While taking photos with both the front and rear-facing cameras, users found that the new Smart HDR feature – first introduced with the iPhone X – is vigorously smoothing the subjects of their photos. Enough so, that iPhone XS users thought it was a new beautifying feature that Apple just forgot to mention when they announced their product roll out in September.
According to Apple, the Smart HDR feature increases the highlight and shadow detail, captures better action shots, and has a more precise awareness of the depth of field. All of a sudden, a normal selfie looks like it went through FaceTune, Photoshop, or another beautifying app. (The Verge offered a technical explanation as to why the feature made such noticeable enhancements, and it all has to do with the base frame.) Basically, the algorithm results in photos having a softer focus.When Smart HDR is disabled, the photos appear as they did before.
When news of "Beautygate" first broke in September, Apple remained silent on the issue. Users weren't sure whether it was an intentional feature or a flaw in the iOS. It wasn't until recently that the company announced that they would be fixing the Smart HDR feature in an iOS 12.1 update.
Now, if we want that same brightening, smoothing, beautifying effect, we'll have to edit our photos in FaceTune or Photoshop like we did before.