Love It Or Hate It – HDR Photography

St Mary's Basilica Invercargill
St Mary's Basilica Invercargill

Love it or hate it, HDR photography is an accepted, almost mainstream, style of photography. Whether HDR can be called a style or not is open to debate as it is more the post processing associated with multiple exposure images of the same subject.

But this post is not about HDR photography – it is about whether or not people like images that have been processed to HDR, or by tone mapping.

Many photographers rail against HDR photography with comments like “HDR is stupid and it sucks” and “I hate your HDR“, while on the other side of the fence others like Trey Ratcliff and Elia Locardi are enthusiastic and skilled HDR photographers who use the HDR process to bring an air of special, sometimes unique, artistry to their work.

However, in my view, what it boils down to is whether the viewer likes what he or she sees in an image, not whether that image has been processed to HDR correctly (what exactly is correctly?) or tone mapped to make it look like a painting. Whether the viewer likes an image or not starts with the photographer processing the image the way he or she sees fit – tailoring it with their software of choice until they are satisfied with it.

I guess that is one of the benefits of being an amateur or hobby photographer – there is really only one person to satisfy – yourself!

For instance take the photo of St Mary’s Basilica in this post. I took it back in October 2014 while on a group photowalk around Invercargill with Trey Ratcliff. Using the Panasonic DMC-FT5 camera I had then, I took three photos, one normally exposed, one at +1EV and the other at -1EV, then merged the three jpegs into a single HDR image using Photomatix Pro 5.

At that time I posted the finished photo to my own Facebook page and there was very little reaction to it. Just my friends (good on them) liked it.

Just recently I re-activated my Instagram account and posted it there. The response was overwhelming. The likes on Instagram reached 450 in a short time, and the photo was also shared on the Facebook page NZsouthland and within a couple of days had picked up over 1,500 likes and over 300 shares.

To any photographer it is clearly an HDR/tone mapped image – but that meant nothing to the almost 2,000 people who clicked the like button on Instagram and Facebook. They didn’t care what camera it was taken with, what the aperture and shutter speed were  – they just liked what they saw without analysing the photo in depth.

Incidentally I have been told that there were over 60,000 views of the post on the NZsouthland Facebook page.

So if there is anything to be learnt from this love it or hate it HDR sentiment it is that if you like the shot take it; if you like HDR then process it that way; and if you personally like the end result then you’ve done your job.

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Rick - The Occasional Photoblogger

I am Invercargill photographer Rick Harvey – aka The Occasional Photoblogger. I consider myself an opportunist photographer and enjoy taking photographs of ordinary things I see around me, and try to make them appear a little less ordinary and interesting, and while it is always nice to have others appreciate my images, my primary goal is to take photographs that make me happy.

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