Put on your sunglasses! High dynamic range photography is seeing its pinnacle of use in real estate and architectural photography. Check out any realtor magazine and you will find some beautiful, professional shots along with some less favorable shots with a distinctive neon glow about them. This is a mis-use of the HDR technology, or shall we say an over-use of the HDR technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I made the same mistake myself when first starting to use the technique several years ago. At first it looked so “artistic” and so “detailed” that I failed to notice the neon lining around each building and the blackish fog that pervaded the sky. But it is old news now and an effect that no one really needs or wants. One needs to learn how to dial it back to a more decent and comfortable level that is more real to the eye. The minute I see a bright red or yellow thumbnail, I won’t even open it because I know the photographer or editor is a new inductee into the HDR Hall of Fame.
The technique really is a brilliant adaptation of how the actual human eye sees an object, but can certainly be overdone to the extreme. How it works is at least three (up to nine) captures of a scene using gradual increases in exposure from too dark through correct exposure and into too light. This will capture every nuance of light in the scene. Once you have these captures you then use a program such as Photomatix or HDRfx Pro or others to combine these various images thus giving detail and color in every corner of the image. These programs are wonderful in their array of toggles and sliders to dial in or out details, color and lighting. And they come with additional presets for even more choices as to how your images can be presented.
The human eye has a range at least four times the scope of the sensor of the camera. We are used to seeing images from a camera and thinking that they are normal. We have accustomed ourselves to the shortened range and that is how we see a photograph. But, in truth, the camera cannot and does not have the ability to capture the full range of the human eye, and so details and nuances are left out of our photographic images. When HDR is done correctly it can be breathtaking because it is representing what the eye ACTUALLY perceives when looking at the scene. It is so much more faithful to the original view.