When Will This HDR Fad End?

HDR Photograph by Rick Sammon
This post originally ran last year. I am running it again because someone at Photoshop World asked me the same question that inspired the original post: When do you think this HDR fad will end?

In thinking about a response, I first turned to my friend/HDR expert Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs fame. We talked about a response.

I'll let Trey go first:

HDR Photograph by Trey Ratcliff
Anyone who thinks HDR is a fad is possibly someone that secretly wants it to be a fad. It's okay, H[DR]aters gonna Hate.

But, seriously, HDR is not a fad just like color TV is not a fad. In my experience, people do indeed see and process the world differently, and roughly 60-80% of people see and process the world in HDR. Thus, HDR photos are very satisfying to look at and produce for these people.

We often hear vociferous complaints by those other 20-40% that just don't see the world like this. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with these people -- they simply see the world in a different way. When they do visual pattern-recognition (what brains naturally do), they see line, contrast, and shape before they see color, light, and saturation. They do see it all, just like us (the HDR-seers), but in a different order. It's not better or worse -- just different. To these people, often B&W photography is more appealing than HDR because it speaks directly to the way they pattern-match the world around them.

• • •

Okay, my turn:

I think there is a time and place for HDR, which is something that I stress in my seminars and workshops. If you want a natural looking landscape, such as this Monument Valley scene, then you definitely want a non-HDR image. In this situation, HDR would have ruined the mood and feel of the image.

If you simply want to have some fun creating an artistic image, such as the South Beach Miami bar image, play with HDR to your heart's content. Have fun! That's why you got into photography in the first place. Right?

If you need HDR to capture the entire dynamic range of a scene, like this inside/outside image of an old car I photographed in Los Osos, California, then HDR is the only way to go – unless you want to spend a few bucks on lights and gels, and then spend the time setting them up. Even then, however, you might not get such a natural-looking image.

Consider this: the Renaissance painters often painted in HDR. No one complained about the dynamic range of the paintings– to my knowledge.

Ansel Adams basically printed in HDR by using different contrast papers, developing times, filters, burning and dodging, etc. Complaints?

When one uses Shadows/Highlights in Photoshop, he or she expands the dynamic range of an image, as does double-processing an image. No one seems to mind.

HDR can look realistic or artistic. The choice is yours. "Follow your heart" is what I recommend.

If you want some interesting reading on HDR, do a Google search: I hate HDR.

Maybe I am getting seasoned, having been around for long enough for Trey to call me, "One of the godfathers of photography." But I have to ask: Why hate anything that another artist produces? Might be better to say, "Ah, it's just not for me."

Sure, we are all entitled to our opinion. But I think the world would be a much better place with less hate.

As far as the "HDR fad" goes, I am sure HDR is here to stay. The picture below, I feel, illustrates my point.

No way, no how could I have captured the dynamic range (seven f-stops) of the lobby of the Florida Hotel in Old Havana, Cuba without HDR.

Hey Trey! Maybe we can do another post on the HDR movie fad! :-)

Explore the light – naturally or with HDR,

P.S. If you like HDR and want to learn more about HDR, check out my latest iPad app: Rick Sammon's iHDR.