Friday, 21 March 2014

Growing Up Without HDR

Is HDR becoming outdated and as photographers can we survive without it?

I recall when I first got into photography in 2006 HDR was one of the new editing tool to hit the market, I saw images created by others and wanted to know how it was done. I found one of the programs and started to use it. It was at the time amazing, the way you could play with details, light shadows and so was wonderful. I jumped in with full gusto, everything went through the HDR route, no matter the subject.

Then I noticed some of the issues we had, noise, halos, harshness and seeing these in both my own images and others I set about trying to refine the whole editing process, I used HDR was an editing tool along with others not a stand alone This gave me results that differed from others and I was asked on several occasions if the images I produced were HDR or not. At that stage when people were no longer sure I figured I must be getting something right.

Over time though other things start to change, other editing software such as Nix Color Efex and the rest of their plug in within CS, OnOne Photo Effects, PhotoTools Pro to name but a few more came along and were all game changers in their own right. They could do more than simple HDR conversions and if used right the subtle changes to an image made that image extraordinary.

Over time I changed as well, I got fed up of harsh course HDR images produced and so my reliance on this editing software has reduced to the point I now rarely use it.

Why? Because with time I learnt what my camera can and can't do, the importance of the right lenses, the right time of the day to get the right light, where to position the light in regards to the subject. I looked at my ability to post edit, my capabilities in making more subtle changes but more of them to bring the extra depth to an image I craved.

HDR became a lazy way out, for me and so many others, take an image but don't worry about it too much, we can shove it through any HDR post editing tool and make it stand out.  Some worked, others though stood out for the wrong reasons.

If you are going to use HDR then find a way of incorporating it into your work flow, don't make the mistake of making it the be all and end all of everything you do, it simply does not work.


Keith Yates said...

Amen brother!

John Humkey said...

(In broad generalities) there are two types of photographers: "Creators" and "Capturers". When you say "right time of the day" and "where to position the light", you're clearly a "Creator". I seem to end up being a "Capturer". I understand that the sunrise/sunset "golden hour" light will be best. Unfortunately a particular venue I might visit is private and open from 10am to 5pm. So, HDR sometimes give me . . . that which I could not get otherwise. Its not a miracle cure, or a substitute for proper composition or lighting. Its just one tool in the toolbox, to help under "adverse" conditions, nothing more. You are right of course. Most of the photography I do is to "capture" what I can, under limited time/access constraints. But most all the people I read/watch (photos like yours) are "Creators". Because, even though I'm Capturing . . . I want to "Create" the best I can, within that limited time frame I have access. I'd easily trade 1/2 my "megapixels" for 50% more Dynamic Range and 50% less noise.

innerVision said...

I've wanted to learn HDR properly for quite some time now but I rarely find any real use for it so I get no practice. I guess I could interpret your post Mike, as I'm actually doing something right! ;)
Thanks for the confidence boost!

lazaerus said...

I've noticed the very same thing Mike. Although I do have to admit there are some who have taken HDR to whole new levels, and their work is extraordinary.
I too have made the choice of creating a High Dynamic image without the bracketed HDR process and I'm finding that I prefer the end results much more. I keep learning and finding new paths that work for me.
By the way, love your work, both your images and your words!

Thomas Schoeller said...

Agreed. I took a very similar path as you when all the HDR software products became the rage. For my style, I found a particular genre of photographic art where HDR became a welcome addition. I sell a line of "Rustic's" being old barns and mills. When used properly, the painterly look achieved works well and is selling briskly with my clients. The process is tedious and my wife will gladly ZAP me with a stun gun if the result looks too garish :)))

At this point, I find myself rarely if ever processing nature scenes with HDR. I'm often amazed if shooting within the vicinity of others how many literally "machine gun" dozens of bracketed +/- 7EV RAW exposures. I'm guessing they like to purchase several WD external hard drives a month? I save it for very difficult lighting conditions, bracket 5 to 7 exposures and quickly recompose if other perspectives offer opportunities.

More often than not, I'll pull the results I am needing from a single properly exposed RAW using Lightroom and NIK, and touch up in PS.