HDR IS DEAD – LONG LIVE HDR!
I need to explain. I have been somewhat obsessed with “natural HDR” imagery”. Lightroom CC does this fantastically well.
I am over that now.
HDR is a technique that you can use to capture a broader dynamic range within a scene. The best example I can offer, and what it is obviously very important to me, is photographing building interiors. Interior photography presents one massive challenge. Well more than one, but one that is particularly relevant here.
(Not Windows 10). Actual windows with glass in them.
When photographing a building interior, I want the windows, and the content of them, to be visible. You want the light to be balance between inside and out. You have to be careful with this, as you want the scene to appear natural.
If you just take a single image, using your cameras metering, the windows will be overexposed and blown out. Just a fact of camera metering. Cameras are not as good as our eyes.
So we need to do a bit more, but make sure the scene looks natural. I never fully balance the two, as the eye expects the window to be brighter, certainly on a sunny day. So I like to leave a bit of overexposure in the window to make sure the scene looks natural.
It is important to remember one thing – the human eye is instinctively attracted to the brightest thing in am image, so when doing interior photography I don’t necessarily want the window to be the star of the show!
Photographing building interiors is made a lot easier by using auto-bracketing and Adobe Lightroom CC HDR Merge feature. I use it all the time on my interior photography. And you can extend that to layering in Photoshop, extending the principle and producing broader bracketed sets and using the layers to open up the shadows and introduce the highlights. But that is another subject.
As for photographing the exterior of buildings, is HDR necessary? Not really, but it can give a distinctive look, which is what I am after.
That leaves my other work.
And what got my thinking about this, and realising that I needed to rethink.
I photographed some bright, vibrant, yellow fields last week. Lots of them – I missed out on them last summer so this year I am making a point of getting them while I can.
And I love the results.
So I just processed a bracketed set using my favourite HDR Merge feature, and the image looked no different from the original, correctly exposed, single image. I tried this again with another shot, then another.
And then deleted the bracketed sets leaving just the single correct images that I want.
So I am back to where I should be. Not a problem as this is learning. HDR photography is fantastic, but not all the time. Sometimes it is at best not required – at worst it can make something that looks good look messy.
And it does clog up your hard drive.
HDR Merge can be slick. You can auto-stack by capture time which is a brilliant feature, collapse all the stacks at once. This gets you quickly to the point of having a set of images to view. But it takes time. As slick as this feature is, I have a slicker process.
Only use HDR when the scene demands it. I have experimented enough now that I am not going to use this as my default process.
Having deleted the bracketed images from the set of procures of yellow fields in Dorset and Hampshire. I enjoyed editing in Lightroom only. A matter of minutes produce d the image on this post. That’s all. If I had put the HDR version next to it, you would not have been able to tell which was which.
Anyway I have an interior shoot today so will be bracketing all the way!!
Thanks for reading this post, a bit of a rant really.
HDR is not wrong – it just needs to be used where required.
I am in interior photographer in Dorset specialising in auto-bracketing images of building interiors!
I have an interior photography page which you can view at
One last point – how ever did a photograph of a yellow field end up being about interior photography??