Monday, August 31, 2009

HDR Tests

I've been playing with some HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques. Not really sure how I feel about the outcome, I think they look fake, but I think I'd rather look at them then the originals. There's a battle between "trying to represent reality accurately" and "making something that looks nice". Don't get me wrong, reality looks nice when I'm looking at it, but it's not the same through the camera (no matter how sophisticated/expensive).

My other HDR attempts
The link above will show other post with at least one HDR image, not every image is HDR.

Dynamic Range in photography refers to the ratio between the lightest and darkest amounts of light the camera can see at one time in a scene. It's nowhere close the dynamic range of the human eye. A camera has a hard time seeing details in clouds on a bright day and the shadows under a tree at the same time. One way to get around that problem is to take multiple photos at different exposures and then blend them together on a computer afterward. That's what I did here, using GIMP. But the problem with that is all it really does is darken the light areas and brighten the dark ones so the details can be seen. It looks un-natural because there could be areas in the sky that are darker then areas in shadow, that really shouldn't be.

I've also adjusted the colour saturation and contrast too.

Anyway, what do you think? Where do you lean, would you rather photograph/look at an accurate representation of reality or something that looks nice?

I thought a farmer's field was a strange place for this.


  1. Hi Joel, just thought I'd respond to your thoughts on HDR and tone mapping.

    A search through flickr groups devoted to HDR will show a hugely diverse range of approaches to the final image.

    Like with any new "effect" (think of music with vocoders a la Cher or when electronic drums first came on the scene - Eastenders (uk soap) still uses them) initially folks over-use them.

    Some applications work some don't, some uses are extreme and some subtle. Some work in some people's eyes and not in others.

    And of course, with HDR and tone mapping there's almost infinite combinations of "knob settings" to choose from. So settling on how to use it to achieve what you want is a learning exercise in its own right - and that's once you know what you're trying to achieve.

    As usual, practice will come to the rescue as will looking at what others have managed. So off with you to flickr :)

    btw I often use HDR in my b/w work, not just because of a wide dynamic range but because I want to enhance local contrast.

    I might know when taking the shot that's it's destined for an HDR treatment but sometimes it's when I'm working on a shot in PS that I realise I can't implement my artistic intent unless I use an HDR approach.

    Learning, learning, every day a school day...!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I'm sure my styles will change a lot over time.

    I've never done tone-mapping before (I don't think, anyway) I don't really know what it is, although I have hard of it. Could someone enlighten me? Thanks!