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Thoughts on HDR photos...

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What are peoples thoughts on HDR?
11 years ago, June 14th 2010 No: 1 Msg: #113207  
Hey All,

I heard the term HDR last year when I got my DSLR but thought nothing of it, assuming that once I got more familiar with my camera it would be something I'd get to grips with.

I came across this guys Flickr stream a few weeks ago though and now I'm hooked on its capabilities...

stuckincustoms Flickr Stream

The more HDR photos I see the more I'm realising that you either love them or hate them... but I'm also finding that there is a fine line between creating a beautiful image and completely overdoing it and making what can only be described as crap.

I've had a try with Photomatix and the results have been a mixed bag... This being the only notable effort I'd like to show here

I just wondered if anyone has any example of HDR photos they've created on this site they can post and also what your opinions are on the technique... 😊
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11 years ago, June 14th 2010 No: 2 Msg: #113216  
Now, to me, this is an interesting discussion topic and one that can be incredibly heated. So, let me start by saying, as the moderator for this forum, I'll be on the look out for nastiness. Everyone keep it clean and above the belt, so to speak, please!

I personally think that HDR photography can solve problems and, I have actually done some modified HDR myself. When I say modified I mean blending of three or more exposure to compensate for the weaknesses of the camera. Camera sensors are just plain not as good as the human eye. Using camera jargon (and I paraphrase here) I think a camera has appx. seven f/stops worth of exposure while the human eye has more than 20. That, is a huge difference and thus, sometimes you are limited by what you can get with a camera. Now, with that said, I do use graduated neutral density filters to help out some but that's a tough and very "pro" technique.

Now, when it comes to "Stuck in Customs" I pretty much can't stand this style of HDR. I allow for the fact that it is a unique form of art and should not be compared with other photographic styles. But, even with that said, I fall solidly into the realm of, "I think it looks weird and unnatural and thus don't like it."

But, I know it takes talent and skill to accomplish this form of art and respect people who practice the art form and people who like it.

So, there you go!

Mike T. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 14th 2010 No: 3 Msg: #113219  
As an addendum, here's a totally interesting editorial about HDR by Scott Kelby who I truly respect as a pro: Article by Scott Kelby

Mike T. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 15th 2010 No: 4 Msg: #113251  
MichaelnFaye:
I'm no expert on HDR, but I think you've done a nice job with your photo. Not just the processing but also the lighting and composition. I agree that the overdone look is not my cup of tea either. I like the mood you've communicated with your shots. Thanks for sharing. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 15th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #113265  

Now, when it comes to "Stuck in Customs" I pretty much can't stand this style of HDR.



I get this for a lot of the work shown on his Flickr and website but there are also some real gems (IMO). The first picture I saw of his was the Taj Mahal, and this was the first picture that made me want to explore HDR further, I still think it's a breathtaking image looking at it now, even understanding a lot more about the process and how it was created.

I read through and really enjoyed the article you posted Mike, and it pretty much encompassed all the points I've been reading on various forums over the last couple of weeks... I've lost count over the amount of 'I'm not the biggest fan of HDR but it's all I seem to sell' posts from Pro's I've read recently. Maybe as I'm relatively new to photography and especially HDR I'm still very much in that 'non-photographers love 'em' category, but once the novelty and impact this style of photpgraphy shows has worn off, and I've seen my 1 millionth overprocessed HDR image, maybe my opinion will change. I'm definately going to keep the technique in the back of my mind though when I'm composing any images on my travels, I've just got to try and restrain myself from just blasting off tons of exposures of each shot, thinking that post processing will compensate for any mediocre images I take. 😊

I think you've done a nice job with your photo



Thanks for this, I knew when I was taking it this was going to be a bit special, all the other bracketed shots I took with HDR in mind, I was just taking for the sake of it... and it shows... There's a time and a place for HDR, and I'm rapidly learning that 95%!o(MISSING)f the time it's neither the time nor the place!

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11 years ago, June 15th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #113295  
Here's another interesting article from Scott Kelby about what constitutes an "over-the-top" HDR image:

Over The Top HDR Images

Mike T. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #113313  
B Posts: 12
Some professionals seem to find HDR almost offensive. Like an insult to the people who work tirelessly to find that perfect real picture. I guess because the average viewer is so taken back and impressed by them, and are thereby less impressed by even the best of single exposure photographs as a result.

I think it's a tool, and can be an effective one at that. As Mike T mentioned, no camera can replicate what we see with a single exposure. So I think HDR does have some merit, when it's used to make a picture more representative to what you would see with your eye. Most of the time when I see it though I feel like it's overdone. Generally people tend to push it just too far for my liking. Where the sky looks like it's glowing slightly and there isn't enough depth of shadow because they've boosted all the dark areas so much.

To me, if I can tell a photo is HDR, then it's too much.

I also don't think it's really fair to use HDR pictures in brochures and travel advertisements. You can make anywhere look like paradise if you increase the dynamic range on a sunset by a beach. It feels like false advertising.


EDIT - In the future sometime I'll give it a shot and see if I can make anything I like myself. If only I could ever find a shutter release for my GF1 in stock anywhere.
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11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 8 Msg: #113329  
I think that they are great provided that they are not overdone and do remain realistic. If it is obvious that they are HDR they are overdone.

Before 'living colour' in the days of 'glorious black and white' we used to do dodging and shading at the enlarger stage, about three people in the world could do the same thing in colour, this was probably an early version of HDR being used to smooth out exposure problems, that is what it is best as rather than trying to get the saturated look. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #113338  
Another great article Mike, and I find it hard to say specifically what an overdone HDR is... some are obvious, i.e. the one's that make buildings and objects look like cartoons, but then again, some people love these images otherwise why would they make them? It's all down to taste, which is what makes life interesting I suppose.

I also don't think it's really fair to use HDR pictures in brochures and travel advertisements. You can make anywhere look like paradise if you increase the dynamic range on a sunset by a beach. It feels like false advertising.



This I don't really understand... Pretty much all the of single exposure photos used in brochures and advertising are heavily processed in one way or another... dodging, burning, altering saturation levels, cloning out fixtures and permanent objects... Why should HDR processing not be allowed as long as it's kept within the realms of realism? I've lost count of the amount of photos of beaches I've been to and thought 'the sand was never that white, the sea never that blue and wasn't there a great big rock sticking out there/beach hut over there?

I turned up at 5.30 am at the Taj Mahal, was first in the queue, and then jogged to the main vantage point and managed to fire off a few shots before I was joined by hundreds (thousands) of people. Should I not be showing these images to people, as effectively only 2 out of 10,000 (this is the only estimate for daily visitors I could find) people every day will only experience this and I may be providing false expectaions?

Mike.

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11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #113340  
I think HDR can be used to make an image more 'realistic'- ie closer to what you actually see. When I'm standing inside looking out through a window on a bright day, I don't just see a washed out rectangle. I see trees, people, sky - whatever is out there. We see in HDR, why not photograph in HDR? Here's an example from one of my blogs:

Example Originally, the window was all white with no detail - not very realisic. I should know, I was there... Using photomatix on the original raw file i managed to save some of the buildings etc outside, putting the photographers in context. It's not a great shot but it's definately better with HDR. And it's not over the top in my opinion.

Likewise in this one. When I was standing there, I could definately see both the sky and the road clearly. Unfortunately my camera couldn't but again a little bit of HDR did the trick.

Actually, in both examples I should mentioned that I also blended the original back in using GIMP layers. Maybe this is why they're not 'over the top' HDR looking but I prefer it this way anyway.

Having said all that, I do like a lot of crazy HDR that I've seen, including the Stuck In Customs stuff...

Ben Reply to this

11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 11 Msg: #113371  
Ben,

I definitely think you used HDR in a way that isn't crazy. I too have used HDR (without photomatix) in similar ways. It feels to me like its the future of photography in some ways. Obviously there are technical limitations to photographic sensors that may never be overcome. Some people have speculated that the next gen top cameras (Nikon D4?? Canon 1D MkV or mkVI??) will have an option to automatically blend multiple exposures to create an HDR like single exposure. We'll see...

But, when its all said and done, no technical innovation will overcome skill. Even in HDR photography you have to have the right equipment and knowledge to get a good result. So, no matter how much pros whine about it not being done the old, hard way, there's still a difference between people with knowledge and talent than people without!!

Mike T. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 12 Msg: #113372  
Oh, BTW, great job on the Taj picture Mike. Its one of the best I've seen. You should consider getting it copyrighted and posted for stock photography!!

Mike T. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 16th 2010 No: 13 Msg: #113385  
B Posts: 62
For the past year or so, I've been getting more into photography. As someone who is learning, I have a hard time swallowing HDR. I'm not completely against it; however, I liken HDR to the air brushing/photoshopping done in magazines.

Mostly, I'm in the camp that most HDR is overdone and overused. There are so many that are completely unrealistic. It's hard to learn from those pictures, and hard to improve your knowledge about lighting, exposure and the reaches of your camera. If the point is to compensate for what a camera cannot replicate compared to a human eye, then the end-product should not look more like an oil painting / crazy drug-laced trip than what actually is in front of the lens.

As I start to experiment with different lens, part of me wonders if there's a lack of education that people are willing to go through about the different kinds of lenses available. So far I've not tried my hand atHDR (though, disclaimer: I'll admit I probably will at some point!) because the more I learn how and when to use the lenses in my case, the less I feel I need to edit them in the end.


Overall though - I'm sure there is a time and place for it, and some photos are really well done or necessary even. They have the "wow" effect and I'm sure they'd sell better for most photographers. If you're going for a more artistic approach, awesome, why not. I also think there are other sorts of manipulation not seen by the naked-eye that photographers use that seemingly aren't as controversial, such as a nice long exposure on a waterfall.
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11 years ago, June 17th 2010 No: 14 Msg: #113437  
WOW! I can't help but fall in love with the Taj Mahal picture!! Absolutely breathtaking. I own a Canon 550D by the way and I am really no expert in HDR although I kind of have an idea already of how to make it. I'll try to explore further on this one. Thanks for this thread by the way. Really great pictures. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 17th 2010 No: 15 Msg: #113462  

Some people have speculated that the next gen top cameras (Nikon D4?? Canon 1D MkV or mkVI??) will have an option to automatically blend multiple exposures to create an HDR like single exposure.



I've heard of this too which makes you think that maybe this is the future of photography. I can only assume that if the camera does do this processing on board it will do it in a way which looks a lot more natural than the majority of stuff out there.

All I know is that on any future trips I make I'm definately going to ask myself 'will bracketing this shot and running it through Photomatix add any value?'. I just wished I knew about it on my previous trips when I was trying to take photos with stuff in the foreground and mountainous backdrops.

Bnk... I really like your shots. Not overdone at all in my opinion. Am checking out your Flickr stream straight after this! 😊
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11 years ago, June 17th 2010 No: 16 Msg: #113487  
I'll admit - I like HDR shots. I will most certainly be looking into this as I wasn't aware of the technique before this post (although I recognize the end result)!

What I love about travel photography in particular is that it evokes a sense of something beyond what you merely see - it creates a sense of place, adventure, emotions...something else, and if HDR helps create an image which evokes those feelings and/or somehow manages to illustrate the magic of location through a visual representation, however "artificial," I say bring it on.

I suppose there is the push-back that this isn't "real" photography, but in any craft technological limits will always be pushed and eventually a new status quo will be established. I'm often puzzled by statements that assume that incorporating new technology is a way to short-cut skill required - it will still take photographic skill and expertise to frame a shot, select a subject, compose an image, adjust for what conditions are present - that doesn't go away, so to assume that so-called "amateurs" can masquerade as "pros" doesn't hold water in my opinion.

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11 years ago, June 17th 2010 No: 17 Msg: #113497  

I'm often puzzled by statements that assume that incorporating new technology is a way to short-cut skill required - it will still take photographic skill and expertise to frame a shot, select a subject, compose an image, adjust for what conditions are present - that doesn't go away, so to assume that so-called "amateurs" can masquerade as "pros" doesn't hold water in my opinion.



This is completely what I was getting at with the above post. Obviously, you will need to be a good photographer to pull of an HDR image worth looking at. If you can't figure out how to make a single exposure of an object worth looking at from perspective, then you'll never make an HDR one worth looking at!

I think many people are missing the fact that there are many styles/types of photography. There's photo-journalistic, polaroid, candid, landscape, etc. I think HDR is just another style of photography. This isn't the first style that I'm not very fond of but that doesn't mean it isn't fun to do and interesting. Its just my personal opinion. My contention with a lot of these pictures is that they are surreal, but I don't really like surreal paintings either. So there you have it... Reply to this

11 years ago, June 17th 2010 No: 18 Msg: #113516  
I aim to be just realistic with HDR. If anyone can tell that it's HDR its been overdone. Reply to this

11 years ago, June 17th 2010 No: 19 Msg: #113520  
I think that's a sound approach Nigel! Reply to this

11 years ago, June 23rd 2010 No: 20 Msg: #113864  
Thread is getting a bit old but I was lying on a beach the other day (sigh) and it struck me that in a world where the latest cameras rely more and more on clever software to create ever more 'technically superior' images, using subtle HDR techniques is no more 'cheating' than simply upgrading your camera! In fact, it's more difficult as it's at least partly manual.

Adding some kind of HDR feature to high end cameras does seem to be the next logical step... I don't think it'll change the fact that a well lit, clean image will always look better than an HDR. Reply to this

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