Opinions on HDR?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by erictessmer, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. I have been hearing a lot about HDR lately and seeing a lot of pretty amazing
    photos. I was wondering how well accepted HDR is in the photography
    community and at what level. I see some nice subtle HDR photos where you
    would hardly know it was a “layered” image and then you have some more
    intensely “Trey Ratcliff style” applied HDR. I am a bit on the
    fence on this topic and definitely think it has a place, but how much and
    when? Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.
  2. Oh boy, let the fun begin! My opinion: I think HDR is an indispensable tool for capturing a scene in which the dynamic range exceeds the capability of your camera's sensor. I have started trying to use it more and more (and I'd love to have some effective way to get a quality image with HDR in-camera). As to the extreme stuff, I also find that I even like some of this now and then--however, I don't think that it will stand the test of time. Hmmm, just reconsidered the last statement. The key is whether or not there is something deeper going on in an image than just the eye-candy of the HDR processing. In some cases, say, the grunge or low brow style, there might very well be something more going on and the extreme HDR effect may be a necessary element in sending the message. In many, many cases, though, there is little going on (the old truck, the old barn) and the only thing that catches the eye is the processing--these are the kinds of extreme HDR images that will likely be but a fad. So, I'll definitely use HDR (or blend two images) so I can capture all the details, but I personally won't be using it to shout at the viewer. All of this IMHO, of course.
  3. The best HDR is where I can't tell it is HDR.

    I use to use HDRI for 3D lighting years ago. It's weird that something that's been around for awhile has
    regressed like it has, those HDRI's would not work if they were like some of the cartoons passing as HDR today.

    Nothing wrong with the cartoon HDR stuff, in and of itself, just not my taste.
  4. +1 Richard ...I wondered what it was all about and when I found out I realised I had been doing something pretty similar for yonks but if the tool in my new editing programme can do it for me then Yippee! :) It works pixel by pixel which is a bit much to do manually with the resolutions we have today.
  5. "The best HDR is where I can't tell it is HDR."
    That's what it was intented to be, but has changed into something else altogether.
  6. "The best HDR is where I can't tell it is HDR."
    That's what it was intented to be, but has changed into something else altogether.​
    One of the best comments I read here was that excessively HDR'd images look like there should be a unicorn in them somewhere.
  7. That's what it was intented to be, but has changed into something else altogether.​
    So has photography
  8. OK in moderation, but it will not rescue a dull photograph or make a dull photo interesting. I hate it when it is overdone: looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting, which is not a recommendation in my book.
  9. If you want natural appearing HDR (which I do), check out Enfuse that works within Lightroom. Depending on your definition of HDR, this is exposure blending (it is not using 32 bit process but I my definition of HDR is using more than one capture to extend the range).
  10. You can also use the Fusion option in Photomatix Pro. That way, you extend the dynamic range and retain the natural look. Also, with Photomatix, you can 'deghost' the image so people, branches, etc that moved between bracketed photos can be correctly rendered.
  11. To be clear, there are two related processes. The first is HDR, whereby an image of extended dynamic range is created from multiple exposures. And then there is tonemapping, whereby that image is compressed into a dynamic range that can be printed or displayed using the media/technologies we have available to us. This second process uses local contrast enhancement and is the process responsible for that HDR "look."
    There's certainly a place for the first process (pure HDR) in almost any photographer's workflow, as we often encounter scenes with dynamic range exceeding our ability to print/display it. In the old days, we would have made a low contrast negative through pull-processing (similar to HDR), and then printed on a higher contrast paper while carefully dodging and burning to pull down the hot spots and accentuate the shadows (similar to tonemapping).
    We have much better tools available to us nowadays -- much more precise than pieces of cardboard on the ends of wires. An alternative to HDR is simply to overlay multiple frames of differing exposure and then to blend them judiciously to bring out shadow detail and pull down glaring highlights. This can be done quite precisely, so as to avoid all of the pitfalls of tonemapping.
    Personally, I don't like tonemapped images. Even the so-called subtle ones usually have halos that I don't like. The only situation where I think tonemapping wouldn't produce noticeable halos would be one in which there is a gradual darkening of exposure from one side of the frame to the other, with no extremely high contrast edges. Of course that would also be the simplest situation for a layer blending solution, as described above.
    I think the extreme tonemapped look is probably yesterday's news and is probably on its way out. Going forward, I think HDR will be mostly about trying to achieve subtle solutions to difficult dynamic range problems. However, I truly believe HDR will be the tool of choice of the folks who make their photos by shoving sliders. The true masters of photoediting will still deal with dynamic range problems with modern implementations of the old fashioned way -- dodging, burning, one-off contrast curves, and overlaying of differently exposed frames. This all involves tedious hand work, and few photographers will have the patience for it. Same story, different generation.
  12. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    HDR appears to be dangerously addictive, People start with the best of intentions about being selective, only using it when they simply must get an extra few stops of dynamic range, and of course using it subtly so you might not notice. Next thing you know every shot you see from them is tone-mapped. I like photographing inside abandoned buildings, and nearly all the photographs I see from the "players" in that field look very samey and I'd enjoy other people's work in that genre much more if there was some sort of variety in the approach or more experimentation with different techniques.
    I should stress that I have no issue with blending images per se, indeed I've been using it myself in focus stacking, its just all these photographs appearing to comply with the norms of the genre rather than trying to be a bit different- as an ex colour slide user I feel its staggering just how much dynamic range you can squeeze out of todays dslrs
  13. As I and others here have said so many times before -- when you can tell it's been done, it's been done too much.
    Of course, anything that creates better dynamic range can be very nice, but glowing edges and surrealist flatness are not realistic extensions of dynamic range.
    On the other hand, as a way of creating unrealistic and surrealist images, it's fine so long as that is what the artist actually wants to do.
  14. I have been using HDR and tonemapping since 2008. Almost all my landscapes are tonemapped images. I used to only do the extra shots when the histogram was pushing too hard to one side or the other, now if I have my camera on a tripod, I shoot over and under exposures.
    My stock photo company told me that Alaska Magazine does not accept HDRs. Guess what, I have a HDR published in the November 2011 issue...a 2 page spread.
    This HDR http://www.akphotograph.com/Alaska Blog/?p=4550 has made me in excess of $12000 in the past 3 years. It has been on calendar covers, cruise brochures, pipeline literature, magazines, postcards and newspapers.
    HDR and tonemapping are an art, do what looks good to you and see what responses you get.
  15. I use HDR technology either because the lighting situation exceeded the dynamic range of the camera and HDR is a possible approach and/or I want to generate a stylized image that 'looks' like and highly stylized image. It is a tool, neither good or evil in itself.
  16. I think a compelling image can be discovered using all manner of photographic techniques. HDRI is capable of delivering
    beautiful hyper real imagery in ways traditional photography can not. There are many artists working here on the PN that
    have refined and mastered the use of HDRI. The complaints and criticisms of purists have there place and as there are
    plenty of poorly graded HDRI images there are just as many poorl exposed poorly processed traditional images. I guess
    the point I'm trying to make is the photographic arts are not limited to anyone's opinion. The good news is we have a
    growing ever changing grab bag of techniques to help us create compelling images that tell our stories and archive our
    lives. HDRI just happens to be one of them.
  17. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. It seems that HDR has a place in moderation and, of course, it is very subjective as to how much and when to apply it, if at all. I am getting a new Sony A65 which has HDR processing built in, which I am looking forward to experimenting with. HDR seems particularly helpful when shooting in sub-optimal conditions – like toward the sun and you want to be able to bring out details which would normally be in the shadows. Are the photogs who are using HDR using what is built into the camera, or using software such as the Photomatix that Trey Ratcliff promotes? Also, are you doing 3-5 bracketed photos at -2 to +2 on the exposure range? Thanks
  18. I think HDR performs two functions, both useful. One is the extended range that has been discussed and the other as a pure graphic tool. I happen to like using photography as a graphic tool, just as any other media might be used graphically. However, like all other graphic tools it can be used well or poorly and the number of poor efforts outnumber the number of good efforts. It is all a matter of personal taste.
  19. The best HDR is where I can't tell it is HDR.​
    When it's used as an effect - no, a gimmick - in its own right, I hate it.
  20. I use Photomatix almost exclusively. I have tried Photoshop Merge to HDR and HDR Efex from Nik, but I always go back to Photomatix.
    I have a blog post where I discuss my reasoning for using HDR here. http://www.akphotograph.com/Alaska Blog/?p=808 I published the setting I use also. I was asked constantly what my settings were so I created this blog post back in 2009.
    I shot Canon so I use -2, 0, +2 three exposures. Sure wish Canon would give us more options.
  21. I use photomatix and do 7 or 9 exposures @ 1/3 stop steps. I use a D700, manual mode, and the bracketing function.
  22. I was wondering how well accepted HDR is in the photography
    community and at what level.​
    I didn't read any of the responses so I might give a 'pure', if possibly repetitive, response.
    It really doesn't matter if HDR is accepted in the community. If you enjoy it or your audience haappens to enjoy it, that's all that counts. Of course, clients, if you have any, preferences matter. That said, I am in the category of those who prefer the more natural look. Preferring the effect to make up for dynamic range exposure limits over the obvious special effect look.
  23. There are tons of HDR images out there that no one just looking at it will know it is unless they are the one that did it.
  24. HDR is another tool in your bag. Some people use it like a hammer, others like a basin wrench. I don't use a basin wrench very often, but when you need one, nothing else will do. HDR is indespensible for architectural interiors for publication, unless you have a team of roadies, a truck full of lights and half a day to spare.
    Even with a hammer, not every job is a nail.
  25. I myself do alot of HDR. I love it. I have found that it goes two ways and two ways only. I use abit of the extreme HDR at times and at times not. I have found out that when people look at an image that is HDR, either they like it or they dont, period. I mainly use HDR to pull out the more destintive characteristics in a subjet. Most of the people that run across my work like the aspect of fooling whith their eyes. Looks like a painting but looks like a picture. Then others come straight out and say "I dont like it" about the same photo that others like. It all depends on your taste and creativity and what you like.
  26. Let me inerate some more here. I have read of some people saying that if you can tell it is HDR it is over done. True to a point. I believe it all depends on what you are trying to do, your main subject, what character it has, etc. I have seen some that are just awful. Some of mine are over done, but, I have focused on one thing that I wanted to have happen in the photo. It is not just a landscape and turned into an HDR. I dont like that. Again it goes back to what the subject is, I firmly believe that. It is another tool and you have to know when where to use it. It is not good for all photos, I believe. Place, time, light, subject, emotion.
  27. HDR programs (e.g. Photomatix, Photoshop, et al) are wonderful tools for dealing with a problem that has plagued photographers since the dawn of photography. Like any tool, they can be used in lots of different ways and some people will like some of those ways and others will dislike them. I try to make HDR images as "un-HDR" as possible and I think I do a pretty good job of it by just using an image from Photomatix as a starting point for further extensive work in Photoshop. Others like some of the special effects. In general, I've found that other photographers don't like anything that's got an "HDR look" while the general public tends to really like that look.
  28. Liking HDR or not is like a taste for old single malt -- for some it is the ambrosia of the bog and for others just polluted water.
  29. For high contrast situations, it can make the difference between photo and no photo.
    As Richard said, best when you don't notice that it's been done.
    There is also the highly stylized HDR "look"... That's up to you. I don't like it. For a while I was seeing it all the time, a short but hot fad. Seeing this less lately.
  30. Trey Ratcliff is kind of an HDR guru. He has some HDR tutorials over on Stuck in Customs. I like some of his work. Some of it is a bit over processed. Okay some of it is waaayyyy over processed.
    I like the more realistic looking stuff. That is one struggle I've had with digital for a long time. You play with sliders and then do your RAW conversion. You then play with curves. You tweak some other stuff and in the end your final print looks like a cartoon.
    My black and white wet print stuff always looks realistic... unless I go extreme with the filters ;)
  31. The OP asked for opinions. In my opinion, most HDR photos look nothing like the original scene would appear to someone live at the scene....even given the human eye's dynamic range.
    For some reason, the un-natural look of many HDR images appeals to a lot of people. I find most of it repulsive. For a while, many HDR images appeared in the photo.net sample banner on photo.net's main page.
    I find most of Trey Radcliffs stuff awful to look at. He photographs nice scenes but then ruins them in post processing, in my opinion. Many people are emulating his style.
  32. Yeah when it's used tastefully it's fine. Don't like it as much when someone tries to go over the top with it.
  33. It is great getting all the different perspectives on HDR (HDRI). In looking at this site’s home page under Editors’ Picks Fall Foliage Photography 2011, to my eyes, these all seem to be HDR processed images. Am I correct? I wonder if it would be appropriate to ask photographers to state if there was HDR or any other type of post processing applied, just like many photographers list camera type, lens type, F-stop, ISO, shutter speed, etc.?
  34. I think HDR is a blend between art and photography, my opinion if you look at it as art it's ok.
  35. I find that most of the replies about this topic are from every individuals taste. And that is great. We all have our own likes and not so likes. But there is one that stood out to me and was quite disturbing. Yes I am veering away from the subject some here for just a moment. One individual made a down right degrating comment towards another persons work. Really. You think you are that much better than everyone else. Well I took a look at your photographs, I would rate them as average. I am not naming names, I think this person knows who they are. So word of advise. If you do not like another artists work, so be it. We all have our own style etc. If you go into photography with an open mind, you will appreciate art much more within itself. Mr Tessmer, I hope that these responses have given you a path to create, continue or stir upon somemore.
  36. Mike Criss, thank-you for the links to your images and blog. For the past two years I have been bracketing exposures in hopes of finding an HDR system that works. I could not get CS4 to work, and still have not tried CS5. When I first considered it two years ago I could not find any online software that worked either. I experimented with blending two images in PS4, which is extremely finicky and time consuming. Then about a year ago I started using the graduated neutral density filter tool in the PS4 raw conversion process which has been very effective.
    I have been experimenting with Photomatix Pro today and have been very pleasantly surprised. I will really run it through some vigorous tests over the next couple of months to determine if I will buy the full version. I am already using CS4 Photomerge to stitch images from my 5D II and 17 TS-E to create fine resolution 250 MB files, and adding a conservative HDR process into the mix could be very rewarding.
    I have already discovered with Photomatix that the images must be taken from a tripod to ensure that details are aligned. While I have many images that were taken with a tripod there are many that were hand held. Since I have begun stitching the tripod gets far more use for the same reason. Photomerge is very forgiving even with handheld stitches. I am going to experiment with aligning and cropping the images before I put them into Photomatix.
  37. I find most of Trey Radcliffs stuff awful to look at. He photographs nice scenes but then ruins them in post processing, in my opinion. Many people are emulating his style.​
    Oh, mine too. Hate it.
    I think HDR is a blend between art and photography, my opinion if you look at it as art it's ok.​
    A lot of "art" is crass, aesthetically valueless, and bloody awful to behold, too...
  38. My 2 cents worth: if you insist on doing HDR, I'd advise looking at Alex Koloskov's work, and probably reading his book. While I consider his claim of "realistic HDR" exaggerated, his results are at least sometimes rather pleasant, and rarely truly awful -- which places his HDR as some of the best being done today, and drastically better than most.
  39. I like his splash photos better than his HDR stuff.

    It's better than Ratcliff's stuff, by far, but I am not his audience nor in his customer base. So I doubt he cares about my
  40. Sarah Fox said: "I think the extreme tonemapped look is probably yesterday's news and is probably on its way out."​
    I would like to think so, but I still see so many overdone HDR, tonemap, whatever you want to call it. Please make it stop!
    I think still photos should look like reality somehow, and overdone HDRs never look real to me. You can create the most fantastic, wild crazy image in Photoshop that looks more real, somehow, than an overdone HDR.
  41. Just an additional note. I have been experimenting with Photomatix, CS4, and CS5 for creating HDR images. With the few images I did this week-end I have had the best success with CS5. The CS5 default HDR is very natural looking and looks better than the CS5 image that I process myself. The differences in the two are significant and yet subtle enough not to recognize the HDR as an HDR image. CS5 provides more control over the HDR outcome than CS4, so if one did want to make over-the-top HDR images CS5 is more convenient. I found that both CS4 and CS5 handled blue sky much better than Photomatix.
  42. Is anyone using Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 to create their HDR photos? If so how does this compare to Photomatix? Thanks

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