Absolutely, but now I am working with 32bit high dynamic range images and doing tone mapping - an order of magnitude more powerful than the old brightness/contrast controls. This isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s reality. I have put 14,000 exposures through an iPhone 11 since November, 2019 and images tell the story.

All that said, it is absolutely true that on any one dimension you can find an example of where a specialized DDC camera will outperform an iPhone 11. But if you are comparing out-of-the-camera performance, modern smartphones are way better than the vast majority of DDCs.

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  • It's funny that you discount higher resolution (12+ MP) because people "don't use it", and then declare sRGB "obsolete", even though the vast majority of screens still can't render a wider colour space anyway (nor bother to do it accurately).
    – Zeus
    Jun 8 at 1:27
  • @Zeus Don't all newer Apple products have P3 displays? I think the Macbook Pro got DCI-P3 diplay since 2016? Jun 14 at 9:12
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    @Jeremi, even if they do, they are not the majority. I'm all for wide gamut, I have such monitor myself, but I find it quite ridiculous to declare that gamut has greater immediate importance than resolution, in general. Many people can't even tell the difference (wide vs sRGB) unless (or even when) presented with the samples side-by-side. At least, sRGB remains the standard of the web, so cannot formally be declared "obsolete", whereas there is no standard resolution for photography.
    – Zeus
    Jun 15 at 0:44

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