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Check out my article on "reasonable" HDR images.
 
CREATING REASONABLE HDR IMAGES

What do I mean by reasonable HDR (high dynamic range) images? Well, many photographers think HDR is a license to eliminate all available shadows (contrast) in a combined image, rendering an otherwordly-looking subject that in no way resembles anything a human eye sees as normal. To me this is quite faddish, somewhat akin to all those tilted wedding photos you see nowadays. In a few years, extremely low-contrast HDR images will be marked as youthful digital exuberance and no one or his grandmother will be caught dead shooting such weird images.

Here is a sample of an HDR image that has just enough HDR tone mapping to provide shadow detail, without blowing away any resemblance to reality (top image).

Maybe I'm just a stick in the mud, but I don't understand the urge to blow away reality when shooting HDR images, unless a person is trying to deliberately create some form of fine art. Since fine art's beauty is in the eye of the beholder, almost anything goes. However, for real reality in HDR imagery, why not be a bit more reasonable. Here is an example of what it takes to create a five-shot HDR image, from another cabin in the Smokies (bottom image).

To create beauty-in-nature HDR images one will need to shoot from a tripod and know how to execute bracketing on their DSLR camera. Once the images are shot with a spread of exposures, as shown in figure 2, then it is time to combine the images in Photoshop, or in my favorite HDR software, Photomatix Pro by HDRsoft.

When you get the urge to create a beautiful HDR image, just hold yourself back from mapping out all shadow detail. Nothing, except scenes illuminated by nuclear explosions, have no shadow detail. For natural looking, extremely excellent HDR images, hold yourself back from mapping out all shadows, leaving in enough dark detail to make the human eye accept the image. Your image viewers will appreciate it!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
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