January 4, 2010

The HDR Wars

Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 – All Rights Reserved

David duChemin over at Pixelated Image (a must read blog for me) has a tiny blurb about my pal Trey Ratcliff’s new HDR book A World in HDR that got me thinking. Here’s what David said:

“Here’s the interesting thing about HDR images – a lot of photographers seem to dislike them, it’s a love it or hate it kind of thing, sadly. But the general public, the non-photographers out there, love them. And we should be asking why.”

A truer paragraph has never been written. David – as he often does – nailed it. When I follow the topic of HDR, things usually quickly move to battlefield mentality. As photographers we seem to love a good fight. Film v. Digital – Nikon v. Canon – now on to HDR or NOT to HDR, that is the question.

But in all these discussions, which sometimes turn into flame wars waged by folks who are brave as long as they’re behind their computer, in their mom’s basement, the one thing I NEVER hear talked about is the general photo-viewing public’s reaction to HDR. Of course, if you’re a professional and you’re selling photos, you better be paying attention to what your client wants or you’ll be out of a paycheck pretty soon. But those who tend to get involved in these wars are rarely pros, but rather aspiring pros. And aspiring pros simply don’t have enough experience serving clients to understand the importance of delivering the photo the client wants.

To bring this back around to something meaningful, let me add my two cents. Every single time I show someone Trey’s book they are fascinated with the images. Nobody’s ever told me they don’t like his work – unless they are themselves a photographer. If I show the book to non-photographer friends they always think it’s cool.

Looking at reactions to my own HDR work (which is much more subtle than Trey’s) I get the same response. People can’t put their finger on it, but they know there’s something different or special about an HDR photo and they spend lots of time looking at the pictures.

Ahh pictures – you know, the things that come out of the camera? Some photographers spend WAAAAAY too much time thinking about gear and process. David duChemin’s tag line is “Gear is good – vision is better.” Well I think I might adopt a tag line of my own. “Process is good – but pictures are what matter.”

In all the years I’ve been selling images, not one (non-photographer) client has asked me what f-stop or Photoshop filter – or RAW converter I used. The clients just care about the end result – the photographs. Shouldn’t we?

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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