What’s the Issue with HDR?


I recently returned from a trip to Castle Crags State Park and the Trinity-Shasta National Forest. While there,I did both night and daylight photography. When photographing during the day I usually expose 3 – 5 images for a scene to later merge using Photomatix for an HDR image. I been reading a number of blog lately where the HDR technique is panned because of the over saturated, contrasty look. While I agree with this take, I don’t see the need to throw the baby out with the bath water. If you like that style of HDR, go for it. It’s your image. I don’t like that style but I use HDR for a couple of reasons.

First, ever since the advent of photography the supreme challenged face by the photographer is contrast. Since film and digital sensors can’t see the world the way we do, a multitude of techniques have been devised to hold detail through a wide contrast range. With film these techniques include different types of film emulsions, minus and plus development, water bath development, graded and variable contrast papers, colored and spilt neutral density filters. Digital photography still has the issue of contrast. It hasn’t changed. We can still use spilt neutral density filters but they have issues in cases where the horizon line isn’t flat. In this image of Sunset, Castle lake and Mt Shasta, a spilt neutral density filter would cause more problems that it solved.




HDR to the rescue. By making several exposure and blending then together in post production I can created an image that hold detail in both the highlight and shadow areas.  Below is the HDR image.


The second image expresses more about how I felt about the scene than the first image.

A second reason I am a proponent of HDR is a term I heard in a podcast with Canadian photographer Royce Howland. He advocates using HDR for “High Fidelity” images.  I think his take is spot on. You can hear the podcast here.

What do you think about using HDR?  You can leave a comment here or email me at john@johndottaphotography.com.  You can see more of my work at johndottaphotography.com.

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