HDR: Overused or Not Used Correctly?

by Christopher Foltz

HDR: High Dynamic Range, the process of taking several exposures (-1ev, O, +1ev) of the same shot and merging them to be able to get the full range of light in a scene. This is done usually by taking a bracket shot of 3, 5, or 7 shots but any combination would work.

Here is the thing, I feel it is way too overdone and overused. I hate the people that take a great scene and make it look like a painting instead of a photograph. The reason HDR was created was to make a picture more real life, not fake. There are those who do it as what I would call right and it turns out so wonderfully. So I figured I would give it a try, and have come up with two different scenes using HDR. This is a bit harder for myself because I have to manually set my camera because the D3000 does not have auto bracketing so there is a larger chance of me moving the tripod during the shots, luckily auto-align works well. I used Photoshop for my HDR.

First is a scene from the other night while I was waiting for the Metra at the Lasalle Street Station. I noticed from my shots it was quite dark and if I used a longer exposure it would blow out some highlights pretty bad so that is what make me start to think, can I do this HDR without making the scene look to fake. Here is that attempt:


Not bad for my first attempt I think. I think I should have done five exposures instead of three but hey this was spur of the moment. So last night I decided I would try one of my normal cityscape shots in HDR. I was downtown and decided to take a scene looking south down the Chicago River at the fork by the Chicago Sun-Times building. A beautiful view, the Willis Tower shining its Bears colors for the game on Sunday. Go Packers!!! (I don’t really care since i am a Lions fan, but would rather stop hearing about Da Bears at work.) Here is that composite:

Lit Up For Da Bears

Once again trying to keep the HDR subtle to enhance the scene but not alter it. What do you think?

What are your thoughts on HDR? I know all photographers argue this point and I thought I would give my two cents. Hope everyone has a great weekend!