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.


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.

One Comment

  1. Marylou October 18, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    I love how you keep yours realistic looking. Still working to get mine like that!

    Marylou (aka shutterhappy)