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HDR used properly is appropriate for photojournalism, says Unified Color's Omvik

By dpreview staff on Feb 3, 2012 at 20:26 GMT

Are High Dynamic Range photos appropriate for illustrating news? That's the debate that's been started by the Washington Post's use of an HDR image on its front page in January. Sean Elliot, president of the National Press Photographers Association came down firmly against it, saying, 'HDR is not appropriate for documentary photojournalism.' John Omvik, Marketing VP with HDR software maker Unified Color understandably disagrees. He's written us a response arguing that what we see is closer to HDR than, say, a mono photo shot with Tri-X film.


John Omvik's statement:

Recently, the Washington Post stirred up a healthy debate among amateur photographers and photojournalists when it published  a  photograph on its front page commemorating the 30th anniversary of the tragic crash of Air Florida Flight 90 (January 13, 2012). The photo in question shows the back-lit 14th St. Bridge shot at sunset with an airplane in the upper left corner of the frame. The controversy stems from the fact that staff photographer Bill O’Leary used High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques to process this photo, a fact the Post mentioned in the photo’s caption.

'Using HDR software and processing tools is the only method a photographer has to deliver precisely what he or she witnessed at the time of an image capture'

The caption ultimately led to some confusion by readers, many of whom took it to mean the paper was publishing a doctored photo, perhaps in order to achieve the emotional impact appropriate to the accompanying story. In a subsequent Ask the Post article online, Michel du Cille, the Post’s director of photography posted detailed information on the HDR process while making it clear that the publication did not and does not “manipulate” photos.  

The debate spread to the Poynter Institute’s blog, where Sean Elliot, president of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)  is quoted as saying:

“HDR is not appropriate for documentary photojournalism.” Elliot points out that the NPPA’s code of ethics say photographers should respect the integrity of the digital moment, “and in that light an HDR photo is no different from any other digital manipulation.”

As vice president of Unified Color Technologies, a pioneer in the field of HDR imaging, I strongly disagree with Elliot and the NPPA’s viewpoint. When properly used, HDR does the most accurate job of reconstructing the dynamic range of the original scene at the time the photo was taken. In fact, if one really wants to split hairs about what is “real” and what isn’t, consider this; from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until the moment you close them at night, everything you see in the world around you is in HDR.

There is no camera in existence, digital or film, which can accurately reproduce what the human vision system can capture and process in real time. While today’s digital cameras capture a much larger dynamic range in a single shot than any color transparency film ever could in the past, they still can't match the tonal range humans can see. And so, using HDR software and processing tools is the only method a photographer has to deliver precisely what he or she witnessed at the time of an image capture.  

In the case of Bill O’Leary, his color HDR image is clearly more realistic to the moment then had he used the old gold standard of photojournalism and newsprint: black and white Tri-X film.

Improper use of HDR can clearly create a misrepresentation of the photographic moment, but when HDR techniques are used as they should, they absolutely meet, and might, in fact, go above and beyond the standards of the NPPA’s code of ethics which state, in part:

  • Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
  • Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects. 
  • Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.

Proper use of HDR does not alter, mislead or misrepresent a scene. In fact, true color HDR processing and tone mapping techniques restore the integrity of the photograph, and is the best way to reproduce the original high contrast scene, in low dynamic range media such as newsprint or on our LCD computer or handheld displays.

At the current rate of technology evolution, we’re likely to soon have cameras that can match the dynamic range of human vision in a single shot (though even then software tools will be required to tone map the image for printing.) Until that time, the HDR process is the best option for photographers seeking to convey a sense of realism.  Simply mentioning the process in the caption, as the Post did here, is all the disclosure that ought to be necessary.

-John Omvik

V.P. Marketing, Unified Color Technologies

Comments

Total comments: 252
1234
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Feb 5, 2012)

i think if its not processed so that you cant see any dark areas or any highlights at all, its fine, i mean as the article stated, you were there and you took the photo, only difference is the processing.

0 upvotes
Marksphoto
By Marksphoto (Feb 5, 2012)

I think the photographer knows better how to present their work. Nobody dictated to Mozzart how to compose symphonies.

I personally dislike HDR photography, I find the photos to be pasty, the highlights are gray and unnatural looking, thus I never use this feature but someone likes the effect and my opinion has nothing to do with other people's tastes.

1 upvote
Michael Uschold
By Michael Uschold (Feb 5, 2012)

It is both true and highly misleading to say that "everything you see in the world around you is in HDR". It is true because human eyes can see much higher HDR than film, and HDR can sometimes bring an image closer image to what the eyes saw.

It is misleading because many HDR photos show what they eye cannot see. In bright sun the shadow in the lower left in the image above would be much more contrasty - so the image shows us what the eye never saw. If you were there, you could only see the detail in the shadow by blocking the bright light and wait for the eyes to adjust. There is no human eye that can see both the very bright and the very dim at the same time.

A more extreme example of this is a photo from inside a dark room looking out a very bright window with detail visible throughout.

Galen Rowell sometimes used 4 stop ND filters to do the same thing using different technology. People liked the photos but to me they looked unrealistic for the same reason.

1 upvote
Color Blotch
By Color Blotch (Feb 5, 2012)

Actually human eye's DR is much inferior to what most digicams of today can capture. Yet I do not see things washed out when I look through window from my dimly lit room. This is because I don't make photographs with my eyes. When I'm looking at something my eyes constantly scanning the scenery, adjusting to the changing conditions as they go. What you see *in your mind* isn't what your eyes see at any given point in time. This is why the impression that a real scene would make on you is better conveyed with HDR. You don't expect to see washed out or blackened out out parts when you look at things normally, and you're not getting those with HDR.

Still I wouldn't readily agree that "Using HDR software and processing tools is the only method a photographer has to deliver precisely what he or she witnessed at the time of an image capture", since there's hardly a way of delivering anything "precise" when human impressions are involved. Nothing is perfect.

5 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Feb 5, 2012)

but HDR is a term used with a specific sensor in mind, because its the process of expanding the DR of this sensor, so the only method to expand it, is taking multiple exposures.

this means to me, that it has nothing to do with the question if the eye uses HDR or not, its simply tries to get the same DR or possibly more, than the human eye, which cant do HDR at all ^^

unrealistic or not is only a question of the DR you try to get

0 upvotes
vincetheshooter
By vincetheshooter (Feb 9, 2012)

HDR post processing is one of my favorite styles of editing..It precisely defines all the details in a pic - what you see is what you get- but the problem of HDR is that, if you over-processed it, it becomes unrealistic..

rockpaperscissorsph.com

0 upvotes
Alfie Smith
By Alfie Smith (Feb 5, 2012)

Sean Elliot now want to ban the nikon 4D because it has too much dinamyc range...

1 upvote
Sam Carriere
By Sam Carriere (Feb 5, 2012)

Personally, I am much more concerned with creative liberties that newspapers are likely to take with their text than I am with HDR photography.

11 upvotes
j2ker
By j2ker (Feb 5, 2012)

From what I have read, film had a higher dynamic range than DSLR sensors. The human eye certainly has a higher dynamic range than DSLR sensors. If used judiciously, HDR can represent the image as viewed by the photographer. If used with abandon, it can create unnatural imagery. The newest iPhone already has built in HDR. If HDR is "outlawed", then all post processing should be "outlawed". It's just a matter of time before HDR will be built into all cameras; then what? The important thing is that the image captured represents the photographer's intent, not the limitation of his/her equipment.

1 upvote
offtheback
By offtheback (Feb 5, 2012)

The decisive moment occurs multiple times per time segment.Each beholder has an infinite set of moments and receptors.Tech has far to go to cover then all.Let the HDR roll.

0 upvotes
hlritter
By hlritter (Feb 5, 2012)

It's simple: single-exposure image files, computer displays, and printed images represent ARBITRARY LIMITATIONS re the objective standard for the dynamic range that can be represented, i.e., what can be encompassed in real time by the human visual-perception system.

To enshrine the limits of what can be represented by a print of a raw single-image file on a sheet of paper is to enslave print photojournalism to an incidental, inadequate 150-year-old standard. Elliot thinks this is more honest why?

It is this arbitrary, limited standard--not the use of accurate HDR--that represents distortion of the truth. Conscientious, conservative HDR to simulate the same dynamic range as the human eye is nothing more than a way to make an artificial representation MORE honest.

By way of a fairly trenchant analogy, the same objections were voiced with: stereo vs. mono; color vs. B&W; talkies vs. silent films. Each was vilified despite overcoming an arbitrary limitation. I rest my case.

2 upvotes
Paulo Ferreira
By Paulo Ferreira (Feb 5, 2012)

"used properly" has the same value applied to "vaseline on lens" (to emphasise privacy) or "forgot to remove lens cap" (for that special solar eclipse!) Waste of bandwidth!

0 upvotes
The Ghost Traveler
By The Ghost Traveler (Feb 5, 2012)

The problem with HDR is that, as far as I could see to this day, the wide majority of photos which are made - or are claimed to be made - with such technique of combining multiple exposures come out as horrible and tasteless messes of garish colors, fluffy contours, edge halos and crazy lighting. I saw not a few photos with interesting angles of view and composition being dreadfully spoilt by making them look like a cheap painting.

As far as I am concerned, I do not see the world that way. I prefer to adjust contrast and lighting in a more conservative way - by shooting RAW and "squeezing" all the detail I can, without altering it too much.

The photo published by the WP, although not as hideous as the average HDR-processed photo, does look strange and unnatural to me - oversaturated colors and excessive lighting. However, I think that it could still be "safe" to publish it in a newspaper - after all, we've all seen much worse manipulations.

The above is, of course, just my 2 cents.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
BartyLobethal
By BartyLobethal (Feb 5, 2012)

It's possible that you've seen much more HDR than you think and didn't recognise it as such because it was used to achieve a natural-looking result. It can be done well by those who know what they're doing and care about the results.

4 upvotes
The Ghost Traveler
By The Ghost Traveler (Feb 5, 2012)

When used in a "conservative" way, as the double exposure technique we know from the days of film, it can be as you write. However, such "proper" use of HDR can only be done when shooting at still subjects and with the aid of a tripod/monopod, or with rather fast times - no more than, say, 1/250s, of course depending on the focal length of your lens. That is, unless your camera can process simultaneously three differently bracketed images out of a single exposure. But even in that case I would be cautious.

Again, as far as I am concerned, I prefer to shoot just a single exposure in RAW and adjust the light/shadow equilibrium in post-production. That gives me complete control on the end result without "overcooking" it. I don't view it as a religious dogma, just as the technique making me able to do what I want to convey with my photos.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
TheAe
By TheAe (Feb 4, 2012)

Noooo I hope not to see HDR on newspapers. lol EWW. Newsweek needs to have HDR Maybe Times.

0 upvotes
Garth Wood
By Garth Wood (Feb 4, 2012)

Man, I'm glad they cleared that up. If it weren't for their benediction, I'd be *terrified* to use HDR for *anything.* ;-)

0 upvotes
hotdog321
By hotdog321 (Feb 4, 2012)

I think HDR is appropriate in photojournalism only when it reflects reality and approximates the tones seen by the human eye. We can use it as a tool to overcome some of the limitations of digital capture.

That said, the Washington Post image does NOT reflect reality. It is an insanely oversaturated faux color image more appropriate to making a poster for someone's wall. The alternative image not only reflected reality, it is a better image. The editors really dropped the ball on this one.

Photojournalists have to constantly balance the available technology with "reality." I generally stick with old-school standard darkroom techniques when working for publications: burn, dodge, color correct, saturation, contrast--plus unsharp mask, lens and perspective corrections within reason.

I try very hard to reflect reality, while realizing "reality" is subjective.

2 upvotes
Stefan Sobol
By Stefan Sobol (Feb 4, 2012)

Back in the days of conventional film and printing starting with the choice of film used, how the film was processed (technique and chemistry), how the print was exposed, the paper type used, how the print was processed (technique and chemistry), and even what screen was used when printing the newspaper all affected the resulting image. All these choices are made by the photographer in order to convey his intended point.

Simply making a long exposure in a dim environment will provide a different view of the subject than is possible with human eye. Changing the camera position, sometimes even slightly, can change the message in a photograph.

Further, everyone's eyes react to light differently. We all see the world differently, whether looking at a scene or an an image of that scene.

As long as we exclude manipulations that add or remove real elements (e.g. a person) to an image, who can say what is the correct version of an image.

1 upvote
tony field
By tony field (Feb 4, 2012)

Humm, what happens if we magically have sensors that capture a 15 (or higher) stop dynamic range and suitably process the tones to fit our (screen/print) viewing devices? That is "high dynamic range" by all counts and the only difference is that it can be accomplished with a single exposure rather than multiple exposures.

You could even argue that shooting with a higher dynamic range medium format studio camera of today would be "inappropriate" since it captures more than the run-of-the mill Dx3 or 1D-IV.

1 upvote
Michael Ma
By Michael Ma (Feb 4, 2012)

Someone that says "HDR is not appropriate for documentary photojournalism", like Sean Elliott, clearly doesn't understand what HDR is. It is just a tool to widen the dynamic range on photos by combining multiple photos with different exposure. And since the technology of the sensors can only deliver a narrow range on a shot by shot basis, we could definitely use HDR to make it more like how it was seen by the eye.

Of course, it can be abused. Your HDR photo can be composed of ranges that exceed the limitations what the eye can see. And when it does that, it looks doctored.

You can read what Sean Elliott says in another way where Sean Elliott actually makes some sense. Maybe he meant that documentary journalism is about telling a story, letting the viewers feel like they are making up their own conclusion after presenting them with biased facts, and HDR photos tend to have too much unnecessary detail that a single photograph wouldn't have.

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Shakens
By Shakens (Feb 4, 2012)

does it really matter

0 upvotes
Just Ed
By Just Ed (Feb 4, 2012)

Bahhh, not realistic enough...needs to be in 3D with smell-o-vision and something to blow a soft cool breeze over the viewer. Having the viewer wear a cap, sun glasses and spf 30 would make it even more realistic.

Or we could do it over in B&W Ansel Adams style then just dreamily stare at a beautiful print of this scene, truly experiencing something special.

Photography is art, there is more too it than "realism."

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
CriticalI
By CriticalI (Feb 4, 2012)

We are talking about journalism here. If you want factual accuracy ask a medical or crime scene photographer. Journalism is about selective use of facts and speculation to make a story. It's not "factual" and nor is photography. It's deliberately selective.

Adjusting contrast in a scene is wholly irrelevant by comparison.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (Feb 4, 2012)

I'm not against HDR in principle. I use NDGrads for the same purpose, after all. However, I rarely see HDRs that look realistic. The pic in question is an example of that. They say it is exactly as the eye sees, but while that may be true, it is not exactly as I would imagine my brain sees it.

Even when they do look realistic, they also lose a lot of atmosphere. Better to have some deep-shadow-with-detail than the light shadow that the eye sees.

1 upvote
Laurentiu Todie
By Laurentiu Todie (Feb 4, 2012)

Sean Elliot was wrong.
He'd probably use a sharper lens if he had one, or a sharper demosaicing algorithm.

(sorry, I didn't read most of the posts)

1 upvote
DaveMarx
By DaveMarx (Feb 4, 2012)

This all hangs on the, "digital moment." As a composite, it was several closely spaced digital moments. Had the ghost images of the moving aircraft (which undoubtedly existed) not been removed, would honesty have been restored? Ghosting was an acceptable artifact in Matthew Brady's day.

Elliott was grasping at straws, but that's required of an official spokesperson. It's the old management principle, "Nobody's been fired for saying no." If he says "yes," he's interpreting/expanding association policy. Elsewhere in Washington, that would be called "Judicial Activism," a hanging offense in some circles.

If the function is provided automatically by the camera, resulting in a single image file (like the iPhone's HDR), the photographers' integrity would go unquestioned - an auto-exposure mode that optimizes exposure separately for each of many zones. Or the photographer delivers all frames to the editor, allowing the editor to select optimal placement of the moving aircraft.

1 upvote
wootpile
By wootpile (Feb 4, 2012)

Anyone who thinks HDR is somethng new needs to get educated. How do you think the copyists of the old BW masters managed to make prints like for example Ansel Adam's work?

Shading and burning in the darkroom was/is exactly the same as HDR and has always been a part of any photography, photojournalism included.

2 upvotes
Marksphoto
By Marksphoto (Feb 5, 2012)

dodging and burning and HDR are 2 different things. I used to own a lab and I find the process of HDR disgusting compared to what I used to do with film. Lets compare apples to apples.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
1 upvote
OneGuy
By OneGuy (Feb 4, 2012)

When you take an HDR picture you reduce clipping and noise.

1.) What news publisher would want to do that?

2.) What is this thing called "recreated event" in journalism?

At the end of the news there should be a standard 'truth affirmation' statement that goes like this: "And that's the way I want you to think it is."

1 upvote
Wick Smith
By Wick Smith (Feb 4, 2012)

News photography does require a higher standard than art photography to maintain trust at a time when people are very aware of how photos can be manipulated. Reuters has an exhaustive list of what is not permitted. I remember there was a stink when someone added extra smoke to the picture of a bombing to make it look more dramatic.

However, in the example discussed here, the intent of the image is to be an attractive shot of a bridge where something dreadful happened. There was no news being portrayed in the picture Nothing was altered to make a point. It was, in fact, an art picture. An unaltered shot of the same bridge would not have made the front page or told the story. And there was full disclosure of the technique used.

The only argument in favor of the critics is that it is a slippery slope. If you allow HDR, what else might slide in under the rationale that it is more real than an unaltered shot.

I side reluctantly with the Post on this one because of the disclosure.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (Feb 5, 2012)

"Manipulation" is done all the time through choice of angle, composing, cropping etc. Why should the "digital manipulation" done when the camera chose the exposure be any less "wrong" than the choices the photographer can do later in raw processing and Photoshop? Should photo journalists be forced to capture JPEGs and the pictures imported as they are from the camera? HDR is just one more step in the long chain of choices any photographer does.

1 upvote
Wick Smith
By Wick Smith (Feb 5, 2012)

That news organizations disagree with you would argue for the POV that there is a qualitative difference between lens choice (for example) and HDR. For one thing, most people understand lens effects whereas many digital manipulations may well lead to a misunderstanding of what is being shown.

To that end, some news organizations do require jpegs direct from the camera where the importance of the story rises to the level of forensic evidence, as it does in war zones. The issue of trust becomes paramount in such cases.

For background, human interest and other cases where the picture is not there to tell the story but to supplement it, the standards should be different.

0 upvotes
eyewundr
By eyewundr (Feb 4, 2012)

The single biggest factor is where the photo is captured from - "point of view" - and as Lbr0805 specifies, what is in the frame and what is left out.

The next biggest factor is lens selection, specificially field of view typically referenced by focal length. While 50mm (46 degrees) has been popularized as "normal", analysis of people suggests a median of 43mm or 44mm (a "28mm" lens on an APS-C sensor) - between 50 degrees and 55 degrees. So any telephoto or wide angle lens manipulates the context by cropping or expanding view together with consequent geometric distortion.

By the time you get to post processing the biggest decisions are all in the past.

The key remains, as it always has been, the intent of the journalism team to accurately convey, to accurately "quote" the context for the journalism audience.

3 upvotes
eyewundr
By eyewundr (Feb 4, 2012)

Authenticity in photography has always been an issue.

A journalism photo should accurately represent the context as faithfully as an exact quote from a witness or expert should state exactly the words spoken.
But once transcribed into text the quote no longer conveys the rhythm, cadence, tone, or volume of the original speaker, some or all of which is always relevant.
Just so, nothing a photographer can do will reproduce every element of the context.

SaulTh correctly pointed out that "intent" is the critical issue, and jmmgarza pointed out that journalism is a team sport and the intent of all of the players have an impact on authenticity.

Advertising and sensasionalist media have so severely manipulated imagery that authenticity became an issue in photography, and that dates back decades.

As Lbr0805 pointed out, editorializing begins before the photograph is captured.

0 upvotes
segarci1
By segarci1 (Feb 4, 2012)

"The digital moment" is relative. Whether 1/1000th of a second, or 1/60th of a second, or several slices time over multiple exposures. These can all achieve different exposure results without corrupting the journalistic integrity of the image.

0 upvotes
Ilkka Nissilä
By Ilkka Nissilä (Feb 4, 2012)

Everyone knows that the exposure time is finite. The key is that the audience should be aware of the general principle of how the image was formed so that they know how it relates to reality. It's best to err on the conservative side here.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Feb 5, 2012)

Where I agree with Ilkka is that the audience should be made aware through disclosure. The flaw in segarci1's explanation is that all the examples cited represent "a moment" except one: the HDR. The HDR is multiple moments, composited. Where objects shift over time, they are preserved or eliminated arbitrarily to avoid ghost images. At that point it is no longer a photographic document of any individual moment, and loses the right to be called a document or "photojournalism." It has become "art."

0 upvotes
segarci1
By segarci1 (Feb 5, 2012)

My point was that it's a matter of scale. When a digital device captures a physical signal, it could actually be accumulating multiple signal samples over multiple clocks. (Albeit, most digital cameras probably sense an image over one continuous interval - although you could get some multi-sample situations as with flash ghosting, but I digress.) HDR could simply take this to a more "macro" time scale. What if the HDR process was completely contained within a single shutter press? Or what if the HDR process avoided any form of human intervention except for exposure tuning?

0 upvotes
peter42y
By peter42y (Feb 4, 2012)

HDR does reproduce with much more accuracy what human eye can see in a certain moment. It does not make sense to condemn it.
Sean Elliot claims " photographers should respect the integrity of the digital moment ".
What is the definition of digital moment ?
Sean Elliot stance is like condemning color pictures because it does violate the integrity of the analogical moment lol .
(And after all colors id digital photography do not exactly reproduce real life colors anyway )

1 upvote
Ilkka Nissilä
By Ilkka Nissilä (Feb 4, 2012)

Typical HDR pictures look like this: http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2008/11/15/beautiful-examples-of-hdr-photography/

Is there any wonder why there is hesitation in allowing it in journalistic photography? It doesn't matter if 1% of HDR users use it with moderation. Too many will not.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
bbbinohio
By bbbinohio (Feb 4, 2012)

Those are GORGEOUS!!!

And even though these examples are ones that certainly have an "artistic" touch to them, even these reveal a whole lot more of the actual visual scene that was available to the photographer's eye than the typical photograph does.

Don't be so afraid... they won't bite.

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
kdaphoto
By kdaphoto (Feb 4, 2012)

When desktop publishing first came out many users created garish ugly documents. After a period of time professionals learned to use the tool properly. Those some still use it for their own creative vision. I think the same will happen with HDR. While we see a lot of Disneyland-like HDR images, I believe over time, professionals will come to use the tool to create images that more accurately represent what is photographed. I have used many HDR images in reporting for my local news website in Portland Oregon. Ultimately it is the photographer and editor do make the right decision about whether or not a photo meets journalistic standards, not the technology.

1 upvote
powerbook duo
By powerbook duo (Feb 4, 2012)

might as well ban the uses of telephotos for photojournalism since you could effectively 'crop' away part of the scene to represent your point of view, and that can be more dangerous than merely fiddling with curves and multiple exposure

0 upvotes
Ilkka Nissilä
By Ilkka Nissilä (Feb 4, 2012)

Obviously implied with a news image is the trust that the photographer faithfully represents what happened. It is his/her job. The same is true of the text: the intention of the reporter is to give an accurate idea of what happened, and the picture illustrates this providing complementary information.

The general public is used to telephotos and wide angles and knows what they do and how the image is related to the 3D world. They're not used to the idea that multiple distinct time points are merged into one image used in the journalistic context. The cartoonish, horrible appearance of most HDR pictures online would speak against introducing this technique into practice in this field. Very few HDR users are satisfied with subtle use of the technique so such an approach is kind of academic - it's not going to be realized.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
GURL
By GURL (Feb 5, 2012)

"The general public is used to telephotos and wide angles and knows what they do and how the image is related to the 3D world."

Being used or not to the results of digital cameras and image processing is the key issue.

Using HDR images in a newspaper to show that the new lampposts in the city streets are giving a really good light would be a dubious idea while W. Eugene Smith photo of a Minamata mother and child was right though to print it a lot of burning/dodging was needed.

The problem is that the ground rules are quite clear but impossible to translate as a series of precise technical specifications.

1 upvote
manthasfamily
By manthasfamily (Feb 4, 2012)

What's the difference if one is using proper HDR to process or if they are using layers upon layers to make their pictures better? Are there *that* many photographers who use directly out of the camera pictures without editing the picture?

1 upvote
Retro Joe
By Retro Joe (Feb 4, 2012)

I agree with Omvik. I do wish, however that the debate not end here but that it continue until a consensus is reached on acceptability for HDR in photojournalism.

So true that the easiest thing in the world to be is a critic. The anti-HDR types blather incessantly against it just because they can. They choose to ignore the fact that non-HDR images often have scores of adjustments to them to enhance or re-create the original scene.

1 upvote
bbbinohio
By bbbinohio (Feb 4, 2012)

I personally love HDR, and I don't really understand why so many other photographers go out of their way to hate it so much. When done right it can be absolutely jaw dropping!

And I agree, it is often a MUCH more accurate representation of what a person would have actually seen if he had the ability to be standing next to the photographer witnessing the scene.

There is nothing wrong with using the shadows that a camera forces on your photo, if that is the artistic direction that you are trying to achieve with your photography. However, if you have the ability to lift those shadows and present to your audience a photographic representation that much more closely resembles what the human eye would have seen, then I think that by all means, lift the veil and let your audience see what they truly could have seen if they had been there standing next to you.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Ilkka Nissilä
By Ilkka Nissilä (Feb 4, 2012)

But the purpose of a journalistic photo is not to drop jaws due to the way the image looks but illustrate an event or a person (where the event or person is the main thing, not the jaw-dropping treatment).

Comment edited 16 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
kdaphoto
By kdaphoto (Feb 4, 2012)

Why can't that be accomplished with a jaw dropping photo that accurately represents what is being reported?

0 upvotes
bbbinohio
By bbbinohio (Feb 4, 2012)

Then let's do it accurately! Let's take advantage of HDR's superior image reproduction techniques that allow the viewer to see the whole scene and if we drop anything, let's STOP USING OUT DATED PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES THAT ARE QUITE OFTEN COMPLETELY INACCURATE BECAUSE OF THE AWFUL SHADOWS THEY FORCE ON THE PHOTOGRAPHER!!!

Of course this is just my meek and very humble opinion...

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Fred Mueller
By Fred Mueller (Feb 4, 2012)

The typically restricted dynamic range of most cameras is what is not "realistic".

HDR techniques allow more of the present tonal range in a given scene to be displayed naturally (if you know what you are doing). Is changing the contrast response of your camera internally (Nikon Picture Control for instance) dishonest? No of course not. One is simply trying to match the response characteristics of the camera to the tonalities of the scene at hand. HDR is just a more comprehensive approach to that technical limitation.

Photomatix has had a huge impact on my approach to real estate photography, allowing me to shoot scenes that here-to-fore were not possible....

We need sensors that approach the flare limit of good lenses in dynamic range at least as much as we need more resolution. I would fall all over myself to purchase a 6 mpx camera with 15-16 stops at base iso.....

2 upvotes
soboy55
By soboy55 (Feb 4, 2012)

Photo journalism should accurately reflect what the photographer saw with his or her own eyes. If proper use of HDR creates an image that more accurately reflects what the photographer actually witnessed, then I have no problem at all with that use.

1 upvote
chadley_chad
By chadley_chad (Feb 4, 2012)

If writers see their art as a craft, then why not photographers! We expect a well written, entertaining account of the truth (or story!), so why not an image to match!

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Ruy Penalva
By Ruy Penalva (Feb 4, 2012)

Based on the fact that image needs human valuation and processing no human sees the same image as the other. The image, even in human brain, suffer from personal judgement that gives it the "real" value. Not to say the visible light spectre of human eyes.

0 upvotes
Jonathan F/2
By Jonathan F/2 (Feb 4, 2012)

Who cares if the Washington Post uses an HDR image. All US news is corporatized filtered media anyways.

1 upvote
Ceesprof
By Ceesprof (Feb 4, 2012)

I believe that this is a pointless discussion. Philosophers came to the conclusion that THE truth doesn't exist. Journalistic photo's are about information. The information should not be manipulated. Examples are the manipulated photos from Soviet Russia and lately North Korea.
Manipulated contrast could be seen as manipulated information only when the information is reduced (higher contrast). Enhancing the information by lightening the shadows is not a manipulation of the information.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
KitHB
By KitHB (Feb 4, 2012)

Human vision copes with a wider dynamic range than film or digital sensors could. HDR compensates for the shortcomings of the technology.

If Sean Elliot's viewpoint is acceptable then where does that leave these? Are these journalistically out of bounds?

- False colour images from the Hubble Space Telescope
- Venus explorer images made from radar
- Satellite images of the earth showing sea surface temperature as colours
- Photoshopped pictures of Kate Moss, for magazine covers, to change her eye colour to co-ordinate with the clothes in the shoot. (I did that 20 years ago, back in the days when Kate Moss wore clothes for a living).

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
7 upvotes
DioCanon
By DioCanon (Feb 4, 2012)

Totally spot on,
agree 100%!

2 upvotes
p_a_b_s
By p_a_b_s (Feb 4, 2012)

Some of the readers are missing the point, specially mr. O'leary.

The meaning of the integrity of the digital moment, as I understand from mr. Elliot, refers to the fact that an HDR image is composed by several images, and that is the main issue.

What happens when you have several shots and you pick elements from each one of them to create a new one? That is a actually what happens in the bridge picture, the airplane is not present in all of the shots, but the photographer decided that it was good to have a plane to talk about the memorial of a plane crash, so he throw it in there. That is as valid as this:

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/01/4232790/setting-it-straight-photo-manipulated.html

I have nothing against trying to squeeze as much tones as a digital image can provide, that is something that has been done for ages in photography, ask Ansel Adams about the zone system.

0 upvotes
p_a_b_s
By p_a_b_s (Feb 4, 2012)

Sorry mr. O'leary, I meant mr. Omvik

0 upvotes
Lbr0805
By Lbr0805 (Feb 4, 2012)

An ill-willed editor can manipulate you simply though the choice of which "accurate" photo they choose to publish. Leave out the one showing a bleeding policeman and show a bleeding protestor, or vice-verse. Objective and genuine reporting depends on the ethics of the photographer, editor, writer and news organization, combined. A discussion about one photographic technique (especially one with as many variant outputs as HDR) for discussion is like arguing over 1,000 dollars in the federal budget.

1 upvote
Lbr0805
By Lbr0805 (Feb 4, 2012)

20 years from now, perhaps only five years from now, this discussion will look silly.

2 upvotes
Steve Russ
By Steve Russ (Feb 4, 2012)

Why is proper use of HDR so wrong in photojournalism? Is it no different than dodging and burning? If we are to ban HDR, then we should ban the use of raw images being used as well, since it's the same concept in reverse when converted to jpegs. Don't we loose some of the original data during conversion? Technically, using Mr. Elliott's reasoning, shooting raw files for photojournalism should go also.

3 upvotes
Marvelli
By Marvelli (Feb 4, 2012)

Indeed. RAW images contain considerably more information than JPGs and thus can be considered HDR as well. Adjusting any burned highlights or black shadows to show detail gives the image a representation of higher dynamic range than originally shot.

All one needs with HDRs is good taste, and good editorship.

0 upvotes
glitched
By glitched (Feb 4, 2012)

A lot of you are getting held up in the technical details of what HDR is and isn't.

The reason I think he said HDR isn't appropriate is because he's thinking of the cliche, mass produced overly tone mapped ones where the creator doesn't know what a heavy hand is when it comes to saturation ( and they probably cause they don't even have calibrated monitors). You know the kind, they look quite unreal. The photo in question on that newspaper kinda fits the description - that's a lot of saturated blue and orange going on. It looks nice, but I wouldn't call it REAL.

So I will agree with him halfway. If the image has a blantant HDR/unreal look to it, then it shouldn't' be used in strict photojournalism because if you change the color that much, how much else have they tampered with? So it's not reality. But if HDR is used to simply expand the range of tones to emulate real life, it's fine cause you can't see it the effect being applied.

1 upvote
chadley_chad
By chadley_chad (Feb 4, 2012)

So we'll ban make-up on tv presenters next then!

1 upvote
Giuseppe Fallica
By Giuseppe Fallica (Feb 4, 2012)

there is a big misunderstanding.
There are two ways to use the hdr technique, totally different.
The first is a technique simply aimed at expanding the range of tones in the presence of wide light variation.
This technique generates classic normal images, and the skill of the photographer becomes even more great if the observers appreciate the result without needing to understand that it is used the HDR technique.
else, completely different, is the HDR tecnique used to generate surreal or hyperreal images.
do not confuse the two.

3 upvotes
Giuseppe Fallica
By Giuseppe Fallica (Feb 5, 2012)

I mean: the first way of using the HDR technique is - in concrete - a simple adjustment, calibration, of images (therefore, in my opinion, it can be used in photojournalism).
The second is a technique of "manipulation", reality distortion, designed to create photo art, surreal or hyperreal that cannot (must not) be used in photojournalism. Of course.

0 upvotes
Shoshot
By Shoshot (Feb 4, 2012)

In a different field, my moderate use of HDR processing met with some success in "improving" to some extent photos of geological outcrops - e.g. fusing exposures to even the contrast of shadowy vs. sunny surfaces while enhancing local detail not originally obvious due to technical limitations.
The purpose in such a case is definitely to maximize the rendition of photographic information and to emphasize relevant features. Regarding the later publishing process, this has been deemed both acceptable and useful so far.
As pointed out the method is not inherently right or wrong, it is after all a (moral, personal) matter of what one's ultimate goals and ideals are. Out of integrity, being faithful to a 'true-to-life' combination of digicam abilities, photographer's skills and environmental parameters? Being truly artistic, impressing one's audience even if departing substantially from reality? Maximizing the transmission of useful, relevant, specific raster data?

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
zephyrus
By zephyrus (Feb 4, 2012)

This begs the question of which photos in a newspaper are "photojournalism". The photo in question on the cover of the wash post is not photojournalism. There is nothing about that particular moment captured that the article references. It was a shot of a bridge where a accident happened *in the past*. You could have just substituted a drawing and it wouldn't have changed the article.

3 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (Feb 4, 2012)

Ban Nikon cameras, they have ADL.

Ban Canon cameras, they have HTP.

They are in camera HDR tone mapping.

Use Han-seng cameras instead
(Han-seng produce cameras, seafood and noodles)

4 upvotes
chadley_chad
By chadley_chad (Feb 4, 2012)

Don't all digital camera's manipulate the real picture in some way? Maybe they should insist on film produced images only!!!

2 upvotes
zevobh
By zevobh (Feb 4, 2012)

and no burning or dodging!

0 upvotes
yuyucheu
By yuyucheu (Feb 4, 2012)

When you see a nice girl photo. Never believe her real person is same nice as her photo. That's because the photo may be retouched by PS or Imagenomic or other software.

0 upvotes
yuyucheu
By yuyucheu (Feb 4, 2012)

HDR is tool for arts photography also for commercial as well. So if you someone use HDR software or PS, please do not surprise. That's usual.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 252
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