Natural hdr images

hand blending vs hdr example

One of the drawbacks of using bracketed exposures is the tendancy for people to over-process to a point where their pictures will melt eyeballs. When I started out I was happy to crank the sliders as far as they'd go thinking more colour was more better. Nowadays I prefer an image that is balanced in terms of contrast and colour.

Luckily I always hang on to my original raw images. As my tastes change over time (and as they will continue to change) I'm able to revisit my previous photos and process them in new ways. I strongly believe that an artist's style is very dynamic and always changing. Keeping track of your original images allows for experimentation and reflection.

A couple years ago I relied on HDR Software (Photomatix mainly) to do ninety percent of my post-processing. I was impressed that my pictures glowed with the brightness of fifty suns or that I could make a normal summer's day look like the apocalypse.  In a lot of cases I would judge a picture simply by how bright it was instead of looking at the content.

Recently I've been using Photoshop more. I'll drop each exposure into a layer and use masks to conceal and reveal shadows and highlights. Once I'm happy with the way the layers work together I'll continue processing. I like this approach since it sustains the realism of a scene while allowing for some artistic interpretation.


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