In defence of HDR photography
Let me, from the start; make it clear that I’m a huge fan of HDR photography. I love it, I love the effect it has and I very much enjoy creating HDR images. What I’m less keen on is the way HDR is heavily frowned up by some more experienced photographers.
For those of you who don’t know, HDR photography is High Dynamic Range photography. Put simply, you will take at least 3 images, one properly exposed, one over exposed and one under exposed. Then using software such as the newer versions of Photoshop or Photomatix Pro you combine all 3 exposures to create an image that contains so much lighting information that you could ever achieve with a single shot.
Not quite an accurate technical description but enough to give people who don’t know HDR a fair idea of what it is.
From the first time I ever seen an HDR image I loved the technique. It can make, in some cases, a very average photograph something special. It can rescue a shot taken in dull light and give it life and vibrance. And it’s this, which some people object to.
Me however, I cannot see anything wrong with taking an average photograph and making it a stunning photograph via a fairly simple digital technique. There are times when HDR just works and others that you should use a more traditional technique.
I’ve spent the last 5 months learning all about proper filters having invested in a p-series filter system and it’s been a huge but enjoyable learning curve. It’s also been, at times, frustrating as I tried to get to grips with this new technique. This is how the HDR doubters will take their shots and while I can see some advantages is it right to restrict yourself to only using the filter techniques when you have the creative advantages of HDR at your disposal as well?
Let me give you an example. This was a shot taken in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. It was taken with a circular polarising filter and a ND0.6 soft graduated filter, and to me this shot was near perfect.
However, the day before I was at the same location and in more difficult lighting conditions I took another shot, which I eventually turned into an HDR.
Now, I much prefer the first shot of the 2. BUT, I was recently approached by a greetings card company looking to licence some of my images, I gave them both of these for approval and which one did they want? The HDR one.
Let’s take another example. The famous Calton Hill in Edinburgh shot at sunset, firstly, taken with a circular polarising filter and a 0.9ND soft grad.
And now for an HDR version of the same shot:
Guess which one the greetings card company wanted from these 2? Yes, the HDR one.
Now, I’m not saying that EVERY shot you take you should take with HDR in mind but why can it not be part of your photographic armoury just the same as taking a stack of filters out with you? What’s SO wrong about enhancing an average image with HDR, don’t we enhance every image we take in photo editing software somehow?
If HDR isn’t your thing, then fine, that’s your right but please, don’t dismiss the technique as a lower art form.
I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite HDR images of Edinburgh and I’d love to see what everybody else thinks about HDR in the comments?