High Dynamic Range photography is a revolutionary tool in the photographer's toolkit, but it can be overdone and done poorly. Take more realistic photos with these tips.
For the unfamiliar, HDR photography is where you take a series of exposures of a given scene and use software to combine them together. When used properly an HDR photo creates a more dynamic image which displays the scene more closely to the way the human eye sees it — richer detail in the shadows and less loss of detail in the bright areas. It can be very easily overdone however. The images below show HDR done in an unrealistic fashion:
Photo by mescon.
Photo by extranoise.
Note that we're not judging the quality of the photos, both are interesting and well composed. Neither one looks realistic though and the HDR-processing is obvious. If you're going for that surrealistic look that's fine, but most people want to use HDR to create better images while maintaining a more natural look.
Flickr user Leviathor has put together a simple guide to using HDR to enhance photos without turning them into unrealistic and plastic-looking images. The goal, as he outlines it, is to enhance the image to be closer to the way the eye sees the scene in real life and not to increase the tonal range of the image beyond that which the eye would normally perceive. Check out his tutorial at the link below to see how to merge exposures in Photoshop to increase detail without making your photo look like computer-rendered version of itself.
Have a favourite technique or tool for creating realistic HDR photography? Let's hear about it in the comments.