My thoughts on HDR. One more time.

It’s been a while since my last post and I must say, I don’t feel too good about it. Being consistent and persistent is something that I value quite a bit in life so for the last few weeks I felt a lot of guilt for neglecting my blog. But on the other hand, things happen, especially if life gets really busy at work and sometimes you have no choice. Anyway, I’ll try to post more regularly. Cheers.

Trans Canada Highway

As some of you may remember, I mentioned in one of my previous posts about graduated filters, that I didn’t like the HDR. I didn’t delve into this subject deeper as I didn’t want to go off on a tangent. But then a few weeks ago I had a brief email exchange with a photographer friend which forced me to analyse a bit more in depth my feelings regarding this. I started to think about the reasons why I have those negative emotions about the HDR. What I concluded can be summarized in a couple of points:

  • I have nothing against the HDR as a tool (!!!). Really ! It is just a tool. Like my polarizers, grad filters, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. There is absolutely no reason to “hate” tools. It would have been silly if I did that.
  • What I really despise however, is the way this tool is used by a majority of photographers who are “into this”. I hate the “HDR look”: the overcooked, over saturated, unnatural look that screams: HDR !!! You know what I mean: the halos, way over the top clarity and sharpness, the whole nine yards. The same way like I don’t like when polarizers or grad filters are used incorrectly. The same way I don’t like when the saturation slider is pushed waaaay too far without any concern about the result. Essentially, every time when it is obvious what technique was used to achieve the final result I don’t like it. I consider it to be sub-par, heavy-handed and distracting from the essence of the image.

Have I seen any good HDR images ? Yes. But unfortunately it doesn’t happen too often. There are very few photographers who really mastered it and as far as I understand they often use HDR in combination with some other techniques to achieve more subtle, natural results. Which brings us to a related subject. Perhaps the current crop of tools (Photoshop, Photomatix, etc.) is “not there yet”. May be they are not good enough yet. May be we have to wait a bit until the algorithms are improved. I don’t know. But I know that too many photographers are using HDR as a crutch. They mechanically plug a bunch of frames into a software, push some sliders and voila: A new artifical drama was created. Not my cup of tea.

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2 Responses to My thoughts on HDR. One more time.

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