Why do people hate me? Or what is so bad about HDR?

snowpileHave you ever met someone who didn’t like you, even though they had never met you? Prejudice? Preconceived ideas as to what you are about?

Just as real life  is full of bigots and prejudiced people so it is in the photo world. A case in point, HDR photography.

I have seen many people online, especially in photo sharing groups like Flickr who outright hate HDR images.

One of the funniest examples was a landscape group where the moderator stated in the group’s rules that HDR images would not be allowed.

Why was that funny? Because I could post HDRs till the cows came home and she would never know. The unfortunate truth is that she was  closing the door on some of the best landscape images around. I never bothered asking this moderator why she hated HDRs with such fervor. I can only guess that she had visited an HDR group and seen some of the horrible creations that exist out there. We have all seen them, the ghasty halos and tones that look like they have been old school solarized.

You know what I mean, pull those sliders all the way to one side in Photomatix and voila, instant art. LOL

HDR or high dynamic range images are able to do what a single exposure cannot, that is to capture an extreme range in light and shadow. Years ago some very smart photograhers knew that by altering exposure and development of their black and white negatives they could better control the tones of their images. You would not want to expose and develop your Plus-X the same on a flat and grey day as you would when the sun is blazing and leaving you black, black shadows and blown highlights would you?

The sensors in modern day SLRs have a limited range of what they can record just as film did back in the day.

Photography has never been about the gadgets or process, for me it has been about the image. Photography is about my interpretation of the scene because when it comes down to it, is what camera really records what we see? Nada. Zip.

A good HDR is an image that is remarkable only in that it doesn’t look like an HDR. It looks like a properly exposed and properly lit image.

I love what HDR processes allow me to shoot. It allows me to capture conditions where I otherwise would turn the camera in the other direction and look for something else.

If you hate HDRs, rethink what it is you hate. Is it the haloed, posterized images that are poorly tonemapped images or do you hate the idea of someone doing another “trick” or gimmick to get their result? I would never use multiple exposures in the studio because there is no need to. In the studio I control the light, the shadow, I control it all. In the great outdoors, I am more observer than director. Because I can’t pull the clouds in for a little more fill in the shadows, I use multiple exposed images to make a single image.

To be clear, at least in my view, HDR is a great tool to have but that is all it is, a tool. It isn’t a crutch to make weak images strong but a tool to help me translate my vision of a scene onto the screen.

Give it a try if you haven’t already. You might be pleasantly surprised with how your horizons have been pleasantly expanded by shooting HDR.


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~ by Dan Jurak on January 20, 2009.

3 Responses to “Why do people hate me? Or what is so bad about HDR?”

  1. It’s the end result that matters, not how you get there. HDR images can be beautiful. Like any tool it just gets overused sometimes. I like your images I’ve seen so far.

  2. I actually shoot on an old Olympus OM1, so unfortunately I would probably fall into the category of people who don’t like those “gimmicks” which digital photography can have. (Please don’t get me wrong, I also have a lovely digi SLR which I very much enjoy using).

    And I think landcape photograhy can be so fantastic, but also very much let down by too much editing and reliance on digital “back-ups” so-to-speak. Basically, I think the world is a pretty stunning place, and it genuinely pains me that some people think it’s ok to digitally alter an image to make it more so. I’d rather see the real thing.

    But your photos are absolutely wonderful, I was so drawn to them. And I’ve spent a LOOONG time trawling through your posts to try and find a bit more about how you shoot. So I was so interested to come across this. I think your point about using a digital process such as HDR as an artistic tool is really great, and one – I’m ashamed to say – I never thought of before. I mean, I would think nothing of using multiple exposures to create an image that would most certainly not be “real”, but I would think of as art. And the process as part of it.

    So you are entirely right in suggesting that HDR could be the same. So, thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson! And your photos are fantastic :).

  3. @ Alanna, thank you for visiting and commenting. There are many schools of thought on what is “right” and what is “wrong” when altering photos. All of them are valid.

    For a long time I was at the other end of the spectrum believing that if I had to do anything to it, I shouldn’t have shot it. I happily shot landscapes that way and frowned on anyone who burned or dodged their prints.

    Today, it’s more about my interpretation of the landscape. Absolutely perfect conditions are not a daily occurrence. I am able to express my creativity by manipulating these landscapes. Is it about an exact recreation of the scene or your interpretation of the scene? That can be debated for hours and the only thing guaranteed is that each person has their own valid viewpoint.

    Thank you again for visiting.

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