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  1. #1
    whagwan? silver trophybronze trophy akritic's Avatar
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    Question Is HDR turning the real into the unreal?

    What are your opinions on HDR photography?

    I do admit to loving how so much detail can be taken and presented in a picture, but at the same time, I'm wondering if we're not taking nature and twisting it hollywood style to make it better than life?

    Anyway, I wanna hear some opinions on this because no doubt there are people out there who like and dislike it.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    This is a definite Marmite topic and usually one that I usually steer clear from (along with religion and SEO), but since it's a little quiet in here...

    In my opinion, it's all down to the individual photographer and how they use the tools at their disposal. Yes, using HDR/tone mapping can produce unrealistic results, but if it's realism we're striving for the out of the window goes black and white, dodging and burning, hi-key, etc.

    HDR/tone mapping can also be used to achieve more realistic results that what we can currently get from consumer hardware simply because it just isn't yet able to accurately capture the full dynamic range the human eye can.

    Ever looked at a contrasty photo full of blocky shadows and thought,

    "Hey, I'm sure I could see detail in the shadow at the time."

    That's because you probably could, but your camera is only able to capture a tiny slice of the dynamic range so what you end up with is already far detached from reality.

    As technology improves, cameras will be able to capture a greater dynamic range and there'll be less call for using HDR techniques. Until then, people can either choose to use HDR or not. Personally, I think it can be very useful and also abused just like any other post processing technique.

  3. #3
    whagwan? silver trophybronze trophy akritic's Avatar
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    ^ Well that's a superb summary of the issue, Will

    Damn, you've almost killed this thread before it got started But, your points are valid especially considering as you say B&W etc and no doubt bokeh even.. so its clear it's now another tool in the arsenal.

    Perhaps other members will pipe up and simply say if they like HDR or not and why, as I'm sure with other styles and techniques people do have preferences and dislikes. I do agree that it has a danger of being over-used, to the detriment of a shot.

    This is one article I was looking over recently which explained it all a bit better to me as an amature snapper. Perhaps it will be useful for other members to look at too, since it confirms what you said about HDR being utilised to 'reveal' more than an ordinary shot on its own.


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    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by armchaircritic View Post
    Damn, you've almost killed this thread before it got started
    Sorry! It's just that I've covered this ground sooo many times now that I can just rattle off a summary of my position off the top of my head!

    Regardless of what I say, everyone has their own individual tastes and some will have only seen the worst side of HDR. All I can say is that I've seen some absolutely fantastic HDR work and I've seen some that I've really disliked. Whoever said photography was about pleasing everyone or even anyone?

    What I find a bit sad is how someone people will give HDR a little try, not get what they were hoping for and then dismiss the technique. Just like anything else, it can take some practice and applied effort.

    The likes of Photomatix can automate much of the HDR/tone mapping process, but like a food blender you still need good quality ingredients to start with.

    Trey is probably the person responsible for piquing my interest in HDR and although some of his work is probably on the side of 'less realistic' there are examples such as this:



    which looks far more realistic than my single exposure version (admittedly mine looks to be taken in darker conditions):



    When I took this shot, there was a whole load of detail in the foreground foliage which is completely lost despite this being a relatively long exposure.

    So, what do you think of HDR and have you tried it for yourself?

  5. #5
    whagwan? silver trophybronze trophy akritic's Avatar
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    Heh, don't worry Will.. 'twas only joking about killing the thread so good was your response..

    To be honest, I've never discussed this issue before.. hence why I started this thread.

    I've seen the work of Trey, and actually was browsing his site tonight when I started this thread.

    My only experience of HDR at present was taking a set of auto-bracketed photos and using the Photoshop 'Merge to HDR' feature, which I didn't like the results from. Tho, I've been looking around the web for info and tutorials since it is something I'm interested in trying out.


    Off Topic:


    (p.s My Fiancee is from HK and I showed her those pics.. when I went there with her I only had a point-and-shoot at the time... I'm pretty gutted I didn't get a decent camera before recently!) Only have a Fuji 'bridge' atm, which I'm learning with

  6. #6
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    A couple of tutorials that you might be interested in if you haven't seen them already are:


    I first learned about HDR when I was in Hong Kong earlier this year and didn't get enough suitable shots to really do much HDR processing with. I would love to go back with what I know now!

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    Andy, I think what you are referring to HDR is faux HDR which looks a bit un-natural & kinda computer generated graphics etc.

    As per what little I've read on the subject, HDR is supposed to present a picture as close to(or a little better than) the one seen by human eye. The lens in our eyes is way too much advanced than on any camera on the planet, so a camera is not able to capture exactly what we see from our own eyes.

    From what I've read you & Will talking about in this thread & a lot of people in other similar forums discussing HDR, mostly its not about real HDR(or what its supposed to be) but the faux HDR created in Photoshop or when people try to make an HDR image & then get carried away by the prospect of digital enhancement & end up with something that looks artificial.
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    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Sure, what I produce isn't HDR, but it's using the principles of HDR and then tone mapping due to restrictive dynamic range of our monitors.

    It's all a matter of personal opinion which is why I try to avoid any debates about it (curse you, Andy! ), but I think it is posible to get more life-like images with HDR and tone mapping than without as I've tried to demonstrate above.

    We'll never really achieve natural and life-like until we either develop Star Trek-like hologram technology or direct feeds into our brains.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Here's an example of when I think HDR has given me a better result. I'm not 100% happy with the sky, but that's my own fault for using a polarising filter. I may spend more time in post-production balancing it out some more, but I'd just like to post this as it is.

    In the first exposure, you can see that the exposure is bias towards the sky making the ground very dark.

    The second exposure reveals more ground detail, but washes out the bright sky.

    The third image is after HDR and tone mapping processing. This is more like what I could see with my eyes at the time.


  10. #10
    whagwan? silver trophybronze trophy akritic's Avatar
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    Looks like I've made something of a Faux Pas by starting this topic without having done my own reading first ... mumbles something about it won't be the last time

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    Will, some work on sky in the 3rd pic & it can look much better.

    Of the experiments I've done with my photos & HDR, I've noticed that doing it with 5 photos instead of 3 gives better results. What do you guys think? Tried that?
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asp_funda View Post
    Will, some work on sky in the 3rd pic & it can look much better.
    I agree and had a quick try, but came to the conclusion that it's going to take me a bit longer to fix. Maybe when I have more time on my hands...

    Quote Originally Posted by asp_funda View Post
    Of the experiments I've done with my photos & HDR, I've noticed that doing it with 5 photos instead of 3 gives better results. What do you guys think? Tried that?
    I haven't yet tried it with 5-exposures simply because I've been relying on my cameras auto-bracketing to minimise the amount of time between shots.

    If my 40D could auto-bracket 5-shots or if I was shooting a static scene then I'd give it a try.

    I know, potentially, I could generate 5 separate images from a sequence of 3. Maybe I'll give that a go.

    Have you got any examples of shots where you've used 5 exposures?

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    I haven't yet tried it with 5-exposures simply because I've been relying on my cameras auto-bracketing to minimise the amount of time between shots.
    Well, I do that as well but what I do is first bracket the shots from -1e to 1e & then bracket the shots at -2e to 2e and then I delete the 0e shot taken in the second bracket so I'm left with 5 shots of the scene. Locking down the focus before hand or using manual focus is better & a tripod or a stable surface is needed. And this ofcourse would work with a static scene only.

    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    If my 40D could auto-bracket 5-shots or if I was shooting a static scene then I'd give it a try.
    No dslr for me, I just have Panasonic FZ50.

    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    I know, potentially, I could generate 5 separate images from a sequence of 3. Maybe I'll give that a go.
    You can just shoot 1 RAW of the scene & then create 5 or more exposures from that as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    Have you got any examples of shots where you've used 5 exposures?
    Nah. Those were just test shots that I took in home & around to play with & then 1 day accidentally deleted that folder where I used to keep test photos. Its been almost a year since then, didn't get around to playing with photos again! Maybe I'll find sometime now & try it again!
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  14. #14
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asp_funda View Post
    Well, I do that as well but what I do is first bracket the shots from -1e to 1e & then bracket the shots at -2e to 2e and then I delete the 0e shot taken in the second bracket so I'm left with 5 shots of the scene. Locking down the focus before hand or using manual focus is better & a tripod or a stable surface is needed. And this ofcourse would work with a static scene only.
    Yeah, that sounds like a good idea and shouldn't take too long in-between shots. The only trouble is that sometimes the contrast range of a scene forces me to bracket wider. Still, it's worth trying.

    Yup, manual focus, can't remember the last time I didn't take a tripod out with me, 2-second self-timer so that the camera automatically takes the bracketed shots without me having to release the shutter 3-times.


    Quote Originally Posted by asp_funda View Post
    You can just shoot 1 RAW of the scene & then create 5 or more exposures from that as well.
    I wouldn't be keen on this approach because you're still only working with the data from that one RAW file which will be missing highlight or shadow detail.


    Quote Originally Posted by asp_funda View Post
    Nah. Those were just test shots that I took in home & around to play with & then 1 day accidentally deleted that folder where I used to keep test photos. Its been almost a year since then, didn't get around to playing with photos again! Maybe I'll find sometime now & try it again!
    Yeah, do it! How do you blend yours? I've used Photomatix up until now.

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    Yeah, do it! How do you blend yours? I've used Photomatix up until now.
    I've used Photomatix (was a demo version which puts a watermark) & Photoshop. I came across some tut on doing it with GIMP as well but never got around to try it, maybe this time I will.
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  16. #16
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    Hi folks. I think the problem with unrealistic looking HDR is that it's now very easy to create an HDR using either Photomatix or Photoshop. So people get a basic idea of what to do, run it though the HDR software and out pops an image, and it then gets labelled as HDR. Often in those cases the image isn't as good as it could be as it needs a lot more work to get a good HDR.

    If you have a read treys (stuckincustoms) tutorial, you'll see he does quite a bit of work to create the final image. And a lot of the HDR images he has done are really good.

    Personally, I quite like HDR. But it's only useful for certain circumstances. I'm now trying to use ND filters instead to balance the sky and foreground without having to resort to post-processing the exposures as much.

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    to quickly add my two cents i have to say i love HDR for a number of reasons which may have already been touched on (i've only speed read the previous posts!).

    There is the obvious point which has been touched upon that it captures so much info that it is providing a wider "canvas" for photographic artists to work with and therefore allows the artist to express themselves to a greater extent. Personally i love some of the extreme style images that have already been posted in this thread, the colours and contrasts work brilliantly!

    Another point that may not be as obvious, and one that i have continually come across from workinig as an architectural visualiser for the past 5 years, is that every individual seems to have a unique minds eye view of what certian objects colours should be. The amount of times i have been asked to adjust the colour of a river or water course to something which is closer to resembling a carribean sky is untrue! For me its this i think that validates the use of HDR to create the image that the photographer sees in his minds eye.

    The other great part of HDR is that in the modern 3d packages and render engines HDR images can be used as a light source and environment to generate some amazingly realistic work... i can't wait for HDRI tv's to become reality... there are some out there if you look on google!!

  18. #18
    SitePoint Member Clusterpod's Avatar
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    As the saying goes: "You can't polish poo".

    If the image is poor, tone-mapping multiple exposures won't save it.

    I think Will DR's ideas of bracketing for landscapes is most attractive to me.

    I will bracket 5 or 9 exposures for indoor shots for architecture. The last thing I want is unrealistic images with fringed objects and over-saturated colours. What I do want is the ability to see all the details, whether they are in deep shadow, or strongly back-lit, or bathed in sunlight.

    This in itself is unrealistic, in a sense. But our eyes adjust so quickly when taking in a scene, we dont see deep shadows for long, or stay blinded by light. So a tone-mapped image can approximate this. I guess.

  19. #19
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    It's interesting to read the perspectives and what HDR actually is. I never would have considered what Will did to be HDR, more photoshopping several images together (very well done I might add).

    What I consider HDR is to be an artform where you can see an image of what would be otherwise considered to be a nice photo from a whole new perspective. And I think the definition provided from Trey does dole that out - it's not something you can do from a single shot.

    What I enjoy seeing in HDR are the non-organic shots that I can obviously tell have been made differently. Trey's work is very eye-catching, but I can tell that it's not-realistic so that's why I enjoy it.

    To me, it's another view into the world. An alternate reality if you will...
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  20. #20
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveMaxwell View Post
    What I enjoy seeing in HDR are the non-organic shots that I can obviously tell have been made differently. Trey's work is very eye-catching, but I can tell that it's not-realistic so that's why I enjoy it.
    I think you're in the minority or at least on the less vocal side of the fence with that view!

    I find it surprising why some people take such a strong standpoint against HDR/tone mapping. I guess they take issue with people alleging more realistic images when, from their own perspective, they aren't.

    To me, our own individual realities are subjective so arguing one against the other is futile.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Last edited by Will_DR; Nov 27, 2008 at 10:15. Reason: Corrected link

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    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    I was just sent that 10 mins ago by a friend, and also posted it to another photography forum that I'm on. Seems to be quite popular.

    I think the videos look pretty cool - wish I had an HD TV to view them.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Enthusiast Will_DR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by messyhead View Post
    I was just sent that 10 mins ago by a friend, and also posted it to another photography forum that I'm on. Seems to be quite popular.
    Aren't you wondering where I found out about it?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will_DR View Post
    Aren't you wondering where I found out about it?


    Thought I recognised that avatar - I'm just being slow today.

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    Yes HDR makes it look unreal. But than again did you ever saw the color photo's of for example 40 years ago? Awefull to nowadays standards, so HDR will be something we will experience over the next years as normal and we will look back on non-HDR photo's as awefull.


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