It seems that now-a-days, one can’t visit a
photo sharing site without seeing wall-to-wall “HDR” images. Everyone
and his brother has written a “how to do HDR” tutorial. What is
interesting is the visceral reaction this technique evokes. People
either think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread or a godawful
technique that mangles images and degrades the “art” of photography.
(The photographic equivalent of black velvet Elvis posters, only without the kitsch appeal?)
I partly understand the animosity to HDR, or at least where it comes
from. Because it’s easy to do, and produces dramatic results (note I
did not say GOOD results), I feel it is often used as a crutch to try
and make a mediocre image more interesting. Boring landscape? run it
through an HDR program and “oooh and ahhh” at the supersaturated colors
and compressed range (not to mention the halos, glow, and probable loss
I’ve also seen some incredibly beautiful images that incorporated HDR techniques
Bottom line, the way I see it is:
HDR is a post-processing
technique, just like b/w conversion or curve adjustments or split
toning. If used judiciously and in moderation it can be very effective
and give added depth and impact to your photos. If misused/overused it
simply becomes a generic “fotoshop filter” technique that mangles
images beyond recognition (mostly images that weren’t all that good to
begin with) moreso, it is often used as a crutch to mask sloppy
The most effective uses of HDR that I have seen are subtle. Used
as a tool to retain highlight/shadow detail in high-contrast scenes it
can be very effective (i.e. take 2 images, one metered for highlights and
one metered for shadows and combine with HDR processing when there is
simply too much dynamic range in a scene to capture in one exposure).
Most of the time though, it is hard to tell that this is even “HDR”
since it often lacks the supersaturated “punch” of the 5,6 or even 9
image composites. The danger comes with the “more is better mentality”
– same thing happens with image sharpening in Photoshop i.e. if 20 sharpening is good, 40 must be twice as good.
so to all the aspiring HDR-ists out there remember: use a light hand
applying the technique, your images will thank you, and dont forget, it’s only
one technique out of many!
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