Your phone and your camera may both have a setting for HDR. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Some of your friends may have told you about how cool it is and the magic it can perform. They are half right and all wrong.
So…you may have noticed by now that I am no technical expert. This is Don Hurzeler writing these blogs and I like to think of myself as an accomplished photographer…but never ever a technical expert when it comes to photography. CJ Kale is our resident technical expert…and he truly is an expert. And my friends who are technical experts have probably read my previous blogs and just shook their heads at how I have stated some things I feel are true, but may be a bit off technically. I encourage their input and feedback to help me get it right. So…what I am about to say about HDR is not very technical and it is just my opinion…and not necessarily the absolute truth as seen by others. HDR has fanatic followers…with me not being one of them.
To make it simple…maybe too simple…here is how HDR works. You set your HDR setting to take perhaps three photos. You put your camera on a tripod and hit the button to take the photo. The camera takes three photos in rapid succession. The first will be on the exact setting that you feel might be just right for that scene. The second photo will be underexposed by one setting. The third will be overexposed by one setting. The camera then merges all of those photos into one editable image.
Here is what is cool and magical about that HDR photo…without it you might not be able to see the part of the photo that is in shadows…without it you might have the sky overexposed. But, when you merge them altogether and edit that photo…you can see what is in the shadows and the sky will be the sky that was underexposed…making everything across the photo just right. Sound good…well it can be good and it can look like magic.
What it does not look like is reality. When you have the face of a flower facing you with the sun setting behind it…and the face of the flower is as bright as if the sun were in front of it…it may look cool, but it will not look real. Many will make a case that they can use HDR appropriately and get good and realistic photos from it. I agree. However, I have also seen some of the best photographers in the world…people I highly respect…lose track of reality and start producing clownish looking photos that do not look real and eventually do not look good.
Personal opinion…and I truly respect and understand those who do not share my opinion…HDR is for those who do not know how to take a proper photo and edit it appropriately. Are there exceptions…sure. However, my advice is to just leave it alone. Learn to use your camera and do not rely on tricks…even pretty cool ones like HDR.