HDR overboard

Richelle Ludwick 1:21am, 31 March 2006
I first discovered people's HDR photos not too long ago, and they were awesome.
Now it seems I can't click anywhere on flickr without seeing HDR photos, which is fine.
The problem is, they're becoming more and more poorly done, I find. At least the ones I've been seeing.
It was my understanding that HDR made photos "come to life", more vibrant, more like you were actually there, more realistic. Now it's more the opposite - they're becoming more fake plasticky looking, heavily saturated and cartoonish, extremely processed and pushed to the max.
This of course is just my own personal observation and my own opinion - some may not feel the same way. I'm curious about other's opinons on this.
blnd 13 years ago
hi! i'm the new guy in HDR but i think... everyone should do what he or she feels... if someone wants to create a very saturate/'fake' vision of his/her image he/she should do it! i don't care. if it's good that's all right if it's bad... that is his/her problem :)))))
The Procrastinating Philosopher Posted 13 years ago. Edited by The Procrastinating Philosopher (member) 13 years ago
I agree [with Out of Tune], though it's seemed to me like that over-processed effect has been well represented from the start of the HDR craze.
Nelson Minar 13 years ago
Definitely agree there's a lot of lousy HDR. The cliche, including my own noodling around is a photo of some not very interesting set of buildings with a dramatically cloudy sky up above. It's a natural to start here; the effect is startling, easy, and novel. I haven't made an HDR image of mine own yet that I'm really happy with.

The most interesting HDR photos I've seen on Flickr have been interior shots.
Worker101 Posted 13 years ago. Edited by Worker101 (member) 13 years ago
It would be a rather boring group here if everyone chose to use HDR technology in exactly the same manner, don't you think? As with any other technique people use it to express their own style. I enjoy the diversity of expression in this group. Some choose to push the envelope of what a HDR photograph can express. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But it is usually interesting.
Ben McLeod 13 years ago
I agree with blnd and Worker101.

Art is in the eye of the beholder. If you don't like an image, don't look at it (I don't look at the horrible cat photos on Flickr for that very reason).
Amery Carlson 13 years ago
David Kozlowski 13 years ago
I think we all need to realize that for most people HDR is a brand new technique. So, there will be a learning curve, and yes, there will be some bad shots posted. I've seen my share of horrible non-HDR shots on Flickr. What I enjoy is how HDR can make the subject of a mundane shot look great. And in the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Jeff Clow 13 years ago
There seems to be three responses to HDR imagery:

1) "I LOVE is incredible"

2) "I like this....but it looks kinda surreal"

3) "I don't like HDR at all...and I wish the fad would pass"

As Dave so aptly states above, there are plenty of horrid non HDR photos that appear on Flickr every moment, but HDR seems to draw a lot of negativity because it gets so much publicity via "Interestingness".

From my perspective, I would NEVER leave a negative comment on anyone's photo - HDR or otherwise - unless they are involved in a critique group. There's too much negativity in the world and I'm sure not going to add to it.

As has also been stated, the idea of beauty is truly different for each of us....
iammikeb 13 years ago
Well said Jeff.
Richelle Ludwick 13 years ago
good points. thanks.
Duncan_Smith 13 years ago
The TrueToneHDR group was set up for those prefering a more 'real' translation of HDR images.

If you prefer HDR photos that don't look like an acid trip, go there.
Richelle Ludwick 13 years ago
Thanks for the link Duncan.
sunyata 13 years ago
Funny, I just posted three new HDR pictures, two where I went for an unnatural effect. The other was one where True Tone was the goal. It all depends on the initial image. Either way, trying to learn how to control the tone mapping part of this process.

Like the darkroom days of yore, having a good HDR image file is only the first part. Then there is finding a good tone mapping, akin to making the print from the negative.
Lawrence Whittemore 13 years ago
I got a comment on one of my photos refereing it as kitsch. I had my own suspisions that people would feel that way and i would almost agree if everyone loved HDR and people were doing it just to appeal to the massies, but so many people are negative towards HDR that I feel a good HDR photo is not kitsch.

Sorry for the run on and i hope that made sense.
plant look [deleted] 13 years ago
I think as people have said, there are nice things about each approach. I too am new to this and quite by accident made a surreal image recently. But I liked its almost expressive quality which wouldn't have been in the picture had it come out as I had planned it to.

Just a thought for the discussion.
iammikeb 13 years ago
I do think it is a little funny to be snobby about HDR. We are using software to do something that, at least in 2006, is unnatural with existing cameras and some are telling people you can do so much but no more.

It is a tad frustrating to see people tell other people that their HDR image is right or wrong when all they are trying to do is produce a certain end result or look that they have in their imagination.

Next we will start telling people the exact numbers and percentages to use while tone mapping for it to be pure.

Please do not misunderstand my above statements. I too have seen some HDR images that I went "eeeew", but you know I also realize that they probably liked what they produced. I also realize that, most likely, more than a few have looked at my HDR's and said the same thing.

All of that to say let's not be too critical in this group. If they are using the HDR process then it is HDR and that is all this group asks for, "eeeew" or not. If we want to be snobby about our HDR images then let's create/join groups to do so. TrueToneHDR is a good example of this, and a group I belong to, but I will not let it stop me from creating some wild images if that is where my creative ideas are taking me that particular day.
plant look [deleted] 13 years ago
I agree m i k e b.
Richelle Ludwick Posted 13 years ago. Edited by Richelle Ludwick (member) 13 years ago
thanks for your input mikeb.
i wasn't aware i was being "snobby". that was not my intention.
i had just noticed the quality of HDR photos bending into the weird cartoonish zone lately, and wanted to mention it and talk to other photographers about it to see what their opinions were.
I am in no way trying to tell people what to do. The reason I brought this up in the first place was because I had been told that HDR was a process made to create photos as realistic looking and life-like as possible (which is why i was confused about the saturated and heavily photoshopped looking ones) - but i suppose that is only one way to use HDR. I'm still learning! :)
GlenC Posted 13 years ago. Edited by GlenC (admin) 13 years ago
great topic!

to me it's just a technique or a tool to explore when taking / developing shots.

I love the potential diversity of the output, some of which I think can be done (easier) with photoshop filters and I think it's sad to put HDR in the same bucket. (the overblown desaturated halo vibe)

I try to chalk that up to lack of understanding and / or exploration and let it be what it is.

So far for me, the most compelling use of HDR I've seen yet (in terms of impact to photography) has been for recreating VR scenes like the ones linked below.

that's just me tho
eptulsa 13 years ago
Question this is my first attempt at HDR..would this be considered poorly done....

Just curious?!?

HopeHubris Posted 13 years ago. Edited by HopeHubris (member) 13 years ago
I dont think anyone other than you can say whether it was well done or poorly done. Was it what you intended? If so - awesome! great pic. If not - hmm what was it you were trying to get?

I think what Out Of Tune was getting at was that there seems to be a wide variety of HDR processing going on and some of it just doesn't look like what's being advertised with the technology. People read articles about the fanciness that HDR provides and then they see some of what people do with it and it doesn't jibe. It doesn't "look amazing" or "so colorful" or "so [something]" and it may look so "weird" or unnatural. The whole beauty in the eye of the beholder thing crops up...

To answer your question from my view? It's not what I would expect from a HDR pic, but I would never have thought of it for use in a close-up. When I thought of it, it was landscape or building in front of something or an interior as suggested above. Now...I have to look at where I think it might fit for close ups too..Thanks a lot - yet another thing to waste my time pondering ;)
lumowerkx 13 years ago
OutOfTune, I agree that there are lots of those dramatic cloudy HDR skies posted to flickr. In my case I started to concern myself with HDR after I saw one of those dramatic skies and thought: "Wow, what an interesting effect. Let's try this!" So I created my first HDR and it's look reminds me more of a painting than of a photo. But I like that special look and therefore kept the image.
That was my first step to HDR world, and I suppose it was quite a common step for other HDR image creators, too. And if you like this kind of HDR you keep doing it over and over again. Like others do macro shots or portrait shots over and over again because they love what they are doing. And that's absolutely fine.
But it's also possible you get kind of saturated by those artificial looking images and start to look for other ways to work with HDR. You have to learn your process and
tool set like you had to learn your camera and like you had to learn your Photoshop (or your darkroom process in the old days). And you have to realize that the final outcome of the HDR process depends on the original exposures AND on the settings in your tone mapping software. Also you have to realize that all the rules and guidelines related to image composition still apply. If the original exposue is boring HDR only brings in the "HDR effect" but the image remains boring.
To come to a conclusion: if you stumble over a HDR image you like leave a comment or add it to your favs. If you don't like it then ignore it or leave some constructive critique related to image composition for example. Just do like you do with all the other photos posted.
Tex Flix Posted 13 years ago. Edited by Tex Flix (member) 13 years ago
"Out of Tune" I am glad that you raised this topic. I have been playing with HDR since January with varying degree of success. I don't think I ever thought of the process as attempting to create things to look more "realistic." My impression was that it helped balance extremes in lighting conditions. I've had several photographs that were made possible because of HDR.

As for the recent explosion of HDR on Flickr, I couldn't agree more that there are certain levels of expertise and therefore varying degrees of percieved quality in the end result. I think it's up to the member posting to decide what they should and should not post regarding the quality of their HDR processed photo's.

I think it's great that we have groups like TrueToneHDR. They give HDR users a chance to view photographs that were processed using some control. I created the group HDaRt because I felt there were artistic applications to this technique.

From a personal perspective, I've learned a great deal from HDR. Taking multiple exposures has improved my photographs tremendously. I may not use the three exposures to create an HDR image. There have been times that I've used the three exposures as different layers in a non-HDR photograph. I've also combined HDR and non HDR photographs together to get what I wanted to achieve. And, the most rewarding benefit was meeting wonderfully talented contacts (like yourself) that found me through one of my HDR postings.
followben 13 years ago
Like others in this thread, I feel theres nothing wrong with HDR images, be they surreal or realistic. And like any processing technique, digital or analog, it can produce a masterpiece or a dud, depending on the skill of the artist.

My first HDR shots are also cliche, but I find them asthetically pleasing. As I become more proificent, I hope it will be just another tool I can call on to create great photographs.
M J M 13 years ago
This is a great thread, sorry I'm a little late in joining. I too have had some negative reactions to some of the HDR images I've seen lately, but as has been said, I really think people are learning the tool and perhaps intrigued with the gee-whiz aspect of something new. There are a lot of great examples turning up as well.

Let's not forget, though, that the recent explostion of HDR-rendering software is providing an accessible, automated way to do something that has been a part of photography for years. Remember film? One negative captures a similar amount of dynamic range as the digital RAW bracket series we feed our HDR programs. Rendering to a print or scan usually results in choosing what portion of that dynamic range to present the viewer, rendering the whole image at once. However, darkroom geniuses like Ansel Adams use dodging and burning to render different spatial regions to different exposures.

Take a good look at this Ansel Adams photo (hyperlink to its source):

Obviously some HDR-like processing here, and obviously a stunning result. Of course, doing this with film requires careful shooting, employing the Zone system or something similar, and very tedious darkroom work. Check out his book "The Print" for all the details including side-by-side prints of a "straight" print and one with all the dodging and burning. Very telling.

My point is that HDR is suddenly an easy tool for people to experiment with, and we're bound to see a huge range of quality and form our own opinions about it. However, it's not nearly as new an idea as people make it out to be. Let's keep pushing the quality, variety, and interest forward!
There seems to be a shed load of 'HDR' shots which have a weird looking halo around them. The sky colors are patchy and messed up. HDR doesn't mean you have to make a patchwork quilt of your images. OK learn, but fer gawds sake stop polluting.
pretty mailbox [deleted] 13 years ago
yeah I'm thinking of leaving this group too. It's like a bunch of 7 years old with several pots of paint and a large brush
serac Posted 13 years ago. Edited by serac (member) 13 years ago
Well said, M J M! HDR is a powerful tool - and as a powerful tool, you can make exceptionally ugly and exceptionally beautiful images.
*Perikita 13 years ago
Agree with serac it is a powerful tool..

Some of my contacts don't like HDR images.. I have received mails saying "sorry don't comment on your pictures but I don't like HDR..." some others tell me this in my pictures... I was very sad and disappointed thinking that I was doing wrong, and I had to concentrate my photography in taking better pictures...

At the end I decided that I didn't mind what other people think about HDR, it is my own creativity what I am showing and if they like it good, if they don't, it won't hurt me anymore..

However I have shown them that the effect can look as natural or as artistic as you wish..
exciting cushion [deleted] 13 years ago
I'm an HDR n00b, so to speak. I'm still struggling to figure out how to take my three separate exposures and merge them together to create something fantastic. I think it's fine, however, to try new things and ways of doing things. If we're lucky, we have fun while we're doing it, and we learn something from it. HDR Photography is just like any photography I see here on Flickr, there are good images and bad images. There are well-composed pieces, and pieces with no thought whatsoever. I know that the good pieces stand out, and inspire n00bs like myself to grow and learn as a photographer, and they push me to think before I shoot, to compose my scene, to wait until the clouds are right, to walk over to the stick on the ground and throw it out of the way, etc. That being said, HDR away! :)
I've been experimenting with HDR in the past 3 weeks and this is the first one I really like in terms of getting the tones correct. It was taken with 3 bracketed exposures. I used Local Adaption when converting to 8-bit mode, but you MUST play around with the curve to get rid of the halos and the surreal tones.

HDR Puddle
Leviathor 13 years ago
I prefer the results of true tone. I use CS2 for HDR as I have the program, and I only like about 2% of what comes out of Photomatix. I have never had an issue with halos in CS2's algorithms.

HDR does get a lot of publicity, and I think it is unfortunate that the utterly-fake- and computer-generated-looking images rank highest on the hog--it is not the intended use of the tool, and is a lot of show with little "go"; it would be a "ricer" in car-talk. Suitably enough, my "fakest-looking" HDR is also my most interesting.

Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but opinions can be wrong. A positive opinion of something horribly wretched does not make the idea or object good--it is still horrible, and the individual is wrong.

@Ben: I cannot tell if that has had any HDR processing--the shadows are too dark, and the highlights are too bright. If it was done in HDR, the effect was ruined by contrast boosting. Remember that HDR actually has lower contrast than a standard photo--it is bringing out the details in the highlights and shadows.
focalplane 13 years ago
I think the challenge for using HDR is to improve what would have been an OK shot with one exposure into a great shot using three or more bracketed exposures. Where the dynamic range is too great for one exposure we have the ability to improve the final product. Natural or True Tone HDRs are the pure form.

OTOH, experimentation and pushing the software to the max should be OK too, as long as the result justifies the effort. I love some of the extreme results that are shown in the various groups though I doubt if I would have made them if it was just up to me.

Art is in the beholder's eye. HDR can give great art.
thehotchili2000 13 years ago
Sheesh what a bunch of cry babies. I especially like the quote "its like a bunch of 7 yr olds with pots of paint".
Well I got news for you. Everyone was once a 7yr old. And like any newer technique, usually in the beginning the results are rough. IN the digital age its virtually point and shoot.
So people experiment with varying degrees of success. Sometimes people might be going for the surrealistic look. Who cares. Its fun to creat stuff.
FranH 13 years ago
I'm new to this too, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Where I live, winter just goes on and on and I'm totally sick of photographing it. Enter HDR (Photomatrix) discovered here on Flickr and I'm out there shooting like a mad woman. Reminds me of when I discovered digital about 5 years ago !! The novelty will wear off, but for now, it's great fun and I've even made one really good photo (good enought to print 11x14)...and I'm cheap with paper. If it gets the creative juices flowing, well, that's good enough for me.
ferrazzo 13 years ago
I have a question and hopefully this is the right place. Many of the images I've been playing with and calling HDR are really just raw images that I converted to .tiff and then applied tone mapping to. I haven't yet taken multiple exposures and merged them. Are those tone mapped images technically HDR images? I'm just a little confused. Thanks!
thehotchili2000 13 years ago
FRANH-ok so lets see a link to this picture you speak of.
DOnt worry, Im not here to too much of a rookie.. 8)
phlezk 13 years ago
After reading this, and wanting to try HDR, I hope my images will not be poorly done. :-)
clear volleyball [deleted] 13 years ago
Well said Jeff. To each their own. I did put up some hdr shots recently, do give it a squiz.
Jason "pyro" Putt 13 years ago
I've also seen people exagerating the technique, but every one has own style and like's, as photographers we need to think out side the box to portray our envision of the moment,
I personaly use hdr in conjunction with film to enhance the detail and colour in my photo's still new at it and alot farther to go but i find its a great technique and only way we will find more ways to use it is if we push it to it's limits further finding other uses for it here an example of mine after and before of how i use it to enhance my work


before hdr

even tho hdr was designed for digital use i find it very usefull in obtaining better results in film as well, i would never have discovered this if i wasnt willing to push the technology to it's limits
JPaul23 13 years ago
I think the bottom one is a better photo Jason. Top one looks overexposed and a bit washed out.
Jason "pyro" Putt 13 years ago
top one is actualy alot closer to real condition's when i took photo tho, was standing right under a high power street lamp whitch is very obvious in the hdr version.
and this was a 20second exposure.
Kay O. Sweaver 13 years ago
Wow, its like classical painters yelling at futurists or abstract painters. Guys, they're different genres of art, just because they use the same tools doesn't mean the end result has to be the same. People produce good results with both. They also produce cr@p with both. Judge each image for its own merit.
iammikeb 13 years ago
Agreed Kay ...
kostaki 13 years ago
I agree, why should HDR be exclusively for the "HDR Elite"?
strollerdos Posted 13 years ago. Edited by strollerdos (member) 13 years ago
I think HDR is a great innovation and has produced some beautiful photos on Flickr. There is lots of experimentation as its discovered and inevitably lots of pretty poor efforts along with the better work.

One thing is that I thiknk HDR has brought alot of people into contact with photo manipulation effects for the first time, and the cartoonish saturated look is quite beguiling if youve not produced that before - its very posterlike, remids me of those stylised 80's ATHENA posters.

Infact alot of these efforts hardly need to be HDR. Thye could often be regular shots that are processed in photoshop with a few tone curves and effects like halos added in.

None of this is a bad thing. As several people have said above its all about learning a new technique, a process for which constructive criticism and discussion is an important part.

In time I suspect HDR wont attract the same interest for essentially dull images (just viewed in a new way). Really good HDR will have to be technically good as well as having the other qualities that make a good image.
Danial79 13 years ago
Anything new gets overused, simply because it's a novelty. Just look at Matrix bullet-time effects. It was a new film effect and EVERYONE was using it, now people are over it and it rarely gets used. I'm sure the same will happen with HDR photography.
tomgardner 13 years ago
I am surprised at how many people use HDR almost for the sake of it, when there isn't any need real for it- e.g. normal outdoor scenes.

If I shoot in RAW and expose for the highlights using the histogram to check, ie the clouds are not burned out, and open up a fairly flat 16-bit file in Photoshop from it, I can get all the detail I want with a few adjustment layers and selective brushing and erasing.

Coupled with the excellent Shadow and Highlight tool you can get even more control(and playing with the highlight sliders can give an effect remarkably like tone mapping if that's what you want).

All this can achieve a far more natural looking image and you have full control of every aspect of it through your layers etc.

This is not to say HDR does not have its place- some of the wacky 'HDR cliche' shots are pretty impressive, and there are of course situations where the contrast is way too high for a single RAW exposure. But in general I prefer it to be used to keep detail in a natural way.
ASHCROFT54 9 years ago
Let's just all say HDR really eats up your hard drives...I think everyone can agree on that one.
cosmosvortex_2006 9 years ago
Oh no not another zombie thread.....
Good Lord, this one is so old it has dust on it. Oh crap, GlenC is in this one. Be very very quite, maybe he won't notice us.
Kulu40 Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Kulu40 (member) 9 years ago
at least twice now.She has a sense of humor. and then deletes her 'bump' post.
and always the same phrase, at least today
'Let's just all say HDR really eats up your hard drives...I think everyone can agree on that one'
maybe Tina you need to change the wording.
Goddamn this is getting funny
WintrHawk 9 years ago
Here's my very late contribution to this thread. This shot was taken by hanging my camera off the side of a ship using the centre column of my tripod positioned horizontally as a boom arm.

MV Norwegian Star - Starboard Side Sunset

Oh... you meant that other kind of overboard HDR... well I guess it's that too.
photographyguild 9 years ago
WintrHawk thats a beautiful overboard shot.
wishiwsthr 9 years ago
I've been using HDR for a couple years. HDR is a godsend to digital photography; I rarely shoot an outdoor scene without using bracketing. Often I get by with only one of the bracketed shots and the others get deleted, but more often than not I send them through photomatix. The latest feature of photomatix is exposure fusion which delivers a very realistic product, although I have had problems with washed out skys. The funnest part about hdr is the exceptional diversity. Some of the artistic renderings are quite astonishing. I love hdr from realistic to artsy, have fun with it!!
wishiwsthr 9 years ago
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