HDR, High Dynamic Range, photography has especially been popular these last several years. It tends to be a polarizing photography topic or technique that either people seem to like or dislike. Making broad generalizations, I find traditional photographers tend not to like it as much while the general public seems to enjoy it more. The point I wanted to make in this blog post is that HDR, while some equate it with a particular look, it really a process or technique. Some maybe surprised to learn that there isn’t one style or look to HDR but there are many variations. HDR photography is the technique of combining multiple images, usually 3 or more photographs taken at different exposures into a single blended image. This is usually done is post-processing though there are some new cameras and even the iPhone that creates HDRs in camera. How these images get combined is part of the skill and artistry and like anything else there are good example and not so good example of this photography technique.
If you have followed my blog or looked at my gallery, you probably know that I use HDR in a bunch of my photographs. While my HDR blending technique has changed a bit over these last couple of years, in general, I tend to have a light touch. I go for a more natural look that does not have super bright colors or heavy textures. This, of course, is my choice. Some choose to dial-up the HDR process to create an image that looks more fanciful. Neither style is correct or incorrect. This is Art after all and it really is up to the artist to execute in the style that they like. The people can decide what artistic execution they personally like better.
I recently went on a tour of the old Holly Street Power Plant, that I wrote about here. One of my fellow HDR photographer friends, Van Sutherland, and I ended up in the control room and shot the photographs above at the same time. He was standing next to me on my left. Although the angle and framing are slightly different, the lighting conditions where identical — it was very dark. I love how, given almost identical conditions, we came up with very different photographs. Much of the difference is due to the HDR processing. This shows how HDR is not a specific look but really a process that people can use to create a look they have in their head. Van does some spectacular HDR photography and I’ve long admired his work. You can see more examples of his work here, on his blog. He has honed his technique over the years to come up with his style. I have also developed a different style over the years. Two styles, very different, both HDR. So if you are already using HDR techniques yourself or want to get into it, I would encourage you to develop your own style. Remember, HDR is merely a process, a way to develop your own look. People who think all HDR looks the same may have not seen the variety that is out there.