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