Category Archives: HDR Processing

Quick Tip: Cure the HDR Blinky-Blackies

Ever get an HDR with this? {click to enlarge}

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Blends vs. HDR

Over at our sister blog petertellone.com, our friend Irving (Yechiel) asked; “What is the difference between a blend and an HDR???” So I thought I would take that opportunity to talk about what blends are and how you can use them and how they relate to HDRs.

First off I would like to dedicate this post to our friend and Photographer Hikin Mike. Mike is a guy that has had some adversity in his life but hasn’t let that stand in his way of doing what he loves. And that is taking photographs in his beautiful area of Northern California including and encompassing the area around Yosemite National Park ( insert jelousy smiley here). Now it isn’t a secret that Mike isn’t a fan of HDR, he instead prefers to do Blends and quite well I may add. But in the end they both are a way to extend dynamic range and really that’s what we want to do and sometimes they do have some benefits over traditional HDRs. Mike is the blending champ so this post is for him.

As I just talked about, our real purpose in all of this is to extend the Dynamic Range that is usable in our Images. Traditionally we may have used a Split or Graduated Neutral Density Filter. These filters allow for a 1-3 stop difference in exposure between the top and the bottom of the filter, allowing you to have a say a darker exposure for the sky than the land beneath. Unfortunately the problem with them is that the transition is a straight line. Great when say you are shooting the ocean with its flat and level horizon. But what if you had a more complicated scene such as a mountain range or shooting through a window to the outdoors… Enter the Blend.

What is a Blend?

A blend is taking 2 or more images and placing them on top of each other and then, through the use of layer masks, revealing parts of each image that have an exposure that is correct for that part of the scene. In essence what you have is a Hand Made HDR. Instead of a software program doing the tone mapping and deciding the tone values for different parts of the scene, you are doing this by hand.

 The downside of this is it can be, but most certainly isn’t always, a very time consuming method. But it really depends what you want to do, if it is just blending two values Sky/Earth it can go quite quickly. But if you want to bring out the subtle tonal variation that an HDR has it may take you quite some time.

There are some advantages also, it can be more of a traditional photographic look than HDR can be sometimes…well unless you follow my methods ;), and it can be very good at doing one thing that it seems most HDR p5rograms have a difficult time with and that is handling large areas of white. Scenes that have large areas of white often get turned gray by HDR programs and this is one area that you can get better with a blend than an HDR.

And the fact is, There have been times that I have made and HDR and then used a blend afterwards to bring back detail or the above white areas into an HDR. One of the very cool things about Photomatix 4.1, the latest version, is that in the tone mapping panel you can select areas and replace them with a single exposure. In essence you are both tone mapping and blending at the same time. This is really a great feature. But as I said in the review of that product, there are times I like to have more control over it and do it in post in another application like Photoshop.

So enough talk, let’s actually go through the steps of blending images

Blends in Photoshop

The first thing you need to do is shoot FOR a blend. You may shoot just like you normally do for HDR and use those images. But most people that do blends do so with two images, one exposed for the sky (Highlights), one exposed for the ground (Midtones). The midtone exposure usually has enough latitude to have detail in the shadow area and we are most concerned about not having blowout in the Highlight exposure.

One you have your exposures, open the files you want into Photoshop, You can use, RAW, Tiff, PSD or JPEG images and you can also make adjustments to each of the images if you desire before the blend but you must keep in mind the final product you are going for after the blend that you don’t mess up things for the final product.

In this instance I am going to take two images (exposures) that I shot this past Sunday and use those for this example. Plus I also shot an HDR right afterwards so we can compare. I like using RAW files so I opened the two images in Adobe Camera RAW without making any adjustments to them because they were shot pretty well in Camera. Clicking select all and Open, I opened both images in Photoshop.

Here are the two file we will be working with

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I shot two images; both at f/22, ISO 100 with a 3 stop ND filter on to silken the water. The images were shot 45 minutes after sunset so that the dynamic range was wide but not wide enough not to be able to capture in two shots. The exposure times were 1 and 4 seconds respectively

I think it is worth mentioning that an advantage of a blend here over an HDR will be in detail in the clouds. In the subsequent HDR, we have three long exposures of 1, 4 and 15 Seconds. Over that entire time periods the clouds move quite a bit and lead to blurring in the final image. We don’t have that problem with a blend since we only are going to use the 1 second exposure for the sky.

Once we have our two images open we select our Move tool from the toolbar. Holding down the shift key (which allows for perfect alignment of the two images) we drag one image on top of the other. The order really doesn’t matter but we may want the one image that we will use the largest area of on top.

Now that we have the two layers together, we click on the top layer in the layers panel and then go to the bottom of the panel and click add layer mask.

With the layer mask in place on the top layer, I will select a large soft Brush and the color black to reveal the layer below for the sky (Black to reveal, white to conceal, X to switch between them) And begin painting over the sky area to reveal the darker and better exposure of the image below. I use a soft edge brush so that there isn’t a hard transition between the two images but there are times when you may need to use a harder edge brush in smaller detailed areas.

 

 I  turned on the quick mask to show you the area I painted over. The result is this:

This is a good first start, but I want to further refine the transition between the two exposures so I will switch my brush color to dark neutral gray. You can do the same thing by keeping the brush black but change the opacity and fill of the brush, but I prefer using different shades of gray between white and black and not change the brush itself.
Using a medium gray brush I work on the transition area of the water in the distance and the trees on the left. I went back and forth until I got the overall image with the balance I wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point I added a levels adjustment layer and adjusted the image as a whole, and even on that adjustment layer, used the mask to take away a little brightness in the body of water behind the rocks.

And then as my final steps I will go in to the different layers and dodge and burn certain areas to just get the balance I want as I showed in this Local Adjustment tutorial, and then finally I added a high pass sharpening layer over the whole image.

This is the final finished image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In comparison here is an HDR shot just minutes later. They are different, both are nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HDR has a little better detail and range of tones in some of the smaller areas, The Blend actually gets the sky better and the water swirl better because they are just one image and not subject to some of the blurring that takes place when three images are combined in the merge tone mapping of HDR.

And like I said, there are times I will do an HDR and then blend in a part of the image I want to get even better

Hope that helps,
PT

Local Adjustments – Dodging, Burning, Layer Masks

Local Adjustments

When we make adjustments to an image we can apply them globally or over the entire image at once, or we can apply them locally or to a small or separate section of the image only. (Please note this is not the tell or end all of how to edit an image nor about using adjustment layers and masks. It’s to get you acquainted with some of the tools you may not have used yet and then can explore further through some of the excellent tutorials online. Let Google be your friend)

As I noted in the review of Nik HDR Efex Pro, it has the ability to add control points within an image and work on that area “Locally” from the rest of the image, which is a very cool thing. Photomatix 4.1 ( 15% Coupon code: theHDRimage ) also has the ability to select parts of the image and choose a different exposure out of the blended images for certain parts of the scene. This again is another but different way to apply local change. I applaud both companies for having these methods but sometimes they still aren’t enough or more to the point, they don’t work as precisely in as small an area as we may need.

This is when it is time to take the image out of the HDR software and into another photo editing program, be that Adobe Photoshop ,  Adobe Photoshop Elements  , Paint Shop Pro or whatever may be your weapon of choice. Let me just make one thing clear; just as we want to get as much right “in Camera” so we have an easier time later in processing, we also want to get as much right “in Tone- Mapping” so that we again have to spend less time fixing things down the road. So this is not a fix for sloppy work in your tone-mapping of the image to begin with.

Let’s just recount what Tone- Mapping is. We are trying to take a very high dynamic range image (Our 32 bit merge file) and fit or compress that information into a medium such as a print or display on our monitors that has a much lower dynamic range. So we need to tone-map or place the different tones within our final image that gives us the perception, of that wide dynamic range. Now we can do that in a realistic, as the eye sees method as I usually choose or we can do it in other methods that have no basis in reality but may be what the artist desires.

So we do our tone-mapping and we get the balance as good as we can get but we still know there are areas we can get better that is beyond what may be capable in the HDR Program. This is where we turn to our other local methods of dodging and burning and also the use of Layer Masks or adjustment brushes along with the use of what may be global adjustment methods such as Levels, Curves and Saturation

The examples I am going to give will be using Photoshop which I still think is the best for finish editing; the methods shown can also be done in most pixel editing programs including Paint shop Pro and Photoshop Elements. One note Elements 9/10 has added true layer masks to the software so what once took a little bit of workaround to archive can now be done straight away.

For those of you that may not be Old School and have worked in a dark room with film negatives and print making. Dodging and Burning were methods used in a dark room to make local adjustments to a print. Dodging was a way to make an area lighter, Burning was the opposite and made the burned areas darker. These methods and names continue with us today but they just are done digitally and also we have a lot more control of the range that these tools cover. We now can be even more precise than the darkroom counterparts.

Before we get into dodging and burning I want to talk about making larger area adjustments and then we will get into the really fine detail. We can also make local adjustments using global adjust tools such as Levels and Curves. These adjustments usually work globally but through the use of layer masks or selection we can apply them only to a smaller area. You always want to make these adjustments on a separate layer because one they give you more control and also don’t harm an pixels of the original image in the process (Note Photoshop CS 5, now puts all adjustments layers in panel because they are that important)

Levels, Curves & Layers Masks

OK, so here is our starting image. It’s a very tough shot, very high dynamic range because even though it is a setting sun it still is quite bright in this spring sky. Now I could have brightened the entire image in tone mapping but doing so I loose the detail I want in the sun. The other problems are: Haloing around the Lifeguard Tower, the sky is too dark overall and we could use a little more detail in the beach area. So with a curves adjustment layer and mask let’s work on the sky first.

In Photoshop go to Layers> Adjustment Layer> Curves. When the curves dialog came up since I knew that blue sky is an almost perfect mid-tone I boosted the curves line up centered at mid-tone. If you don’t know where the tone you want to affect lays on the line, when the curves box opens open click the curves eye dropper on the area you want to adjust and it will show up as a dot on the linear line.

This adjustment  lightened the whole image quite a bit but blew out the sun which I didn’t want to happen so now let’s use a layer mask to apply that curves layer to only the area we want.

The nice part about Adjustment layers is that they already come with a Layer Mask so there is no need to add one. In the default layer mask the mask is filled with white, which means that it fully conceals the layer below. To reveal the layer below we would paint with Black. White to conceal, black to reveal ( Press X to switch between Black & White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this case I want to reveal part of the original image around the sun but I don’t want to reveal all of the original darkness, I only want to bring back some of that around the sun, so I choose for my paint a Medium Gray and I painted over the areas of the sun That I wanted to return to the original values or close to that.
As you can see on the mask I painted around the sun and the horizon but I also painted around the tower to take out some of the haloing around it. We’ll clean that up in the next step. So that is how we apply an adjustment to a large area but not the entire image.

Dodge & Burn

Now lets work on making adjustments to even smaller areas with our dodge and burn tool

Let click on our background layer and say “Duplicate Layer” You can rename it Dodge and Burn if that helps you keep things in order.

Selecting our Burn tool from the toolbar, I’ve selected a soft Brush and then in the tool setting panel, I select Highlights and 10%. The nice part about the dodge and burn tools is that we can select the tones of the image we want to work on; Shadows, Mid-Tones and Highlights. Sometimes figuring out which one we want to use is confusing. In fact it’s kind of backwards thinking. Like in this instance you may think since I want to make the bright areas around the tower darker, I would choose shadows, but I really want highlights since that is the pixel value I want to work on and burn or make darker.

Now switching to the Dodge tool, I switch back and forth between Mid-tone and Highlights and brighten areas of the tower, the tower stanchion, and the clouds in the upper part of the image. The nice part about adding these on a separate layer is again, we can vary the whole amount by using the opacity slider on that level or we can again add a mask if necessary

I’m not trying to make any area overly bright, just trying to make it look as I saw it that night and more to the way the eyes see than my camera.

When you are done, My suggestion is that you save the file as a .PSD or a TIFF file (16 bit)  with the layers intact, so if you need to you can always return to the image and readjust things. Only make flattened JPEG’s when you need post to the web or to send to print labs that require JPEG’s

And there you have a finished image, well, almost. From the original image through all the post work, There is some Noise present I would really not like there. So, in the next segment, well look at reducing the noise. Both through workflow and with some of the Noise Reduction software that is available.

If you are a fan of doing your post work in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Aperture two non-pixel editing programs, You will want to look to using Adjusment brushes to do eccentually what we have here. It’s just not my favorite way to do it and I feel more comfortable using Photoshop having used it for many years. It’s still my number one choice for post work

Hope that helps,

PT

Anatomy of a shot – Harbor Lights

So I recently did a shoot at San Diego Harbor, A was looking for a city lights shot with some boats in the scene.

Trying to do this with normal photography provides enough challenges iteself: Capturing the dynamic range between the water and the building lights, Using a fast enough shutter speed to stop any motion in the boats on a water necessitating a higher ISO which can translate into higher noise in the image. Even if you didn’t have to worry about the boat movement, capturing city lights can be difficult because it may take long exposures and digital sensors suffer from some noise problems from the long exposures.

But on top of this I wanted to do HDR’s which added more problems because now not only did I have to worry about the movement of the boats in one image but across 3 images of very different shutter speeds, so even if one of the exposures had a shutter speed fast enough to stop motion , surely I couldn’t get three that did AND then capture that motion all at the same spot.

For this shot and for most city light shot, normally I wouldn’t want to shoot when it is dark. I will try to shoot during the dusk period or sunset to a 1/2 hour later ( Dusk is longer the farther away from  the equator you are). But I had already used up that period trying to get the other shots I wanted for this evening. I did not see this shot till later on the way back to my truck.

It was a difficult shoot and also a lot of work in post but I think I accomplished what I wanted. To show it as it was in person. So let’s break it down and see just what it took.

Of course as always my Canon 5D was mounted on a sturdy tripod. And using the timer mode, AV mode  I fired off three shots.

Because of the darkness and the need to stop the boats in motion on at least one of my frames (hopefully the 0EV one) I set my ISO to ISO 500 and using a Depth of field calculator ( There are some great phone apps for this) I determined that with my 24mm Lens and distance to subject I could shoot as open as f/5 and still maintain a DOF from 6 feet to infinity ( The hyperfocal distance for those that follow this stuff was 12’7″ and everything in my frame was past that distance) being able to shoot that wide open help immensely since I could shoot at a much lower ISO.

So here are the three images I shot, at shutter speeds of 1/6, .6 and 2.5 seconds respectively

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next step was to take the three image into Photomatix Pro 4.0 and use it’s powerful De-ghosting tool in the first menu ( See my tutorial on how to do that HERE)

I selected the dinghies only and used the 0EV shot as the de-ghosted one. Even though that image was .6 second, the baywaters were still enough that I didn’t get any motion blur in the dinghies. With that area de-ghsoted I moved onto to tone mapping the image.

Using my usual tone mapping preset recipe of 70 Strength, 70 saturation, high smoothing and -1.20 Gamma. I finished out in Photomatix with this image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, that looks pretty nice, some good detail fairly nice range, lots of color. But the truth was that wasn’t how I saw it. The colors were way too poppy and I didn’t have the detail in the buildings I really wanted. So I need a solution to fix both those problems. I try desautrating the color, different level and curves adjusments but they really didn’t fix what I wanted or if they did they caused others

So to fix my “Color” problem i turned to our old friend… Black & White. Black & white is great for detail and contrast so I am going to turn to that for some help.

In Photoshop, I opened the image and then made a duplicate layer,  That layer I converted to Black & white using a Gradient Map process (* Google it). The result was this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect just what I wanted. Now here is where the magic comes in. I am going to duplicate the bottom color layer again and move that above the black  & white layer. Magic time. Now I moved to the Blend mode  and changed it to “Darken” on that top color layer.

Wow, now that was exactly what I was looking for, the colors while much more muted and were faithful to what was actually there. The sky became more of the black it was at that time of night and the detail and intensity of the skyline buildings came back to where it should be and as it was to the eye.

Then after taking the image into Neat Image to clean up a little bit of noise on the boats and then some sharpening of the image with a Low Pass Filter Sharpening ( I will have a quick turtorail on how to do thsi soon) My Image was done, Just what I saw that night

Quick Tip: Tidy up those crops

When we take multiple images into an HDR program, during the registration (alignment) process the program will twist and turn each image to align it with the image below, using either common features or horizontal/vertical lines. When it does so, at the end (if enabled) the program will then crop the image so that there are no ragged edges.

The problem is that those crops may not be a standard size or aspect ratio. Part gets cut off, this may just be a few pixels if the camera was on a steady tripod but can easily equal an inch or two if you attempted a handheld 3 shot image ( I have successfully).

So what needs to be done after you finish the entire HDR process and have your final Tiff/JPEG image is to now take the image into a photo editing software of choice ( you can crop in Photomatix, but I prefer other editors) and crop the image to a standard size.

This standard size can be one of two things: a standard image size that comes out of a camera or a 2:3 aspect ratio image ( or 3:4  for some point and shoots) Or you could crop to standard Frame/Matt sizes that can be very different.

Standard camera sizes in inches would be 6 x 9, 8 x12, 12 x 18, 16 x 24, 20 x 30 etc.

Standard Frame sizes are: 8 x 10, 11 14, 13 x 19, 16 x 20 etc.

Your choice your descion. I always crop to standard Camera sizes and then will do special crops if I decide to have a image a certain frame size. Be aware that you can get some frame sizes in size the same as camera sizes.

When you do crop an image, you really only want to throw away the pixels that aren’t necessary, you want to try to not change the pixels that are left behind. Either making less of them or  creating more than were there in that space originally. If you do that will require Interpolation on the part of software. This interpolation can cause some ( mostly not visible) softness or color shift in our images. We want to minimize that.

So when we do crop try to do so that no pixels inside the crop area are harmed. To do that in Photoshop, set a crop size in the tool bar, Say 12 x 18 and then leave the resolution box blank. This will crop the image to the document size of 12 x 18 but will not alert the pixel within in any way.

All this will tidy up your images and make for an easier time when it comes to print your images, and I DO want you to print your images. Either at home or by a High Quality Lab. You will love the results and the sense of finish that a print brings.

Hope that helps!

PT

Quick-Tip… Watch those wires

In my previous post I showed some images with wires going through them.

Generally in photography, we want to be aware of wires crossing our images just for aesthetic purposes.

But in HDR imaging we need to be even more concious of them. In the first place, any movement of those wires between frames will resulting in “Ghosting” of the wires.

Beyond that, dark contrasty wires against a bright sky prove to be a challenge to the HDR software itself causeing haloing and also color banding on either side of that wire/contrast point.

So do your best to keep wires out of your composition for a number of reasons

Don’t tell me I can’t when I can

Sorry I have been away so long, sometimes life just gets in the way.

back to business.

So I was reading an article recently on HDR and it said you shouldn’t shoot moving objects for HDR especially like birds and animals. Which in principle I agree with and have even said so in my tutorials. But then I thought to myself, wait a minute, I just did just that. I shot birds in flight in an HDR.

 

So really while I wouldn’t want my whole scene to be moving object it really is quite possible IF you know how AND you have the great Photomatix Pro4.0

Here’s how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from my three images shot  at 0, -2 and +2 EV, The birds have moved quite a distance from image 1 to image 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So let’s fix that so we only have one set of clear, clean and sharp birds

Open your multiple exposures in Photomatix, In the first screen, as you usally come to, check the box for “Reduce Ghosting Artifacts”  and ” Semi-Manual Deghosting” Set the rest of the options as you normally would.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, This window will pop up and in it you can use your mouse and the target to select the area you want to de-ghost (click on images to enlarge for a better view of these screen shots)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, depending on the objects, you may be able to select the entire group as I did in this case, or you may have to go in and select each object individually for the best results. After you trace around your object, right click that area and say “Mark Selection as Ghosted Area”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can then click on “Preview Deghosting” and see if you have what you want, If not you can return to the selection process and reselect new areas or redo the areas you selected.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you make the selection, if you right click the selection again on previewing, you have the option of choosing different ones of your exposures to use as the non-ghosted area. In this case I choose the +2EV Image as the one I wanted for the Pelicans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have what you want, click OK and go on to Tone Map your image as you usually would.

And there you have it, an HDR with objects in motion…Done

Do I really need HDR?

Do I really need HDR?

Great question. I always tell people, if you don’t need HDR don’t use it. If you can capture an image correctly without it, do so. But that is the same advice I would give for any photographic tool or accessory. If you don’t need a polarizing filter? take it off, No need for fill flash? don’t use it. Don’t need Photoshop? Print your image SOOC. HDR is just another tool.

There are many ways to do without HDR. The time of day you shoot, and more importantly, your angle to the sun can take away any need to shoot with HDR. When the sun is setting turn your back to the sunset and shoot that way. In a lot of cases not only are you able to capture the dynamic range of a scene, you actually will be capturing something 10 times better than the sunset.

But what about the times when, with conventional photography, you wouldn’t even have attempted the shot because you knew, as good as it looks to your eyes, you are never going to be able to capture that as you saw it on camera. I think this is the perfect time to pull out the best tool for the job and get that image that previously was impossible. In some case that may just be a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. I use them all the time and I do like them and for when I am shooting the ocean they are perfect because of the straight line at the horizon.

But what happens when you have irregular shapes to deal with? A mountain range or, in the case to follow, architectural arches leading to a bright scene. A graduated neutral density filter is useless.

So lets examine this photo made using a 5 Exposure 1 – 1.5 Stop HDR ( Tone mapping: Strength 70, Saturation 70, High Smoothing ,-1.20 Gamma in Photomatix)

This image really portrays the scene as I saw it; Great clouds and blue skies, shadows & light coming through the arches. The back of the arches in the shade but still clearly visible to my eyes as is the tree on the right.

Now suppose we didn’t use HDR, what would the image look like? This is one of the exposure from the 5 I took that gets the most right.

It’s really not too bad, but the problems areas are: the tree to the right is definitely lost to the shadows and the biggest problem is those beautiful blue skies and puffy white clouds have lost all their detail.

So, we could using digital darkroom techniques try to bring some of that back

This was using a heavy dose of Shadows & Highlights in Photoshop

Well, this helped, it did bring back the tree into the image and got a little more detail back into the sky, but it couldn’t do much because there are parts of the clouds that were just completely blown out so there is no detail to recover. The other real problem is that it applied this adjustment globally to the whole image, so some areas that should have stayed in the shadows are now brought up into the mid-tones, making for a “flat” image. Yes we could have tried using a Layer Mask, but that can be a lot of work and time.

In this example I used some  Faux HDR “Lucis Effect”  to bring back some detail which it is quite good at but again,we still are not near where the HDR image is in overall balance and again it acted too globally.

Now what if we started with an image that got the clouds and skies right, could we have adjusted that?

 

This attempt really gave the worst results because you can see, the parts where there still was some detail are now full with ugly noise and again there are some areas that were just totally lost in the shadows wth no information to retrieve.

Now, maybe if I really worked long and hard in the digital darkroom I could have achieved better results  on a standard photograph. Lots of layer masks and adjustments, dodging, burning, sharpening, noise reduction. But do I really want to waste that much time in my studio working? Or…would I rather be out shooting, taking the less than a minute to shoot 5 frames and come back and process the image in a few minutes and have the best results. The answer is clear what I would choose.

Hope that helps!

PT

The State of the Art – HDR

The State of the Art – HDR

I hate HDR images! Whoa what? You have a website devoted to HDR images and you hate them? Yeah, well, kinda, I hate what has become the De facto standard for “That HDR Look”. Well hate is too powerful; I dislike them, for the most part.

HDR is a fairly new technology and whenever something new comes out people are not quite sure what to do with it. Let’s look back at another new technology that came out over 50 years ago. Stereo sound recordings. Before them everything was presented in Monophonic or just one speaker. Well we all know if we were listening to 4 musicians play, it would not sound like they were all playing from one spot. We might hear a guitar on our left, another on our right, the drums and the bass may be in the middle in front of us.

Then came stereo. Now the original purpose of stereo was to recreate more closely what it sounded like if we had musicians right in front of us playing and to recreate that soundstage. But because it was a new technology and there also was not enough other technology behind it to do it correctly, people didn’t know what to do with it and ended up doing things that really didn’t fit with the original purpose or mission.

Even the Beatles and their great producer George Martin didn’t quite know what to do. So some of their earliest attempts at Stereo put the instruments in one channel and the vocals on the other. Not really giving the effect at all that the musicians were playing in front of you. In fact George Martin hated the sound of these so much that many years later when he was remastering those albums for release on CD, he made them all in Monophonic because he knew that the stereo of that time was just wrong.

So what does this all have to do with HDR? I think the same thing has happened here. People don’t know what to do with HDRs and some things that aren’t really the original purpose or mission of HDR are become the standard for the “HDR look”.

So what is the original purpose or mission of HDR? Well, of course this is my opinion; we are trying to make a photograph that more closely resembles what we see in real life. And because the Dynamic Range of our eyes are much wider than a camera’s we can’t do that with conventional photographs, when photographing a scene that is wider than our camera is capable of capturing. Scenes that are not that wide in dynamic range are captured quite well using standard photography.

Here is an example of what I mean, it may be a little exaggerated but honestly it is not beyond what I have seen in HDR examples.

Bad HDR

So I was there, I took the photograph. Is this what I saw? Did I see the deep dark gray scowly clouds? Did I see bright insets on the tower? Did I see haloing around areas of contrast around the buildings and trees? Did I see a mostly mid-toned scene or did I see one with full range from dark to light? Did it look CGI (Computer Generated Image)?

My answer would be no. But I still could get people to look at the above and go,”Coool!” because it was different and well what is expected from HDR these days.

However, I also had a lot of my photographer friends say to me when I told them I do HDR. “Oh, I hate HDR” I would reply, “Have you seen mine”, “No.”

Well here, look.

Good HDR

Most people would then say, I don’t like HDRs but I like yours. This example is more like what my eyes saw that day, White clouds, consistent tone to the building, no halo. Full range from dark to light. I’ve more closely recreated what I saw that day.

Is it perfect? Probably not. We really don’t have a great memory from things we see, our sense of smell is actually much better at remembering things. I also tend to go a little over on color saturation because the Buying public like it. Is that right? No, but I like making money too. So will I say is this  exact? No, but it’s close.

Now because I believe in art and artistry, let me say this: If the first image or one like it is your “Artistic Intent”. It’s what you intended, then I am all for it. Go do it! But if it is because you “thought” that was the way it should be. Because you saw other examples of HDR that looked like it by  even by some of the biggest proponents and originators of HDR . Or if you just didn’t know any better… then no, it’s not what the “State of the Art”  HDR should be.