If it were possible for me to pay Adobe a large sum of money to remove all HDR functions from the next version of Photoshop, I’d probably do so. HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography used to kind of be an experimental process that was not very easy to do unless you had specialist software, and a very good knowledge of tone mapping. It was done to be “arty” or you’d say something like “Hey, wouldn’t this have been great if this is what it actually looked like?” And then you’d chuckle because of course, it didn’t actually look like that.
I didn’t really turn against HDR until this year. In fact, most of the examples I’d seen of it before were actually kind of cool. But then something changed and here’s what it is I think; It’s not that there’s now 15-20 really bad HDR photo’s filtering through my Facebook stream every hour that bothers me. HDR is trendy right now and will eventually go away when people get tired of it and realize what it actually is. What concerns me more, is the attitudes of the photographer’s who are taking these shots. HDR tinges with an alarming sense of dishonesty and fraud. I could take a self portrait and blend it 7 times with Brad Pitt’s to make me look a whole lot better, but that’s not real or factual. If I reported a land spout as a mile and a half wide wedge, somehow I don’t think the NWS would like my explanation of “Oh, that was my HDR report.” *Rolls eyes*
Mother nature is beautiful. Some of the stuff I see out there just leaves me speechless (which is hard to do might I add). So when I see people mess with that beauty that’s right in front of them, I don’t understand it? To me, there’s no need for HDR. It’s already beautiful and spectacular. No editing needed, really there isn’t. I’ve always looked at storm chasing as a way to document weather and I try to document it as accurately as I can through my photo’s, occasional video, and post-storm write up’s. So when I see people fudge the facts and reality through photo’s, it irks me.
When you create something in your photography laboratory, and then pitch it to the public as if it were real, then that’s called fraud my friends. It’s not real. Lil’ Jon doesn’t actually talk like an auto-tuned robot. That’s created in a laboratory as well. A lot of people put disclaimers up with their photo’s saying “HDR version of a storm I shot near Town X.” That’s not good enough in my opinion. When I see “HDR” attached to a photo, I know what it means because I’m in the know on photography terms and 99% of the time, I just go on with my business instead of looking at your fake shit. The general public doesn’t know, and they see the fake HDR shot as something you saw for real. It’s dishonest. The disclaimer should read, “Completely fake, Photoshopped version of a lousy photo that needed to be rescued by some good ol’ studio magic. By the way, this didn’t even exist in real life.” You’ll still get tons of ‘like’s’ but at least you’ll have been honest about it. When people comment, “Awesome shot!” you must reply “Don’t thank me, thank Adobe and my computer.” Also, any ridiculous HDR must be posted along side the original photo so people can really see what’s going on.
And don’t get me wrong, I certainly do a little bit of editing on my shots as well. I’ll usually bump up the chroma a tad or do a little bit of contrasting to help compensate for the lousy sensor on my camera. But that’s it. Don’t blend 37 images to create one really good one. Just take one really good shot to begin with!
So anyway, before my head explodes, I’m going to wrap this up. I have seen some really good, non-intrusive HDR photo’s that don’t do a complete disservice to reality. I don’t have a problem with those. Like with anything, exercise good taste and restraint my HDR’ers. And look, I understand that everyone has their own reasons and personal taste when they take photo’s. For me, it’s to portray what I actually saw as realistically as I can. Not everyone is like that, and that’s fine. Sensationalizing the environment that you are photo’ing isn’t against the law, but just be honest about it.