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May 16, 2014

A passion for photography leads to 4Blend HDR app

Thinking back to your own childhood, did you have the slightest idea what you would grow up to do with your life? Did the decisions you made then affect the path you have chosen today?


In the case of independent developer Sebastiano Galazzo (at right), a few items given to him by his parents when he was a boy set the course for a life-long passion leading to his award-winning work today, including being named a Connects MVC winner this week. Specifically, when Sebastiano was just 12-years old, his father gave him a traditional camera, inspiring a love of photography; and around that time he also received a Commodore 64 computer.

“I realized that it would be my future because I was not a very good student at all … Of course I studied, but each time I put my hand on a computer, I was able to do things that other guys weren’t. It pushed me to think, ‘Ah, this is what you have to do in your life,’” Sebastiano said.

So why become a developer? “For me, the best thing about being a developer is creating something that other people are not doing,” he said.

If you want to see where these childhood choices have taken Sebastiano, check out this new video from Nokia Developer. (Spoiler alert: Things go really, really well.)


Blending work and life to create 4Blend HDR

Sebastiano got his degree in computer sciences from the University of Catania in 2003, and then he moved to Milan to start working on search engines and artificial intelligence software.

Fast forward to 2010, and Sebastiano began developing apps of his own for various Nokia platforms, and then by 2012 he was entering his work in various developer contests and winning.

It was a regular winning streak, combined with lots of late nights and last-minute deadlines that finally led Sebastiano to see that he should take his prototype and develop it into a full-fledged Windows Phone app.


In December 2013, the app 4Blend HDR was published to the Windows Phone Store and it has been an instant hit. “In just two weeks, it made 50,000 downloads … and I was able to reach 300,000 downloads in the first three months,” Sebastiano reported.

And, it is worth noting that Sebastiano, who is a Nokia Developer Champion, still has a full-time job as a software engineer while he works on his apps at night and in his spare time.

What is HDR all about?

The app 4Blend HDR allows anyone – from hobbyists to professional photographers – to take advantage of the powerful imaging capabilities inside Lumia phones and create pictures that are simply stunning.

As Sebastiano explained, “HDR is an imaging technique that allows you to catch a more dynamic range in your images by shooting multiple shots at once. Typically, you shoot three images. One image is underexposed, one image is normal exposure and then one image is overexposed. In that way, you can catch all the dynamic range of the light, so the dark areas are brighter and the bright areas are darker.”

His app uses a special algorithm that he developed that is “able to create the perfect pixel with regard to the light.” The app then applies filters dynamically to each layer of the final image.


Even more amazing is that the 4Blend HDR app works perfectly on the full Lumia range – from the Lumia 520 straight through to the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520.

While the app is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, there is an in-app purchase option that will unlock additional features.

“Algorithms inside the 4Blend HDR came from my studies that started almost 15 years ago,” Sebastiano said. “It’s not something really easy, so I ask just the cost of an ice cream to support all the work I did.” That seems like a pretty fair trade doesn’t it?

Are you using 4Blend HDR?  What do you think about? Let us know in the comments below.

Update (20 May): Sebastiano reported today via Twitter that his app 4Blend HDR has surpassed 400,000 downloads from the Windows Phone Store.