HDR – Often Misunderstood and Under Appreciated

Somehow the HDR, High Dynamic Range, style of photography has gotten a bad reputation in the eyes of some people. Let me explain why I like and use HDR when I can. Now I must admit, I am an HDR novice so I am not speaking from a point of expertise.

Were you ever in the presence of a beautiful scene and you grabbed your camera, adjusted the settings, created a very nice composition and then pressed the shutter release to capture the beauty of what you were witnessing? I think most of us have been there. Have you ever gotten home and looked at that beautiful scene to realize that it doesn’t look as wonderful in the picture as it did in reality? I think many of us can identify with that as well.

One of the reasons for this is that our eyes are capable of capturing a far larger dynamic range of color and detail than a camera is able to record and therefore some of the beauty is lost to the technology. That is where High Dynamic Range helps me. By taking several exposures; one at the correct exposure, one at two F-stops over and one at two F-stops under, and then combining them, we are able to help the camera “see” what we see once the images are combined. We add highlights in the dark elements of the pictures as well as in the brightest parts of the picture. That is what HDR is to me.

Just like everything else, there are those who like to carry things to the extreme and they may over-process a picture and it may look gaudy to us, but that is their vision and that is what makes photography a creative medium. If you don’t like it, that is your prerogative, but let’s not paint all of HDR with the same brush.

Now…let me refer you to Blake Rudis who is considered and HDR expert because of his body of work. He just released a video (also embedded below), Are you an HDR Photography Hypocrite?, explaining the difference between HDR and Tone Mapping and what the relationship is to one another. He addresses those among our peers who might be HDR Hypocrites. I encourage you to watch this short video to understand this point of view and to see how HDR can help capture a scene as it appeared to the photographer.

As the video points out, if you do any processing on your images after they are captured, you are probably using some aspect of HDR even if you don’t think so!

If you liked the video and/or you would like to learn more about HDR photography Blake has created a worthy introduction course that he offers free to subscribers. You can check this out at his website:

Everyday HDR Thanks Blake!

Should You Be Using HDR Photography with Your Cell Phone?

Whenever I am out and about with people and we are taking pictures; me with my bridge camera (Canon SX 50HS) and others with their smartphones, I often ask if they are shooting HDR images. A few will know what I am speaking of, but many are puzzled.

To put it simply, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) image is one that is composed of three separate photos that are then combined to increase the “degree” of colors and details. Many smartphones can be set to do this automatically, i.e. they take one picture focusing on the shadows, one exposed for the mid-tones and a last exposed for the highlights. These are then combined to render details in all three exposures. The theory is that this will provide the most color and details.

This logically leads to the next question: “Well, how much better will the HDR photos be?” An article written by Eric Renno for Photofocus answers that question.

If you are interested in the technicalities, please read the details in the article noted above. For anyone interested in photography, I believe you will find it interesting especially if you like to edit your photographs after you take them.

SUMMARY – Shooting in HDR generally makes a difference and in most cases you will get “better” pictures that way. Keep in mind, however that the files will be larger so storage space may be at a premium.

NOTE – My wife’s iPhone captures HDR, but also keeps the mid-tone image as well. In such scenarios, it is then up to the user to decide which photo to keep. Your smart phone might do the same thing so it would be a good idea to review them periodically and delete those pictures which are not significantly different. The only drawback is that it is sometimes difficult to discern this on the small smart phone screen. It is still worth a try if your phone storage is pressed for space.

Founding Father of HDR Photography – Trey Ratcliff

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography often divides the photography community. A number of people dislike it and some do so passionately. Others love it and use it to its extreme and do so passionately. Then there are the moderates, like me, who use it in a realistic fashion to bring out the shadow details and to tone down the highlights.

Perhaps the greatest proponent of HDR photography and some might say the “founding father” of the technique, is Trey Ratcliff. I have been following Trey’s blog for years and I admire much of his work.

If you are interested in photography in general and HDR photography in particular, I know this TEDX talk by Trey Ratcliff will be of interest. He has a powerful, unique and often poignant story to tell. ALSO…watch the background as he uses many of his HDR photos to keep the audience’s attention.

From the YouTube Video Narrative…

“Many people may have artistic heroes. Trey, as a master of imagery is the creator of so many visuals that burn into our mind and particularly arrest our own notion of what is real. Trey meanders with us through important moments in his life, beginning with some difficulty and then realising in hindsight that sometimes you must ‘stumbl(e) into your own greatness’.”

Lightroom 6 Upgrade – Much Ado About Nothing?!

Like many photo enthusiasts, I use Adobe’s Lightroom and the BUZZ this week has been about the new version.

One of the most highly touted upgrades was the addition of a High Dynamic Range (HDR) merge and adjustment component. I watched one of the webcasts from Kelby One and when I saw the results of one of the HDR-processed photos, I said huh?

, one of the premier training resources for photographers and photo enthusiasts, had several webinar-type broadcasts about the new version.

NOTE: I have nothing but praise for Kelbyone. They offer many free resources to help budding and seasoned photographers. They produce a free Lightroom show every Friday which I am always anxious to watch so I can gather a deeper understanding of Lightroom and learn new techniques/options. So this is in no way a comment on their reportage of the new upgrade to Lightroom. They call the shots as they see them.

Here is the link for their review of the new options available in Lightroom – Kelbyone

After they demonstrated the new HDR component to process an HDR image, I didn’t think it was anything like a traditional HDR photo. I thought that I was just not experienced enough with HDR and I wasn’t appreciating how good it was. After all, over the Internet, it is really hard to get the best view. I figured if Scott Kelby and R.C. were satisfied, it must be good.

Well…several days later, it appears that the Emperor May Have No Clothes. Trey Ratcliff, the father of the modern HDR movement as far as many are concerned, has chimed in and seems to have the same feelings I had.

Read his comments about the new upgrade here:Lightroom 6 and HDR?

What are your impressions of the new version of Lightoom?