HDR Photography – more art than photography?

I had a play with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography software over the weekend (below).  It was two parts surfing Yu-tube tutorials on the net and one part playing with images I’d captured earlier to arrive at something I thought looked the part.  While real HDR photography is capturing the same scene/person with several images on different settings and then merging them to capture a wider range of light and detail, the software is largely post production stuff on a single pic using Photoshop plug-ins or software you can download  (Topax, gives you a free, 30 day trial). High contrast and detail, saturated colours, dramatic vignetting  etc etc – all done with the click of an action button or lovingly applied in tiny steps to produce a picture which  –  in my opinion –  is always likely to end up being more art than photography.

Still, the technique is a worthwhile addition to any professional photographer’s armoury – the exercise, and what it teaches you about colour and taste, being just as important as what you end up with.

Its hard not to look at an HRD photograph without thinking that your original picture looks a bit flat, and then wanting to bump everything up (or make it “Pop” as they say). The danger, I suspect, is that your eyes become so used to seeing your images in HDR that you struggle to recognise where reality ends in the photograph.

Which brings me to the e-mail I received recently asking if I thought HDR photography has a place in travel photography.

Its interesting that the technique has been popular among photographers for several years now, yet we’re still not seeing many HDR images in the high quality travel magazines, travel ads or books. The reason: It may simply be that travellers still expect to see the world as they would recognise it through their own eyes.

Still, when used well, it can certainly produce some outstanding pictures.

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