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Arguing about HDR Bugs Me

A couple of Photoshop World’s ago, my buddy Matt Kloskowski and I started teaching a class on HDR as a Pre-Con due to it’s increased demand. I was excited about the opportunity to do so: In one part because I got to teach alongside Matt, but in another because I would be able to share and explore in a technique that is getting a lot of press. After the second conference, I sat and thought about the work I was doing with it.

After some meditation, I gave myself a project. I knew that I was going to be traveling in the last 3 months of the year. Rather than focus on Speedlights and landscape stuff (which I had done before) I figured i’d sit and explore the concept of HDR photography further. It’d be a good time to get out and actually make some cooler ones.. explore.. and actually focus on doing -one- thing.. something that I seriously encourage people to do.

How cool was it that one of my first tour stops happened to be in Austin, Texas – home of one of the 800lb bears of the HDR technique – Trey Ratcliff. After a brief email with Trey – we were sitting down in a restaurant waxing about fame, education, passion, and obviously a little HDR. That was enough inspiration to get my butt in gear and go out and shoot the images that you see above.

It’s funny though – the more and more I got into the concept of HDR – the more I saw the big argument that people have over the ‘proper’ use of HDR – something that found completely arrogant. I don’t know why it got under my skin, but there were a couple of things that really rung out to me.

HDR is a technique AND a TECHNOLOGY
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Basically its a series of images at different exposures to be able to capture the tonal range of a scene. If you want to get details in both the dark areas and a sky portion of an image, its one of the ways to do so. However, once you capture all of that information – the computer needs to run it through a program to map the brightness of specific areas to ranges that a screen or a printer can see. How you map those areas you cant see into areas you can is called Tonemapping – usually done with a program called Photomatix. Now- HOW you tonemap that image is entirely up to the photographer – producing great or not so great results. The overly measurement specific take issue with the fact that the art form for all of this should be called TONEMAPPING and not HDR.. I say – I really don’t care. Just as much as I don’t get into a tizzy when everyone calls placing things in plastic “Tupperware” – I used Glad, I used Reynolds, I used Publix.. but rarely Tupperware. The general masses know Tonemapping as HDR Photography because that’s where it came from. Arguing about what it -technically- is doesn’t really do much for anything. That’s like the people who buy a camera and sit there and measure the sensors to the micron level.. – get out there and shoot the thing, will ya?

There is no RIGHT way to HDR an Image
Just like I wouldn’t tell you how to perform a black and white conversion, properly scratch your back, play the lead guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb”, or make Pasta sauce, I’m not going to tell you how to make a proper HDR. How you make an HDR image is going to be completely up to you. If your image/pasta sauce/Floyd solo/or B&W conversion sucks.. then that’s on you. That doesn’t mean that you did the “method” incorrectly.. and for those who halo everything.. well that just means that you just plain suck… there’s PLENTY of that everywhere in the world.. why are we going to get in a tizzy over it on HDR.

Who Cares if Its Real
Last I checked, photography can be whatever you really want it to be. Want to make trees white? Sure.. go right ahead. Want to give me some extra hair? Sure, have at it.. lord knows I need it! Its about expression and emotion.. getting lost in the technical details just gets you lost.

HDR is a Fad
Infrared was considered a fad. Selective coloring was considered a fad. Sepia was considered a fad. HDR now is being considered a fad? You know what I hope IS a REAL fad? Calling things fads. I still see some infrared images that look great, some really cool Sepia images, and a nice selective color of an image can REALLY make it stand out. They should be called ‘techniques’. Master them if you want – put them in your tool belt.. and pull them out when you want to make art.. and stop worrying about the Fad.

Most of the People Who Hate HDR Images are Photographers
Photographers are usually the ones who get HDR stuck in their craw and feel the need to complain about it. Here’s a good examply my buddy Matt likes to use. Print out a couple of pictures of your portfolio.. then in the middle of all of them.. place one HDR in it. Show it to your non Photographer friends. 20:1 that the picture that gets a second look is that HDR. It’s an interesting technique.. and some implementations of it can make very powerful images.

Let’s stop bashing it and let’s go and see if we can make something cool..

2 comments

  1. Good article and I completely agree.

    HDR gets a bad rep and I’m currently arguing the concept with our local photo club. The rules for this years print show can be summarized with any and all processing is accepted except for HDR. Which is ridiculous!

  2. Pingback: 1st try at HDR - Page 2

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