On Using HDR As A Utility, Not A Style

By |2012-09-14T15:45:38+00:00Sep 14th, 2012|

As seen on this week’s episode of +onOne Software Perfect Inspiration – http://www.ononesoftware.com/inspiration/episode25/

I’m going to put this out there and my hope is that it’ll help educate and enlighten… and not spark a flame war. I went back and forth over whether I should even cover this topic because I tend to avoid making blanket statements in an arena as fluid as photography. Plus, it usually incents vitriolic responses… but, that shouldn’t be a reason not to share some knowledge, right? :) So, back to my point. Please consider the following statement that I wholeheartedly believe in:

HDR is less a style, but rather more a utility.

If you break it down, HDR is not even a utility itself. Rather, tone-mapping, layer blending and masking are utilities used to represent a high dynamic range in your image and, when used correctly, can help you represent a tonal range that is MUCH greater than normally possible. It is a tool to be used to create and craft something beyond the sum of its parts. When you look at the Before image above, you’ll see that my camera could not come close to capturing the gorgeous detail and color in the sky because it was limited to capturing the tonal range of the foreground. As camera sensors get larger and more sophisticated, this will improve but for now, I employ tone-mapping to work around this limitation.

I firmly feel that it is not a style. Would you use a Philips screwdriver to apply a coat of paint on your wall? Probably not. Does this mean that you can’t or shouldn’t use tone-mapping or layer blending to create a style? I’d never be so bold as to say that you couldn’t or shouldn’t. My goal here is to help you see the whole pie and not just one slice of it. It’s very easy to get mired in achieving a look (that is usually to the detriment of the image) while tone-mapping. And if you fall into that pool, I’d like to ask you to consider looking at tone-mapping in a different way. Imagine that tone-mapping is a process used to get you to the starting line. You’re only just beginning once you finish tone-mapping because now you have your flat, yet properly exposed, image to start stylizing upon.

I firmly believe the reason we have so many extreme opinions about HDR is because of how it is used, both effectively and… not so much so. When I tone-map, I am explicitly seeking out to create a flat image. Usually, the image is brighter than normal to compensate for how much of an effect my stylization techniques have on luminosity and brightness. But, by treating the tone-mapping as a utility to get me to a flat starting line, I give myself MUCH more flexibility to control just how vivid or natural my image ends up.

So, I really do hope this episode has helped give you a more well-rounded understanding of HDR and the tools that it is made of with digital photography.

Google Maps Location Info
37°8’8″ N 113°3’52” W

In terms of processing
You can see the video workflow of this image on this week’s episode of Perfect Inspiration – http://www.ononesoftware.com/inspiration/episode25/

#HDR

In album Landscape and Nature (1 photo)

Google+: Reshared 17 times
Google+: View post on Google+

158 Comments

  1. Colby Brown September 14, 2012 at 9:15 am - Reply

    You know you got lost somewhere along the way with HDR when your "Saturation" slider is broken from excessive use :)

  2. Colby Brown September 14, 2012 at 9:15 am - Reply

    You know you got lost somewhere along the way with HDR when your "Saturation" slider is broken from excessive use :)

  3. Mark Esguerra September 14, 2012 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Nice post and awesome shot +Brian Matiash. And just for the record, I have tried using a screwdriver to paint a wall, but it didn't quite turn out like I had hoped. He he he. ;-P

  4. Mark Esguerra September 14, 2012 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Nice post and awesome shot +Brian Matiash. And just for the record, I have tried using a screwdriver to paint a wall, but it didn't quite turn out like I had hoped. He he he. ;-P

  5. Catalina Santiago September 14, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Simplemente hermoso :)

  6. Catalina Santiago September 14, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Simplemente hermoso :)

  7. Shelly Gunderson September 14, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Beautiful!  Great post as always!

  8. Shelly Gunderson September 14, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Beautiful!  Great post as always!

  9. Randy Bertrand September 14, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Well said +Brian Matiash 

  10. Randy Bertrand September 14, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Well said +Brian Matiash 

  11. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Where was this taken, Brian?

  12. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Where was this taken, Brian?

  13. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

    +David Irvin If you expand the description, you'll find a link to the very spot.

  14. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

    +David Irvin If you expand the description, you'll find a link to the very spot.

  15. Justin Balog September 14, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Bingo!  I got you back on this one +Brian Matiash just in case it goes south…I totally agree with you!

  16. Justin Balog September 14, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Bingo!  I got you back on this one +Brian Matiash just in case it goes south…I totally agree with you!

  17. Steve Braun September 14, 2012 at 9:24 am - Reply

    This is exactly how I feel about HDR +Brian Matiash. Thanks for these words – I hope some people will consider this…

  18. Steve Braun September 14, 2012 at 9:24 am - Reply

    This is exactly how I feel about HDR +Brian Matiash. Thanks for these words – I hope some people will consider this…

  19. Gary Simmons September 14, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

    I was just having a HDR conversation with a friend yesterday… I've given up trying to convince people of anything about HDR. If you like it, then look.  If you don't, then look at other photos.  

    I do it when it works… 

  20. Gary Simmons September 14, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

    I was just having a HDR conversation with a friend yesterday… I've given up trying to convince people of anything about HDR. If you like it, then look.  If you don't, then look at other photos.  

    I do it when it works… 

  21. Gary Simmons September 14, 2012 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Oh, and I like the photo too.  

  22. Gary Simmons September 14, 2012 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Oh, and I like the photo too.  

  23. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:31 am - Reply

    +Gary Simmons Absolutely. My intention with this post was not to spark any controversy or convince anyone that there is only one right way.

    Rather, I think it's important to help people see both sides of HDR with the hope that it'll make the reader more well-rounded in their understanding of this polarizing topic.

    And thank you! :)

  24. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:31 am - Reply

    +Gary Simmons Absolutely. My intention with this post was not to spark any controversy or convince anyone that there is only one right way.

    Rather, I think it's important to help people see both sides of HDR with the hope that it'll make the reader more well-rounded in their understanding of this polarizing topic.

    And thank you! :)

  25. Scott Wood September 14, 2012 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Bravo +Brian Matiash I couldn't agree more.

  26. Scott Wood September 14, 2012 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Bravo +Brian Matiash I couldn't agree more.

  27. Randy Bertrand September 14, 2012 at 9:35 am - Reply

    I'm curious about what a HDR program like Photomatix is really doing behind the scenes.    Should we think of it as properly exposing the entire image at a micro level?  You can get the image exposed correctly using layers and brushes with multiple exposures (or maybe one D800 image with it's Huge dynamic range….)  but this is at a more macro level.  Thoughts?

  28. Randy Bertrand September 14, 2012 at 9:35 am - Reply

    I'm curious about what a HDR program like Photomatix is really doing behind the scenes.    Should we think of it as properly exposing the entire image at a micro level?  You can get the image exposed correctly using layers and brushes with multiple exposures (or maybe one D800 image with it's Huge dynamic range….)  but this is at a more macro level.  Thoughts?

  29. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    When using HDR, I always ask the question: What exactly am I trying to achieve? Without some forethought it is possible to get way off the map really quickly. I want HDR to get closer to reality, not to enhance reality.

  30. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    When using HDR, I always ask the question: What exactly am I trying to achieve? Without some forethought it is possible to get way off the map really quickly. I want HDR to get closer to reality, not to enhance reality.

  31. Marty Cohen September 14, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Thank you +Brian Matiash You described this so clearly and put it into the perfect frame of reference as a "Utility," That is exactly how I use HDR in architectural photography. The sun is never in exactly the right place when I have to shoot an exterior so I'm dealing with sunlight and shady areas at the same time. Even more so for interior shots where there are shadows in areas and bright light coming in the windows at the same time. One exposure just doesn't work. But blending multiple exposures using HDR is the answer. It's a "Utility" I rely on.

  32. Marty Cohen September 14, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Thank you +Brian Matiash You described this so clearly and put it into the perfect frame of reference as a "Utility," That is exactly how I use HDR in architectural photography. The sun is never in exactly the right place when I have to shoot an exterior so I'm dealing with sunlight and shady areas at the same time. Even more so for interior shots where there are shadows in areas and bright light coming in the windows at the same time. One exposure just doesn't work. But blending multiple exposures using HDR is the answer. It's a "Utility" I rely on.

  33. Ratul Maiti September 14, 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    I absolutely agree with whatever you said +Brian Matiash . But every now and then I come across non-photographers and try to explain them the need to use digital darkroom to get the whole dynamic range of a picture, they really lose interest in the conversation stating "manipulation" from reality. Even though these are the people who would ask me at a different time …"I shoot against the sun and everything turned out black….this was not my intention"….it is really funny. Sometimes, they would also say, so and so person shoot this picture straight out of the camera and never used photoshop…I just ask them "really….?"

  34. Ratul Maiti September 14, 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    I absolutely agree with whatever you said +Brian Matiash . But every now and then I come across non-photographers and try to explain them the need to use digital darkroom to get the whole dynamic range of a picture, they really lose interest in the conversation stating "manipulation" from reality. Even though these are the people who would ask me at a different time …"I shoot against the sun and everything turned out black….this was not my intention"….it is really funny. Sometimes, they would also say, so and so person shoot this picture straight out of the camera and never used photoshop…I just ask them "really….?"

  35. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    +Randy Bertrand I am not sure what the Photomatix tone-mapping algorithm is doing in the background, per se, but I do know that the general concept of tone-mapping involves evaluating each bracket on an image-by-image basis in the series and then promoting/blending them to form a tone-mapped image.

    Given that, I'm sure that HDRSoft's (developer of Photomatix) tone-mapping algorithm differs from the ones in HDR Efex Pro 2 by Nik or by HDR Expose/Express by Unified Color. The key is to find the right product that gives you results that appeal to your sensibilities.

  36. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    +Randy Bertrand I am not sure what the Photomatix tone-mapping algorithm is doing in the background, per se, but I do know that the general concept of tone-mapping involves evaluating each bracket on an image-by-image basis in the series and then promoting/blending them to form a tone-mapped image.

    Given that, I'm sure that HDRSoft's (developer of Photomatix) tone-mapping algorithm differs from the ones in HDR Efex Pro 2 by Nik or by HDR Expose/Express by Unified Color. The key is to find the right product that gives you results that appeal to your sensibilities.

  37. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    +David Irvin You nailed it on the head. I've seen way too many applications of tone-mapping when, in reality, you already have all the data in a single raw (granted, this varies from camera to camera).

    Before tone-mapping, one should really have a firm grasp of what high dynamic range means and that the two are actually mutually exclusive of each other.

  38. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    +David Irvin You nailed it on the head. I've seen way too many applications of tone-mapping when, in reality, you already have all the data in a single raw (granted, this varies from camera to camera).

    Before tone-mapping, one should really have a firm grasp of what high dynamic range means and that the two are actually mutually exclusive of each other.

  39. Justin Balog September 14, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    +Randy Bertrand I have thought about the math behind this for quite a while…and what I have concluded is that it first must determine the correct exposure by possibly averaging pixels within the scene, then apply exposure correction to the entire image on a pixel by pixel basis. Again, that is totally a rough thought coming form someone who knows very little about imaging algorithms. But you are correct, it occurs at the macro level…or individual pixel level.

  40. Justin Balog September 14, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    +Randy Bertrand I have thought about the math behind this for quite a while…and what I have concluded is that it first must determine the correct exposure by possibly averaging pixels within the scene, then apply exposure correction to the entire image on a pixel by pixel basis. Again, that is totally a rough thought coming form someone who knows very little about imaging algorithms. But you are correct, it occurs at the macro level…or individual pixel level.

  41. Scott Wood September 14, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I have been working at learning luminosity masking.  I have yet to share any of it as I am still in the VERY early stages of mastering the skill, but I like having the control over different elements of the image.

  42. Scott Wood September 14, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I have been working at learning luminosity masking.  I have yet to share any of it as I am still in the VERY early stages of mastering the skill, but I like having the control over different elements of the image.

  43. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    +Marty Cohen Exactly. Back when I was doing commercial architecture work, I simply found tone-mapping to be a more convenient and controlled environment than having to deal with popping strobes and using modifiers. I'll never forget the look on this one hotel proprietor's face when I showed up with just my camera and tripod. He kept asking, You don't need additional lights?

  44. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    +Marty Cohen Exactly. Back when I was doing commercial architecture work, I simply found tone-mapping to be a more convenient and controlled environment than having to deal with popping strobes and using modifiers. I'll never forget the look on this one hotel proprietor's face when I showed up with just my camera and tripod. He kept asking, You don't need additional lights?

  45. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    +Colby Brown Indeed, my friend.

    Just because a slider can go to 100, doesn't mean that it should go to 100.

  46. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    +Colby Brown Indeed, my friend.

    Just because a slider can go to 100, doesn't mean that it should go to 100.

  47. Darren Clark September 14, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    You're a brave man +Brian Matiash LOL! HDR is always a sensitive topic.

    Thought provoking in that perhaps we use the word 'style' in the wrong way. I think style is about how you approach your subject and the eventual outcome of the final product. This is where I feel that it's the techniques like HDR, B&W or what plugin/filter you decide to use that help you get there, and they're the means to an end, not the end in and of itself.

    Whoa…I'm sounding very philosophical there…I think I need some caffeine…LOL

    Cheers!

  48. Darren Clark September 14, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    You're a brave man +Brian Matiash LOL! HDR is always a sensitive topic.

    Thought provoking in that perhaps we use the word 'style' in the wrong way. I think style is about how you approach your subject and the eventual outcome of the final product. This is where I feel that it's the techniques like HDR, B&W or what plugin/filter you decide to use that help you get there, and they're the means to an end, not the end in and of itself.

    Whoa…I'm sounding very philosophical there…I think I need some caffeine…LOL

    Cheers!

  49. Gary Simmons September 14, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    +David Irvin I think you are exactly right…  Lots of times I will decide to shoot a bracket set, but then get home and decide that one of those images works 'as-is', so I will just process that single one and discard the rest. 

  50. Gary Simmons September 14, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

    +David Irvin I think you are exactly right…  Lots of times I will decide to shoot a bracket set, but then get home and decide that one of those images works 'as-is', so I will just process that single one and discard the rest. 

  51. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:45 am - Reply

    +Darren Clark There is never enough caffeine. :)

    And thank you for sharing your thoughts. In terms of using Style here, I'm more referring to users who manipulate sliders that have more clinical purposes as a surrogate for achieving a look.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. I just wanted to help paint a more well-rounded picture that there is another side to the coin.

  52. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:45 am - Reply

    +Darren Clark There is never enough caffeine. :)

    And thank you for sharing your thoughts. In terms of using Style here, I'm more referring to users who manipulate sliders that have more clinical purposes as a surrogate for achieving a look.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. I just wanted to help paint a more well-rounded picture that there is another side to the coin.

  53. Marty Cohen September 14, 2012 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Not having to drag around additional lighting makes the process so much more convenient and economical while still produce good results.

  54. Marty Cohen September 14, 2012 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Not having to drag around additional lighting makes the process so much more convenient and economical while still produce good results.

  55. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:46 am - Reply

    +Marty Cohen Oh, absolutely! And it's easier on the back! :)

  56. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:46 am - Reply

    +Marty Cohen Oh, absolutely! And it's easier on the back! :)

  57. Donna Caughlin September 14, 2012 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Beautiful work, +Brian Matiash, as always! And I don't think you could ever "spark a flame war". Your verbal and teaching style is too humble and thoughtful for that ;). 

  58. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    +Donna Caughlin Awwww! Thanks! I really appreciate that. :)

  59. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    +Donna Caughlin Awwww! Thanks! I really appreciate that. :)

  60. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Before anyone can truly excel at tone-mapping, they must first really understand the capabilities, and limitations, of their camera. On top of that, they must be able to audit the dynamic range of the scene on-the-fly and bracket (or not bracket) accordingly. It's simply another way to train yourself to see.

  61. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Before anyone can truly excel at tone-mapping, they must first really understand the capabilities, and limitations, of their camera. On top of that, they must be able to audit the dynamic range of the scene on-the-fly and bracket (or not bracket) accordingly. It's simply another way to train yourself to see.

  62. Colby Brown September 14, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    +Donna Caughlin – You just need to get to know him better :)

  63. Colby Brown September 14, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    +Donna Caughlin – You just need to get to know him better :)

  64. Darren Clark September 14, 2012 at 9:54 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Thanks! Umm confession time… My name is Darren Clark and I've created really bad HDR… I've pushed those sliders so far I became a halo grunge junkie…LOL

    The word 'restraint' comes to mind, at least for me and HDR. Knowing when and how to stop pushing things so much.

  65. Darren Clark September 14, 2012 at 9:54 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Thanks! Umm confession time… My name is Darren Clark and I've created really bad HDR… I've pushed those sliders so far I became a halo grunge junkie…LOL

    The word 'restraint' comes to mind, at least for me and HDR. Knowing when and how to stop pushing things so much.

  66. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:03 am - Reply

    +Donna Caughlin – Sadly, I think +Colby Brown is correct. :)

  67. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:03 am - Reply

    +Donna Caughlin – Sadly, I think +Colby Brown is correct. :)

  68. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:03 am - Reply

    +Darren Clark Step away from the Detail Contrast slider. Slowly.

    It's going to be… alright.

  69. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:03 am - Reply

    +Darren Clark Step away from the Detail Contrast slider. Slowly.

    It's going to be… alright.

  70. Josh Luke September 14, 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply

    wow

  71. Josh Luke September 14, 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply

    wow

  72. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Good discussion. Thanks for all the good insights.

  73. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Good discussion. Thanks for all the good insights.

  74. Gene Bowker September 14, 2012 at 10:18 am - Reply

    First of all.. great image. Love how there is still details in all the shadows.

    I agree 100% with you that all tonemapping is a tool. +Brian Matiash 
    It can be used to create something realistic.. or to make something that is more artistic and represents what we "want" it to show.

    Neither use is right or "wrong".  I use both depending on the situation.
    Some purists will always denounce all HDR, but they are still against any post-processing right?

    Thanks to +Colby Brown for sharing the post.

  75. Gene Bowker September 14, 2012 at 10:18 am - Reply

    First of all.. great image. Love how there is still details in all the shadows.

    I agree 100% with you that all tonemapping is a tool. +Brian Matiash 
    It can be used to create something realistic.. or to make something that is more artistic and represents what we "want" it to show.

    Neither use is right or "wrong".  I use both depending on the situation.
    Some purists will always denounce all HDR, but they are still against any post-processing right?

    Thanks to +Colby Brown for sharing the post.

  76. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    +David Irvin Agreed – Thank you, everyone, for the awesome thread here. I love having intellectual conversations, and debates, about these topics. It's when vitriol starts getting spewed that things get ugly.

  77. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    +David Irvin Agreed – Thank you, everyone, for the awesome thread here. I love having intellectual conversations, and debates, about these topics. It's when vitriol starts getting spewed that things get ugly.

  78. Craig McCormick September 14, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    You hit the nail right on the head Brian!

    There is so much more to using HDR as a tool to get more of a tonal range in your base image rather than using it to create the surrealist like images that HDR has become synonymous with.

  79. Craig McCormick September 14, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    You hit the nail right on the head Brian!

    There is so much more to using HDR as a tool to get more of a tonal range in your base image rather than using it to create the surrealist like images that HDR has become synonymous with.

  80. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:20 am - Reply

    +Gene Bowker Indeed. I wouldn't go so far as to say that you shouldn't ever use tone-mapping as a style. But, I honestly do feel that a lot of people only know it as such. By sharing the other side of the coin (the utility side), I'm hoping that it helps paint a bigger picture.

  81. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:20 am - Reply

    +Gene Bowker Indeed. I wouldn't go so far as to say that you shouldn't ever use tone-mapping as a style. But, I honestly do feel that a lot of people only know it as such. By sharing the other side of the coin (the utility side), I'm hoping that it helps paint a bigger picture.

  82. Ken Zuk September 14, 2012 at 10:21 am - Reply

    you are right on +Brian Matiash!!

  83. Ken Z September 14, 2012 at 10:21 am - Reply

    you are right on +Brian Matiash!!

  84. Gene Bowker September 14, 2012 at 10:23 am - Reply

    that it does +Brian Matiash and I think the general public would be amazed at how many professional images are really tone-mapped to some level these days and they don't realize it =)

  85. Gene Bowker September 14, 2012 at 10:23 am - Reply

    that it does +Brian Matiash and I think the general public would be amazed at how many professional images are really tone-mapped to some level these days and they don't realize it =)

  86. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    One of the things I've noticed is the process of mashing together bracketed images usually adds a lot of noise to the image. Particularly as the number of bracketed images increases or the ISO goes up. Anyways, I find myself weighing the increase in noise against the potential benefits of getting more dynamic range.

  87. David Irvin September 14, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    One of the things I've noticed is the process of mashing together bracketed images usually adds a lot of noise to the image. Particularly as the number of bracketed images increases or the ISO goes up. Anyways, I find myself weighing the increase in noise against the potential benefits of getting more dynamic range.

  88. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I also changed the statement that I made in the original post to this:

    HDR is less a style, but rather more a utility.

    The original statement was a bit too sweeping for me.

  89. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I also changed the statement that I made in the original post to this:

    HDR is less a style, but rather more a utility.

    The original statement was a bit too sweeping for me.

  90. Matt Gordon September 14, 2012 at 10:27 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash really nailed it here.  I would even take it a step further and say instead of the "hdr photoshopping" being a departure from reality, it is the singular RAW/JPEG that is the departure. 

    When I look at a scene, like the one Brian shared in this post, in person, my eyes take care of everything for me.  I see the warm glows and cool shades in the sky, the details of the clouds.  I see the details in the lowly lit shrubs, rocks, and dirt. 

    I see all of this. What I couldn't realize, even if I wanted to, is that my eyes are seeing all of this individually and creating a composite in my mind, allowing me to take all of these details in at once.  So, this is actually the way I am seeing it, and it is also the way I remember it. 

    It is the "straight from the camera" shot that does this scene a disservice with regard to proper exposure. 

    Of course, I'm only talking about proper exposure, and nothing to do with style or creative intent.  Plus, I'm just one guy sharing his opinion. 

  91. Matt Gordon September 14, 2012 at 10:27 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash really nailed it here.  I would even take it a step further and say instead of the "hdr photoshopping" being a departure from reality, it is the singular RAW/JPEG that is the departure. 

    When I look at a scene, like the one Brian shared in this post, in person, my eyes take care of everything for me.  I see the warm glows and cool shades in the sky, the details of the clouds.  I see the details in the lowly lit shrubs, rocks, and dirt. 

    I see all of this. What I couldn't realize, even if I wanted to, is that my eyes are seeing all of this individually and creating a composite in my mind, allowing me to take all of these details in at once.  So, this is actually the way I am seeing it, and it is also the way I remember it. 

    It is the "straight from the camera" shot that does this scene a disservice with regard to proper exposure. 

    Of course, I'm only talking about proper exposure, and nothing to do with style or creative intent.  Plus, I'm just one guy sharing his opinion. 

  92. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:29 am - Reply

    +Matt Gordon One of the best responses I remember reading. Thank you for sharing that. So eloquently phrased. Kudos.

  93. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:29 am - Reply

    +Matt Gordon One of the best responses I remember reading. Thank you for sharing that. So eloquently phrased. Kudos.

  94. Matt Gordon September 14, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Hey, you laid it out, I just jumped in with my two cents.  Thanks!

  95. Matt Gordon September 14, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Hey, you laid it out, I just jumped in with my two cents.  Thanks!

  96. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    +Matt Gordon Glad you did.

  97. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    +Matt Gordon Glad you did.

  98. roberto schinemann September 14, 2012 at 11:03 am - Reply

    que bela paisagem,como deus é grande e poderoso

  99. roberto schinemann September 14, 2012 at 11:03 am - Reply

    que bela paisagem,como deus é grande e poderoso

  100. Jules Bennett Sion September 14, 2012 at 11:33 am - Reply

    You made a not so attractive landscape beautiful, amazing!

  101. Jules Bennett Sion September 14, 2012 at 11:33 am - Reply

    You made a not so attractive landscape beautiful, amazing!

  102. christian delfin September 14, 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

    nice photo. looking forward to do this HDR thing in the future

  103. DX Delfin September 14, 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

    nice photo. looking forward to do this HDR thing in the future

  104. Michael Stuart September 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Great post +Brian Matiash!  I found my way here via Colby's share.  HDR got me hooked on photography and I enjoy making compositions that get "wows" from viewers.  There is a balance that must be found and utilized by the photographer, and that balance is subjective.

  105. Michael B. Stuart September 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Great post +Brian Matiash!  I found my way here via Colby's share.  HDR got me hooked on photography and I enjoy making compositions that get "wows" from viewers.  There is a balance that must be found and utilized by the photographer, and that balance is subjective.

  106. John Brake September 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Awesome… ;-) John

  107. John Brake September 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Awesome… ;-) John

  108. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Well that's cool – this post made What's Hot. :)

  109. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Well that's cool – this post made What's Hot. :)

  110. Michael Stuart September 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Cool +Brian Matiash!  I just shared to help the cause :)
    I didn't click link the slider the first time – very cool!

  111. Michael B. Stuart September 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Cool +Brian Matiash!  I just shared to help the cause :)
    I didn't click link the slider the first time – very cool!

  112. Ali Anjum September 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    nice

  113. Ali Anjum September 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    nice

  114. Jacob Addis September 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    cool

  115. Jacob Addis September 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    cool

  116. Scott Frederick September 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Hi +Brian Matiash.  You've always been my inspiration for HDR photography.  During the webinar, your final output looked different than this version which I would describe as more natural in color. Was there something you did differently on the webinar?  Of course it was a timed presentation and surely you didn't duplicate all of your settings. :) 

    Great final image!

  117. Scott Frederick September 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Hi +Brian Matiash.  You've always been my inspiration for HDR photography.  During the webinar, your final output looked different than this version which I would describe as more natural in color. Was there something you did differently on the webinar?  Of course it was a timed presentation and surely you didn't duplicate all of your settings. :) 

    Great final image!

  118. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    +Scott Frederick Thanks so much, amigo! I usually do process the web image a few days prior just to have it ready for marketing, etc. Sometimes, I'll deviate on the fly during the recording based on any number of factors. But the overall gist of what I did pretty consistent. :)

  119. Brian Matiash September 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    +Scott Frederick Thanks so much, amigo! I usually do process the web image a few days prior just to have it ready for marketing, etc. Sometimes, I'll deviate on the fly during the recording based on any number of factors. But the overall gist of what I did pretty consistent. :)

  120. Scott Frederick September 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Thanks for explaining your workflow! 

  121. Scott Frederick September 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Thanks for explaining your workflow! 

  122. Joseph Vedikunnel September 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you +Brian Matiash, I felt that way after playing with HDR when I first discovered this technique not long ago and you put into words what I thought.

  123. Joseph Vedikunnel September 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you +Brian Matiash, I felt that way after playing with HDR when I first discovered this technique not long ago and you put into words what I thought.

  124. roberto schinemann September 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    paissagem me sees this, the colors of the desert, sunlight beamed through the clouds, verefico and affirm that there is the power of God in all places, and only you contemplate around and see and felt the power of God and the peace that he brings to the man in which acredita.cordialmente, roberto schinemann public ombudsman, Foz do Iguassu, Brazil.

  125. roberto schinemann September 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    paissagem me sees this, the colors of the desert, sunlight beamed through the clouds, verefico and affirm that there is the power of God in all places, and only you contemplate around and see and felt the power of God and the peace that he brings to the man in which acredita.cordialmente, roberto schinemann public ombudsman, Foz do Iguassu, Brazil.

  126. Jan Kabili September 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Agreed.

  127. Jan Kabili September 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Agreed.

  128. Steve Bottoms September 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Utility vs Style.  Thank you for saying it, +Brian Matiash!  :)

  129. Steve Bottoms September 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Utility vs Style.  Thank you for saying it, +Brian Matiash!  :)

  130. Julia Esterhammer September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    noce pic :D

  131. Julia Esterhammer September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    noce pic :D

  132. Alik Griffin September 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    depends on what your going for though and what type of photography you want. I go for a very painterly vibe of photography, so I need HDR to help produce my style. In that sense it's a utility to that style. There is something interesting that happens when you pull out the micro contrast of a tonemapped shot then apply a shit ton of Noise Reduction to it. 

  133. Alik Griffin September 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    depends on what your going for though and what type of photography you want. I go for a very painterly vibe of photography, so I need HDR to help produce my style. In that sense it's a utility to that style. There is something interesting that happens when you pull out the micro contrast of a tonemapped shot then apply a shit ton of Noise Reduction to it. 

  134. Brandon Laurence September 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash I really enjoy seeing your maturity and experience in this post and in the great interview you had recently on the Candid Frame. I really appreciate the idea of HDR as a tool, photographers often get pigeon-holed into a style, whether it be B&W, grundgy, cross-processed, HDR, and so on, but these are tools to tell a story. Just as painters use different brushes, types of paint, or type of brush strokes, a photographer should have a variety of tools to help them tell a story or show the viewer what they "saw" at the time a photo was taken. I missed your talk when you were here in the Charleston, SC area but hope you make it out this way again. Great post as always.

  135. Brandon Laurence September 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash I really enjoy seeing your maturity and experience in this post and in the great interview you had recently on the Candid Frame. I really appreciate the idea of HDR as a tool, photographers often get pigeon-holed into a style, whether it be B&W, grundgy, cross-processed, HDR, and so on, but these are tools to tell a story. Just as painters use different brushes, types of paint, or type of brush strokes, a photographer should have a variety of tools to help them tell a story or show the viewer what they "saw" at the time a photo was taken. I missed your talk when you were here in the Charleston, SC area but hope you make it out this way again. Great post as always.

  136. Tamara Bonefont September 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    I find it to be delightful

  137. Tamara Bonefont September 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    I find it to be delightful

  138. Lucy Lin September 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    nice picture

  139. Lucy Lin September 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    nice picture

  140. Pat Kight September 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    During a weeklong Oregon coast workshop a couple of years back with my mentor, +Joe Decker, I "won" a tongue-in-cheek Worst HDR contest with this intentionally take-it-to-11 image: http://goo.gl/g3rT1 – and on posting it to my Flickr gallery, started getting invites to join "beautiful HDR" groups.

    I've been … skeptical … of HDR as a "style" ever since. Thanks for the reminder that it's a tool, and like all tools, best used for specific purposes.

  141. Pat Kight September 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    During a weeklong Oregon coast workshop a couple of years back with my mentor, +Joe Decker, I "won" a tongue-in-cheek Worst HDR contest with this intentionally take-it-to-11 image: http://goo.gl/g3rT1 – and on posting it to my Flickr gallery, started getting invites to join "beautiful HDR" groups.

    I've been … skeptical … of HDR as a "style" ever since. Thanks for the reminder that it's a tool, and like all tools, best used for specific purposes.

  142. Tamara Bonefont September 15, 2012 at 12:23 am - Reply

    Looks like a picture from a gallery

  143. Tamara Bonefont September 15, 2012 at 12:23 am - Reply

    Looks like a picture from a gallery

  144. Tazein Mirza Saad September 15, 2012 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Breath-taking!

  145. firdose jat September 15, 2012 at 6:05 am - Reply

    lovelyyyy……

  146. firdose jat September 15, 2012 at 6:05 am - Reply

    lovelyyyy……

  147. Anthony Sblano September 15, 2012 at 6:44 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash thanks for all the helpful tips

  148. Anthony Sblano September 15, 2012 at 6:44 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash thanks for all the helpful tips

  149. Anirudha Saxena September 15, 2012 at 10:05 am - Reply

    wow!

  150. Anirudha Saxena September 15, 2012 at 10:05 am - Reply

    wow!

  151. joel cleare September 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Create images that your public thinks are great. Your net is a little ( okay at ton ) wider than mine. I use HDR when I think it's appropriate. My family and friends don't even know what HDR is all about. They just stare at my images and complement me on my work. It's all about you and your audience.

  152. joel cleare September 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Create images that your public thinks are great. Your net is a little ( okay at ton ) wider than mine. I use HDR when I think it's appropriate. My family and friends don't even know what HDR is all about. They just stare at my images and complement me on my work. It's all about you and your audience.

  153. Boris Manic September 16, 2012 at 3:30 am - Reply

    BEAUTIFUL!

  154. Boris Manic September 16, 2012 at 3:30 am - Reply

    BEAUTIFUL!

  155. Andrew Gilmore September 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    I completely agree with the sentiment. I just don't understand why you've paired this post with a HDR image that is a little bit on the side of overdone.

    It may not be offensively overdone, as many are, but it's still in 'uncanny valley' territory. The rocks in the foreground don't look real, the scene is over-saturated, and there's sharpness lost right across the frame (especially noticeable on the trees/shrubs).

    I think a huge part of the problem is actually the limitations of HDR software. It's almost impossible to create a realistic image, without artifacts or other blending issues, using Photomatix et al. True there are some people who just don't know when to stop pushing those sliders, but even here, where the photographer clearly had the best of intentions, the image still retains that surreal, mushy look that's instantly identifiable as HDR.

    Can I just take your analogy of a screwdriver further and say that if using HDR as a style is akin to painting with a screwdriver, then making HDR photos with the current crop of HDR programs is like using a screwdriver while wearing boxing gloves!

  156. Alan Shapiro September 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Best episode yet. Great POV on processing and the tools available. Really REALLY well done!

  157. Brian Matiash September 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    +Alan Shapiro Thank you so much, my friend. That means a lot. 

  158. Fred Weyman August 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    I appreciate hdr and tone mapping when it is used to approach the reality of what the eye saw, and in this sense it is a utility. However when used to intentionally or unintentionally depart form reality it becomes a style. I think the reason it is strongly disliked by many is that users often claim the former when they are actually creating the later.

    I’ve seen many worse hdr’s than your example but it looks fake and is not a very realistic rendition. The foreground tones are far too light considering that the sun is below the horizon. The distant cliffs have a more realistic brightness. The sky and cloud colors near the horizon look realistic but the transition from light blue sky to very dark blue is unrealistically abrupt, and the thin clouds near the top are too dark. Thicker clouds could be that dark but these are thin whispy clouds.

Please share your thoughts! (Markdown syntax is supported)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.