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One to get the blood boiling

ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
24 Jul 2014 9:38PM

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StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
24 Jul 2014 10:00PM
Enjoyed that Ade, I still haven't played around with HDR beyond presets, so I can't even discuss it, but I do like HDR, even some of the extreme stuff. Like most things, I think it depends on the subject.
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
24 Jul 2014 10:04PM
or whether you need it... people often say that a scene would look great "HDR'd"

You take a shot and show them the histogram... which is a tiny mid-grey peak... and you're like... really?

Mix of a rant and tutorial really - sparked off by a discussion on STRICTLY Yorkshire, a facebook group, where people needed educating Wink
StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
24 Jul 2014 10:11PM
I'll give it a try in onOne Perfect Effects. I've tried their presets, but never worked any further with it. I think I'll try it next time I go to Elbow Falls. The last time I went, I didn't like the amount of definition I got in the rocks. HDR should help there, don't you think?
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
24 Jul 2014 10:16PM
yeah - sort of works on waterfalls, the actual flow can sometimes look a bit odd if you have a mix of long and short shutters though...

smooth and rough combined...

you can do some "deghosting" in Photomatix now which may solve that though... may try that actually
StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
25 Jul 2014 2:05AM


The one on the left is a jpeg straight from the camera, unedited. The one on the right was edited with Perfect Effects 8.5, using HDR and dynamic contrast effects. I then added 20 units of Luminance noise reduction to the one on the right in LR 4. Feel free to use these images for demo if you like.
StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
25 Jul 2014 7:55AM
I've been working on a few more river photos, and I just finished one that was taken as a jpeg, edited using the same workflow I learned from an Adobe tutorial for LR 4 linked to by John Kennedy, and then using HDR in Perfect Effects, back to LR, and a touch of Highlight reduction, and I really like the result, it's very close to what I'm looking for.
puertouk 6 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2014 10:20AM
HDR is an amazing thing, if you use it correctly and not go overboard, as many people seem to do. It's when you look at a image and it takes some time for you to realise that it has some HDR.

If used correctly, HDR gives you a more or less perfect image. A lot of people use it as a sharpening software, which it is not. It's to balance the highlights, mid-tones and shadows. Yes, even I have gone overboard with HDR monstrosities and thought, what have I done!

HDR is a hot potato, but when you get it right...... Brilliant.
TanyaH Plus
15 1.3k 394 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2014 10:52AM
A very cool and informative rant / tutorial on HDR, Ade. I've never tried HDR as such, but I think I'll definitely be putting your advice into practice when I do Grin

I've often had to remind myself that just because I CAN use a particular processing method in either Lightroom or Photoshop, doesn't mean I should ... so yes, definitely food for thought and an excellent example of how, when used properly and with restraint, certain 'fads' can actually be quite useful.
Ross_D 4 751 1 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2014 12:38PM
I thought promoting your own website was not allowed?

Quote:Links actively promoting members own websites and threads opened for this purpose will be removed
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
25 Jul 2014 1:07PM
Sorry for trying to help people here4years

Do we need to start a "buddy system" where we pair up to post links to each others helpful blog posts? So "Fred" posts links to my blog, and I post links to Fred's ?

That'd work within the rules Wink

I did ponder posting the text from the Blog, but it doesn't look as good like the below as on a formatted blog - with pictures etc.

Quote:The Perennial HDR Photography Debate

As someone who’s used HDR Photography to make a living and been a fan since 2006, I often get involved HDR debates. Sigh…

The usual comments would be around

I don’t like HDR, it looks a bit weird
or maybe

I like HDR when it’s done properly
and sometimes you get the odd concession…

Well your HDR is ok because it looks natural
I know why people say they don’t like HDR - you can very quickly find thousands of images which make my mental pictures of Grimm Brothers fairy tails look bland… Google image search “bad HDR” or “overcooked HDR” and you’ll see endless examples.

Here’s one of my wheat shots, given the Grunge treatment… horrific

Overcooked in Photomatix
What is HDR?

In a nutshell – High Dynamic Range

Stated simply, the “Dynamic Range” of a camera is gap, in stops, between the and darkest pixel your camera can capture in one shot. There will be a WIKI on it somewhere – go look there for a true definition.

HDR is a technique were we “extend” the range by taking images at different exposures, going from “single dynamic range” to “high dynamic range”.

3 shots

So if you took, say, 3 photos.

a “normal” exposure
a shot 4 times darker (-2EV)
a shot 4 times brighter (+2EV)
You’d extend your “dynamic range” by collecting more information in the “bright bits” and “dark bits” which you can throw into the mix.

Why HDR?

Why would we use it?

Here are several real world examples where :-

a nice sky, but dark subject (e.g. a car, or building)
a nice subject, but a white sky
if you use ND Grads – you get a nice sky AND foreground, but a building goes all dark where the dark bit of the grad goes over it
if you use flash – the subject is way to big for your flashes to light OR the ambient light is too bright for your flashes
a room photo with blown out windows or really dark corners
Waterfalls which are blown out, and nice green surroundings, or nice detailed waterfalls with black surroundings
A geekier way to think of it…

Look at your histogram – if you can’t get a shot without either black clipping, or white clipping, you may benefit from HDR.
So that’s why you’d use it – it’s a way around the limitations of current camera sensors.

Where it all goes wrong

Noisy, over sharpened clouds – halos…
When I teach HDR, the “capture for HDR” talk takes 5 minutes, then I help people set up their cameras and out we go. It’s actually a LOT easier to capture than traditional photography – but that’s another blog.

It’s the software which confuses people – somehow they abandon all taste when seeing these alien sliders.
They don’t have the same names as “Levels” or “Curves” in Photoshop, but “Tone Compression” and “Local Contrast ”


With all this extra information to hand, we can:-

make previously black areas, bright and colourful
make clouds hugely dark
make light areas darker than bright areas
add way too much contrast and create unsightly halos around the edges of things
make flat and insipid photos
create toothpaste-green grass and indigo blue skies
The list of things you can do goes on… and these may be actual creative decisions by people, they my actually “like” them.

Here’s a typical example of “going to far” – halos, weird noise artefact… just a mess.

Halos... nasty
Halos… nasty
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

So if you “can” do all those things – should you?

NO – definitely not!

If you use a knife to chop food in the kitchen, you can also use it to chop off your child’s fingers, or stab passers by in the street… but do you ?

NO – definitely not!

If you got a new knife you weren’t quite used to, would you change your entire way of cooking?

NO – Probably not!

You’d probably have a recipe in mind, and hope that the new knife somehow makes it easier to create – chopping onions faster, cubing your meat with ease…

SO why do (usually) very sane photographers, when getting a new tool, like HDR, totally change their approach to image making?
Why would someone with a “lovely landscapes” portfolio suddenly start producing “eye bleeding” images?

They “could” create these in Lightroom or Photoshop, but didn’t. Now they open up Photomatix/HDR EFEX etc. and all of a sudden are delighted with something that resembles a small childs “new paint set” daubings.

A RAW file edited in lightroom... it's not a HDR, but you can make the same "look" easily, and quickly
A RAW file edited in lightroom… it’s not a HDR, but you can make the same “look” easily, and quickly

Exercise Taste – THINK!!!

I say this in every workshop…

Sliders to the middle or left = natural
Sliders to the right = surreal
Which is the same with most imaging software, not just HDR.

If you are starting to see things like Halos, cyber-colours and demonic clouds, THINK!!!

Does that look good? Does it look real? Will I like this in 6 months, or even 6 minutes.

Here’s the same shot as above, in Photomatix… a more “muted” approach… nice detail on the wheat too.

HDR normal

Or how about lowering the saturation a little…

normal 2

Looking a little more realistic ?

It’s not hard – it just takes a little practice and exercise of taste.

This last shot would probably have the dark areas lifted a little more in Photomatix (the processing was just for this blog, not a “proper” image), then finished off in Photoshop or Lightroom – usually to sharpen the key details, maybe clone out some flair – the usual things.

What to do if you get stuck…

Ok – so you’ve been moving sliders for 10 minutes and it’s going very wrong…

This is the biggest source of BAD HDR… people don’t accept that they’ve painted themselves into a corner… they keep going, till the death of the image!

Photomatix has 3 methods of Tone Mapping, and 5 or 6 of Exposure Fusion

If you are going nowhere fast, do this..

Change your “method” – maybe from an Exposure Fusion to Tone Mapping method
Move all the sliders to default position,
Slowly move sliders – to the left, to the right, see which “enhances” and which “makes surreal”
Gradually change till it looks nice.
Look at something else for a few minutes – facebook, twitter, the kettle
Come back – look again, does it still look good?

Take a look at the “presets” most HDR packages come with
Choose one which looks natural or realistic
Click on that – this is your new start point

Church Example

Quick overview of a different subject – a church.. one side in shadow, one in bright light. Probably a good candidate for a HDR…

church 1

So how many would go for this as a start point?

church 2

Well that would be one way… but how about the Photographic Preset instead?

church 3

Then have a quick play with the sliders…

church 4

Then you can pop it back into Lightroom and tweak away to your heart’s content.

Here’s a 1 minute tweak…

church 5

HDR Is a Tool…

So to conclude then…

HDR will end when sensor technology next advances – maybe the camera will capture the entire range of tones in a scene, then render what it decides to be the best representation… or give mega-raw-files for you to tone map… who knows.

Till then, this is the best option available in many situations. It works well - far better than my first experience in 2006.

When people criticise HDR, they are bemoaning the wrong thing - the technology and tools are fine – it’s the people who use them which make bad images
A hammer can blacken your thumbnail, bludgeon your brains out, break your teeth and shatter your knee caps – it can also build a buid box, help fit a gate or even keep old ladies warm by fitting an insulating strip around a door.

HDR can make horrendous monstrosities, or beautiful images, which would be otherwise impossible… it’s all in the control of the HUMAN OPERATOR!

SlowSong Plus
9 7.4k 30 England
25 Jul 2014 1:15PM
I wasn't going to read your blog Ade because I'm not a fan of hdr, but I think I will now - just because you've been on epz for donkeys years and some others have only been around since January. Oh, and we're in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm and I need something meaty to keep my mind off it. Wink
TanyaH Plus
15 1.3k 394 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2014 1:39PM
Yeah, I can see your point, Ade ... copying the text into the forum message does kind of kill the brain off after the first few sentences; whereas on the website itself it's far more engaging because you've also got the worked examples as visual interest.

So I suppose it's not technically within the rules to promote one's own stuff, even indirectly, but then again it was a damn good article ... And given that we can get to anyone's personal website (if they have one) via their Portfolio page, it's just a shortcut ...

AND this website is about helping people in the long run, as per our description:

"Join ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community. Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more for free!"

(Just thought I'd highlight the pertinent part of that description for me ...)

So I don't mind - carry on Grin
MikeA 13 1.3k England
25 Jul 2014 1:49PM
Great article, many of my images over the past few years have relied on HDR rather than "cumbesome" ND filters.
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
25 Jul 2014 1:51PM

it was a blog which has been brewing for ages

I even offered to do some HDR for a designer once... he goes, "whaoh, no, that looks wierd"

I delivered about 12 finished HDR shots...

He loved them... never mentioned they were HDR... he couldn't tell

you get it everywhere

HDR is a skill/technique/technology - not a "style" of photo....

many people who use HDR come up with a certain "style" which many dislike - and they blame the HDR tool-kit for it....


I call all chefs "murderers" - they use a knife and I read on the news that London has had many "knife murders" this year. Therefore, all knife users are murderers....

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