Are you an HDR Photography Hypocrite?

It happens all the time.  The conversation goes something like this:

Fellow Photographer:  So you Like HDR Photography, Blake?
Me:  why yes I do, I am an addict.
Fellow Photographer:  I don’t like HDR, it looks horrible.
Me:  Why do you say that?
Fellow Photog:  Well the tone mapped look from Photomatix is just too detailed and can make things look grungy and nasty.
Me:  SLAP Forehead!

The problem with this discussion or any discussion like this is when a fellow photographer compares HDR to tone mapping.  Certainly Tone Mapping is a way to achieve an image with heightened dynamic range.  However, there are hundreds of ways to increase the dynamic range without tone mapping in HDR Photography.  Here are just a few examples.

  1. The Zone Systems
  2. Using the Highlight and Shadow adjustments in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw
  3. Using tone curves in Ps
  4. Using the Adjustment brushes in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw
  5. Exposure Blending
  6. Luminosity Masking

All of these ways are valid forms of HDR Photography.  The problem is people have associated the term ‘HDR’ with Tone Mapping alone.  HDR in its simplest for means High Dynamic Range.  A Heightened dynamic range in your image refers to a higher contrast or ratio between the lightest and darkest areas in your photo.  Therefore, anyone who uses the Shadows or Highlights adjustments in Lightroom or ACR and claims they despise HDR Photography is clearly a hypocrite.

I do realize that is a pretty cut and dry statement and many may find it offensive.  However, the intent is not to offend, it is to educate!  There is a puddle of misinformation out there about HDR Photography and it is imperative we clean it up before it turns into a tripping hazard or more importantly a creative stumbling block.

HDR Photography Example of HDR vs Tone Map

In this tutorial I will explain the difference between Heightened Dynamic Range techniques and Tone Mapping.


Like the style of this tutorial?  You will LOVE HDR Insider!  Full-Length HDR Workflows, Critiques & More!

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Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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