I hate HDR

Ok, well I only hate one common use of it. That surreal, oversaturated look that seems to be the first thing everyone does when they try the technique. You don’t even need to use HDR, there’s a photoshop plugin for it and you can use Camera Raw to pull it off. Here’s an example of the style:

HDR gone bad

HDR Gone Bad

It’s a novelty look and I’m over it. It was cool for a very short time, then everyone decided they wanted to have surreal images. It’s not that hard of a look to achieve, so it’s not that impressive. Get over it.  :-) I much prefer to use HDR for what it was meant for… which is giving a slightly wider dynamic range to create a shot that has similar contrast and color range to what your eye actually sees. No one has seen colors like the photo above has. Alright, well, yeah I’ve taken mushrooms too, so maybe then… but not normally.

The better use for HDR…

Given the normal photo below:

Normal RAW photo

We can use multiple exposures to create the wider dynamic range we’d like to see in a single photo, but can rarely achieve due to the limitations of sensors, file formats, etc. Even when used properly, HDR isn’t without its problems. However, you can frequently get beautifully life like photos that would be difficult to achieve normal. The example below gets the point across (although I’m not holding it up as a shining example of photography, it is good enough to get my point across though):

No surrealism here

What you get is more detail in the shadows and highlights than what you’d normally see. You can tease some of this detail out when working with RAW files, but not to the extent you can when you have multiple photos. Of course, multiple photos means you can have ghosting and other artifacts to deal with, so that’s always a consideration.

HDR is a cool technique and can produce some amazing photography work. The surreal look does, I’m sure, have a time and place, but realize that’s not what HDR was designed for.

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