Making Best Use Of HDR

Tom Till is a master of Southwest landscapes. Recently, he’s been using HDR software to overcome some of the challenges of these high-contrast scenes without generating the bizarre-looking, hyperreal effect that’s objectionable to many nature shooters
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Shooting the Southwest with film was difficult. I learned early in my career that when I traveled on the Colorado River through the majestic Grand Canyon, the magic sunset light was a vertical mile above me. With that sort of terrain, contrast was a constant problem and challenge. I was an early adopter of graduated neutral-density filters to tame the huge discrepancies between mesa-top sunlight and the dark shadows of the canyon depths.

I still carry a grad ND, but since my switch to DSLRs, I’ve become a fan of High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. Perhaps no place in the world is a greater laboratory for experimenting and perfecting this new photographic tool than the American Southwest. Also, using HDR is offering me opportunities to shoot subjects I’ve brooded over since I first began my photographic odyssey.

For example, I’ve despaired at trying to photograph one of the world’s largest natural bridges, a short drive and walk from where I live. It can be photographed under cloud cover, but even with digital photography, the rich, reflected colors are muted and the skies are always an ugly white. Attempts to solve these problems with Lightroom controls fail.

For the first time, the subject can be shot in a way that captures most of its inherent magic. With HDR, the seven-stop difference between the continually shadowy alcove where the arch resides and the azure-blue western skies above it can be portrayed together. Also, by using the HDR controls conservatively, I can produce an image that looks natural and more closely resembles the way my eye sees the scene.

Some photographers have a built-in bias against HDR that I don’t understand. Without dredging up the old saws about Adams manipulating his images or Porter’s finely controlled dye-transfer prints, I think the argument can be made that HDR is a new frontier that isn’t inherently evil.

What’s my basic HDR philosophy? I want two things from the process: control of contrast and increased detail. I usually don’t want fake-looking images that announce to the world that HDR was used. I have nothing against the “maximum” use of HDR in other people’s work, and I have some clients who like the look of total HDR, but for magazine clients like Arizona Highways or Backpacker, or anyone looking for a straight, natural-looking photograph, I play it conservatively.

A recent book about Moab, Utah, my hometown, was done completely in low-smoothing, in-your-face HDR. The subjects were shot mostly outdoors and they weren’t landscapes and nature, but old cars and tourist kitsch. For this sort of thing, I think over-the-top HDR is perfect, although I think over time this look will wear out its welcome.

The contrast control of HDR is here to stay. I love the freedom that comes with easily controlling the dynamic range with this tool. Previously, even with digital capture, I had to consider and solve contrast problems before anything else. Some images and compositions just weren’t doable before. Now I can lay fears of blown-out skies and black shadows aside and concentrate on what really matters: composition, light, color and my subject.

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For years, I’ve been trying to fight against the rule that says that landscape photography can only be done during magic hour. My hero Philip Hyde was also bothered by this notion and considered it cliché. With HDR, shooting outside the normal zones of best lighting becomes much more feasible and produces much better imagery.

Besides solving the problem of contrast in photographic images, HDR offers another important advantage to landscape photography: detail. Most landscape photographers are obsessed with detail. I carried a 4x5 camera all over the world just to get copious amounts of detail in my images. HDR gives me detail that approaches or surpasses the level of 4x5, both in what I see on the computer screen and what I see on the printed page and in my gallery prints.

In my recent workshops, I find many people seem to have their interest in landscape photography rejuvenated by playing (and some of it’s like playing) with HDR. Once they get past the sliders that look like graphic equalizers from ’70s audio, they find that it’s pretty easy, and that learning about HDR can help them understand other aspects of digital photography better. Also, learning HDR is best done by doing, and this means shooting a lot of images as grist for your HDR mill. You’ll find yourself shooting more often just to have new images to work with—and the images will get better.

This feature alone is enough to consider using the process for images that aren’t HDR candidates due to their dynamic range. Any image with a normal histogram can become more detailed by using the process. This was a revelation to me, and I began to at least shoot brackets for possible HDR use in almost all my work.

HDR images may even more accurately reflect reality than a normal image, at least the reality we see with our eyes. Over decades, everyone has seen thousands, perhaps even millions, of images in still and motion-picture photography. We expect a dynamic range that doesn’t match our eyes to be normal in a photo. Now, when we see a more dynamic light range in an image, it may seem alien or strange. For some of my publishing clients, this “strangeness” is enough to make them take notice of images they might have passed by. They know there’s something different about the picture, but they can’t always put their finger on it.

Part of the fun of film photography, especially 4x5, was getting the box back from the lab and looking at my work. Sometimes, when things worked just right, I gasped when I saw some of those Fujichrome Velvia images that luck had given me. The same emotion is repeated for me now when I see the HDR image revealed in all its glory. When it works right, it can be exciting and somewhat addictive.

I think the Southwest is the best place in the world to shoot. We have the best light, the best subjects, interesting weather and huge areas whose photographic potential is yet to be realized. HDR is a great tool for these magnificent places and scenes, and provides 21st century photographers with new ways to portray America’s great deserts, canyons and mountains.

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Tom Till’s HDR Workflow

Because I use Photomatix, this sidebar is about my workflow with that program. Recently, a number of other HDR products have come out, but I haven’t tried all of them. On the other hand, I’m very comfortable with Photomatix because I’ve been using it for quite some time.

After loading all my images into Lightroom 3, I start by picking image sets (2, 3, 5 or 7); with higher-contrast scenes, I use more images. I’ve found that high-contrast scenes are more likely to produce images with “artifacts,” areas of strange color or patterns. Sometimes, though, it’s not intuitive. I’ve had better luck just using two images to get a more natural-looking image without all the funny stuff.

The next steps are to export the selected images into a folder and to use the Browse function to select the images for processing. What about image preprocessing? If you’ve entered your lenses into Lightroom 3’s chromatic aberration abatement program, that part is done for you. Since almost all my images going into Photomatix are shot at ISO 100, there’s no need to worry about noise now.

I select my images and press OK. I choose Reduce Chromatic Aberrations, Attempt to Reduce Ghosting Artifacts (usually moving objects), use the recommended color profile and strike Generate HDR. Some HDR experts suggest using noise abatement here, while others suggest to wait until the end and use the new Lightroom/Photoshop system or a Photoshop plug-in. I can’t really see the difference.

Soon a very contrasty image will appear on your screen, mainly because tone mapping is needed to make the dynamic range of your candidate photo suitable for your monitor. By clicking on tone mapping, in a few seconds a (usually) much more suitable photograph appears if your tone-mapping settings are in the default positions I suggest below.

What should these be to produce the most natural-looking image? The more images you shoot, the better you’ll get at managing the tone-mapping controls. To begin with, remember that always leaving the Smoothing control on maximum produces the most realistic image without the Twilight Zone look HDR has been criticized for. I leave the setting there and rarely ever change it.

Next, be careful to watch the HDR histogram, and use the white, black and gamma controls to keep it in bounds. This is the place where your HDR monster gets tamed down to a more normal-range scene.

For my other major controls, I leave Strength at 100, and Microcontrast, which is just a contrast control, at maximum.

Color saturation and luminosity should be accessed for each image. This control works pretty much like the Photoshop/Lightroom versions, except that 50 in Photomatix is akin to 0 here. In an attempt to mimic the colors of Velvia, I usually have my color-saturation setting in the 60-70 range. Luminosity is an overall brightness control, so again, watch the histogram when changing this.

My standard settings on the other controls are Color Temperature, 0; Highlights and Shadows Saturation, 0; all the other smoothness controls are at midrange, and shadow clipping is at 0.

If I notice little gremlins in my image at this point (it usually only happens in deep shadows), I’ll play with a combination of shadow smoothness and clipping to try to eliminate them, and if this doesn’t work, Photoshop cloning or other tools might be needed.

I press Process, and if things look good, I await my image. Nine times out of 10, the image pops out perfectly, and I import it back into Lightroom for cleaning, further noise reduction or other postprocessing needs.

HDR Tips For Southwest Landscape Photography

1 If there’s any movement in your image (usually foliage or clouds), the bracketed photos must be shot very quickly.

2 Images with a large dynamic range may require seven brackets to work well in Photomatix.

3 Even if you’re not doing HDR now, it doesn’t hurt to shoot brackets for use later on should you decide to pursue the craft. Remember, to learn, you’ll need lots of images to practice with.

4 Shadows sometimes are good things. They help turn a two-dimensional scene into an approximation of a three-dimensional one. Some images won’t benefit from HDR, and in some cases, may lose some of their punch.

5 Always shoot at the lowest ISO possible to avoid noise, an artifact of the HDR process.

6 Southwestern scenes that have been shot countless times can take on a new life in HDR. I can think of dozens of great scenes in the region where shadows were a major problem for film, but now they can be shot without worries about excess dynamic range.

7 Water, a favorite subject in the desert because of its rarity, and especially moving water, can look great in HDR. It’s hard to predict exactly how it will look, but most times I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results.

8 After a while, you’ll have a set of control settings that get you what you’re after. Like photography itself, though, there are always surprises, and some images will require a lot of experimenting and postprocessing work in Lightroom or Photoshop.

9 Photoshop CS5 has a lot of great new features, but in a quick trial run with the HDR program, I found it wanting. The promised magic bullet for moving objects wasn’t effective, and I miss all the controls of tone mapping and the details enhancement of Photomatix.

10 Here’s a technique I’ve seen no one else suggest: Use grad filters with HDR to get a full 10 or more stops of dynamic range. It works well. Also, try scanning old film brackets to create an HDR image from them. I’ve had mixed results so far, but I intend to keep experimenting with the idea.

HDR Software Programs
For a long time, there were only a few options available for photographers who wanted to experiment with HDR. In the past year, several new players have entered the market. In addition to Photomatix, which Tom Till has been using, here are several others that you’ll find useful.

Ever Imaging
’s HDR Darkroom ( functions as RAW converter software, as well as an HDR program with support of 16-bit TIFF files and multiple compressed or RAW files. Three different tone-mapping engines are provided for achieving realistic images. The Local Tone Balancer keeps tones in an image equalized while enhancing detail in shadows and highlights. The Local Tone Enhancer can handle files up to 50 megabytes. List Price: $99.Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro ( is the newest addition to the HDR arena. It’s available as a 32- or 64-bit plug-in for Photoshop CS3-CS5, Lightroom 2.3 or later and Aperture 2.1 or later. HDR Efex Pro continues Nik Software’s legacy of making software that’s simple and intuitive to use. The program uses the company’s U Point technology for fine control, and six preset categories contain a wide variety of customizable effects. List Price: $159.

Photoshop ( has had HDR since CS2 and the capability continues to evolve into the HDR Pro mode. There are extended Local Adaptation controls for 16- or 8-bit images. Tone adjustments are included for control over highlights, shadows and midtones, while the Detail slider allows you to adjust sharpness. The Color and Curve dialog box includes Vibrance, Saturation and Tonal Curve adjustments for color intensity. You can save custom presets, and there are templates for a variety of effects. List Price: $699 (Adobe Photoshop CS5).

HDR Expose from Unified Color Technologies ( includes 32-bit support of its adjustment tools and works with a Beyond RGB color space for utilizing the 32-bit floating point data. The Dynamic Range Mapping tool provides single-click optimization, and there’s full manual control over the mapping process with adjustment over the dynamic range, brightness, highlight power, shadow power, colors, saturation and noise levels. The program is powerful and relatively easy to use. List Price: $149.


    Well, I’ve been quite a fan of OP for some time now, after all, it’s the magazine that published the texts of Galen Rowell and other great nature photographers.
    But after reading this “article” I have a feeling that it’s April the 1st today. Is this some kind of bad joke?
    What raw 4×5 resolution and details has to do with HDR? What natural look are you talking about? The photos that illustrates the so called article look like Cartoon Network is working for OP now.
    It would be great if these “looks like an article” ads for selling HDR software could be at least a bit more accurate with the facts and at least try to avoid the “bizarre looking” effect the aim to sort out.

    I’m not really impressed with this article–most of the photos look completely unnatural and glaring, oversaturated…which is fine if you like the look, but it’s not the “natural, conservative” look the author describes. The articles on HDR and contrast linked as “related articles” are much better.

    I think HDR can be used conservatively to make natural-looking images, but the ones in this article are a poor example of that use.

    I have to agree with these guys. The images are over the top in color saturation, and we aren’t talking about the time cured version of getting our heads around Velvia when it first came out. Especially when stating some stuff about avoiding this exact effect!I’m disappointed, especially coming from a master of the art, and especially of the southwest……ly….

    Sorry Tom, love your past work, have a few of your books on my shelves…but this bit of work…yikes…

    While I’m certainly no fan of the oft-seen ‘over-the-top’ HDR, I certainly think that it does have a place in modern photography (and, I’m rather new to DSLR having shot 35mm slide film for many, many years).

    I still believe in using GND’s, and attempting to capture the best image while in the field. However, I’m also quite willing to experiment with HDR, to see what benefits it might bring to my photography.

    I appreciate Tom’s article. I’ve been experimenting with Oloneo for HDR.

    Jim Arner, Sr.

    Most of my landscapes have trees, grass and other things that move leading to multiple images when I try HDR. And I have to agree with the others about the samples shown, quite over the top on my calibrated monitor using Firefox which is colour aware.

    I agree with those who are not impressed by Tom’s work. Over-saturated and over-done. An unrealistic look and a big step down from Tom’s work. Perhaps he hasn’t adjusted to digital coming from large format (8×10?). Wake up Tom.

    Some of the images are a bit hot, granted, but dismissing the use of HDR because of a few examples is short sighted. I use it quite a bit and it expands the usable ranges of light by quite a bit. Since your first shot needs to be spot on, it gives you something to compare to. It is a very useful tool and can be used as sparingly as you want. HDR has been a wonderful tool for shooting this area around Moab.

    Wow, quite an effective advertisement for Photomatrix if you like the unnatural colors and the unnatural look of HDR gone too far. As thumbnails it is obvious that these images are HDR which doesn’t work for me. I am not anti HDR but I do think the only HDR that looks good is when it is not obvious at first glance which these images are. He starts out telling us not to generate the hyperreal effect then he does exactly that, at least keep me guessing??

    To all these critics that say some of these photos look too saturated, I’d say, go SPEND SOME REAL TIME-pre sunrise to after sunset in Southeastern Utah. The landscape is naturally over saturated. Tom’s photos are what you will see there. Invest the time…not just a couple of hours once in awhile.

    The one problem area I see in the images accompanying Tom’s article plague me as well: the unnaturally purple hue in the shadows. While current HDR software may mimic the range our eyes can see, more work in post is required to eliminate the unnatural color cast. In the real world, shadows tend to be blue as they are lightened by blue skies (clear days, of course). I tend to find MOST “natural” HDR images to be of the Velvia school, but still not real-to-the-eye natural. Of course, more post-processing could resolve that, as well. I think Tom’s article is pointed more towards the non-hyper saturated grunge look HDR we have been bombarded with. I agree with Tom when he says that look will eventually fade.

    I have to say I was somewhat disappointed with the (over) saturation these images show on the web, and that may partially be because of the color space and uncalibrated nature of my laptop. I don’t find them very natural, at all.

    I live in Moab and know Tom personally — his extensive body of work speaks for itself. I’m going to suggest these images (which to my eye are clearly over saturated and over HDR’d on my calibrated monitor) are the result of moving them to the web and are not representative of how Tom would print them.

    This is the best article on HDR to date from Outdoor Photographer magazine. I’ve read many general themed articles on HDR before, about its many benefits of helping to achive greater dynamic range, photographic trueness to the scene, etc. However, this article is very helpful by specifically explaining step by step how to use the popular HDR software called Photomatix, and exactly what settings to use. I am sure I’m not the only one to have previously bought this software, only to become frustrated and turned-off to HDR due to my inability to create natural looking images. Now, however, with these specific settings adjustments in Photomatix, I am [finally] able to acheive natural looking HDR images, which has always been my goal. Thanks for the article, Tom Till!

    I think Tom Esper for his comments. I heartly agree. Understanding the controls will enable me to use the Photomatix program more effectively. I worked with a photographer who’d been to Arizona, and in certain light, the colors are hyper orange. Late afternoon will give you that warmer light. The author did say he used Velvia in the past; if this is what Velvia gives you and you like it, you create your images to duplicate the effect. Take what you can use, and make it YOUR best. Now that I have this information, I will pull out the stored bracketed images and play around in Photomatix.

    The Southwest is the best place for photography? Biased nonsense.

    Scotland for example has 8,000 years of human history & culture immersed in a stuning landscape blessed by surreal light, especially in winter. Of course it also has four seasons, unlike the southwest and is scattered by numerous world class monuments, castles & natural features found no where else.

    No doubt readers from other countries will feel the same about their own patch. Perhaps the author might like to travel outside the southwest before declaring it the best?

    And his HDR photos are rubbish.


    I think the author did a fine job of processing the images and capturing the scene. I use 3 HDR programs and sometimes I want over the top, depends on the scene. What most of you long time stubborn photographers are complaining about sounds like you are still stuck in the film world. The ONLY reason we did not have images like these a hundred years ago is because they did not have HDR. Had they been around that long you would not I am sure be prejudiced toward the over the top images you so detest. Shame on you all. Millions of people around the globe love this HDR process. Do you think because you are a respected and admired photographer that you can speak for the whole human race?? Hold on to the old but embrace the new, it’s the future.

    Hopefully, as tom states he is experimenting and leaves it as that. The images do look strangely pixelated with residual halos. HDR has proven to be fine for amateurs and those might want to be print artists. But it is a process better left out of the professional photographers portfolio unless it’s intended for an article on HDR. It seems more like the software industry is just pushing this process down the throat of photographers. Students need to learn to take a good exposed image for the intended subject and contrast is part of the lesson whether is exposing for the highlights or the mid-range and shadows are an effective part of the process. Telling novices to head out into the field and take a bunch of exposures will make you a better photographer is misleading and will not get you that National Geographic assignment. I do feel that the editors of this article made a mistake in using some bad examples of HDR. If “Less is More” then less HDR is better.

    In my black and white landscape photos (70s)I use dodges and burns to produce balance lighting photos, no one complained. In 80s I use cokin split level filters to create sky and water balance lighting landscape photos, no one complained. In 21st century, I use computer with HDR software to create balance lighting landscape photos, a lot of you complained, why? Go back to library search photographic history, over hundred years ago, photographers already develop to use different film to take different part of scene then combine into one of a well lighting landscape photo. HDR idea was develop over hundred years ago! Not 21st century new idea!!!

    Agree Mark Chan…well said! The HDR technique is just like anything we’ve used over the years in photography to render the best image possible. Like any other post-processing software the operator is in control, not the software. Photomatix is easy to use and I’m in control of the final outcome. I certainly appreciate knowing Tom’s workflow and having his tips. I will definitely try the grad ND while bracketing. Agree that the web images are over saturated, but they’re not in the hard copy magazine that I’m reading.

    I’m looking at Tom’s images in the magazine and it does not look to me like the HDRs are very natural looking, and especially the images on page 44 and the bluebonnet field on page 45. The blues don’t look natural, the greens appear as lime green and I think there is a lack of anything black. I’m wondering if it’s the conversion from RGB to CMYK for the printing. I’m hopeful Tom will comment if the images appear as he wished or if something was “lost in translation”. If they appear as he wished, then they are what he likes about using HDR to create images.

    I was excited about this article when I read the cover story about natural looking HDR, but I was so disappointed when I read the article and saw the images that look like the typical over-processed cartoon-like images that have made me shy away from HDR in the first place.

    Of course I think HDR has it’s place, but the images in this article were an example of what not to do.

    I want to clarify. It isn’t that I don’t like Tom’s images, because I do. What I don’t like is the misleading text of the article that promises “natural looking HDR,” when the article delivers images that are anything but natural looking.

    The problem is that there are actually good examples of natural looking HDR, but since they don’t scream “HDR!” it is hard to get them to represent the article

    I’m curious about the folks complaining about the ‘saturated’ colors. How many of you live in and photograph the southwest? This is a land of extremes. The colors are saturated here in reality and it is hard to get decent pictures that show the breadth of the tonality of landscape without blowing out the sky. HDR was made for the southwest. I thought Tom did a great job of capturing what the eye sees.

    Hmmm.. I am really surprised about Tom’s Photomatix settings. I would NEVER use 100 strength (usually 25% tops) and my microcontrast is always at 0. Saturation almost never changes from 50 and 50 for luminosity. Everything else is usually at 0. Photomatix is NOT a final edit program. Think of it as simply a way to merge/tonemap your multiple exposures. The rest of the magic happens in post. Once you go too far in PM (as it seems with many of Tom’s images) you can’t undo it. You’ll just amplify PM’s downfalls (halos, over saturation, overflattened light etc…). My goal is to get a very flat (low contrast/non-oversaturated) “RAW” file from PM to process after.

    I am quite shocked at some of the language used to respond to Tom Till’s article. I’m sure he’s chuckling at them! With an ironic grin on his face, of course. For they really show what kind of persons you are. I agree with TerryS, although I’ve been in Canyon country only once a decade or more ago and shot with Velvia. Also, isn’t there a visible contrast difference between a thumbnail and an enlarged image? We should thank Tom for the trouble of doing all this testing, even if he were paid by Photomatrix, like some of you suggest. How can one not welcome input from other photographers, even if you don’t like their work!! You have nothing positive to say? Go and write for US political campaigners!

    I like Tom’s older photos before HDR. The photo of the Needles area in Canyonlands looks unreal and garishly over saturated as well. I have noticed this from recent images posted on facebook as well. I think HDR can be useful, but most of the HDR images I’ve seen are over done. With all due respect, Sam Camp….
    On facebook at Camp Photo Photograsphy or:

    Have any of you actually been to Tom’s Gallery in Moab and seen his work? It’s stunning. And many of you are missing his point entirely. The use of HDR opens new doors to controlling/manipulating the tonal range in very extreme locations and conditions. Go surreal, go natural, that’s your choice. Tom is very brave to reveal in such detail his current workflow complete with actual HDR settings. Bravo Tom Till. — Gary Orona

    I had my first chance to photograph in the Moab area this last fall. Being from Colorado, I am used to saturated natural colors, but the red rock areas of Utah are beyond anything I have seen. People feel I have raised the saturation on my photos of the area, but the truth is, most of them had the saturation reduced. The color intensity there is hard to believe if you have not seen it. I feel most of the criticism directed towards Tom’s HDR work is from people who have not actually seen the saturated light here. I think his work is really outstanding and I love the color.

    I have great respect for Tom’s earlier work, so I hate to say this, but Tom has no idea what he is doing with HDR. To those who say I just haven’t seen the colors in the Southwest, I will tell you that I have photographed extensively throughout the Southwest. The colors can be very vibrant but that is missing the point. Take the ruin shot in the article, for example. The skies are not neon blue like in this shot. The rocks are lacking detail due to over-processing, there’s a big halo beside the top of the rock, the rocks should not be as bright as the sky…you need to preserve some of the darkness in the foreground if you want a natural looking effect. The images here are not an exception…Tom’s Facebook page is full of bad HDRs. Please, Tom, give up HDR or tone it way down or hire someone else to process your images.

    Gary, yes, the photos in Tom’s gallery are stunning…that’s because it’s mostly his older 4×5 work…some of the images in his newest book, however, are garish HDR images. Joe, your comment “How can one not welcome input from other photographers” is valid but only in this sense: some of the critical comments are from very talented photographers and I’d hope that Tom would welcome the input. Better yet, go to and post photos in the critique galleries to get honest feedback from very talented photographers (not from Facebook fans). It might be humbling to hear critiques from photographers with lesser resumes, but since you’re still fairly new to digital, I guarantee it will help your images in the long run.

    You people really suck! Here Tom is merely trying to write a decent article to help people out and you dump all over him. For all you know some editor at the magazine jacked up the saturation on the files. I practically died when I read the Scottish dude Graham Harris asking Tom to travel outside of the Southwest because no photographer has traveled to more places in the world than Tom, including Scotland many times. Graham, go check his stock file before being a jerk, will you.

    Anyway, you’re all a bunch of pompous jack-offs. No photographer works harder than Tom and I’m shocked at the attitude of all you wannabes! Too bad most of you would never put your work out for others to look at because you’re obviously way too paranoid or are severely talent-challenged.

    I tend to agree with Terry. Of course the purple in the shadows is real – do you have any understanding of the physics of light in this sort of environment? It might be heightened beyond what you expect from a photograph, but this is an environment of very strong colours and if a processing technique can reveal what’s there to be seen, why the prejudice? Good grief, what a bunch of doilie-waving old grannies! It’s supposed to be fun, remember?

    I am a Photomatix user, when I was a new user, I could go over the top, all that commented before me they are correct. Perhaps, it could be a color space/profiling problem during the conversion to the web site or to our browsers. I prefer a more natural feel to landscape photography.

    While I feel that the example photos in HDR in this article are poor (Sorry Tom), the content is true.

    I have been mastering HDR for a while now. My goal is to bring out a photo that is more a kin to what your eye sees. Cameras today, even the most expensive are limited to what they can “see” at any given exposure. The eye however has a much broader range. When you take a normal photo with a camera, and then later look at it, your mind “fills in the blanks”. With HDR you are able to fill in those blanks for the folks who did NOT see it first hand. I am not a fan of the overdone, computer generated look. I prefer to use it as a light controller and keep my landscapes as true to the real scene as possible. Check out my site and my photos. While in the wrong hands HDR can easily offend, I think there is a place for it when used the right way.

    Adventure Photographer

    HDR has it’s place. But overly “hot” HDR has a very limited viewer audience that likes it done that way. Quite honestly, my iPhone 4 camera has a simple HDR feature and the results are much more pleasing and natural than the photo in the article…..


    I’d really hoped that comments left in Outdoor Photographer wouldn’t devolve into hate-fests like every other forum on the planet… oh well. I don’t personally know Tom but he’s earned his place as a master photographer. Period. If Tom wants to go heavy with his HDR, so be it. I much more respect a guy like Tom Till than let’s say, Peter Lik who goes to places like Mesa Arch and makes it sound like a monumental adventure… please. At least Tom is honest. All Tom was doing in his article was expressing the possibility of new worlds in tonal control as he’s evolved into it. All of this other bickering is just a bunch of uncontrolled ego. Good Thoughts – Gary Orona

    I don’t think we are seeing the photos as Tom intended them. I use a calibrated monitor as well, and agree these shots seem oversaturated, but I fear that may be a function of the web-based delivery.

    I love HDR, and if it’s not for you, fine, but to degrade it makes people sound like photography snobs. Reminds me of the negativity you hear from non-photographers who think you’re cheating by using photoshop. HDR can turn an ordinary photograph into a work of art.

    I’m also a big fan of airbrush artwork and this is what HDR reminds me of, airbrushing is very detailed, the images excite me, and to be able to be so creative with a photograph for me is very exciting. Photographs are okay, but I prefer works of art.

    I’ve been shooting HDR photos for quite awhile and find that non-HDR photography pretty much bores me in comparison.

    So it just depends on your own personal preferences and those of your customers. Since I’ve been doing photography I’ve been visiting a lot of photography websites and forums I’ve noticed quite a bit of snobbery. And that keeps me from wanting to interact.

    Lighten up people! It’s creativity, not rocket science!

    Unfortunately, I agree with the other comments here. These images do look garish and over processed. That said, I actually am a big fan of HDR and use it all the time, but only in certain images. I use Photomatix and the results are never this oversaturated – in fact, it’s nearly impossible to tell the images are HDR unless you know a LOT about exactly what tonal ranges are possible in a given scenario. I think Tom just likes the oversaturated look more than we all do – and hey, he has sold more books that I have!

    Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
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