Is The Craze Still Peaking or On The Down Turn?
High-dynamic-range (HDR) is a technique used in photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than possible using standard photographic techniques.

HDR images can represent a greater range of luminance levels found in real-world scenes, especially in scenes with a large amount of shadows and shadow details. HDR images are typically achieved by capturing & combining different exposures of the same scene.

A lot of photographers think this is just some new phase that the industry is going through, but actually, I and many others have been using different pieces of an image at different EV values and blending them into one image. The original manual assembly method of "exposure blending" can now be done automatically for you with Photoshop plug-ins and various stand-alone programs.

I'm not sure what trend the HDR will migrate into, but for now it's going pretty strong and people are winning contest with it as well. I'm not saying you need to embrace HDR and look at it differently, but I am suggesting you at least try some HDR processing to at least familiarize yourself with how it works on image enhancement. Who knows, but the day could arise when you realize you need to reclaim that dark shadow area in one of your images.

Super Dramatic Skies, Super Saturated Trees and Super Strong Fine Details
In the example shown here, built from 3 different exposure values of the same scene. Then using the Photomatix program, I am able to merge all 3 images into one and taking the best values from each exposure and blending them into one.
The first image above shows the image as originally captured and the next two sample were from 2 other HDR programs. Even though you can get what seems like a million different image results from the Photomatix program. Some of the other "smaller tech" programs and filters will also yield different results.

Some overall basic differences to note between these four images are:
  • The color, brightness and highlight detail of the clouds & sky
  • The shadow detail of the outdoor eatery area
  • The color and dramatic sharpness of the bricks
  • The green of the trees and along the front of the eatery

On most HDR landscapes you will typically quickly notice the extremely dramatic clouds from HDR processing. With the extended range of luminance you end up with more apparent saturation while yet expanding the dynamic range of shades at the same time.

HDR Using Smart Phones
I will say that my iPhone does claim to make an HDR photo, I have never really seen anything close to being actual HDR from my iPhone. And probably one good reason why the whole genre of "HDR" photography has exploded into a point to where you are expecting every new image you see to be HDR.

Since my tools I use for capturing images are DSLR's and not my iPhone, I can't really say too much about the HDR in-phone and post-capture that are possible. I am sure plenty of iPhoneographers are pushing processing to the limits on their images as well.

Going Beyond Architecture & Landscapes
If it is a highly detailed image of cityscapes, architecture and landscapes, then HDR can really produce some incredibly detail enhanced images.

Just how does HDR work on people? It certainly does "work them over" with the increased detail, it makes the skin appear much older as we tend to see it. But if you think about it... if you were faced in front of a creature that could see you in HDR, then that's how they would see you.

You can of course process again to smooth out the skin, but the smoothness sections will clash with the grainy appearing sections of the HDR. And when it comes to whites, such as this white shirt... it brings out/creates mega details that leave the shirt looking more gray than white.

You may find that HDR will not be your process-of-choice when shooting portraits and images with people in them. But on the other hand, it is a great process for the way-out and experimental type images. With software you can control so many individual properties of the image, that you can alter the appearance very dramatically.

Due to the increased dynamic range, it also can make an image appear to be sharper than it seems in the original capture. The other two example images above show how you can give the image one type of feeling with a little less saturated and grungy or really boost the saturation and make works that separate themselves from being just a snapshot.

Depending on your purpose for your images, sometimes a little HDR can make-or-break a potential "keeper". I personally discovered while making these example images shot on a previous Photography Experience Field Trip, that after seeing it in HDR, it's a keeper.

So What Are You Waiting For...
If you haven't explored HDR Processing, or any other post-processing for that matter... the grab up the Photomatix or any of the other HDR Programs/plug-ins you can and start expanding your dynamic range.

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