First, a big thanks to everyone who posted such thoughtful and in-depth comments yesterday. I read all of them (over a 130), and not only did you guys make some great points (on both sides of the ball), everybody remained very civil throughout a topic that often sets “guns a blazin’” Way to go!

Because yesterday’s post resonated with a lot of folks, I wanted to do a brief follow-up post today based on a some of your comments, and I was hoping to get your thoughts and ideas on a couple of topics:


First, just what constitutes an “Over-the-top” HDR shot? What do you (we, us, they) consider an over-the-top shot? Take a look at the images above, taken by my buddy, and HDR expert, RC Concepcion. I love both of those shots. They both got loads of HDR tone-mapping going on (though slightly different styles), but is it “over the top?” If you think it is, does that make it a bad shot?

I read so many comments that basically said, “I like HDR as long as it’s not overdone. But exactly what is “over done?”

Is it:

(a) Pushing the Color Saturation too far, where the colors look un-natural?

(b) Is it “Poorly done HDR?” where the person processing the HDR photo, doesn’t really understand how to use the HDR tonemapping software (and if that’s the case, then is it just a matter of education—-teaching people how to do it right?)

(c) Is it shots where there’s no black in the photo—it’s all midtones–showing too much detail?

(d) Is it shots where the image is over sharpened, like too much High Pass sharpening?

(e) Or, is it like a Supreme Court Justice’s view of pornography, where you can’t really describe it, but “you know it when you see it?”

While you’re here, go ahead and take the Poll below:

Here’s my problem with all of this. I’ve seen way over-the-top HDR images that look horrible, and I’ve seen way over the top HDR images that look absolutely stunning. Which means; there’s more to it than just the post processing.

Recently, one of the images that won Best of Show at the Photoshop World Guru Awards was an image that had literally tons, loads, mountains of HDR effect applied to it. But it rocked! It looked really great, and the judges chose it as the winner hands down (even though some would technically consider it “over the top.”)

I guess my point here is; HDR is like any other effect you do in Photoshop. Too much of it looks bad. Usually. But not always. It just depends on the photo (and the person doing the processing).

So what I’m hoping the anti-HDR crowd will do is this; instead of dismissing a  photo as “over-the-top” HDR, and automatically hating it—instead judge it on the merits of that particular photo. Give it a chance.

But beyond that—try making an over-the-top HDR image yourself. You might find that you like it more than you thought, and that other people like your shot more than you do (like I mentioned yesterday with my HDR shot). Real HDR tonemapping is built right in to Photoshop CS5. Give it a try. You might be surprised at how it changes how you view HDR images moving forward. Even those dreaded over-the-top ones. ;-)