A Passion For HDR

Ever since I saw my first HDR photograph by a great photographer called Peter van Allen that was it, I was sold. HDR was something I wanted to do and I was going to find out how. Search around the web and you will find plenty of tips, tutorials, etc on how to do HDR. You will also find lots of articles talking about how HDR sucks or similar. Look at the dates of when these articles were published, most of them are a good couple of years back, some even longer. The photography world is divided as are the camera manufacturers, some like Pentax and Olympus have dedicated HDR functions built into some of their cameras now. My old Pentax had 4 HDR functions, 5 if you include the Night Scene setting. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has two and but makes up for this by having dedicated Auto-Bracket settings for HDR available at the turn of a dial.


If you read my last post about going mirror-less you might recognise this photograph. It’s the HDR version of the yellow gorse which I shot on a rainy day in the hills above Colwyn Bay. HDR, or to give it it’s proper name, High Dynamic Range (Imaging), is a technique used to get a greater dynamic range of luminosity than you would get from a normal photograph. In other words, by using HDR you can compensate for loss of detail in the Highlight or Shadow areas by taking multiple exposures at different exposure levels and then combine those photographs using software to give you a more balanced result.


Here is an example of what I am talking about. In the original photograph I was having trouble balancing the highlights because the stained glass window and the side ones were over-exposed. If you compare the original to this one above you will see that there is more detail in the HDR photograph but it also has a certain “look”. This “look” has nothing to do with the HDR technique which combines the photographs. It’s about how I then use the software (in my case PhotoMatix) and post-process in Photoshop to give the photograph a style.


Now you may or may not like “my style” – feel free to say so, I won’t be offended, in fact I welcome criticism and I won’t bite back. However, others do and this style has been working for me over the last couple of months as I’ve been providing photographs for a funded tourism project. More about that in the coming months when I’m officially allowed to talk about it and show you some of the photographs.

Of course HDR used inside presents different challenges to when your outside but a great time to use HDR is when the sun is setting or rising for that matter.


I mentioned “styles” before and this photograph would not look good if I had used the same processing techniques as I did for the churches. Each photograph presents different challenges for HDR processing and therein lies the problem. Some HDR practitioners find a style they like and then apply that to every photograph they take. But what is good for one may be absolutely terrible for another.


Even these two, taken about ten minutes apart had different styles applied to them. Subtle changes, but different, nevertheless.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on HDR. Have you ever tried it? If you did, did you like the results you wanted. Or maybe you’re just thinking it’s not for you. Let me know.

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