I started HDR photography back in 2008 after moving to Switzerland in 2007, from the USA. I quickly fell in love with HDR photography and was taking 3 exposures of just about everything I photographed. It didn’t matter what the subject was I would just take 3 bracketed exposures on my old Canon 20D. I thought just maybe the HDR effect would turn every image into this awe inspiring HDR image. I always wondered what my wife thought when she wanted to look through my photos and she would see all those overexposed and underexposed photos of the same thing. She was probably thinking, “Why does he take all these BAD photos, they are either way overexposed or totally underexposed, I thought he was a good photographer?”

Since 2008, my excitement for HDR photography has reduced. However, when I come to a scene that I think would make a good HDR image, I still turn my Canon 7D bracketing on to take 3 exposures of the scene so I can see what the HDR image will look like. When I first started in 2008, I was like everyone else just starting out, I would apply way too much HDR effect to the images like the example below. The tell tale signs of a bad HDR image are too much saturation, dark areas in the blue areas of the sky, and lighter areas where trees or buildings meet the sky.

Music School Example Bad HDR image Robert Peterson Photography PHotomatix tonemapped

Example of a BAD HDR image

The next picture below is of the same music school in Lucerne Switzerland and this is more of my current HDR photography taste, getting more detail but still making it look like a normal photo.  For this HDR image I loaded the 3 exposures into Photomatix Pro 5 and then went through the factory presets to find one that looked the best and I settled on Vibrant. Once I find a preset I like, I then go through to make some fine adjustments to see if I can improve the HDR image further. I think it looks pretty good and definitely looks better than the original shown below. The HDR effect is not overdone like the first example above.

Lucerne Switzerland Music School HDR image Photomatix Pro 5 Preset Vibrant Robert Peterson Photography tonemapped

Example of a good HDR image

The next HDR photography example below is just the average exposure directly from the camera. As you can see compared to a HDR image the shadows under the eaves of the roof are very dark, almost black, but in the HDR image you can see good detail under the eaves. That is what makes HDR images superior to normal images from a camera. My excitement for HDR photography has definitely reduced, but I still do get excited when I create HDR images and they look much better than just a standard photo, and it still looks like a normal photo, but with more detail.

Lucerne Switzerland Music School Canon 7D RAW unedited image Robert Peterson Photography

Example of a normal photo

Below is a comparison of the shadow under the eaves of the roof. The top image is the HDR image of the building, the middle image is of the normal photo straight from the camera with the brightness increased slightly. The last image is of the normal photo with the brightness increased using the levels adjustment to get detail in the shadows, but then the rest of the image is blown out. The HDR image was created with 3 bracketed exposures. As you can see the HDR image looks much better than the two other normal photos.

Lucerne Switzerland Music School HDR image compared to normal photo Robert Peterson Photography

HDR image compared to normal photos

Whenever I am taking pictures I look at the scene and think, will this look good in HDR. If I think it will be a good HDR image, I turn on the auto bracketing to get 3 different exposures of the scene. I definitely don’t take 3 bracketed exposures of every scene like I use to, it just takes up so much space on my hard drives with the RAW images being about 21 Megabytes. Also if you take too many bracketed photos for every scene, then everything takes longer. For example, transferring photos from your camera to computer and then backing all the extra photos up takes really long especially if you have a slow computer or WIFI network.

So what are your thoughts about HDR photography? Has your excitement for HDR photography reduced since you first started? I would love to read your comments below and to read about your journey with HDR photography.