Due to some technical difficulties with my PC (by difficulties I mean a fried motherboard among possibly other things), I will not be posting a tutorial today, rather proposing a question. Is an HDR image a legitimate form of photography or is it a digital art form?
I ask this question due to an internal struggle I am facing with HDR. I love it, don’t get me wrong, I will more than likely do it for the rest of my life as I have an inexplicable love for the process. However, I get the same reaction from my photographs all the time from the typical non-photographer viewer, “That looks like a painting..”, “That does not look real at all, where was that…” “Why does this look over processed?” Those who follow EverydayHDR know that I try to keep my HDR images looking as close to reality as possible without going over the edge because I want my HDR’s to look as close to the scene as I saw it. When I get these reactions I get kind of flustered and sometimes depending on my mood respond “No that is not a painting, it is the truest form of photography”, “Of course it looks real, you take a picture of that place and you will be distraught by your poor representation of it” and “No it is not over processed, I put the saturation slider below 75!!”
Why am I so bothered by this question? Is it a digital art form, or a legitimate form of photography? I constantly ask myself that question while I am on my way home from work. I have a 35 minute commute, while it is not that far, 35 minutes every afternoon asking myself the same question trying to attack it from different angles gets extremely nerve racking over the course of the last 8 months. My initiail response is, of course it is photography. But then I think about a photo and the impossibility of capturing an HDR image with a single exposure and no tone mapping. If you think about it in that respect it is not a legitimate form of photography, more like a digital art form that relies solely on a computer and computer software to make it.
Then I think about Ansel Adams who spent so many hours in a dark room dodging an burning multiple exposures to achieve an HDR photo many years ahead of his time. When I justify Photomatix and Photoshop as my digital dark room I start to see the HDR process as a legitimate form of photography. I am doing what Ansel did many years ago, just in a simpler more convenient way.
Do you see my struggle, either way I look at HDR as a legitimate photograph or as a digital art form ,I still love it I just want to be able to categorize it appropriately. It is clearly the way of the future of photography, so does it matter whether it is a legit photo or another form of digital art? Think about it.