HDR for the Rest of Us

Old Havana, Cuba. This is what most of us associate with HDR imagery; surreal colors and exaggerated saturation. A taste embraced by some and reviled by others.

Whenever I teach an HDR (high dynamic range) photography workshop, the first thing I do is ask my students to type a Google search for 'I hate HDR'. More than a million results pop up, most of them bemoaning the damage that HDR images have wrought on photography. 

I actually think there's a place for surreal HDR imagery and that when it is done well, it's as valid as any other creative approach to photography. I'll be the first to agree, however, that there are plenty of HDR images out there that are an over-sharpened, hyper-saturated mess.

Oregon coast: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 15mm fisheye (3x exposures combined)With skillful processing, HDR composite images can take on a much more natural look.

But even photographers who wish to create more traditionally-photographic types of images can benefit greatly from capturing wide dynamic range scenes. After all, we see the world around us in a very wide dynamic range, so why shouldn't we take advantage to photograph it that way as well? And at its core, that's really what HDR photography is about.

In this article, I'll share some of my HDR images that were created using the in-camera processing of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. On the following page I'll  talk about the need to take more control over exposure bracketing and use HDR-specific software. All in the service of creating images that seek to emulate the world we see with our own eyes.

In-camera HDR

My guess is that if I did not tell you, you would not know that the image above is an HDR image, created by merging three exposures (0, +2 and -2) together in the Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the HDR mode set to Art Vivid. The separate exposures used to create the composite are shown below.

Here you see the three raw files used to create the in-camera JPEG using the Canon 5D Mark III.

 You may be wondering why the three shots above are all tilted. Here's why.

To achieve the shooting angle I desired, I had to kneel down in the sand and cold water and shoot very low to the water at an awkward angle. Very cold water was leaking into my boots as I was shooting. Brrrrrrr! But I had to get the shot.

Due to the awkward position I was in, it was obvious the resulting shots would be tilted, so I shot extra wide knowing two things: 1) I'd crop and rotate my picture in Photoshop. 2) When the 5D Mark III merges images together, some image area is lost at the top, bottom, left and right of the frame.

Although the in-camera processing did a reasonably good job, I still brought the image into Photoshop.  After checking the histogram I used a Levels adjustment layer to make sure the blacks were black and whites were white. I then boosted the saturation a bit. Next I  added a blue gradual filter in Nik Software's Color Efex Pro and then as a final step, sharpened the image using Photoshop's Covert to Smart Filter > Unsharp Mask  in order to make selective sharpening edits.

Here is another example of in-camera HDR processing, followed by some additional edits and a crop in Photoshop.

Oregon coast: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 17-40mm lens. HDR was needed to capture the entire dynamic range of this scene.

Below is the middle exposure from the three-image sequence used to generate the HDR composite.

Original image with no exposure compensation adjustment. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens.

Okay. I know what some of you guys are saying. The contrast range in this middle exposure does not look to be too extreme in the first place. And a skilled digital darkroom expert could have simply used a single raw file to pull out the shadow detail and tone down the highlights.

Well, I made another attempt doing just that using Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw 6.7.

ACR 6.7 Basic panel adjustments to recover shadow information and maintain highlight detail.

In ACR, I was able to greatly enhance the image, but to achieve the precise result I envisioned, I knew some Photoshop work was needed. So yes, the image might have looked similar to my HDR composite, but it certainly would have taken more time to create.  And when given a reasonable choice, I prefer to spend my time shooting and not processing. So in-camera HDR can be a time-saver.

Something else to consider, particularly when making more aggressive adjustments, is that noise can become more prominent in shadow areas as you brighten them. With a multi-shot HDR option, you can often end up with a cleaner image with regard to noise.

HDR Panoramas

Oregon coast: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 14mm lens. A four shot HDR panorama created initially from raw files captured at different exposures.

Speaking of saving time, in-camera HDR can sometimes be very helpful when shooting a panorama. Above is an HDR panorama I made from four JPEG files (below). Each JPEG was created from a composite of three raw files captured at different exposures. Below is a screen grab from Adobe Bridge that shows the four files.

Four HDR JPEGs created from 12 raw files. Processed in-camera with the Canon 5D Mark III.

Click here to continue reading our HDR article...

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 199
12
dopravopat
By dopravopat (Oct 22, 2012)

I find most pictures, even the "non-HDR" ones to be oversaturated in general by "standard" picture styles. I do not hate HDR, I use it regulary. I just don't like over-saturated images with "radioactive glownig colors". Also, in many cases, people use HDR even when they don't need to - the scene is 7 to 8 EV, with correct exposure and RAW processing, the result is as good as a HDR, maybe even better. Besides HDR I also apply tone maping, but to a very decent degree and also some overall contrast. I like to have rich details in most shots - that means good local and global contast. Many times the DR of a scene can be captured in a single, properly exposed RAW, but needs correct PP to get the best results. I consider HDR to be basically the same approach, only in situations where a single shot cannot capture all the dynamic range. HDR is not about stacking images, dialing up saturation to insane levles or whatever, it is about the basic question how a photograph should look.

1 upvote
picque
By picque (Oct 12, 2012)

Rick,
I think this is a great article. I had seen some examples and methodologies in photoshop, but this is by far the easiest step by step explanation i have read.
it takes a lot of the mystery and even addresses some of the aesthetic issues of this process.
I am looking forward to trying this onmy new 5d mk3, when it arrives.

thx
P

0 upvotes
ed kelly
By ed kelly (Oct 7, 2012)

Rick,

Thanks for the informative article. I've shot many HDR shots over the years.

On your Oregon coast shot did you use a nodal point bracket equipped head?. I am considering purchasing one. If I do, it might be from Really Right Stuff.

Thanks again

Ed

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
michael2012
By michael2012 (Oct 4, 2012)

...Which one has a better in camera HDR processing 5D mark III or D800, and why? Also dont u think super-imposing three or more images will make the resultant HDR image loose its sharpness.

1 upvote
pineledger
By pineledger (Oct 1, 2012)

Thanks for this article -- the last image, the Iceland landscape, was breath-taking. Somewhat reminiscent of a Georgia O'Keefe painting.

0 upvotes
toomanycanons
By toomanycanons (Sep 30, 2012)

I've used "HDR" quite s bit. Actually, exposure blending is what I call it. I had this one scene that I tried every type of HDR (Photomatix) I could, tried blending the exposures in Enfuse and was never happy with any of them.

Then I took a single fairly underexposed raw pic and just messed with it in CS5 and came up with the best rendition yet. I would never have thought I could bring up the shadows like I did. The sky looked natural whereas in the blended images they didn't.

It's like Stan on South Park says "Ya know, I learned something today..."

0 upvotes
balico
By balico (Oct 7, 2012)

HDR and Exposure Fusion (Blending) are two complete different things. HDR involves rendering several images to a 32bit image and tone mapping this image to 16bit output.

Exposure fusion doesn't create a 32bit image, so tone mapping is not necessary. Exposure Fusion generally gets more natural results.

0 upvotes
rondom
By rondom (Sep 24, 2012)

HDR was always for the rest of you....

0 upvotes
gLOWx
By gLOWx (Sep 22, 2012)

There is a common confusion between HDR needing TONE MAPPING
And EXPOSURE FUSION.
I don't even speak about FAKE HDR with a single picture...

True HDR create an HDR image (usually 32bits) witch is not visible on any media (screen, print...).
Then apply "Tone Mapping" to "compress" the "over"dynamic to visible image format like a JPEG, TIFF...

Exposure Fusion is NOT True HDR.Because it don't create any HDR (32bits) intermediary image.It just "pick" the bests pixels on each picture and create directly the final one.And it is faster.

So i can tell you one thing : there is NO camera doing True HDR nowadays ;)
-They do fake HDR with a single picture by raising the contrast/saturation/etc...
-They do Exposure Fusion with multiple bracketed pictures.

But they DON'T do True HDR.

True HDR, for now, is limited to more powerful devices like computers and may be tablets, phones.

Use any Exposure Fusion for natural result.
And you can try SNS-HDR (my fav) if you want True HDR natural result.

1 upvote
Sephirotic
By Sephirotic (Sep 28, 2012)

Technically, any consumer monitor can only display 8 bit of colors, so anything above that, like a 14bit raw, already is a "HDR".

1 upvote
Dan Ortego
By Dan Ortego (Oct 1, 2012)

That was good and well presented. My 'older' A900 calls it 'bracketing' but it’s the same idea I suppose. As far as the over saturation thing' (HDR) I don't much care for it. I guess I'm just boring but I try to capture photos that are as close to the 'real' world as possible, and not some cartoon rendering. I spend a fortune on quality glass that helps me to achieve just that. If I see a need to punch things’ or adjust the tone a ‘tad’ I’ll do that in Lightroom.

If I can ever figure out how to ‘properly’ use Dx0 as my initial scrub and ‘sidecar’ it over to LR4, I’ll be a happy camper.

btw: I use the NEC PA271 with the Hood and Spectra II which I feel helps a lot for viewing and applying adjustments.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Emacs23
By Emacs23 (Oct 5, 2012)

Little remark: exposure fusion doesn't take best suitable pixel. It takes all pixels and then weight them based on "well exposedness" criteria.

0 upvotes
Michael Jardine
By Michael Jardine (Sep 16, 2012)

Question: Don't you need a tripod? Because doesn't HDR actually take several different photos (albeit, in rapid succession)?

0 upvotes
rusticus
By rusticus (Sep 24, 2012)

You can also develop HDR from a RAW - then you do not need a tripod

0 upvotes
jpfaria
By jpfaria (Sep 4, 2012)

Humongous article!! Thank you! The tips and quicks examples are perfect. Although I don't have HDR on-camera, these guides are perfect for understanding what to do in order to expect better results.
"Obrigado!" Thanks from Portugal!

0 upvotes
RikMaxSpeed
By RikMaxSpeed (Sep 2, 2012)

Great to see HDR photography being used in a "Natural" way - much closer to what the eye perceives - I've used this sort of technique taking wide-angle photographs inside a cathedral to get the stained glass windows to show up as well as the stone columns & painted ceilings.

2 upvotes
pentaxination
By pentaxination (Sep 8, 2012)

it was also good to see it pushed in a masterful way. That output is far more interesting than that of the "Naturalists". By far.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
KonstantinosK
By KonstantinosK (Sep 26, 2012)

Hallelujah

0 upvotes
Tcesko
By Tcesko (Sep 2, 2012)

let me see if I understand to method. If the scene is dark, I mainly have to overexpose in order to catch the details in shadowed areas; on the contrary, I have to underexpose in case of very illuminated scene. The question on how many shoots I have to take is under our experience.

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

JackinTo - Sammon can tell you. To capture the entire dynamic range of the scene. ONLY 1 underexposed image was needed... but 4 overexposed was needed.

This is the key to HDR.

Many more examples in my iHDR app: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rick-sammons-ihdr/id421050581?mt=8

4 upvotes
mantra
By mantra (Sep 1, 2012)

thanks a lot for the beautiful article
but for example i haven't a camera with a built in hdr
i use a canon 5d mark2 so i have to use another software like photomatix

would you maybe release an update how obtain such amazing results with a camera like 5d mark2 and software like photomatix?

thanks again !
cheers

0 upvotes
speculatrix
By speculatrix (Sep 2, 2012)

if your camera has bracketed exposure, which is fairly likely, it's a good starting point.

in fact, if there was a choice of either but not both, I think I'd rather have a bracketed exposure than HDR. This is one thing that surprises me about the Nikon D3200!

0 upvotes
JackinTo
By JackinTo (Aug 31, 2012)

Could someone please tell me why, In taking several exposures of the interior of a car, Sammon over-exposed four images but under-exposed only one.

1 upvote
Aaron801
By Aaron801 (3 months ago)

I'm not an expert at this (not at all!), but I'm going to guess that it has everything to do with the fact that the detail that he wanted to capture (beyond what a single exposure possibly could) was in the shadows. If there was more in the way of highlight detail that he wanted to capture he would have underexposed a couple of exposures each a stop or so apart...

0 upvotes
Wildbegonia
By Wildbegonia (Aug 30, 2012)

Thank you so much to the author and DP for this great article. OMG, when it comes to photography I am still wearing dippers, never mind post processing. For now, I am just crying rivers thinking of the photos I took and considered rejects, therefore erased, that could have being salvaged and become the photo versions of The Little Ugly Duckling.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

Wilbegonia... all pros were in dippers at one time! :-)

0 upvotes
J W Scott
By J W Scott (Aug 30, 2012)

I recently upgraded to NIK Software's HDR Efex Pro 2. I understand over-the-top HDR images may turn you off, but I would recommend everyone at least download a free trial, watch their training videos and give it a spin. I use it to compensate for my camera's weaknesses to make my images look much more like what I saw with my eyes. The new alignment feature allows me to take hand held shots. Also using the amazing ghost removal feature I have taken shots with moving traffic that you could not tell were not a single image!

This new version gives you such great subtle control that you can get very natural looking images. In a great many cases it has given me far better results than I could have ever gotten from manipulating a single RAW exposure.

Until sensor technology improves I will be using HDR Efex Pro 2 a lot!

1 upvote
Jacques Cornell
By Jacques Cornell (7 months ago)

I, too, am finding HDR Efex Pro 2 very liberating. The controls are flexible, my results are very natural, and the auto alignment and de-ghosting make handheld brackets eminently usable. The whole workflow is super-easy.

0 upvotes
JackinTo
By JackinTo (Aug 30, 2012)

Rick Sammon explains (car interior) why rather than taking an equal number of under- and over-exposed images, he biased them 4/1 in favour of overexposure. Later, in a list of tips he says “Resist the urge to open up the shadows too much. Without rich shadows, images look flat.”

By not “opening up”, which is he is suggesting: bias exposures towards under- or over-exposure?

JackinTo

0 upvotes
mr1mac
By mr1mac (Aug 30, 2012)

Also think these are not competition images and probably just done to illustrate the article so the odd help here and things like that should not be focused on too much as sure you'd avoid having that if he intended to print them.. they still illustrate what he is trying to say to people having a read of the article rather than critiquing every little but of the frame

Cheers

John

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

mr1mac.... You are 100 percent correct. And for the titled picture:

I was teaching a workshop. On my workshops, I focus on the students, and NOT my photography. I took 30 seconds and grabbed a shot for myself... rather than setting up a tripod, etc.

Glad you understand.

0 upvotes
mr1mac
By mr1mac (Aug 30, 2012)

I like the article...

Tbh I hat overdone HDR. In my opinion HDR is a great tool to achieve a similar effect to clever use of filters or on scenes where shapes required make it impossible to use filters.

To me a great HDR should look very natural, should replicate what the eye would see and shouldn't be obviously HDR but could be mistaken for a good photo taken with filters.

Altought this article also draws attention to certain features and equipment it doesn't distract from the goal of highlighting just how good HDR can look and show a lot of people who think HDR is meant to look fake and synthetic that it doesn't have to be like this.

Well done

Johm

1 upvote
Beestripe
By Beestripe (Aug 30, 2012)

How to describe making a natural looking HDR image in one word - restraint

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
TheYetiCom
By TheYetiCom (Aug 30, 2012)

I have a suggestion for your outdoor shots wit the sky in the background...

How about using a Polarizer?

That will darken the sky and saturate everything else without looking odd.

-Michael

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

Hi ... a polarizer does not always darken the sky... especially on overcast days. It's most effective when the sun is at a 90 degree angle. That said, you have a good idea for many shots.

0 upvotes
mark moe
By mark moe (Aug 29, 2012)

I use Sony's in camera HDR on two different cameras...my experience is that going beyond + - 3 ev is risky past that on most shots it looks too flat. With post processing, I've kept a ccuple 4EV spreads. I'll try some vivid color space like the author used, this may keep things from looking flat,
.

BTW: Sony's in camera HDR micro aligns the pics for all hand held shoots, WAY easier and nice results.

1 upvote
GaryW
By GaryW (Sep 1, 2012)

For hand-held, I agree -- Sony's built-in HDR works much better for me than my software HDR and does a great job of aligning. The Sony Nex HDR has a very natual look, but a bit flat -- I often add contrast in post-processing.

For software, I'm using Paint Shop Pro -- you can do either natural-looking or the over-the-top HDR. It seems to me that achieving a natural look is more than "restraint" but software settings.

Strangely, I can usually get good-enough results using DxO's "one shot HDR" effect.

At any rate, I personally prefer the "natural HDR" look, but I don't have "hate" for anyone who wants to try something wild for artistic effect. I just like it to either be all the way or natural. :-)

0 upvotes
clicstudio
By clicstudio (Aug 29, 2012)

Or, you can buy Topaz Adjust for just $49... :)

1 upvote
talmy
By talmy (Aug 29, 2012)

I can sure feel the HDR hate in many of these comments. I think Rick Sammon did a great job in this article and kept tone mapping under control. My only complaint about the images is they are over-saturated. I've spent many years taking picture on the Oregon coast and have never seen things quite so vibrant!

I'd also have liked to see HDR and Tone Mapping differentiated. The sins are almost always with the latter.

Comment edited 57 seconds after posting
1 upvote
HeyItsJoel
By HeyItsJoel (Aug 29, 2012)

Sorry, but it still doesn't look realistic.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 29, 2012)

No - but it does not look weird - like some tone mapping do.

0 upvotes
JackinTo
By JackinTo (Aug 30, 2012)

You’re right, it doesn’t look realistic. The same complaint was made in the 1860’s when young painters began to abandon the standards of the day (realism, historical settings, carefully finished images) in favour of loose images of every-day life with intermingled colours of all sorts. Out of this came the well-received Impressionists including Cezanne, Monet, Degas and Renoir followed by the Post-impressionists such as Van Gogh, Gaugin and Toulouse Lautrec.

Much more recently and highly relevant to Sammon’s Iceland Landscape are the far-north works of Canadian artist Lawren Harris(1885-1970). He painted scenes to give exactly the same effects as Sammon’s photo and these too have been well received, one such painting having sold for a little over $10 million.

All of this is to say that within limits a painting or a photo does not have to be super realistic to be beautiful.

1 upvote
picque
By picque (Oct 12, 2012)

interesting to note that photography as art doesnt trade in line with paintings. ie. from what i know, paintings acheive higher valuations relative to photography.

0 upvotes
Dave Brill
By Dave Brill (Aug 29, 2012)

The theme is supposed to be naturalistic HDR, and this is well illustrated by the first photo, a fisheye sealife image. Unfortunately, the article then goes right back into video-game fantasy landscapes.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Le Kilt
By Le Kilt (Aug 29, 2012)

So many halos... :-(
(around the windscreen, the hand-rail, mountain ridge...)
Some P&P techniques could avoid them.

0 upvotes
Bronze Castor
By Bronze Castor (Aug 29, 2012)

These are fascinating images, but still over intense and lacking in natural delicate nuances. They are impressive. In some ways approaching the subjective choices of a painter.
This is my own opinion, but I feel that when everything is is in high contrast and makes a strong statement, it is difficult to have a flowing graceful composition of supporting elements. Still very impressive work.

1 upvote
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

Hi Bronze... Thank you. I always tell my student, think like a painter.

0 upvotes
Robin Casady
By Robin Casady (Aug 29, 2012)

What a disappointing article. I was hoping for techniques for achieving naturalistic landscapes with HDR, but no such luck. Who needs an article telling you to use Canon in-camera HDR? Rather useless for Nikon shooters.

There was almost nothing about using post processing software. I don't think the word "gamma" ever appeared.

What a waste of time.

4 upvotes
Natural3y3
By Natural3y3 (Aug 29, 2012)

Kind of harsh words for someone who took his personal time to write such an article, don't you think? If you're so hot, why don't YOU write an HDR article, eh? Show some respect, or don't post at all.

2 upvotes
dougydoug
By dougydoug (Aug 29, 2012)

Natural3y3 - While I agree with what you say about showing a little respect, but as far as the author taking his "personal time" to write the article, Sammon is sponsored by Canon to promote the 5D Mark III and the 15mm fisheye and other Canon products.

1 upvote
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner
By Kendall Helmstetter Gelner (Aug 29, 2012)

@Natural: No-one likes a misleading title, I also came in expecting general guidance in using HDR processing to achieve a natural look. I was also somewhat miffed. It should have been presented as more of an ad than a helpful HDR article.

2 upvotes
Robin Casady
By Robin Casady (Aug 29, 2012)

You think "disappointing" is being harsh? I thought I was being gentle. I was sucked into what dpreview portrayed as a how-to article and found a Canon promotion. I think dpreview should have more respect for its readers.

3 upvotes
Steve
By Steve (Aug 30, 2012)

i am probably the king of HDR-overdone.. i have started to use 'exposure fusion' in photomatix instead of all those effects like 'painterly' etc... then i add a bit of crunch and whatnot using topaz adjust.. it seems that if you don't go past -2 or +2, people will complain less about your result.. although the human eye goes way past that.. most people still prefer the limited range given by our cameras.

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

I don't think Keith Richads knows about the "Circle of 5ths."

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

My original title was: We see the world in HDR, why not shoot in HDR.

0 upvotes
gasdive
By gasdive (Aug 28, 2012)

This is great. The HDR knockers seem to forget that the alternative is lighting to fill the shadows while keeping the highlights. That's the "traditional" method that they seem to love. Go watch the output from a photolab machine as it spits out millions of flat "on camera flash" photos. Yuck. You'll even find most cameras will automatically pop up the flash when the centre of the image (the subject in most poor shots) is a lot darker than the edges. Blah. Horrible photos result. HDR and good tonemapping give a much more natural result than the "traditional" look that we're all so used to. People just seem to think it's more natural because they're used to it. They're mixing up "natural" with "familiar".

5 upvotes
JoeAmateur
By JoeAmateur (Aug 28, 2012)

Thanks for all your suggestions Rick. Look forward to trying them out.

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

Thanks!

0 upvotes
AnHund
By AnHund (Aug 28, 2012)

Great post. Thanks Rick.

0 upvotes
emmalemmaleemjah
By emmalemmaleemjah (Aug 28, 2012)

For what it is worth these images were shot over a 3ree to 8ight hour period, capturing 100-200 images, using a 18+ images and brought together in layers with a brush/wand in the same manner as Bob Ross did on his PBS TV show.

http://www.luminous-views.com

Algos and Tone Mapping is the easy button, understanding how an expert works in a darkroom is priceless.

0 upvotes
bmadau
By bmadau (Aug 28, 2012)

I can't get past the glow halos around objects that are against the sky (strong contrast) even in moderatly done HDR images. Like the palm trees and lighthouse in the link you sent. I'm not saying they look bad, but the time that I've tried my hand at HDR images, I always toss it out because of that.

0 upvotes
Le Kilt
By Le Kilt (Aug 29, 2012)

Agreed bmadau, but they do look bad, with a little effort and technique the halos can be processed out, they're part of the unnatural look.

0 upvotes
William DeBlase
By William DeBlase (Aug 28, 2012)

I am not a big fan of HDR, most I have seen are overdone. I just got my 5d mark III and am enjoying doing incamera HDR. Great article enjoyed it.

0 upvotes
idbirds
By idbirds (Aug 28, 2012)

Hi! Why do we want to adjust shutter speed and not aperture?

0 upvotes
Yinle
By Yinle (Aug 28, 2012)

By doing so, the exact depth of field will allow you to combine more easily. It's basically because the details and the sharpness are the same among 3 pictures, only the exposure values are different, where you need them.

0 upvotes
Pavel Kohout
By Pavel Kohout (Aug 28, 2012)

The point is that the Oregon coast picture would be much better if it showed the starfish in detail only, not the boring stone, sand and sky.

0 upvotes
JoeAmateur
By JoeAmateur (Aug 28, 2012)

Actually, I prefer this view. The barnacles are interesting to me as well, remembering them from my Puget Sound days. Those rocks are creatures unto themselves, every inch teeming with life.

1 upvote
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

Pavel.. I have lots of close ups. I always tell my students: Take the portrait and the environmental shot. You need to tell the story.

A close up of a starfish could have been taken in the Newport Aquarium (not far from where I took the photo). For the close up, I did not need HDR :-)

1 upvote
GaryW
By GaryW (Sep 1, 2012)

That sounds like great advice, to take a wider shot of the environment along with a close-up. Sometimes you can get an interesting-looking photo, but I agree, it's nice to have some context. I need to keep this in mind more. It's not always as clear a decision as perhaps this case, though.

0 upvotes
JPMontez
By JPMontez (Aug 28, 2012)

Very nice article. Thank you. As others mentioned before, it would be perfect to have a sequel focusing more on post capture processing.

1 upvote
Zaax
By Zaax (Aug 28, 2012)

I would be interested in hearing your opinions of these HDR images. Shot with an X100. Is the effect too strong?

Zack S

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10025089@N05/7672666818/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10025089@N05/7607402318/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10025089@N05/7640744544/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10025089@N05/7672667432/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10025089@N05/7618963516/in/photostream

1 upvote
Tape5
By Tape5 (Aug 28, 2012)

Most definitely. All of them.

0 upvotes
hiro_pro
By hiro_pro (Aug 28, 2012)

@Zaax

i like your HDR stuff. flickr isnt doing you any favors. i see some artifacts like the images are over-processed but i cant tell if it is the image or flickr. I would say your images are 80% to 90% there. i would tone them down just slightly and accept some shows or highlights.

still great work. better than most of the HDR out there

0 upvotes
AnHund
By AnHund (Aug 28, 2012)

Some very nice images, but a little too much HDR on some of them.

0 upvotes
David Zamora
By David Zamora (Aug 28, 2012)

All of them look pretty strong (of course, I've seen some so darn strong that they almost look posterized). It's not a bad thing though, if that's what you're going for. I absolutely love using Dynamic-Photo HDR 5. A pro photographer turned me on to it from his HDR workflow process, and now I'm doing the same...you can really get some amazing shots using it, without looking obviously HDR to the viewer. Here are a few examples of some shots I did:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidzamora/7882142570/in/photostream/lightbox/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidzamora/7882139298/in/photostream/lightbox/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidzamora/7437070300/in/photostream/lightbox/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidzamora/7704580142/in/photostream/lightbox/

Oh, and BTW, I love the shots you took :)

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
InterestedParty
By InterestedParty (Aug 28, 2012)

Yes, and some almost painfully so. But you have some good stuff too. Given your subjects I'd stay closer to reality. Not no HDR at all, just a more subtle effect. But I'm a noob.

1 upvote
tomes
By tomes (Aug 29, 2012)

They seem a bit over-processed. I find some of the edges distracting, seems you have done a little bit too much sharpening? That said, hard to say with Flickr.

0 upvotes
Le Kilt
By Le Kilt (Aug 29, 2012)

Your HDR is so strong it becomes obvious and unnatural, looking more like a drawing or special effect (in the few I browsed). When you present photos like that, many here will say yuk, that's too much! It can, however, look good in some cases, but usually has to be carefully controlled for each pic (eg I find Lake Leelanau HDR horrendous, but I like Fishtown-1-DSCF5390_HDR). "very unnatural" can look good in some cases.

0 upvotes
Steve Parkin
By Steve Parkin (Aug 28, 2012)

I used to love this site when it first started. Now its a collection area for all the cynics and know it alls in the photography world. Not to say some good folks aren't still out there. HDR - like it or hate it, is its own thing. It amazes me how arrogant people can be. Because somebody doesn't like something, it should be ridiculed and banned for not meeting their standards of what looks good. There's a ton of art out there that I don't like; but ripping people down or condemning entire types or styles because I don't agree with them? Pretty narrow minded. Do what you love your way guys. If something doesn't work for you, move on. There's nothing wrong with other people doing things outside the box. Are we all supposed to shoot the exact same way?

16 upvotes
Schockwave
By Schockwave (Aug 28, 2012)

I agree with you wholeheartely. Many people just point and shoot and think they are doing a good job and have very good photos. There are so many ways of taking photos and if you have the time and are happy to then play around with them, not everyone can or has the time.

1 upvote
Mafoo
By Mafoo (Aug 28, 2012)

I agree. The funny thing is it took a while for the world to accept photography as art. Now that it has, we have photographers that wish to do to a subset of the photography world, what everyone else did to them decades ago.

1 upvote
JPMontez
By JPMontez (Aug 28, 2012)

Thank you for the breath of good sense... I don't understand why so many people cannot accept the existence of diferent interests and tastes, and want to impose others their own concepts...

2 upvotes
Pavel Kohout
By Pavel Kohout (Aug 28, 2012)

Make pictures not war :-)

6 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 28, 2012)

Your're right, I suppose. The problem I see isn't with that people don't know the difference. They sharpen images until there is a white line around everything; they crank the saturation beyond any reference to reality; they make smoky looking HDRs...and nobody says "I know this is totally unrealistic but I wasn't trying to get something that looks like a photograph".

0 upvotes
edouard_de_castro
By edouard_de_castro (Aug 28, 2012)

"There's nothing wrong with other people doing things outside the box"
No, except that there is nothing outside the box with "HDR" as everyone and its dog is doing it.

And don't forget: Reducing a scene with a high dynamic (luminance) range into a narrow range image, using the local adaptation tone mapping method is not HDR in itself.

We have the right to not always like that kind of images! Impressive at first, it gets tiring after a while (you could even develop some kind of allergy to unicorn poop).

'Good to see an article reminding us that HDR (reduction) is not always HDR local adaptation tone mapping

0 upvotes
Steve Parkin
By Steve Parkin (Aug 28, 2012)

Sometimes "real" is just plain boring. I liked a comment I read about going overboard at first, and then learning the tools and how to apply them with better restraint to make your work better. Ya know, the funnest periods - for me anyway - are when I'm learning a new technique and am creating things that are just wow. Thats awesome. I also think there's a lot of truth the part about learning how to control the effects.

I like the idea that people can go out, take photos, bring them home and bend them into whatever they want to. Why do things have to look a predefined way? Why can't they be a different way? How much Photoshop is allowed before a Photograph is no longer a photograph? Lots of invisible boundaries in this game. None of them matter a bit anyway.

1 upvote
Tape5
By Tape5 (Aug 28, 2012)

It is only a discussion. All welcome but maybe not all heard as well as each other:)
All learning.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Le Kilt
By Le Kilt (Aug 29, 2012)

I think it's simply that many "amateurs" get hold of a few basic HDR techniques that reveal detail and go "wow! all that detail, it must be good". Just like so many see a terrible photo of a loved one smiling and think it's brilliant. The important thing is to remain courteous whilst criticising!

0 upvotes
Rick Sammon
By Rick Sammon (Aug 31, 2012)

Steve Parkin.... When the first comments started to come in, I was prompted to write a post: "Are folks on the internet getting meander?"

So good for you for posting you comment.

I should have started my article: My mother told me when I was 6 years old that not everyone was going to like me!

0 upvotes
imbsysop
By imbsysop (Aug 28, 2012)

Not sure what the point of this article is. IMHO, The HDR concept has gotten a nasty smell by making it an equivalent of throwing in over saturated, Disney cartoon colors and telling the people that this should be their goal. Ban the cursed tone mapping! I do not need more lollypop colors in my pictures, I need a larger dynamic range! ergo a larger span to capture black to white.
& BTW the Iceland picture??? heck, I've been in Scotland on many occasions and I've seen similar landscapes under many kinds of "light" but I've never seen one like this ... (unless it was taken on Mars of course ...) extended technology promoted to an art(?) aberration?

0 upvotes
walkerr
By walkerr (Aug 28, 2012)

I've been to Iceland twice - and both times failed to capture the range of colours from the volcanic terrain, much to my disappointment.

I agree this photo does not look very realistic as a whole - seems over softened in places at the very least. But the colours are a darned sight closer to what the eye sees when there than I managed without HDR,

0 upvotes
gilo
By gilo (Aug 28, 2012)

I find all these images pretty uninspiring. What's the nice thing about losing all the shadows and having everything displayed flatly in front of you? It's like when a child plays with the ipad and has fun taking distorted pictures. at the beginning it's fun but at the end he outgrows it. Similarly, I am just waiting for the time digital photography will be finally relegated to mobile phone snapping and real photography will go back to film.

3 upvotes
Charrick
By Charrick (Aug 28, 2012)

I'm still waiting for the time when people will wake up and go back to daguerreotype. That's the only method that real photographers use.

But seriously, digital is here to stay, so I suggest you learn how to make the best of it, even if you don't use HDR.

1 upvote
Claudio NC
By Claudio NC (Aug 28, 2012)

Pretty uninspiring? ...You are too kind.
These are really ugly, almost horrible!

Which definition could we give to something that is the opposite of Fine Art?

1 upvote
twadger
By twadger (Aug 28, 2012)

Just think if you used a modern camera with a flip-out screen, you wouldn't have got your feet wet......

6 upvotes
valtheWU
By valtheWU (Aug 28, 2012)

or an old camera... brrr...with waist level finder...

0 upvotes
William DeBlase
By William DeBlase (Aug 28, 2012)

Half the fun of taking pictures is getting down and dirty angles. and a flip out plastic screen is just a accident waiting for a place to happen... cant convence me otherwise. Its a matter of preference then.

0 upvotes
shahid11235
By shahid11235 (Oct 2, 2012)

5D mkIII is an old camera?

0 upvotes
William DeBlase
By William DeBlase (Oct 21, 2012)

Sure is the 6d is out now! LOL And if you wait a few months I am sure another new camera will come out.. but then again the 6d dosent have a flip screen either

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Aug 28, 2012)

Show us what you saw and photographed and we barely have enough time to just look at that. Life is too short to spend time examining people's HDR skills.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
elefteriadis alexandros
By elefteriadis alexandros (Aug 28, 2012)

HDR? just use film..

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

I used the Zone System in large format black and white for many years and used every technique I knew of to try to sqeeze more range out of the film without turning it to mush. I mastered the craft of b&w printing so I could render all the details in the negative...without turning the image to mush.

To a more limited degree I applied Zone methods to color.

Multi exposure HDR imaging blows Zone System B&W out of the water in its ability to capture the full dynamic range of an scene (...without turning it to mush.) Even more so when compared to color film.

Long before digital, I used the 3 exposure technique with 4x5 B&W. With 3 enlargers, carefull allignment, alot of burning & dodging and darkroom trickery, I could , after a few hours, have a handfull of really gorgeous prints. Thus I was able to bring the full DR of a high contrast scene to the print.

That still doesn't compare to what can be done with digital HDRI.

3 upvotes
elefteriadis alexandros
By elefteriadis alexandros (Aug 29, 2012)

..Multi exposure HDR imaging blows Zone System B&W out of the water in its ability to capture the full dynamic range of an scene (...without turning it to mush.).. are you kidding? The above examples tell the opposite..
-Are you sure you are mastered the craft of b&w printing?..

1 upvote
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Sep 2, 2012)

I actually agree with your assessment of the sample images above. They are not great examples of the true potential of realistic renderings of HDR imageing.

May I add that its a little bit unfair to judge my abilities based upon someone elses images!!! My work does not look anything like the above samples. I don't shoot to display online, I shoot to print. My philosophy is that the photograph is not complete until it has been consigned to paper. Much of my work is black and white, which was not addressed here. So please don't disparage my work based upon someone elses work.

1 upvote
Marcos Molina
By Marcos Molina (Aug 28, 2012)

Realistic images? Rubbish!

1 upvote
TakePictures
By TakePictures (Aug 28, 2012)

Read the light, be patient, and you don't need HDR.

6 upvotes
Rupert Bottomsworth
By Rupert Bottomsworth (Aug 28, 2012)

and if the camera can't capture the entire dynamic range of the scene, you'll miss the photo.

4 upvotes
TakePictures
By TakePictures (Aug 28, 2012)

There are great photos out there that did not capture the entire dynamic range. You may call those misses, but in some way the photographers got it right.

2 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

Take, this served photographers well for decades and many great photographs were made during that time. But throughout the history of photography, photographers have struggled with the inherent limitations of film. That gave rise to the Zone System and artificial lighting.

The aesthetics of what defines a great image were determined by the limitations of film. Photographers had to work with what they had. Ansels Adams stock in trade was his ability to create prints that had beautifully rich and detailed shadows and highights that made his prints "pop" in a way that others did not.

Many scenes are within the dynamic range of film and required no special technique to render them.

And when using artificial light the photographer is simply using the manipulation of light to bring the dynamic range of the scene within the range of the film or sensor.

HDRI is not a requirement, it is merely an option. HDRI simply captures the full DR, but the image does not have to use it all.

3 upvotes
Jan Privat
By Jan Privat (Aug 28, 2012)

I like your last (your favorite) HDR the best.

1 upvote
noegd
By noegd (Aug 28, 2012)

Note that you don't really need an HDR soft to enhance dynamic range as described in the article.

I use the LR/Enfuse plugin to Lightroom. This plugin fuses the exposure of several pictures (after automatic alignment, they don't need to be shot from a tripod) and returns a 16bit TIFF file to Lightroom. This file can then be further developed in Lightroom.

1 upvote
Wye Photography
By Wye Photography (Aug 28, 2012)

After reading this I am still not a 'fan' of HDR. The images on the first page look 'overcooked', the first two images on the second page, I admit, do look nice. The last image on page 2 looks like it has been done with one of those water colour apps on an iPad. A waste of an EOS 5D MkIII.

I don't think this article convinces me that HDR, and I quote, "emulate(s) the world we see with our own eyes". My world certainly doesn't look anything like these images. In dynamic range perhaps, in colour NO!

Then again, this article is for those ALREADY into HDR.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

It is nothing new for photgraphers to overcook special techniques. I remember when I was was a teenager I learned how to use use color filters with black and white film....or how to solarize a print or how to sandwhich my negatives with Kodalith masks. I went crazy creating wachy over the top special effects. I made alot of crazy surrealistic prints but in the end, after I learned how to control the techniques to use them as a means of controling the quality of more conventional looking images.

Whenever a new technique is introduced, people will have a tendancy to overdo it to create unusual looking images, but in time, they outgro it. Eventually the overcooked images are regarded as cheap amateur manipulations. Skill practioners will learn to restrain themselves and apply just the right amount of the effect.

Unfortunately, many amateurs are using simple one size fits all HDR processors on point and shoot cameras and cell phones. They don't know any better, they think its cool.

1 upvote
Vibrio
By Vibrio (Aug 28, 2012)

nothing natural about these images - not sure about the point of this article??????

1 upvote
giornata
By giornata (Aug 28, 2012)

Why should an image be 'natural'?

4 upvotes
Vibrio
By Vibrio (Aug 28, 2012)

is that not the point of this post - natural looking HDR images.

2 upvotes
Total comments: 199
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