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Natural look v.s HDR: where it is real?

Look at these two shots: one is HDR made from 3 exposures, another is a single shot of non corrected exposure. 
Which one is more real?
Do we see things like on the HDR (some will call it overdone, some will not)? Probably not.
On other hand, is a single shot represents reality? Nope, even 16 bit sensors can't record what we see with naked eye.
So, which one is more interesting, more likely to be noticed and more likely to be printed and hung on the wall? 
anthony trapani's profile photoNick Bianco's profile photoSunod S's profile photoAli Tehrani's profile photo
Dee Sisk
I'd rather swim in the HDR. I think the real while it does capture some of it, it loses some of the beauty because it can't capture it all. I definitely don't think it's overdone. 
HDR is always a touchy subject, but when done right, it is very effective. I happen to really enjoy your HDR version here and would definitely be more likely to print that version. On the other hand, your normal version does look pretty flat and there's much more that could be done with it in post to make it more favorable. Either way, great topic of conversation.
How bout "Reality-based HDR" ... That applies to the scenario you're posting here.  But man I see so much distortion of reality -- which is a choice -- and more power to those who love it. But for me it gets a little tiring to see "this one goes to 11"
+Jason Rykiss yes, agree with you about normal version being flat. But this is "unprocessed" reality, right? If I'll open it in raw converter and push colors, contrast, etc, it won't be real anymore... Even if it is not an HDR, technically.:-)
Agreed, the one of the left is so much more pleasing to the eye.  
I do agree with you +Alex Koloskov.  I didn't know you wanted to make a comparison of a fully developed HDR vs. untouched single image.  I would say that a single unprocessed RAW image does not represent reality, and most images do take a little processing to bring the reality back to it.  As you've mentioned, it's not going to happen with our current sensors.  
With selective processing, the single image can be easily balanced with a realistic look and no compression....
I agree that both sides of the equation. Truly the single image looks much flatter than it probably looked in really like. And at first glance, I find the HDR shot much more interesting, and it pops a lot more. But It also looks a little "hyper-real" to me. Not nearly as badly as most HDRs look, but I still find it a bit over the top for my taste (not saying it's wrong). In my perfect world, I would want to see something between both, but probably leaning a little more towards the HDR shot; just dialed back a bit. 

Always hard to define reality, and draw line of what is enough and what is too much. And at the end of the day, all art is about personal taste. Just because I think it's too much, doesn't mean someone else doesn't think it's perfection.
The left one is really overdone ,I think.So just keep the beautiful scene  in our mind,but not with pictures.
To me, the HDR is more interesting. If I want to put it on my wall I often (but not always) want something more interesting, even art-like. The single shot reminds me (perhaps wrongly) of what my eyes might see if I passed this scene. Sometimes that's just not what I want to look at or have on my wall to have friends and family see. But I'm rambling...
the one on the left hurts my eyes. the one on the right could easily be edited and become better.  a layer blend of a couple of exposures could be very effective.

i've done my share of overprocessed tonemapped HDRs.  i just rarely do'em anymore.
I think the harmony and play on colors work well for this image. As artists we portray a reflective view of what the human eye views, some seen details and unseen details, When using our artistic license we have a great freedom of expressing our view of the world it is when we choose not to balance our views technical or creative that we lose focus and stunt our growth as artists. Job well done the Arthur's statement is Very true, I would rather have the art than the fart! 
what about blending the 2 together? align both with HDR on top and reduce the opacity. just a thought.
Yes, the HDR is a bit overdone, maybe. If I had to choose one or the other, without doing any of my own manipulation (didn't know I had that option), I'd still choose the HDR. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that...
If photography hadn't started with black and white, would we be debating about how black and white didn't look natural and wasn't "right"? 
What is real?

For sure no photo is real. It only can serve as an impression of what could be real. There are more problems with reality. We better skip the idea that we can represent/reflect reality.
+Kevin Barber great point. 
I agree with +Ben Fullerton that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Someone can feel like an image is overdone or "cooked" too much, but that's their preference.  What's right/wrong is a fine line.  HDR is just like any other photo manipulation process.  It's a process.  It's a way to make something look like how I (the photographer) would like it to look.  In my mind, it's no different than going into PS and developing the hell out of a single exposure with 20 layers.
HDR wins!!!  Bright and dramatic. A clear winner!
Let's look at it another way. If you could paint the scene it would be something along the lines of the image on the left. A painter focuses on different aspects of different things. Textures, colors and what ever else catches the eye. The image on the right is useful if you want to keep records for some sort of experiment. But to take in the scene the image on the left is better.
Agreed, +Jason Rykiss. Techniques are techniques, and the only thing that matters is if it looks good. And even that is highly subjective. 

I think HDR gets picked on a lot because maybe it has a higher rate of looking bad, because a lot of people "experiment" with it. But the bottom line is, techniques are just tool. They all can be good, and they all can be bad. It's all in how it's used. I love shooting with flash, but if you do it wrong, it can look horrible. Does that mean that flash photography is bad? Course not. I could just go out and shoot a really crappy SOOC image, and just because it looks bad, does that mean straight-up photography is a bad technique? HDR can look bad, but it's not the technique, it's the application, and who's applying it. 
Marty D
As a minimalist, I love the one on the right. A picture is a moment in time. Not a moment doctored up and manufactured
He left real and more pleasant to the eye, when hanging a picture in the room.
i wanna see it in black and white :p
Kat C
The more vibrant one is nicer to hang on the wall ofcourse..
To extend on +Kevin Barber's argument, 80 years ago we'd be debating on whether color photography looked "natural". HDR today is just a way to compensate for the limitations of the sensors.

To the same extent as taking 3 monochrome pictures with primary color filters allowed you to create a color picture in the 1890s, multiple bracketed digital pictures allow you to recreate HDR today.

Let's debate on the topic again in... less than 80 years!
the one the client buys wins... or if no client then the one you like... nobody else matters
I really like subtle HDR:  three shots 1/3 stop apart.   It's a nice compromise between limited sensors and what our eyes see.   
Of course it will be the first one, #Hdr  brings out all the elements that appeal to the eye, done in the correct manner of course.  A good comparison could be food.  There is a difference between having the around the corner burger, compared to one that has everything you love type burger.  Who would want the 2nd image on their wall? Anyone?
Please let me confirm: The left image is HDR, and the right one is original.
+Adam Butler has the right answer!

"the one the client buys wins... or if no client then the one you like... nobody else matters" 
+Ben Fullerton No it's wrong. The question is "which one is real?", not "which one you or the client choose?". And his answer looks like "In this world there are men and women."
I personally prefer the HDR version here. Much more inviting and uplifting. Nice example of how HDR can be used to good effect I would think. Well done....
the problem is that this dilemma is a false dichotomy -- there are many superior (in my opinion, of course) solutions to either a full-blown overcooked HDR and a SOOC image.
But +helen sotiriadis, false dichotomy is an American ideal! If it wasn't for black and white issues that ignore obvious and important gray areas, what would we all argue about?
I'd probably go with the processed one, but in my opinion it is over cooked. A little less punch and it would probably look authentic. The unprocessed one lacks contrast and the sky is really uninteresting. I wonder what a litte curves would do to it.
And what if using a ND graduated filter to keep details in the sky and then process it in a Raw lab to correct exposure and colors on the other areas? I think that would be a good balance between HDR and a flat image
High-dynamic-range photographs are generally achieved by capturing multiple standard photographs, often using exposure bracketing, and then merging them into an HDR image. Digital photographs are often encoded in a camera's raw image format, because 8 bit JPEG encoding doesn't offer enough values to allow fine transitions (and introduces undesirable effects due to the lossy compression).
so i thnk the right one looks pure!
+Shuaib khan 
yes -- it's yours. my only problem is your referring to me.
please deal with your own issues, and do not refer to me again.
I'll be dead soon. I prefer HDR because it gives me 3x the experience at once.
First image is full of dream, fantasy. Second one is represented more realistically. First picture has more flavor, it's more appealing and it compensates for the lack of sound, atmosphere, smell....   I think it depends on what the viewer wants to see or feel...
the first one looks more real...the second one looks like it was photo crpoed or whatever its called
HDR looks more like what i would like to remember rather than the drab image on the right...
I'm often disappointed in photographs that don't capture the life I see in shots like these. I realize that one to the right is the "real" picture, but depending on my mood when I visit somewhere, that one to the left is closer to what I keep in memories.  I remember places as more colorful and vibrant than my camera wants to tell me.
Excellent comment. I have always loved HDR for the astounding photos that it is able to create. I know some "purests" like to hate on it, but to me it makes for more interesting photography for a great deal of scenarios.
never paid attention to hdr but have to admit this is awesome :)
Ke Zeng
Photography is an art. Art is something beyond purely realistic. I think your HDR's are mostly well done. I like them very much. IMHO, an overdone HDR has two characteristics: 1) over elevating naturally dark area to get attention so that the image becomes narrow dynamic range distributed, 2) dramatically increasing the local contrast using tonemapping such that the image becomes grossly granulated and lower resolution or sharpness. Eventually the image looks like drawing or painting. Some people may like that fashion. Maybe it's different flavor.
HDR is more the real thing.
Remember how our brain builds the picture in your mind.
Our eys will only catch a very small focus and in your brain the picture you see is build.
So while your eys are refocused on every spot the pick the picture in your brain is more like HDR than hat single focus single shot picture. 
The issue is when I look outside my window with bright sky the details of the buildings/trees don't disappear. I can see those details as well. The camera tries to compensate and thus doesn't show details. So the 'non' HDR image is not what our eyes see. Yes, sometimes it is overdone for surrealism, but then that's art. And only art can show what our eyes cant see.
I don't care if what I see is reality or not. sometimes for reality I'll rather look outside and see a live version. If I'm picking something to print and hang on the wall, that would be the one that gets me more excited. it being natural, real, surreal, abstract or whatever doesn't put me off. It just has to excite me.
The HDR doesn't look like reality. The other looks like underexposed reality. 
Some of the HDR images I've seen look like they were done in Bryce or POVRay.

As for what we see, that is a tricky thing to pin down.
The image we view is not the same image the lens in our eyes projects onto our retina.

Sometimes an HDR image looks great, but being an "old school" photographer, when I shoot something with lots of contrast or shadows or grain, it is because I want to!
+یکـ زیتـون 
انگار دوربین منم اچ دی ار داره، اما من بلد نیستم باهاش کار کنم :(((
اینم بذار تو لیست چیزایی که باید بهم یاد بدی ;)
my eyes can see the difference from reality and HDR. Of course false colors images are much more beautiful to see than reality. We like to modify reality and HDR gives you a powerful tool: PAINTING JUST WITH ONE CLICK. 
The natural looking one isn't bad, it's just a stop or two underexposed. 
+Alex Koloskov I bet what you're eye saw was more like the HDR than the 0EV. Go back there sometime, with the picture; or make another HDR of a place you can get back to.

I'd hang the HDR. Wouldn't take a 2nd look at the 0EV. In this case, anyhow. 
And the left version the rocks are unnaturally bright. I'd go with a well exposed and lightly massaged #2
For me it's not about reproducing reality, it's about creating an image, making a statement. Personally I think that the search for reality in photography is flawed from the outset, in part because it ceases to be real the moment the shutter is pressed and the image is captured on film or in memory. If you attempt to act as a photocopier by trying to make a duplicate, you're simply saying, "here, look what I saw". If you create an interpretation of a scene you're saying something, hopefully, unique and personal about it.

Nice sky, +Alex Koloskov . I don't usually like HDR skies but this one's a corker.
You haven't really tried with the 'natural' shot. A little more exposure, some brightness and saturation, some contrast, maybe even some tonal contrast...
I also like both shots. I think it also depends what exactly we are looking for in a photograph. Many of the HDR photos are overdone and lose their appeal for me. I also think it takes experience to get the right balance.
somewhere between the two is probably closer to the truth...

but then - since when was photography about truth? :-P
HDR - High Definition Resolution.  This vision in HDR is how some Animals see.  Believe it or not, there are some Humans who have vision capabilities that allow them to see with this clarity and resolution, just as there are people who have hearing anomalies that allows them to listen in high definition.  So if this is normal for them...  Well,  I'll let you draw your own conclusion.
+Georg Oberst  HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. to capture this dynamic range you use multiple snaps and merge them. to do this you can use different tools, there are some free ones that do this as well. Some camera's does this in camera as well.
Or truth about photography? That's why photography is truly an art and your canvas is your camera, lens, ccd or film, printer and computer, or dark room and technic, materials. Truly an art!
One of them is bland and compositionally uninteresting; the other is the visual equivalent of doing lines of crack. 

Neither of them solve the visual problem. 
I agree the one on the right is pure "crap" and that's what all sensors will come up with. But I'm sorry to say the left one is quite crappy too, absolutely nothing to do with the natural look...
HDR is definitely the way to go in many-many cases, but most people over-do it and I'm afraid that's also the case here, where just by looking at the thumbnail I can tell this is HDR (badly done IMO)  And as I don't want to be misunderstood when I say "badly done" I don't mean that's a bad photo ort anything, as I'm sure many-many people will love it, what I mean is that it's certainly not natural-looking.

Look at this one and tell me if you could tell it's an HDR if you didn't know about it:

Yet, it's as HDR as it gets, consisting of no less than 5 photos with 1 stop diff each one. Of course I've never claimed to be perfect, and I'm sure there are much better examples out there, but I think this is more or less how it should be done if you go for the natural look.
The HDR one is a bit "too much" wrt naked eye but the one on the right is clearly "not enough", so an adjustment of the HDR so that it's between those two would come closer to what we see in naked eye IMO.
I create many HDR's, but I think you can get a better result by being a little more subtle with the processing in this case, in my opinion. Photomatix is an excellent HDR creator. (no affiliation)
Right one is naturally look, but the left one is quite interesting
HD stands for high definition , does R stands for resolution?.
I admit... I'm not one to really enjoy HDR pictures. I think they are really gorgeous... but as the same time remind me too much of playing with a landscaping program with a full render finish and it conveys a feeling of 'too perfect' (like your 'overdone')
Yet I agree that the single shot doesn't represent reality as well.
It is a balance which drives me bonkers but drives me more towards the single shot. 

And then it makes me ask the question- what about basic photo editing?
I've had some really nice pictures that just needed a bit of a touch-up and that was all It needed to make it more like what I actually see.
--- heck, that was me being lazy and doing it in iPhoto.
I think the one on the right looks ok to me, the one on the left has colours that are too rich. Like you would find watching a soap on a cheap TFT TV with the saturation turned right up. This is a personal preference and I often feel the same about pictures where other people say the colors 'pop'. The one thing I prefer about the one on the left is the apparent transparency of the water. This might be the scene or could be enhanced with polarised filters maybe. I like the sort of art that makes the most of what the camera sees rather than post processing tricks. Potential lost by poor lighting and framing is not compensated with colors that 'pop' as far as I am concerned :)
i like HDR too..........atleast you can show the real beauty of the sites .which can not see everyone.......
half blind?  40% blind? 60% blind?  exceptional eye sight? it is a matter of perception and eye contact and awareness.
While the camera is limited in its dynamic range, the biggest limitation, by a very large factor, is the display.
It seams to be human’s nature to prefer extreme.
Look at advertisements or pics on G+
When looking at nature, I always wonder how wonderful it would be to capture that moment as it is now, I believe our eyes work in HD and cameras change the image slightly anyway, but the first one is a bit to un-believable and the second makes it look too dull for the distant sky light.  
+Yehia Mandour HDR stands for High Dynamic Range which is the technique of taking multiple images with a range of lighting settings of the same cadre and then combining them either in a studio's dark room or digitally as is mostly the case today.
there's a difference between HDR and tonemapping. it's not the same. you can increase dynamic range with a variety of techniques. tonemapping has an identifiable look which, when overdone, results in almost hallucinogenic images.
Ironically, what people call HDR is actually a dynamic range compressed image, or tone mapped image. Its favoring local contrast differences over large scale differences. Our eyes do this by themselves, but it doesn't work on our small and very limited display. The REAL HDR image simply cannot be displayed.
CS Chua
You do not need multiple exposures for this scene to create a HDR photo. Once you composite more than one photo together it's no longer a real representation of the moment in time you press the trigger. Photographers need to specify "Composite HDR" if they use more than one photo to create a scene. That said, even if ones eyes did not see the colours nor details of a HDR photo from a single photo, it does not means it's not real. It just means the instrument did a better job than a human eye. It's the same as watching a subject with microscope, binoculars, telescope, night vision goggles. But when you compose photos/images taken from different time or have parts of a single photo cloned then it's not real.
I actually like the right one better. Calm, pensive, a bit mysterious and bleak. The HDR is way overdone and just looks like a boring painting. 
The one on the right is also more realistic - that's what stuff looks like on a dull, grey day. No day is so sunny and sparkly as to look like that HDR.
I wouldn't call either good though. And HDR can work great when used well. But I disagree with anyone that thinks it's more natural or interesting by default. It's usually the opposite.
If by "real" you mean "what the eye sees", then the HDR does not represent reality, nor does the right one. When the human fixely looks at something, the image he gets is divided into different parts: the focus at the center is more detailed, then its blured and in the last area we even lose the distinction between colors.

So if you want a photo look real in that way, I'd say : a round HDR zone in the center, then a blured one, then an even more blured one in black-and-white :P
badly processed tonemapping is to photography what thomas kinkade was to painting.
+Alex Koloskov , when the light is not right, don't take the photo. But of course if we wish to savage whatever we can just because we can, the HDR one is more interesting. It is after all a digital art.
The human eye can see around 12 to 14 stops of light, the camera cannot. So depending on how the HDR shot is processed it is actually closer to what the human eye see's. I find that non-photographers tend to like somewhat blown out HDR images, photographers on the other hand tend to like more natural looking shots.  HDr is more interesting than other 
Alex, This is Komang. Or should I say SAI RAAM. I know that you love water. How is the live and when will you come to our new Sai Centre in Nusa Dua Bali. BTW I like most the left Picture. It Gives more detail which is the art it self.
HDR looks just a true image
Woul the same quality be maintained on vedios as well?
I'm not too much of a purist when it comes to these things. It's nice seeing both, though I wouldn't want to see a solid row of HDR images hung on the wall.
That's a pretty good point about the human eye though. Is there no middle ground?
(SAADR? Somewhat above average dynamic range? :p)
second one is natural. so second one is good
If neither HDR nor single exposure reproduces what the human eye really sees, it seems to me that HDR comes closer.
Most HDR shots have interesting things across the whole focal range so detail and clarity is important. HDR for me as it's more visually stimulating. 
The real shot is under exposed and neither is more likely to be printed due to the microscopic professional market left by the digital revolution.
HDR just makes everything look like a computer game.
single shot feels more real to me. But HDR would look better in the wall
HDR is obviously more interesting. There is more to see and more to stimulate the senses and imagination. In reality we do this also. Scan a scene for things that are perhaps of interest to use. If we look at the clouds in the real sky our eyes adjust to the light and present us with more detail. I feel a similar sort of experience with HDR photography. HDR looks less real on face value but I believe the experience is more like what I have when on the beach focusing on details that enchant me.
It depends on what one is looking for, glamour or reality. Imagining a big picture on the wall, I would prefer the real one.
If HDR is overdone it is really ugly, but done well on the right image it can be great!
It's like looking at my laptop screen vs my monitor with the same picture.  One the colours are more natural and relaxed, the other the colours are jumping out of you, I like both.
I like your thought. I used to love HDR then it started bugging me... now i'm ok with it as long as its done really lightly where you say to yourself... Is this HDR? 
what a surprise mannnnnnnn.....................
HDR looks so fake I love the natural look it's more calm and relaxing
The HDR is a bit overdone, i like the other one better.
My view is that it is we who have changed.

Had you asked the question in 1990 you would probably have got a lot of people telling you any HDR was over-the-top crazy and unnatural.

Ask the question five years from now, and who knows?

Before the advent of digital, we were used to interpreting the world through photos in just a few ways. Now that we can all be technicians we are all able to make all kinds of interpretations.
something in between? Natural is too dark
HDR is too contrasty
I love the natural look more.Looks rugged just like in nature.
Can't there be some sort of middle ground? HDR is too enhanced. For this shot I find it OK for the trees and the clouds. But the rocks look too bright, too staged and dry. Though dull in comparison, the left hand shot is gentler on the eye and feel more natural.
Without additional light - and lots of it - no camera will take pictures like our eyes 'see' them. HDR tries to help with this. But as with all technology, its not perfect. 
Now put a model in it with a great red sarong blowing in the breeze and do it again.
People keep saying the unprocessed shot is underexposed, yet the sky its clearly totally overexposed. Putting an ND graduated filter on to help with the sky is actually just pre-processing into HDR. If I was standing there I would see something much closer to the HDR version than the raw version, although with a bit less saturation.
HDR for me. I think it looks great, while the other is flat and washed out. But the second image could improved. 
At the end of the day its about what the image you are looking at does to your emotions, the image on the right seems under exposed while in reality it is both under and over exposed, the image on the left is perfectly exposed and therefore much more appealing to look at. I can't see the problem. 
At the end of the day painters always drew their own representation of an image, black and white photographers still adjust the image contrast, sharpness etc and color photographers change the colors to suit what their mind remembers of the scene (which is normally not what it was as the mind embellishes).
What's should be shown in an image is the "artists" interpretation of the scene along with the feelings they experienced. As each moment is different you can never have the same image twice
Oh yeah and I love the HDR shot :)
Tj John
Under/over exposed.....I thought art/photography is a form of escapism.  We live in the real world all the time but when we put our sunglasses on, doesn't the grass turn greener? the sky bluer?
the 'naked eye' is not really just an eye, it's a whole perceptual system, which does indeed take in and combine multiple 'samples' even of a 'still' view.

If you're going to compare a camera with they eye alone (sans the retina, the visual cortex and the learned interpretations of a given individual), you really can only stick to the purely optical phenomena. (And in this case, the eye is revealed to be a pretty poor 'camera').

If you're going to compare digital pictures with 'what we really see', you need to have a clue - or at least specify what you think - what 'really seeing' means
My phone does 2 frame hdr and looks decent.
the HDR is waaay overdone, but when exposed and tone-mapped correctly, definitely looks more "real"
HDR is a great choice for beginners to photography. However, for people who appreciate dynamics and contrast and photography as an artform...
The one on the right is the natural shot out of the camera, if perhaps not best exposed. I'd prefer that with some selective tweaks on levels, which would brighten it up where it needs to be. The left looks great, but it's not a photo to me. Looks a little unnatural, looks like a painting. HDR can be good if it's done subtly such that it still looks natural and you wouldn't think "HDR!", but just think it's a great photo. Indeed useful in some situations where the right exposure with one shot is impossible. 
The HDR looks better on this 8-bit screen, because it's compressed that 16-bit DR down to 8-bit so we can view it.
I'd ask what the dynamic range of the print is and use that as the basis of how much dynamic range compression is required to represent this scene on a canvas. Take a log curved picture profile image and use a LUT on an 8-bit screen. That's pretty close to what your eye sees.
I think long  exposure and little bit of PP done on the right image will make it look beautiful and worthy of framing. The image on the left is overdone.
HDR reminds me of paintings... it's always or tends to be ethereal. That said... I'd be more likely to hang the one on the right on my wall... I think it is more real!
Good one. And a good example, how HDRi should be done.
Here's a question... Would you like to live in an HDR photo? Then get some of those 1990s sunglasses, the Blublockers!!

Seriosly though... Do you think that as we age, and our eyesight reduces in quality, that HDR may be the only photos that have enough detail for us to see clearly?

There is no comparison. Left pic wins hands down.
Good photo i want to learn photography
Bland realities suck even more. I agree that too much photoshopping may take away the charm in a picture, but if a photo fails to catch the beauty seen by the photographer (or adds some other interesting aspect), then what's really the point of it?
HDR result is closer to what our brain interprets from the signal eye sends. Brain does an abundance of filtering, so on-site we actually see something more similar the left picture. Right picture is a mere result of using a simple camera model and watching what it has produced. When brain interprets this image, it is very far off from what it would see on-site. HDR tries to shrink that gap. That's why the left image seems better, and actually better represents reality than the right one. Remember! They're both only results of using certain light processing models, and both are very far from what our brain and eye would do on-site.
For me its getting the combination right, not too overdone but enough to make the image stand out.
For sure, i would prefer the 2nd one !!! it may look dull or colorless .. still it looks more real & not overdone like the first one ... because when we see a thing, we dont look with an HDR or with 3 exposures but with single eye and importantly ,, we see them as they really are !!!
Of course, I would hung on my wall the HDR version.
I've only recently come across lightroom and HDR and the ideas it represents...I don't like it, it overprocesses, renders fake and shows unreality
Amazing photo's. The one on the left almost looks like a fantasy picture. Did you photograph these?
Its the one on the right that is more realistic to the eye.!
HDR overlain with var. op. non-corrected might give interesting results, but I'll agree with the point of view that a well tone-mapped HDR is more realistic. Though the HDR you posted is more "poster-friendly", and has better chances to cover a wall.
The sky in the HDR version looks completely unreal, while the second sky is nice enough, though lacks sharpness and volume.
Etc., etc.
HDR. Blame the eyes for vice-versa.
Human eyes love contrast. This is why HDR always wins. It just looks more pretty to human eyes.
Actually I wouldn't print any of those, I would wait for the right light =)
Actually I dont like both of them. But if I have to choose it will be the left one although it looks unreal.
That person has made an over the top HDR. You can it as subtle (realistic) or un-realistic as you like
I had to Google HDR to find out what it was (High Dynamic Range). Now you've inspired me to download an HDR app for my phone. I'll be experimenting with it today.
The world we live in is not reality. HDR photos change the visible light, many pictures we are shown distort the subject. How many magazines show is ideal bodies that have been photoshopped to create unattainable body images? HDR photos only manipulate light and how we see it.
A correctly processed single image, or exposure blending a couple of images is more desirable and far more real than the typical overdone HDR.
The single exposure on the right is calibrated to capture the clouds, and reduces the light in the foreground. Try a polarizing lens filter next time to capture the best of both, then try the comparison again.
About 1/2 way between the 2 is what we see
I can see double...but usually only after a few cups of sake...
The right one shows the misery of reality
Left looks great. The right is flat and drab
I would say to the eye the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these shots.  I find I have to under expose digital images with Landscapes to try and get what the eye is seeing
This is totally beside the point and unfair comparison. You are comparing a non corrected photo against a 3 exposure highly worked and corrected image. Give me the RAW file of that single exposure, let me correct it, and then we'll talk ;) 
HDR is more reali from corrected...Also impossible to catch photos like made by our eyes.
Vision is perspective. I'd say the left one represents reality more since it holds more data. Our own minds blend inputs together. It could be possible that an organic mind can create the photo on the left, but in this case it was computer generated.

Here's something more to consider:
Eulerian Video Magnification
Thanks for posting the comparissson. Even though i've been posting HDR I have to admit they seem less realistic. As artistic expression or simply for communication I don't have any preference.

Even a pencil would work in a courtroom.
the single exposure image looks much more natural than the overworked one 
Yeah, but I love HDR. Most of my plain old JPG images I try to 'pop' a bit to improve contrast and brighten the dark areas.
Obviously, the single shot is real. Just look at the HDR sky, you never see those colours in reality.

Needless to say, HDR is overdone, its becase HDR images are made from and can only be made from post-processing. Our eyes do not post-process but our brain does some minimal post processing to approximate blind spots, and attempt to make out the images only -> optical illusions.

But HDR makes images clearer due to better contrast between colours.
Nice...You can always have something in between.
The one on the left
hdr is much better .if i had seen this place the hdr pic would have kept my memory of this place clearer,hope i am making sense
Well, this is in no way a fair comparison. As you mentioned yourself the single shot isn't correctly exposed. Of course a good HDR photo looks better than a bad non-HDR photo.

It is correct that single photo caught with a 16-bit sensor cannot capture the same dynamic range as you can with HDR. The problem with that argument is that the monitor we are looking at right now cannot output the same dynamic range as reality either. No amount of photographic tricks or equipment is going to solve your problem completely when the medium you use for output also is affected.
The HDR would be my pick to hang on a wall.  However, my opinion is that it's slightly over done in the rocks and sky.  Another version somewhere in between the two, in my opinion would be optimal.
1) I think that the average between the two might be a good approximation of "reality".
2) The sensor is not the only one to blame - our brain as a "buffer" for details in backlight, our eyes adjust continuously between dark areas and light areas... so we kinda see in HDR - not so saturated by the way :^)
3) Depends on the shot, sometimes a backlight photo is better with less details. But mostly the HDR catch our attention and imagination a lot more than a single uncorrected shot.

I'm a wannabe amateur photographer :^D which likes HDR pictures to be not so "overdone"... but yet still HDR.
Hmm... An interesting and thought-provoking subject, +Alex Koloskov. Curiously enough, neither of those looks "real" to me. Somebody said that cameras will never be able to capture what the eye sees due to differences in construction and therefore performance. And this mere comparison proves the point perfectly in my oppinion.

That said, I lean to the HDR side, but the image should be slightly redone to look more "natural", in my oppinion. However, even in its current state it really "pops" and much more "print-worthy" than the right one.

As for the amount of post-processing that should be involved in general... I totally agree with +Trey Ratcliff on this one: in the age of all-things-digital the image you shoot becomes only a "sketch" for your further artistic expression (some experiments with film development also yield interesting results though, so its not that "all-digital", on the other hand).
+Alex Koloskov A very very good post. I believe that a camera is meant to capture it's own image though and it will never be exactly what we perceive with our eye as there are so many conditions which change how we see things. A camera doesn't have these settings and will always have to make it up with the pixels and colours it has which are nowhere near as vast as our eye. Although, the big thing is, one makes it look like a tropical island and the other makes it look like the moors of Scotland. Is there going to be a line that crosses the two to give us a better view of still reality?
I don't think that we can see things like HDR statically, but the human eye can shift focus and brightness from point to point.
I prefer HDR photos. Some prefer black and white. Neither are better nor more correct than the other. I also collect arcade games. That group of hobbyists have a discussion similar to this where there seems to be two sides and no one can meet in the middle. My government goes through the same. At the end of the day they are photos and your eye is all that matters when looking at them.
both beautiful but i like the non HDR one more because it looks closer to reality, and i believe the purpose of photos is to capture reality
The brighter one I think?
Left looks cooler, Right is by far more realistic
I prefer the one on the left and pray my eyes see nature in that way. Beautiful! 
The one on the right is much more real as far as how we see. The HDR has zilch for shadow detail / nuance and is like how things start to look just before the festival kool-aid really kicks in. As an ad statement that has pulses/minuses. 
Neither looks good enough.
The HDR is overdone and the straight shot can be corected.
Try 5 or 7 exposures and be a bit more realistic with the treatment.
I think it would be a better comparison if the image on the right was correctly exposed.
This explains the overstaturated look of some of the photos I've seen lately. The uncorrected image is lacking color and detail, but the HDR image is cartoonish and artificial.
I'm joining this 9 hours into this post so I have not read everything that everyone has posted. That being said, I had to take pictures of some tornado damage this year for my company, the pics did the reality no justice! Yes the whole concept of alteration is always touchy but I think if it's done with integrity then it is something that most can live with.
Perhaps because the individual images used to composite the HDR were shot at different apertures, there seems to be "excessive" detail (if there's such a thing). due to varying depth of field.  Of course if you tried to eliminate that by keeping teh aperture constant while varying the shutter speed or ISO  setting,  that would create new problems. 
Both shots represent reality equally for me, but neither comes close to the real thing!
In reality. I think our eyes see MORE like the HDR. Let's face it, that's what separated good photos from snap shots. How many times have you taken a picture only to look at the print or the screen an said...well its not as inspiring as the real thing was. So photographers learned to use filters and master exposer and depth of field techniques to come closer to the reality of what we see. HDR to me is just another filter/technique. If used in the right context and properly will help you to create great photos. 
HDR is more realistic, because we don't see a vista statically like a camera. We look around the vista, and when we look at different parts (e.g., the sky, the foreground, etc.) our eyes adjust so that we see that part of the scene sharply. As we do so, we construct a mental picture of the whole which is more like the HDR image than the single exposure one.
Yes, I agree the first pic.More contrast and detail,and a filter's been used.
It's not a fair fight, but I would actually combine the two. Grab the rocks from the non HDR shot and and take the rest from the HDR shot. You want to be able to see the detail of the trees on the other shore and the texture in the clouds is always awesome and more realistic in my opinion.
I have just started getting into photography more seriously and really just started with HDR. I personally like the effects of most HDR much more, it brings the life out of photos. In my eyes it brings photography more into the art spectrum, just like long exposures. Just recently I had someone tell me that they didn't know if there was really a place for HDR in the photography world, I replied in the homes of the pole of the world on there wall. HDR makes art out of real life situations and brings out what you might not see unless you stand there for ever looking. All I can say is awesome shot keep up the good work and I'd love to see more, may e we could trade notes as trying do go somewhere with my photography 
I absolutely love HDR! As long as the photographer does it right, and doesn't abuse it.
All in all if you wanna talk bad about HDR u should do the same on lone exposure shots
If I remember correctly HDR is one of the features that Apple touts on it's newer iOs devices.
I think something in the middle would look better, but it's a matter of taste. The HDR really pops and is fun to look at.

Example of options and where I'd probably like it best: HDR Example
psssst.....  that is why you can use both.
great definition you obviously use a good large lens.
I like the first one better...lots of color!
Wow, such a discussion!
Thank you everyone, it was an interesting read:-)

I must say that I've selected this two image for a purpose: HDR is slightly over-saturated and sky is darker from what you would see in real, so this is often call "overdone".
However, if we look at landscaping photography as an art... Same as paintings, there is no "overdone", right? Look at Van Gogh colors: the guy definitely did not want to represent reality 1:1, right? And this is one of the reasons his art cost millions now.
The main question was what did you put to a wall, and it looks like we less want to see the reality there:)

I agree with many commentators it could be done more realistic. We used HDR technique when were shooting commercial assignments for interior/exteriors, and believe me, the images were as realistic as they possibly could be.
But with an art,  am not sure anyone want to see the real things.
HDR is simply another choice a photographer makes.  It is not really much different from choosing a particular f-stop to achieve a desired depth of field.  Each tool has its place.  HDR is perhaps a bit trickier to master.  In a few years, the average point-n-shoot will probably have automatic HDR built into its "intelligent auto" feature, defaulting to whatever subtle level of HDR balances detail against freakishness to give an overall 'nice' look.  Kind of like the 'vivid' settings do now.
So, the first one is what we see?
 The real, the second one, but the first one nice hah
I don't mind the HDR version; the only criticism I have is that the foreground is too hot -- your eyes are drawn to the rocks, and that's competing with what's happening in the upper 3rd of the photo.  Underexpose the rocks a bit, to lead the viewer to the horizon line.
I think the photo using a single dynamic range of the camera looks far more 'real'. Real here meaning what my eyes see.
The reason why Vang Gogh's art sells for millions now is because he had a distinct way of looking at the world that few had seen or have seen since.  Generally speaking that's not an apt description for the majority of HDR photography, including the example you've posted here.  The look of HDR photography has become homogenous, reeking of a certain mass-produced, unpersonal approach.  It seems about as original as applying your average Instagram filter at this point.

So the question is, what was it about the original scene that caught your eye and made you want to get a photo of it in the first place?  If the HDR iteration of that photo best captures that for you, then fine.  But if the HDR example is really just an attempt to figure out what will catch other peoples' eyes and get them to pay you for a copy to hang on their walls, then it's really not the kind of artistry that Van Gogh was engaging in at all.
The left images is more realistic and more suited for mounting/framing. The human eye is vastly superior in part due to the concave retina that, by design, eliminates depth of field issues and many other limitations of a flat plane camera sensors.
Nice picture. It displays a b'ful scenery.
the left picture is angled so you can see more of the island 0.o
the one on the left
they r different pics - one is a little more sideways than the other. But i thnk i like the 1st one better - though it is not very realistic
Which is more accessible to amateur shutterbugs? i don't have the "darkroom" computing power or software BUT i have an eye for composition, framing and context. unfortunately, it seems many new shutterbugs rely too heavily on the former, and compensate for the lack of the latter.

Add a monochrome version and you'll see its true "colors"--it could've been composed and framed better [AKA interesting] BEFORE pressing the shutter.
I like the second one better, in my opinion. The second one is too fake to be real.
Actually..the new gen of hd type of images we see are just very clear compared to what the naked eye sees.......our eyes do not see in hd.....although we can focus on an object in front of us and the rest doesn't "look blurry" because the brain registers diffrently than say the picture......a single frame from a camera will only focus on subject...over laying3 into 1 IS more like what our eyes and brains will register......ever notice how some people get a headache watching cause the brain is over working when it doesn't have to
IMO the bottom half of the picture is nice, the top half is overdone, overdramatic.  I find a lot of HDR pictures make everything look like candy - I don't really care for the effect unless it's done subtly.
Definitely HDR represents "true" color when its not overdone, IMHO.
I like the HDR one better. Is it more realistic? That's arguable, but I do think it's more aesthetically pleasing.
I don't like what the HDR did with the rocks in the foreground. Maybe this could be fixed by blending in the highest of the three exposures into the foreground with the HDR version. The rest of the photo looks great, though. It really saved the sky.
One of the special things about movies is they have that HDR look to them. Without that, they look like cheap soap operas. Sometimes, the HDR look can get lost with blu ray, which is one reason many people don't like blu ray.
You have a good hand, the way you take it, it with too many combination 
What a differenc for the first one, so that actualy show that HDR SYSTEM will make the photographers work will become more intersting.
I like the enhancement of the HDR but it can get surreal if pushed to far with wide f-stop bracketing. I have been trying to get a better control of the enhanced reality without the surrealism. Very hard to call in the field. Nice images, but I have to agree the HDR does stand up visually.
i think that bright and prety colors take the imagination out of the picture if they highlight its not always real hd its unreal fake beauty
In this case I like the picture on the left but toooo often I see HDR pictures that look completely unnatural as if they are from some SciFi-Fantasy comic.
If 3 combined images can make this, imagine what 1o or 20 or 30 could do. You know what? I'll find out when I get my hands on my camera next time.
HDR is in my opinion much more interesting and fun to look at, every time you discover something new in the image. The original single shot looks boring and flat, definitely would print the HDR one!
+Brian Lofstedt more images won't help.  The idea is under expose some so that the bright areas still have detail, and over expose some so that the dark areas have detail, then blend them.  As long as you have enough shots to catch all the detail then more won't help.  For this shot, looks like 3 was perfect.  For a shot looking into the sun in a dark forest, you might need 4 or 5 shots.
When you do HDR with precise talent like you do it, HDR is more likely to be noticed and hung on a wall. Problem is not all HDR photographers do a great job at it.
Thanks for the post, very interesting. 
M Smith
When there was a canopy about the earth, (per NG documentry on Noah account) then your yellow lights was filter by tht water; thts why colors are so vivid in underwater scuba diving...
I think a well done HDR is closer to reality than any single exposure picture. HDR is often see as unrealistic, because of us being used to the pictures we have to come to know over the past 100+ years, with its various degrees of approximation of reality. Our eye and brain, is constantly adjusting the image we perceive and we only ever just see a very small part of a picture in focus. Essentially a picture has to imitate this. Traditional pictures got the focus part right, HDR does the  colour/contrast/saturation/intensity etc part of the picture. So the whole HDR processed picture shows what we normally only perceive in a small windows. Probably a reason why it may look a litle unrealistic at time....
Without a doubt the HDR version will grab the viewers attention much faster. My preference would be somewhere in the middle of these two. I find myself noticing what I don't like about the HDR one  rather than just enjoying it.
to me, this HDR is a little bit too much,  I like realistic HDR, probably these that are not quite noticeable, using HDR to bring out reality, you posted many realistic HDR earlier, i love these,  still trying to learn how did you do it....
I am so happy that you have finally produced images that are at the low end of the pretentious scale. Not that I meant to insult your child shots. They are not pretentious; only your portrayal.
a middle ground between the two versions?!!
choose the real one. it seems more natural (cause it is indeed natural) lol
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