7 Mistakes about HDR images

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In this post, I will correct some common wrong concepts of HDR and give references for better HDR images.

1. HRD images aren’t like real scenes

Many people hate HDR because of not being like real scenes. Some pictures are similar to those photoshopped. HDR images are adjusted maximumly, resulting in sharper pictures but lack of tiny details.

It’s a “searching journey” of the balance between “real feeling” and “further details”, which requires patience and careful thought.

If you google “HDR” keyword, there will be lots of saturated, contrary images with blurry colors of the dark sky and strange halo.

To be honest, there aren’t any “totally true or false” ways to shoot HDR images, it’s necessary to take references from other photographers.

HDR images

This photo, taken by Aman Anuraj, is a great combination of images with different exposure level to create a real and wonderful sunset scene.

When I see this picture, I imagine that what I exactly see with my eyes is here.

2. HDR is a fake technique

Some people believe that using Photoshop or techniques to create an HDR image is unethical or not true. According to photographyprof.com, If you’re a photojournalist, it’s true.

But if you’re taking landscape, architecture photos or need an HDR image for other purposes, there is no need to create “reality”. It’s what and how we produce an artwork, and it’s not suitable for any technical things.

Interestingly, photographers created HDR images with a film camera in the past. A dynamic contrary range is not suitable to produce such colorful images but extends the metering values beyond whatever camera records.

By using ancillary techniques named Zone System of Ansel Adams, photographers can shoot a great picture with different exposure levels.

To some degree, it’s really one of the existing HDR-creating techniques. Only one difference is that a film sheet’s brightness is made in the darkroom much more times than in a sensor.

But, this today mix is entirely automatic and super fast, only in 5 seconds instead of hours formerly.

3. Everything in HRD images looks better

Seemingly, some subjects were made for a shot in HDR image, and others are an exception. If you’re shooting such architectural and deep subjects as metal, scene or architecture, HDR images look very wonderful.

But, the HDR format is not suitable for shooting human, animal or anything lovely and gentle.

HDR images

4. HDR images are awful and everyone hates it.

Searching results prove “HDR images are awful and everyone hates it is not right. This common concept is maintained by some blogs Tumblr and WordPress with “HDR sucks” keyword.

Yet, in many cases, a photo after HDR processed will be gentle with a simple-to-get layout.  

hdr images

How do you feel about the above photo? I said we shouldn’t use HDR to shoot a portrait. And this photo’s shot with HDR so as to highlight buildings behind, and then the couple image is superimposed on.

Read more: Sony A7R II vs A7R III

5. HDR images are necessarily brought with the tripod all times.

To create an HDR image, you have to get various exposure levels and then mix them. If you take landscape, night photos or simply have the patience to set tripod stably, it’s a good way for better photos.

hdr images

To be honest, I never use the tripod. But, I still shoot HDR images. When you move, your photos become blurry.

If you use high shutter speed and a good memory card, you can change the exposure level for a great HDR image. I regularly do it for all my trips as I don’t want to bring the tripod with me.

6. Pre-settings in software are the best

In reality, pre-settings in almost all software are the most awful. Photomatix is a stand-alone HDR software which is widely used and gives good results.

Photoshop is also a good software to process HDR. It’s a great tool to mix light although other pre-settings are little more wonderful.

The following is Pantheon I shoot with 3 different exposures:

hdr images

And the following is my result after using HDR photoshop.

hdr images

How magnificent, right?

Such black clouds, shadows covered, strange subjects and strong light halo are equally notable on this photo. It’s a quite disappointing photo if I stop here.

Instead of deeper settings of Photoshop, I’m really into this way, and I mix it with the initial version. In this image, I bring exposure from the initial image for clouds and keep the whole HDR-processed temple.

It’s necessary to adjust the HDR setting, but simply, mix it with the initial photo.

hdr images

7. The HDR software will do all tasks

According to almost all guidance on the Internet, it takes about 10 seconds for HDR images after Photomatix, Nik or Photoshop saves files. That time amount is only enough to press the “save” button.

Check out an HDR photo of the sunrise on Haleakala mountain, Maui. It takes many times to create a whole scene with high resolution, so we can see its small part.

hdr images

Because of the backlight, you can’t see clearly any details which are brightened or darkened, but all things are covered by the dark.

Thus, this is a low contrary image which is quite similar to what smartphone do, though it’s taken with Canon 5D Mark III. As a result, you have to extend the range of light contrary. Use HDR mode!

hdr images

Did we do it right? Just kidding! It’s fiction. It takes many hours to exchange into HDR. It’s a high-resolution photo for a large printing version in details.

Although HDR does almost tasks, there are some needs for other subtle changes for a better image.

hdr images

After curves adjustments, masking and some light mixtures with initial ones, it’s part of the final results.

Read more: perfect backlit images

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