HDR - it's a post-processing tool, that's all - calm your jets!

February 16, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Do you see vibrant, powerful images full of character and depth, or psychedelic mashups of oversaturated goo? It seems with HDR there's no in-between, only a very limited grey area... many consider it as they do of Marmite - they love it or hate it!

Me...? I both love it and hate it at the same time - here's why!

NB: I have no intention of linking to others' HDR images in what would be a feeble [and arrogant] attempt to state what is right and what is wrong with the génre! I'm no expert, I simply enjoy the processing of images - with HDR being one of an arsenal of post processing tools I choose to employ when so doing!

Criticism of HDR

HDR critics do seem to fall into one of three categories, they are either a very tiny percentage of professional photographers, a larger percentage of wannabe-professional photographers, or they are simply trolls. Oh the irony, as in so doing they unknowingly demonstrate how fickle and narrow minded they really are when it comes to photography. It really has been only photographers (amateur or professional) who I have ever seen critical of HDR.

HDR capturing detailSubtle use of HDR to capture foreground and background detail.

Let me remind these people... photography is subjective, many view it as an art form driven from within, an open and inviting canvas on which one can paint an image however they desire - and to that end, one persons food is another persons poison.

That's the wonder and beauty of photography, it takes all sorts!  

The critics, those self proclaimed experts I have written about in previous blogs, drone on and on taking time out to continually criticise HDR, yet demonstrating little to zero knowledge on the subject. 

Pen-y-Fan3 shot HDR bracket of Lower Neuadd and Pen-y-FanHDR helps bring out dreamy detail in the sky

To make things worse for themselves, they do it purely in the name of trolling. Perhaps their time could be better invested concentrating on improving and enjoying their photography, rather than criticising a technique.  You see, HDR is just that - an image processing technique, just as the process of converting an image to black-and-white, or to sepia, or applying the bleach bypass effect all are! They are all techniques!

Opinionated Bigots

Having an opinion is of course, absolutely fine - everyone is entitled to their opinion, and tolerance of all opinions is paramount.  Criticism - though still fine, is slightly different, and should be based on knowledge, understanding and expertise.

Long Exposure HDR mergeLong Exposure HDR mergeNight time shot of Old Green Crossing, Newport. Was great fun!

To criticise an individual image is, under the right circumstances, entirely acceptable, however, to criticise a technique demonstrates folly, ignorance and well, is just plain daft, especially when that critique is based on a tiny percentage of images produced using it!

Hugely assisted due to the mainstream popularity of early adopters such as Trey Ratcliffe and his excellent www site StuckInCustoms et al - the greedy world of business and commerce spotted an opportunity and clasped its money making hands around the HDR génre.  Within a very short time several applications were available allowing anyone to apply HDR processing to their images.  HDRSoft's PhotomatixPro being a notable example (many still mistakenly refer to this as Photomatrix - with an 'r').  Amateur photographers loved it, with many producing psychedelically saturated images akin to randomly wiping a cloth across a still wet oiled canvas!  Still, I must abide by my comments in this blog - so, each to their own, everyone is entitled to create and process their images in any manner they choose.  At the other end of the spectrum were those applying the technique less aggressively, resulting in a more subtle wash of colour and some may say, a more aesthetically appealing and pleasing final image.

The end result: many viewers loved this new look, they loved the apparent 3-Dimensional depth that could be created within our flat 2-Dimensional space.  Clients requested the effect more and more.

Single image HDRSingle image HDRUsed to enhance the saturation between the cloth and shoes

An abundance of the latter rather than the former, amateur photographers were prolific; producing and releasing vast quantities of images at each end of the HDR spectrum, thus as the popularity of HDR processing grew, the public liked viewing these HDR images, it was all new to them and started requesting them of amateur photographers. 

With these commercial applications, anyone owning a half decent camera could produce the sort of subtle processed HDR images Joe Public liked to see.  HDR was on point and in trend!  

As more people produced these photographs, the anti HDR brigade sprang to life adopting their classic - 'HDR is ruining photography' line, and decided amongst themselves that the tiny band of over-saturated washed-out images at the extreme slider end of the HDR spectrum was what they would announce HDR was all about.  How naive these people are, and how wrong they are!

A black and white image might perhaps be processed using very high contrast and to many, this might not be as appealing as an image with moderate black and white processing - this doesn't mean that Black and White processing is bad or that it is ruining photography, does it? so why on earth apply that logic to HDR?  I shall leave you to answer that one for yourselves!

Two Rivers convergeTwo Rivers converge

As stated earlier, when it is requested and under the right circumstances, critique of an image is entirely acceptable, usually subjective and can very often provide genuine and constructive feedback resulting in improvement and learning.  Critique of a technique, of a génre, is totally valueless, especially when done in an ignorant manner. It's simply a whinge, a whine, a moan - nothing more, nothing less, and has no value at all. 

Final Comment

Use the post-processing tools you have at your disposal, and really do use them however you choose. Their application is neither right nor wrong, and if you like the processing, if YOU like your final result - that is all that matters.  Above all, don't listen to self-proclaimed experts, ignorant trolls, or those who have little to zero knowledge of what they critique! Oh... and enjoy your photography! 

HUGE credit must also go to my lovely friend Nicola B for the excellent words..."calm your jets!"


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