Featured Photo

Photo courtesy of
‘National Air and Space Museum in HDR’
courtesy of ‘Matthew Straubmuller’

Let’s have the HDR Talk. Much like parents with the “Birds and the Bees Talk,” this is a talk that photographers don’t like to have. Why? Because photographers either love HDR photos or hate them with the heat of 1000 suns.

First things first, what is HDR? HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and, to put it simply, it is a way to create an image with a wide (or “dynamic”) range of lighting, much as the human eye sees different lighting. Some photographers like it because you can get amazingly colorful images that can just pop (much as we saw with this video). Other photographers also hate it because it can get overused easily, where colors become fictional and the image doesn’t look like it came from the real world. As a friends of mine likes to say: “HDR is easy. Good HDR is hard.” Don’t believe it? Look in the Flickr pool and you’ll see.

Let’s look at Matthew’s picture above. I both like this photo and don’t at the same time. I like it because the HDR gives the image a dramatic appearance and gives the scene a fascinating painting look. What would normally be a boring shot is given new life with the HDR effect. On the flip side, these colors are not real, and they look like something out of a fantasy world. Even the people have a weird coloring to them. Is this a photo or some sort of digital artwork? The double take keeps me from fully liking this photo.

I know it sounds like I’m being overly harsh on Matthew’s photo. But really I’m not; I’ve met people who love HDR and people who want nothing to do with it. It’s important to remember the photo is art, and art is subjective. To each their own, as it were. So, what’s your take on HDR: good or evil?

Brian is so DC. Born on Pennsylvania Ave (not there) to a lifelong Federal worker father and a mother who has worked for Garfinkel’s, the Smithsonian, and Mount Vernon. Raised on the “mean streets” of Cheverly, MD; went to high school at Gonzaga College High School (Hail Alma Mater!); and now trolls the corridors of Congress as a lobbyist, you couldn’t write a more quintessentially DC back-story. When he isn’t trying to save the country from itself, Brian can be found walking DC looking for that perfect photograph.

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6 thoughts on “Featured Photo

  1. I say HDR, tool.

    I’m not even sure I’d bother to day “HDR is easy. Good HDR is hard.” I’d just say making art is easy, making good art is hard. I can see why some people dislike HDR on principle just as I can see why some folks feel that way about Dali or Monet.

    But it’s just another way to create an image. If you don’t like the end result that’s not about the technique, it’s about the end result.

  2. I agree with Don. I am a photographer and contribute to the flickr pool here and it isn’t possible to say yes all HDR is good or no all HDR is bad.

    Like any art form there are masters like Trey Ratcliff of http://www.stuckincustoms.com/ that raise HDR to a high art. He is exhibited in the smithsonian (not sure which museum though). I aspire for my work to reach his level.

    And just like any other art form there are those that don’t do it very well or overuse the effect and give it a bad rap.

  3. These are all really good points (well, not GP’s; come on, keep it constructive); so keep them coming!

    And Logan, I would disagree that Ratcliff has elevated it. I think he is the first photographer to use it so extensively, and has thus brought it into “main stream” photography. But a lot of his work tends to be over done too. I realize this is a mouse screaming at a human (I’d like to be displayed in any museum!), so need to point it out. :O)

  4. Brian – I would like to take this time to express my appreciation for choosing my photo to use in your article. Whether my photos are liked or not by others in the community doesn’t bother me & I embrace it because I feel that any constructive criticism I am able to receive is the most important thing for me right now due to the following reasons:

    1. I bought my 1st & only camera, a used point & shoot for $100, off of EBAY exactly 1 year before this picture was taken.

    2. I have never had any photography training or education & I still don’t even know what 3/4 of the terminology related to photography even means. Thanks to you I finally know now what HDR stands for.

    3. I do not consider myself a photographer or an artist for that matter. I can’t even draw stick figures properly. Even though I hope that one day I am able to capture that one image that people look at and say WOW. 

    4. I upload my photos on Flickr because without feedback & 
    criticism I wouldnt be able to learn from real photographers and those who consider themselves to be real photographers.

    So you can see from the points I listed above the reasons why I am so honored & humbled that you chose my photo as the example to use in this great debate on HDR photography. I truley appreciate everybody’s feedback and any feedback, negative or positive, that you would like to leave on any of my other photos located on my Flickr page. 

    “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” 
    ~ Salvador Dali