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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
Alfie Smith
By Alfie Smith (Feb 4, 2012)

ban photoshop. or cropping... what about to a comeback to film?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
Alfie Smith
By Alfie Smith (Feb 4, 2012)

A good pic is a good pic, a bad one is a bad one. Period.

0 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (Feb 4, 2012)

Digital camera is not appropriate for photo-jounalism if HDR isn't. If Digital camera is appropriate then HDR is appropriate. Because digital camera is doing metering and tone mapping with certain tonal curve, not a linear line from 0 to 255 tonal gradient.
The tonal curve on the camera is made by human anyway in the design process of the camera.
If Digital camera can make the adjustment on the tonal gradient why can't human (on HDR processing).

On HDR, none of the object elements are missing from the picture nor added. They are still there for authenticity of the news.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
6 upvotes
Fraucha
By Fraucha (Feb 4, 2012)

Sometimes all people remember is the Clown Vomit. HDR is noting new. Anytime you went into the darkroom to mess with the negative while making a print you changed the photo, do you thin Ansel Adams' shots were just like that out of the camera?

3 upvotes
Hen3ry
By Hen3ry (Feb 4, 2012)

Sean Elliott of the NPPA is acting bizarre. Is he saying that all those old time photogs did wrong to burn in and hold back when they were printing? In fact, that they did wrong to produce black and white photos which do NOT represent the scene in reality? And what about flash?

Sure. we don't want people moved closer, heads substituted, elements absent from the scene to be added, but HDR which attempts to bring the dynamic range of pix closer to what we actually see???

The "digital moment" indeed. What rubbish.

And I speak from a background of 50 years in text and picture journalism.

3 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Feb 4, 2012)

Good stuff - all tools to overcome the limitations of our medium.

Have noticed more and more stitched Panoramas proudly displayed in National Geographic too.

Of course, moderation is in the eye of the beholder and it still takes an artists touch to make this technique complimentary to an image rather than the focus of it.

0 upvotes
Franka T.L.
By Franka T.L. (Feb 4, 2012)

I have to agree, HDR is like any other tools used in imaging. Just as old day wet darkroom where we have all kind of tricks to deliver the scene ( say Stand Developing ). So long its used to reveal what's on the scene I feel no wrong it be used for Journalistic work. Just as all tools in imaging , chemical or digial. So long its not falsifying facts and the intent and end result is revealing truth and facts thus on the capture.

3 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (Feb 4, 2012)

Ban all SONY sensors, they capture too much detail !!!

4 upvotes
migus
By migus (Feb 4, 2012)

Mr. Elliot: As you probably know, before a digital image reaches our eyes, there's a long journey for photons and electrons, going thru multiple opto-electronic conversions. This in-camera journey -aka "processing"-- entails dozens of steps just between the sensor and the card. Required to adapt an artificial image acquisition system, i.e. "digital camera", to the human 'natural' view - itself vastly different from that of other living creatures, each having a different view of the objective image.

The aforementioned dozens of in-camera processing steps transform the initial 'image' in multiple analog and digital conversions, and ultimately, still fail to deliver a "natural" image - at least in A.D. 2012. A proper HDR process is nothing else than another sequence of steps, in addition to those pre-designed by engineers into a camera. A reference capture device has yet to be invented, but certainly no camera, analog or digital is even close to it.

4 upvotes
Andre W
By Andre W (Feb 4, 2012)

Much ado about NOTHING - indeed!

3 upvotes
Greg Short
By Greg Short (Feb 4, 2012)

The genie is out of the bottle, you won't stop it now!!!

3 upvotes
Phil Cannon
By Phil Cannon (Feb 4, 2012)

To posit that journalist should not use HDR techniques makes as much sense as suggesting traveling salesmen should use only trains to travel between cities leaving only hobbists to travel by air.

Any one with an ounce of brains can look at a HDR image and see just what it is, a HDR image. Where is the misrepresentation?

2 upvotes
Turbguy1
By Turbguy1 (Feb 4, 2012)

And what about the "Processing" of a single capture that goes on inside the cam? Is that not also "misrepresentation"? What about RAW processing outside the Cam?

Heck, what about "exposing for the shadows and developing for the highlights", ain't THAT similar, too??

7 upvotes
Nikonworks
By Nikonworks (Feb 4, 2012)

As a photojournalist I have no trouble with HDR.

The Press Association guy is taking a typical 'labor' view of things, they want to deliver their images as is and not get caught up with any adjustments.
Their time is money.

When HDR is used to meet the dynamic range of eyesight ( or almost ) that is presenting a clear picture of reality as others have said.

The only basis for this argument against HDR is who is going to apply it and when, and how are they going to get paid.

I do my own when needed in the field, in camera, with my D7000.
I also straighten and crop at times.

A simple solutuon has already been implemented : annotate the image when HDR is applied.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Feb 4, 2012)

This isn't just silly, it's backwards. Assuming the "proper" use of HDR is with sufficient restraint so that it's not obvious, these "proper" images would be the ones would be ones to be concerned about. But so much HDR is over the top that it's obvious you're not looking at a realistic rendering. If I were to sit in judgment of what techniques were acceptable, I would outlaw oversharpened images with white halos around everything. But it's not up to me.

1 upvote
max metz
By max metz (Feb 4, 2012)

If it sells, it's appropriate. :D

2 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Feb 4, 2012)

This argument is about "baselining". Ie.. a shot reproduced in news publications, without any manipulation, is generally what the masses (so to speak) would achieve. .. so they can comprehend what they're seeing. This argument is not about reality, but what folks feel represents reality if they themselves took the photo.

1 upvote
IcyVeins
By IcyVeins (Feb 4, 2012)

Anyone who disses HDR doesn't know anything about photography

1 upvote
edfo4
By edfo4 (Feb 4, 2012)

This is certainly a great deal of bandwidth devoted to very little. It seems to me that this fellow from the NPPA has no where near enough to do. Perhaps someone in the NPPA can find him something

0 upvotes
AlanG
By AlanG (Feb 4, 2012)

All photographs are interpretations and not accurate representations. I guess when it comes to news, all that is important is if the subject is represented fairly and not presented in a way that deceives.

For the photo of the bridge, I can't see why it would matter what it looked like as the appearance of the bridge is not relevant to the story. They could just as well have run a charcoal drawing of the bridge, a night photograph, or a b/w one using a red filter to enhance the sky.

It is fine that there is an airplane in the shot but that is irrelevant too. Nobody disputes that planes fly over the 14th Street Bridge on their way to or from Reagan National Airport. If he had pasted a plane in there it would have been just as accurate an illustration for the purpose of supporting the story. It isn't as if we are trying to determine the height or angle of the plane for some kind of analysis.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Feb 4, 2012)

the Washington Post "doctored" picture did NOTHING to add to the story.
The "doctored" picture only show more details of the underbrigde
that might be in complete shadow.

WHAT then did the effort of Washington Post actually do,
by creating that HDR shot ?

1 upvote
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Feb 4, 2012)

Editing before and after we shoot is common place. Who do we photograph? Who is driving the narrative? What is in the frame and what is left out? Who is the picture editor? We all edit before pressing the shutter? Who are you afraid of?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
citytocityca
By citytocityca (Feb 4, 2012)

Agree with all you said and you could include digital burning and dodging. All photographs are manipulated to one degree or another. I believe it''s about visualization and interpretation.

1 upvote
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Feb 6, 2012)

Some call that process (visualization and interpretation) previsualization.

Comment edited 59 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Dan4321
By Dan4321 (Feb 4, 2012)

I agree with the article. It shouldn't even be a point of debate. I guess there are haters for everything, but as long as it is applied correctly than a reasonable person should not object to it. Of course if you use it to make a real person look like a ghost and write an article about it ie. "Ghost sighted in blah blah blah" with the picture posted as 'proof', then that would be an incorrect application since the technique is not being used to create a (more) authentic representation of the scene.

1 upvote
rvalle
By rvalle (Feb 4, 2012)

How about putting this into historical technical context?
Let's use DXOMark values:
You are a professional photojournalist in 2005, and you just shot a photo at ISO800. It has about 8 EVs of dynamic range.
But the scene has 11 EVs between important subjects, so the only way you can get both in a shot is by bracketing exposures and do... an HDR composite.

Now fast forward to 2011, and now you have a D3s, and you go to shoot the very same subject, at ISO800.
Well, now you have 11EVs of dynamic range in camera, no need for HDR.

Which one is true to reality?
Was it cheating, the 2005 D2x HDR, if the EV range in the photo looks the same as in 2011 with the D3s?

4 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

I would not allow an HDR from a multiple exposure scan if the algorithm to do it are not linear. Most sofware doesn't do it in a linear fashion. Even more, it it was to show an actual event with something really important hidden in the shadow - eg. the face of the killer could be seen in the shadow - I would publish side by side two different exposure of the same slide or negative telling that one of them that there was a surexposition during scanning.

And by the way, multi-exposure scanning is not the same as HDR bracketing. Digital HDR bracketing is in fact the compositing of MULTIPLE images with selective masking. The multi-exposure scan is the compositing of a SINGLE image with selective masking (I thnk most algorithm are using selective masking) and tone-mapping (a non-linear processing that most multi-exposure scan software are using - this is mainly this non-processing effect that I discard from keeping the image authentic).

2 upvotes
SaulTh
By SaulTh (Feb 4, 2012)

Agreed. To disagree, where do you start in the digital form? Should all news publish Bayer tile patterns of the raw image? -- all cameras perform a huge amount of processing inside the box, shall the argument be limited to "post" processing, as distinguished from in-camera, post-exposure processing, just because in-camera was not *entirely* controlled by the photographer? Or should we say, "one exposure only"? Seems to be overly cautious at the expense of photographic flexibility.

If it is held against an ethical code, then intent is in play, as it should be since it is not only the content of the exposure, but where one pointed the camera that makes or breaks the ethical concern -- does it deceive, is it respectful, ... It is hard to see a local increase in tonal range as a deception, for example, unless, in a particular context, it is exactly that -- depends on the context.

Anyway, my opinion is that most HDR is bland or overcome by extreme contrast -- either way it is unrealistic.

0 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Feb 4, 2012)

As far as I can see these are the relevant clauses of the NPAA ethics code. I don't think the image breaches any of them, any more than any other commonly used imaging technique.

http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/ethics.ht

"1. Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects."

I would think that proper use of HDR does that. Far better than a single exposure by itself. I think most people think that HDR more accurate than flat colour and definitely more accurate than B&W.

"5. While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events."

The photographer did not alter the *events* in any way. The plane did fly past the bridge.

"6. 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."

The shot was not edited. It was colour corrected.

1 upvote
peter42y
By peter42y (Feb 4, 2012)

Thank You for bringing to us the relevant code of ethics paragraphs.

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

In a photo-journalistic picture, I expect authenticity over subjective quality.

I think that to keep authenticity the algorithm of an effect have to be linear. Meaning, that the effect could be reversed by applying the inverse function. Hue, saturation and lightness, white balance matrix, contrast and balance, and some others. They should be apply globally and not locally.

HDR is non-linear. You cannot reverse with any kind of processing. It is a distortion of the capture.

And by a photo-journalistic, I mean a picture depicting an actual event. An archive picture of whatever headquarter of whatever corporation in the business section is not a photo-journalistic picture. Neither is a picture of whatever landscape in the travel section. They just have the same purpose of an illustration - they could have been an illustration I could not care less.

However, I expect an out of focus picture of the assassination of someone taken on the fly to be authentic and could have linear effect.

0 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Feb 4, 2012)

Jocelyn, in the case of the photo and events that are the subject of this article, do you think HDR is acceptable?

I.e. do you consider it a photo journalistic shot or an illustration?

If you consider if photo journalistic, what is it that makes it photo journalistic,?

I think I understand your general position, but I am not sure where you stand on this particular example and would be interested to know as I think it is a sensible position but am not sure how it might be applied in a situation like this.
This shot obviously does not attempt or portrait the original crash, but it is an actual event.

It is very easy to define a static scene such as a landscape or the corporate HQ as illustrations but less easy (I think) to classify a shot such as this, shot, in this context of use.

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

On this particular case, I do not have any problem with HDR, they could have composited some boat on the river and erased some street light it is not really important. It could have been a drawing, a collage or a stock photo. The picture is not there to actually show you something at a precise moment and at a precise place. It is just to illustrate something.

If it was a picture of an actual event : here is the last picture of the flight 815 from LAX that disappeared seconds after the picture was taken, I would expect the picture to be authentic - is there any hint hidden somewhere that could explain what happened ? HDR may have modified the proof.

By the way, as a response to your post just above, HDR is not color correction. It is a compositing of multiple images with selective masking (plus or minus, there is differents algorithm).

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

I don't see why authenticity is connected to a linear process in the way you described? What makes a capture authentic by changing a pixel, based on a series of algorithms, to un-authentic where the pixel changing algorithms are combined?

Its impossible to re-create an image...starting from first principles we see in stereo so if the display form is mono, computer screens, books, newspapers, its not authentic. Then we go onto visual periphery which isn't captured accurately by any lens or sensor. Then we go a into a ton of optical manipulations by all the elements of a lens. Then theres the iris which doesn't capture a moment in time, but a period in time...ie. shutter speed. Next the sensor which is a sampled array that converts light from analogue to a digital bayer pattern. Then onto jpeg incorrectness, tons of color correction madness to recreate all the distortions and then onto display.

HDR is just a slither of a long line of trying to correct distortion of an image.

1 upvote
PicOne
By PicOne (Feb 4, 2012)

Is a shot taken with Velvia linear to a shot taken with NPH? Is a shot with Tri-X linear to one taken with Kodachrome 25? I don't understand this 'linear' definition/requirement.

1 upvote
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

Your mixing between authenticity and the accuracy of the way we see things. A out-of-focus expired polaroid of the assasination of someone is authentic (let's not play the game of fake picture, please) but in no way accurate of the way we see things. Lets take a still from the James Cameron's movie Titanic, it is highly accurate of the way we see things and of the event. But it is an authentic picture of the actual Titanic that sank in april 1912 ?

Let's go back to my out-of-focus expired polaroid. If the CSI enhancer algorithm were able to unblur it and shows us the murder, would the unblured version authentic ? As a jury would you condemn the person on the unblured picture. As a suspect, would you try to discredit it ? HDR is a non-linear processing that is non-authentic and must not be used in a photo-journalistism.

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

@PicOne
IT is not about B&W, Polaroid, Velvia, iPhone (using the regular camera app and basic processing). It is not about accuracy of the human vision. It is all about processing.

Linear processing can be reversed (if it's clip, it is not linear anymore). So let's say you reduce saturation by 50% of a r100g0b0 it will become r100g50b50. If you double the saturation of r100g50b50 you'll get r100g0b0. Most white balance algorithm are matrices that can be reversed with their inverse matrix. A linear processing is in fact relative to the original. 50% saturation relative to or Tungsten balanced.

HDR is nothing like linear, you cannot by using a CSI 's unHDR recover one the images you used. One pixel is from one picture, another one from a different picture. Let's not talk about tone mapping. HDR can be more accurate to the human vision, but this is not important.

0 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Feb 4, 2012)

Thanks for your reply Jocelyn.

With regards the colour correction comment in my above post, I am aware that *normally*, in its currently commonly accepted use "colour correction" means simply adjusting the hue (not sure if hue is the right word) of an image, e.g. to remove a blue cast.

However HDR is in at least one sense colour correction, in that parts of the image corrected to be closer to real life than they other wise would be due to the narrowness of the dynamic range, if you see what I mean? I.e part of a digital image that that is rednered as a grey in the image but is say orange in the real life scene, is rendered as orange if the scene is HDR'd.

So I guess what I am saying think the idea of what colour correcting is, needs to be expanded, to include appropriate HDR and possibly other techniques too.

Although re-examining the image it was probably a bit over corrected, but overcorrection can occur with conventional colour correction too.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Peter Brophy
By Peter Brophy (Feb 4, 2012)

You've described the difference between authenticity and accuracy...but you haven't explained why a linear set of processing equates to authenticity - post processing doesn't necessarily have inverse functions [e.g you can change a color image to B&W, but you can't create an inverse function to regenerate that color image from B&W].

But more importantly, you don't explain why a (perhaps non-accurate), authentic image is the criteria in which photo-journalism should decide what to print or not.

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

Yes the main idea of HDR is to be a color correction tool (or grading tool) and in and a photo editing suite I could place it there. No problem with that. I, myself, use a lot of that kind of processing a lot, I am not a purist at all. I am an art director, motion designer and coder, and weekend photographer, that use a lot of effect (a lot of non-linear) to cheat spectator eyes. But I do not think that image manipulation to give a wow effect to a photo-journalistic picture (image depicting a precise event).

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

Peter, to completely desaturate an image is not linear anymore, like you said, there is no math that can recover it. Oversaturation is the same, you'll get clipping in some of the color channels.

If authentication is not important for you in journalism, in life, I don't have much to say. But I'm scared of the day newspaper, tv news will cheat the image to glorify a dictator with over-saturated fake images and show democracy with manually faded colors or overly shadowed visage and fake red eyes.

0 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Feb 4, 2012)

Not to put words in Jocylen's mouth but I suspect that Jocylen likes the idea of linearity because, if you can reverse it and still retain the same scene.
If you increase every pixel's brightness by the same proportion, then you have the same scene, just a certain amount brighter.

Whereas if you apply some non linear function you may end up altering the geometry of the scene.

Think of a duotone.
I.e. print a black and white image. Then create a second version of the image image but use green ink instead of black, so you have a green and white image. The scene is still the same as the B&W. You could take that green image, make a 3rd image, replacing the green ink with black and get a scene the same as the other two, and an image very similar to the 1st B&W.

But if in the production of the second image you also spattered some green ink over the image, you could not take that 2nd image and create a 3rd that looks like the 1st by simply replacing the green ink with black.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Feb 4, 2012)

Sorry.. to me this makes no sense. HDR can capture what we see, while a digital sensor with a single exposure can't. You would rather the photo that does not represent what the viewer saw be reproduced be published, and the photo that accurately depicts what was seen not be published? Do I have this right? You still haven't said what you mean by linear.

James Cameron's titanic is computer generated image placed in a likely inaccurate (surrounding) scene, but as you say may be accurate. Would a still of one of his images in a history book have a place as a depiction of what the ship looked like have merit?

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

@PicOne. Remember, it is about photo-journalism, not fashion picture or art, or some pictures of the west coast in the travel section that could have been some illustration or whatsoever. I prefer to see a webcam or security cam picture of an accident or historical event being authentic and pixelated than professionnally retouched picture.

It is not about the qualitative aspect of what we see but it's validity. An XRay is nowhere near what what see, neither is a 5:1 macro picture so they should be discarded cause it is nothing like we human see ? I don't think so. But if you sharpen the fracture so the bone look even more fractured, it is not good anymore - it becomes editorial - and it is not editorial picture we are talking about but journalistic.

As for linear, if you like math : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_equation and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSL_and_HSV and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_balance

Good reading.

0 upvotes
Peter Brophy
By Peter Brophy (Feb 4, 2012)

HDR isn't changing any geometry - for want of a better description it intends to improve the dynamic range of a digitally sampled point in space. To that end, a property of HDR is that the scene has to be static...if thats the point of contention we're not talking about HDR in photo journalism but effectively motion blur. HDR definitely isn't splattering geometry into the image

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Peter Brophy
By Peter Brophy (Feb 4, 2012)

@Jocelyn, I used B&W as an example because we had B&W TV / movies / print for years without it being an issue for photo-journalism parts of those mediums - thats because it was the limit of technology. Its the same with HDR.

But you're linking authenticity to linear processing - thats what I don't agree with, not that authenticity isn't important for photo-journalism. I would say your point would have more validity to it if HDR source images differentiated more than just a single parameter, ie. exposure...HDR is not compositing, or not in the sense where composite images often have different geometry due to manual intervention.

Stepping back though I would say accuracy of depicting a scene trumps authenticity of the image. Take the news photo of an Israeli solider boarding the Palestinian ship - there was an uproar because a weapon was cropped out. That to me was more dishonest than if he included the weapon in the picture with HDR applied.

0 upvotes
altendky
By altendky (Feb 4, 2012)

> I think that to keep authenticity the algorithm of an effect have to be linear.

While I think I respect the gist of what you are saying... I don't think it really pans out. Our eye/brain combination operate differently on live scenes vs. captured images displayed on paper and screens. I'm pretty sure our eye/brain operate nonlinearly over the scenes we see in person so it becomes a bit impractical to argue that mathematically linearity is a requirement for realistic image processing.

*shrug* Trying to make rules about exact actions in an attempt to maintain integrity will never work. If you can't develop a trust in a photographer or newspaper to be honest and inform you of mistakes they have made? No rule will magically make them trustworthy.

0 upvotes
T. L. Rutter
By T. L. Rutter (Feb 3, 2012)

Pictures sell newspapers and captures the attention of the reader. Newspaper photographers have used all kinds of tricks in the past to cast a subject as either good, bad, or neutral. The picture's mood is often times mirrored by the article.

Now that more and more people are reading newspapers on tablets and kindles (color), it is important to "wow" the reader.

Everybody knows what a bridge looks like, as well as a plane flying over the bridge. The photo that is talked about is a tad bit more artistic and should be a tad bit more appreciative to the reader.

BTW, I have received a few newspapers in my day where the ink was laid on too thick making the picture look HDRish. I thought they looked cool but left it at that.

Comment edited 40 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
ewelch
By ewelch (Feb 3, 2012)

So, a marketing wonk carries how much cred?

1 upvote
dtmoody
By dtmoody (Feb 3, 2012)

...Yet something else for people to complain about, really?
I feel there are far more larger and important issues at hand in the world.

0 upvotes
Rick Knepper
By Rick Knepper (Feb 3, 2012)

"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"

No camera/lens/human post rpocessor combination can deliver a precise representation of what was seen at a given location. No two sets of eyes see the same thing for that matter. Add in curved glass, circuits and the faulty memory of the human doing the processing and all you've got really is an approximation of what was seen. No big deal. I would think the healing tool a bigger evil.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
fyngyrz
By fyngyrz (Feb 3, 2012)

There are two issues here. One is presenting news and information to the public in a way that they will (can) understand. The public is not well informed with regards to image processing, to say the least; but they *are* familiar with "it looks like tri-X", even if they can't articulate that sensibility. And that, I think, should remain the standard until or unless a concerted effort is made to literally re-educate news consumers.

Having said that, as far as the legitimacy of processing images, even to extremes, I think this says it all:

http://fyngyrz.com/?p=74

Cheers.

Comment edited 42 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
hiplnsdrftr
By hiplnsdrftr (Feb 3, 2012)

In the old days we burned and dodged. Conservative use of HDR techniques is essentially no different.

10 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Feb 4, 2012)

I agree.
but since HDR is a couple of shots merged together
and sometimes, some items were taken out in the process, it became an area of concern.

BUT as long as the main elements are in place, and the final effect is similar to dodging and burning,
then I believe it shouldn't be an issue.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Feb 4, 2012)

Wasn't there a day when etchings were Ok in news publications?

0 upvotes
njkdo
By njkdo (Feb 3, 2012)

I dont use HDR because I really believe that light and shadow have to have appropriate relation to make sense, but I always thought too that B&W has been a greater manipulation too of reality, film or digital, I dont know why it was intended like so cool way to show reality, and the greater documentary photographer used and use now B&W ...

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

except that virtually all cameras in fact don't have "appropriate" light/shadow relationship. They virtually all have (compared to our human visual abilities) limited dynamic range. Additionally, all display mediums (print, lcd and so on) have even less dynamic capacity. The entire photographic effort can be more or less described as one of trying to "map" the actual range of a scene onto an ever decreasing dynamic pallet as one goes up the device chain.

HDR is just another clever tool that can be really useful to that task....

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
mariuss
By mariuss (Feb 3, 2012)

Apropos, vivid.
Sadly I have to say that this foto is not very carefully processed.
Despite the very vivid color (this is a subjective matter), the red color from the street lamp is strange indeed, don't You think?

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
mariuss
By mariuss (Feb 3, 2012)

Or maybe a BW photo in a newspaper is just cheaper to print as a color one?! Even a vivid one such a HDR?!
... I don't know if I have to declare this as a joke or not :)

0 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (Feb 3, 2012)

It's just as appropriate as using a certain angle of view or framing things in a certain way. People need to let go of the irrational thought that a photo is a correct depiction of reality. It is not and never has been!
A 'normal' photograph does not represent colors or contrast or perspective in the way we see it with our eyes. In many ways, HDR photos are closer to what we see with our eyes than a straight shot.

But again, the entitlement that a photo would represent a true image is naive at best.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Feb 4, 2012)

Yea, any picture taken other than a normal lens (around 50mm 135 format) is not a true representation.

0 upvotes
Amateur Hour
By Amateur Hour (Feb 3, 2012)

I think the newspapers have a point - manipulation is something antithetical to news reporting organizations, (at least the respectable ones, anyway). It's too easy for them to be prohibitive, lest they try to vet every single photog who uses a process to produce an HDR image as using a kosher method. Too much room for interpretation otherwise.

It would be interesting to see their opinions should a 20 stop sensor ever be created.

0 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (Feb 3, 2012)

Different cameras have different engines with different settings. Do you think setting your camera to vivid is "manipulation"? If yes, than what is the non manipulation setting, and what brand of camera does not manipulate the image aka sharpness, S curve, contrast, hue, white balance..........

2 upvotes
Amateur Hour
By Amateur Hour (Feb 4, 2012)

I think what you're getting at is that, today, the image customization allowed with modern digital camera makes the issue of manipulation somewhat moot. There's some validity to that, but the newspapers are still clinging to the older notion of non-manipulation as it was embodied by film. However, this entire argument revolves around degree. What is manipulation versus what is mere 'adjustment'?

0 upvotes
dmartin92
By dmartin92 (Feb 3, 2012)

I am seeing photos in the newspaper, and I can see that they are obviously HDR. It's coming, more and more.

0 upvotes
Bitplayer
By Bitplayer (Feb 3, 2012)

Sometimes men seek to avoid going down the slippery slope by holding fast to the precipice of stupidity.

4 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Feb 4, 2012)

THAT is sooo true
very unfortunately.

but its only human to stick to the known than go for the NEW.

1 upvote
Zoran K
By Zoran K (Feb 4, 2012)

Ditto !

0 upvotes
showmeyourpics
By showmeyourpics (Feb 3, 2012)

I am a fine art photographer and have been reading everything I can on this fascinating subject. We "perceive" images through a mind-boggling cocktail of physiology, neurology, psychology and culture that any kind of photography is far from being able to reproduce. i.e, b&w is abstract and Ansel Adams was a master manipulator. We gather much more visual information with our eyes' color cones than with the rods which kick in in low light. We see the snow white on site because of cultural adaptation but pink and blue in a good color picture. HDR is much closer to human vision than a single exposure but many people are uncomfortable with the dynamic range, clarity, saturation and three-dimensionality of state-of-the-art digital prints because they look "different". Photography is still more preconceived ideas and turf-fights than objectivity and the argument on realism and integrity will continue for a long time. As a photographer, just be honest and let people know what you are doing.

5 upvotes
SamTruax
By SamTruax (Feb 3, 2012)

Sounds like Sean Elliot still thinks his digital watch is a pretty neat device.
Fact is anyone that has ever developed their own film and spent a little time getting the best out of their film shots has done exactly what he seems to be so against.
I guess ignorance is bliss...

5 upvotes
Shorthand
By Shorthand (Feb 3, 2012)

The real question here is one of rules vs. principles.

The NPPA has created what is clearly a reasonable rule against exposure fusion of any kind to prevent photo chopping. As much as I love HDR, I do honestly think that this rule should stand ... but be expanded to say something like:

"If a photo composting process of any kind is used, then prints of the original exposures of at least 1/16th the area of the original should appear somewhere within the same publication ... with the caption referring to the original exposures for reference."

0 upvotes
Zoran K
By Zoran K (Feb 3, 2012)

This reminds me on times when newspapers claimed that color photography was not appropriate for documentary photography. :)

4 upvotes
jimkahnw
By jimkahnw (Feb 3, 2012)

This whole image integrity thing is a bunch of BS. A photo is an opinion, not the truth. It's a 2-dimensional, cropped impression of a moment in time/space. How photos can be conflated with truth is beyond me. It's no different than the reporter who edits a long quote to fit the space. And, what about the moment before or after the published picture was made? What about the small crowd that can appear large if the image is cropped from the top in camera? What about the man crying in one frame and laughing in the next? Which is "true." There isn't a photo on earth that does not need some processing to prepare it for publication. Oh, and publication? What does the 65 line screen on cheap news print do to the dynamic range of an image? Hey, people, get real.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
17 upvotes
robneil
By robneil (Feb 3, 2012)

Absolutely spot on - I couldn't agree more. Very well put and sums up this issue very succinctly and accurately.

I get tired of hearing pretentious twits harping on about this subject. As you say, "Hey people, get real!"

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Ahmet Aydogan
By Ahmet Aydogan (Feb 3, 2012)

Spot on. A concise, well-stated opinion on the very essence of photography. Well done!

0 upvotes
Jocelyn Tremblay
By Jocelyn Tremblay (Feb 4, 2012)

It should not be about subjectivity or objectivity, but authenticity.

0 upvotes
mike kobal
By mike kobal (Feb 4, 2012)

well observed and very well said, jimkahnw. respect, couldn't agree more.

0 upvotes
stanic042
By stanic042 (Feb 3, 2012)

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/hdr-plea.shtml

0 upvotes
mariuss
By mariuss (Feb 3, 2012)

I am confused.
There are statements like:
"The human eye only has about 6 or 7 stops of instantaneous dynamic range"
and now:
"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."
Has the HDR to do with what we have in the FOV of our eyes?
In FOV only 6-7 stops?
Out of FOV about 20 stops?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Daniel Entin
By Daniel Entin (Feb 3, 2012)

I lived my entire professional life in that Tri-x black-and-white world. There was no such thing as a "straight" photo. In the darkroom, one manipulated images at will to bring out whatever one wanted. None of that was seen as illegitimate. None of it destroyed the truth inherent in the image. All of this controversy is just another opportunity for so-called authorities to blow hot air.

As in all things, one can use one's abilities to serve truth, or to lie. The tools are not the problem. Would one ban words because people use them to lie?

7 upvotes
APenza
By APenza (Feb 3, 2012)

Photojournalist images in 3D, or should we all look at the world with one eye closed.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JonSr
By JonSr (Feb 3, 2012)

I no longer read Newspaper. I no longer believe media. I read comments. I look at snapshots bystander took. I listen to heresy of people around. So I read reddit and 4chan(believe me it is a real source of real life). So goes all my respect to those in that field.

Journalism and Photo Journalism is dead to me. And its all your fault, you fancy tricksters. Mr. Novaks and Newsweek photo editors of these world, go to hell. My anger is deeper because I had much respect to those who took journalism seriously. I hate you all and if you are a youngster trying to make it in the world, remember, you are there for money and it comes with attention and journalism has nothing to do with it. So go for the money and you can go to hell, too.

4 upvotes
Deleted1929
By Deleted1929 (Feb 3, 2012)

Images have always been processed in some way. As long as HDR does not alter the semantic content of the scene then it seems perfectly reasonable to me.

It's not like cloning out a spot or a wire, or superimposing two things that were not, in reality, in frame at the same time. It could be argued to be a lot more ethical than the editorial process for choosing an image to give an impression or spin to a subject.

The NPPAs Elliot says "in that light an HDR photo is no different from any other digital manipulation". Well it would be impossible to make a human usable image without some form of digital manipulation.

5 upvotes
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