How Far is Too Far with HDR?

High dynamic range processing opens up many possibilities for digital image enhancement. The question is “how far is too far with HDR” processing? Since I’m new to HDR I thought I’d present one image taken last weekend and processed three different ways in Photomatix and ask my readers which they prefer.

The first image was processed to look as realistic as possible in both Photomatix and Lightroom. I decreased the white balance temperature and overall saturation to remove any warmth from the final image. My goal was to present as much detail in the rocks as possible, even in the shadow areas.

Realistic

Remains of the Stone Brewery (Realistic)
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shots taken with a Canon 40D tripod mounted, 17-40mm f/4 L at 33mm, f/13 at ISO 200 on SanDisk digital film. Click on the image above for a larger version.

The second image was processed to look somewhat less realistic but still within the realm of possibility. I wanted this image to portray the warmth of the late afternoon sun hitting the remains of the old stone brewery.

Surreal

Remains of the Stone Brewery (Surreal)
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shots taken with a Canon 40D tripod mounted, 17-40mm f/4 L at 33mm, f/13 at ISO 200 on SanDisk digital film. Click on the image above for a larger version.

The third image is a complete fantasy. I wanted this image to look like a scene from some science-fiction or fantasy movie. To achive this effect I increased the overall saturation and luminosity in Photomatix and decreased the Clarity in Lightroom. This created an interesting glow in the areas hit by direct sunlight.

Fantasy

Remains of the Stone Brewery (Fantasy)
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shots taken with a Canon 40D tripod mounted, 17-40mm f/4 L at 33mm, f/13 at ISO 200 on SanDisk digital film. Click on the image above for a larger version.

So, the question is which version do you like best and how far is too far with HDR?

7 thoughts on “How Far is Too Far with HDR?

  1. Pingback: Going All the Way with HDR « Serious Amateur Photography

  2. Hey Louis,

    Thanks for the feedback. Being an old fart, I’m still on the fence on this topic. I really like the detail in the shadows that HDR processing allows but the halos and funky colors really aren’t my personal preference.

    Jeff

  3. Johno,

    Thanks for the insight. I think I’ll see what other subjects look like with these three “presets”.

    Jeff

  4. I think it depends on subject too. Metallic surfaces enable you ‘try’ what you have listed as surreal and fantasy, and in 99% of cases they work.

    For your experiment above, I would select Realistic, but I’m sure if the subject was something reflective, such as metal, or even a wet beach, I’d be leaning more towards the surreal and fantasy look

    regards
    Johno

  5. Glen,

    Thanks for reading and for the comments. I’m still very new to HDR and it’s nice to get others thoughts on processing. The detail brought forth by this technique is incredible.

    Jeff

  6. Too far is in the eye of the viewer. I like both minimal as well as over the top. The photographer should post process as they see fit unless you are in a competition. The judges will then be the decider. I say let the photographer/artist be the final judge.

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