A recent Washington Post article raised the question of whether HDR (high-dynamic-range) photography is overstepping its boundaries in the public eye. HDR photography combines multiple exposure levels in one image so that enhanced color, texture, and brightness is distributed evenly throughout the image. As this kind of processing becomes more accessible to professionals and amateurs alike, a growing debate is taking place over whether this manipulation of natural appearances is acceptable.
While this sort of enhancement sounds like a no-brainer for image quality improvement, some feel that it is visually deceptive. Normally a scene is properly exposed for the subject, and other details appear darker or lighter in comparison. HDR blends exposures for various details of a scene so that they all appear bright and colorful. The issue is that these images sometimes appear surreal, as they could not have been produced without the aid of in-camera or software enhancements.
Kalon’s own Gio Yepez calls HDR “the Auto-Tune of photography,” and feels that the effects produced can be easy to exaggerate. Having utilized HDR in his own photography, Gio points out that certain aspects of a scene can appear completely surreal, and that such enhancements can harm the coherence of an image if overdone. He believes that there is a fine line between bringing out the appearance of reality and creating fantasy.
HDR capabilities are available in many current cell phones and digital cameras, and can help photographers of all skill level create images that stand out. Bringing out the little details and drawing more attention to them is one helpful technical aspect, according to Kalon photographer Alex Arriaza. It is simple enough that he feels confident he could teach most people how to do it.
The dilemma of reality versus manipulation is one that we see often regarding editing of models to make them appear thinner, smoother, or more vibrant than they do in person. Now the editing in question has expanded into the realms of weather and nature imagery from media outlets. Are these images more accurate representations of such scenes, or deceptive depictions?
Either way, high-dynamic-range imaging has rapidly become a regular tool in the belt of many photographers and is likely to see continued use in digital formats going forward. See if you can spot the differences between Kalon’s HDR and standard exposures in our galleries here and on Instagram (Kalonimaging) or Pinterest!