HDR in photography

By Michael Albany

Unless you have been living in a vacuum for the last few years you have heard of the latest trend in still photography, HDR (High Dynamic Range).  Everything from real estate to portraits to advertising is using HDR as a way to grab the viewer’s attention. Even I have written a couple of pieces on HDR and how to get the effects that really make an image pop.

Is it a trend or the future of photography? I believe that the trend has passed and that HDR is here to stay. More photographers are using HDR everyday and with that, more ways to get ‘the look’ are being used and discussed.

Is there a best way to get the HDR look in your images? I don’t feel that any one technique has yet emerged as the single ‘best’ way. Clearly HDR soft’s (http://www.hdrsoft.com/) Photomatix and Photomatix Pro are the current choice of the majority of users today. Of course many are using the HDR component in Photoshop as well.  It just seems that Photomatix is a better tool for tone-mapping than what is included in Photoshop, so far.

I used Photomatix on the image to the right, the image above and the self portrait in my last tutorial and many images you see on this site. For me it works better than the HDR tools in Photoshop. With the tools in Camera RAW of Lightroom 2 (and soon LR3) the hyper real, super sharpening of the James Effect became available. By combining those two processes alone the possibilities become endless.

No matter what tool is used as a solution HDR and super sharpening is here to stay. So what does that mean for your photography?  Should you use an HDR process in every image you create?  Probably not but ultimately, that is up to you. How and where you apply it, the sky and your creativity are the only limits.  The fact is that you should be at least considering it, learning about it and figuring out how it may fit into your workflow.

If you are the client rather than the photographer, what does HDR mean to you?  HDR means that more of the colors you see in real life will come out in the images you want and need. Whether a simple tone mapping in a portrait, a full multi image HDR or having the full dynamic range included in your advertising HDR is going to give you a more appealing and dare I say, more dynamic, image.

HDR is coming on full speed ahead and for me it is the greatest thing since photography went digital.  In each image I take I wonder how I can generate the feeling that I had when I decided to capture the image.  Now the processing is as much of an adventure as the photography itself.  This is a chance for photographers to jump ahead of their peers; an opportunity to be the next leader in photography.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!


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