HDR Photography - Weighing in on HDR - Doc Miles Photography
February 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment
The human eye is an extraordinary organic machine. We see highlights, shadows and mid tones all at the same time and in relative balance. Even today's most sophisticated cameras have trouble capturing the entire tonal range as well as the human eye. HDR or High Dynamic Range photography is achieved by taking several photographs of the same image at different exposures to capture all the tonal ranges. In post processing, those images are put together to attempt that all the highlights, shadows and mid tones are visible in a way that tries to come close to what the human eye sees. If you have ever taken a photo in a wooded area in the middle of the day, you will get either blown out highlights, from the sun through the trees, or the trees will be all too dark because the camera exposed for the highlights.
HDR photographs go back a very long time. Ansel Adams used the technique, as did many of his predecessors. In the age of digital photography, HDR has become very popular, while at the same time, polarized photographers into two camps. HDR fans and HDR haters. I won't get into that argument because it rests right up there with religion and politics. About seven years ago John Shaw publish a tutorial on how to get HDR results in Photoshop. I have to say, it was pretty technical and worked in limited situations.
Today we have available software that does all the heavy lifting and produces HDR images from as many as nine images exposed across the exposure range. I use either Photomatix or NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 when I need to process an HDR image. Photoshop CS6 has a pretty good HDR filter as well. All produce slightly different results. Even the iPhone has a HDR mode.
Now here comes the punch line... I haven't shot HDR in over six months. I used to be called the "HDR Guy" by my friends because I shot five exposures with every shot I took. I read several books on HDR, watched tutorials, and read articles about it until I had it down pretty good. Why did I stop shooting HDR? One simple answer -- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. I still bracket my shots three stops, but only use one for toning.
What I found is that HDR software tends to affect the colors in strange ways. A lot of times it gives kind of "muddy" results. In any HDR processing, the final work requires going into Photoshop and placing an original over the HDR in layers and blending the reality with the HDR.
In Lightroom 4, the toning sliders can achieve exceptional results in minutes. Below is an example of what I am talking about.
The photo on the right was taken about three years ago and is a five shot HDR processed in Photomatix. The photo on the left is a raw photo of the same shot processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 and NIK Color Efex Pro 4. The difference is remarkable and took only a few minutes. To me, it has a much more realistic look.
I am not saying I won't do HDR processing again. There are certian situations where it works well and may be the best solution such as; interiors, and high contrast shots in daylight, but for the most part, I will shy away from it in favor of Lightroom 4.
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