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High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a term that's thrown around pretty loosely now through the Internet among photographers, but few actually know what it is. The truth is, there isn't much knew about the concept, it's just with digital photography progressing and software engineers developing new tools along with hardware to handle them, the option to create HDR pieces is easier than ever.
HDR, in a nutshell, is exposing the same frame at different exposures and then layering them together to take the best parts of all frames and put it into one single image. It allows photographers to show highlights and shadows together in a frame in a way they've never before been able to. Here are 7 reasons HDR is not a fad and will be here to stay.
1. HDR is an awesome tool. Most have only seen HDR photos that are overly done though with an end result that looks more like a painting. There is nothing wrong with HDR!
2. HDR is often misunderstood. Not every photo should have an HDR treatment done, and while it's possible to create the effect from one RAW file, done properly you should be bracket shooting your exposures. HDR is not a fix-all, end-all for poor photography.
3. We're just now starting to see the true potential of HDR. Remember folks, this layering thing is kind of new in the 120+ year old art of photography. It's going to take a while to get it right.
4. HDR allows scenes to be photographed that were simply impossible before – that in itself is amazing! Picture yourself standing in a large room with one window. Most landscape shots, to some extent, create some sort of problem for exposures. Photographers have battled to meter for the sky or the ground, and compensated one or the other with creative filters on the end of their lenses. Take a sunset at a beach for example when the sky is fire red, the ocean is dark blue and the sun's reflection off the water is almost pure white. There is no best way to meter for that, but with HDR you'd be able to expose properly for the sky, foreground, water, etc. etc.
5. HDR on it's own is an art form. Trey Ratcliff, known best by his site stuckincustoms.com, has amassed one of the best art travel photography blogs on the Internet, has more then 21 million views on Flickr and had the first HDR photo hung in the Smithsonian. His technique is above and beyond the sunset photo above, his work is unique and has a very loyal following. This form of art, over-the-top conversions, continues to grow too.
6. Software manufactures are embracing the technology. Adobe started to build tools into Photoshop starting with CS2 and continues to improve them with the current version, CS5. Clearly they've seen the request from users and deem it worthy to implement. Likewise, other smaller software companies continue to develop plug-ins for Photoshop and stand alone applications for HDR.
7. It's only a matter of time before in-camera HDR technology is with us. Processors are getting faster, smaller and run cooler, so the thought of in-camera HDR based on a series of bracked photos shouldn't be far off.
If you haven't tried HDR, we urge you to. Yes, it's trendy right now and some are saying it's only a fad, but done right, or even wrong, the results can help further your photography experience. Too few people understand what bracket shooting even means anymore (shooting multiple frames at different exposures of the same subject) since post-processing allows us to fake it so easily. By bracketing to build the 6-12 shots for an HDR photo, you should hopefully get a better grasp on metering and exposures too!