HDR Imaging: Is There a Point, Past Which, It’s Really No Longer a Photograph?
There’s been a lot of buzz online recently about HDR and ethics: is HDR okay for photojournalists to use? Dennis Hayes wrote a piece on the Black Star photo agency blog (Black Star Rising) about this, referencing a recent piece about HDR in the New York Times by John Tierney.
While this is a question that all news organizations need to ponder, it got me thinking about something else: is there a point with an HDR ‘creation’ when the thing pretty much ceases to be a photograph?
Stay with me for a moment on this. So much of the HDR work that’s out there is so overdone, cartoonish in tone. It really bears very little resemblance to the scene that was photographed. Sure, this is a cool thing to look at (sometimes). But is it still photography? Or is it really illustration?
This depends upon your definition, of course. Sure you say, it’s a photograph. It was made with a camera and a series of exposures, combined together to show this incredibly cool ‘effect.’ But back to my question: can you take the post processing too far?
I guess for me, I want images that speak to me, inspire me and communicate to me about the world around me. When the image becomes a cartoon, a ‘look how cool this is’ image in which the subject matter is almost secondary to the effect, I become quickly bored.
Take any photo, and spend enough time on your computer with the filters that come in Photoshop, and you can create something that ceases to be about what you photographed. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I think maybe at that point it’s more illustration than photograph.
I find some HDR images very compelling. They tend to be the ones that use the technique to extend the dynamic range in a subtle way, rather than a garish one. These images were good compositions to start with anyway.
But I have little use for the ‘over the top’ variety, images that remind me of airbrushed graphic novel covers more than photographs.
What do you think? Am I completely off base on this? Does this make me a Neolithic dinosaur? How do you like your HDR? Straight-up or with all the bells and whistles?
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog
Related articles on the web:
Is HDR Imaging Ethical for Photojournalists? at Black Star Rising
What’s Wrong With This Picture? at The New York Times/TierneyLab
7 Reasons HDR is Here to Stay and Why That’s a Good Thing at Lightstalking
HDR Tutorial at Stuck in Customs
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