About The Author

Scott is a Photographer, bestselling Author, Host of "The Grid" weekly photography show; Editor of Photoshop User magazine; Lightroom Guy; KelbyOne.com CEO; struggling guitarist. Loves Classic Rock and his arch-enemy is Cilantro. Devoted husband, dad to two super awesome kids, and pro-level babysitter to two crazy doggos.


  1. #3 for me. The colors just “pop” more for me, and the detail seems clearer. I assume this is for an HDR discussion or tutorial?


  2. #2 It has a more realistic feel to it. Not a big fan of the surreal HDR stuff.

  3. I must say #1, in #3 the collors “pop” just too much for me. ;0)

  4. I like the first one (#1), it’s nice and “crisp”. The other two are a little too HDR for my taste but I guess it depends on what you’re using the photo for.

  5. There is a balance between producing what the photog/artist likes and what the targeted audience prefers. Sometimes I produce what I like with total disregard to anyone else thinks and that is a valid image. More often we need to find a personal balance between our style and a commercial product, another totally valid image.

    So long as we feel creatively satiated and remain financially buoyant all is good:)

  6. All in all I like them all (wow! 3 all’s in one sentence) I like #2 the best, I like the way the first Table on the right is lightend, it gives me the feeling of how the outside light is comimg in to the room.

  7. For me, it’s a toss-up between #1 and #3, and I eventually went for #3 because of the additional depth on the floor.

  8. I don’t like how the HDR makes things look dirty here. If you’re gonna do HDR I think you need to GO FOR IT! Get low, shoot really wide, even use a fish-eye lens. If you’re gonna use HDR thenembrace it and take it to the moon, you can’t be wimpy about it. IMHO

  9. My dear Scott, Hi

    As Lisa said, It depends on the taste. This is my Choice 1 ….. I think in this shot Color is the Key and as you can see the second Photo is a little bit Desaturate. There is no perfect details in outside and the contrast is not good. In the third Image Color is Exaggerated with very high Contrast. First Image is the Winner, Congratulation :D

    Best Wishes


  10. Dear Scott

    I prefer #1, the ceiling and wall are cleaner; however I don’t like the glow around the frame on the wall as well as on the edges. on the other hand number three is vivid and live but the gate seems to be perspective.
    God bless you, your jobs are amazing.
    Did you take it using tripod on on hand?

  11. #2 for me (if I had to chose)

    In #1, the inside is relatively ‘accurate’ while the people outside look processed and sort of look wrong in the overall context
    In #2, both inside and out are obviously processed, and while not subtle it seems to suit
    In #3, both inside and out are way over processed for my liking, but have seen plenty of postcards in this style!

  12. #1 looks more natural, especially looking out the windows. The other two look like they forgot to clean the windows. What a dive!! My wife would not let us eat there because of the windows :)

  13. If I were to choose any, I’d have to go for #1. This is the only one that doesn’t immediately scream “Lookit me!! I’m an HDR photo!!!”, while the other two just feel over processed to me.

  14. I like #1 because it leads the eye better to the people outside which are the focus of the picture (for me).

  15. #1 is my choice, #3 is a little bit too much HDR.

  16. I like #1 the most. Im not really into those over the top HDR pictures. I like HDR when it enhances the normal look :)

  17. Number 3 for me represents light and life and feels like it reflects The Mediterranean, which gives me the feel good factor . I’m no expert but I am drawn to walk through and sit and have a glass of wine and look at that view…the other two feel too dark… so for me it’s not about what process you used but how it makes me feel…ah beauty in the eye of the beholder….

  18. wow, 3 project is a cooler, brighter colors are more visible.

  19. #2 is closer to what my eye would have seen. The walls were probably not dark, but light and airy. #3 is too HDR-ish.

  20. I like #1…just personal preference…will be curious to see how much opinions vary.

  21. Morning Scott,

    Can I like 2? I suppose it depends on the context of how the image is being used, #1 looks a lot more natural if a little saturated it just looks right.

    I do like the HDR processing of number 3 from a stylistic point of you, but I’d tone down those chairs a little :)

    Lets see if any HDR haters raise their heads.

  22. Yep definitely drawn more to #1 … it just looks more ‘natural’ and more like what I would have seen…if that sense. #3 to me screams Photomatix … not that I’m slating it or anything ;)

    Looking forward to ‘hearing’ the reason behind this.

  23. I’m with Glyn on this one. #1 looks realistic, while #3 looks like something Photomatix would produse. IIf I had to guess…#1 NIK HDREfex Pro, #2 Photoshop CS5, and #3 Photomatix!

  24. #3 is a bit overdone, although agree if painterly/stylistic HDR is the goal, then this is it.

    Really can’t decide between #1 and #2, but #2 seems more natural, specially the scene outside the door. The mountains and water are too defined in #1.

    #2 for me.

  25. I prefer #3, partially because it’s brighter, but mainly because the halos are much less noticeable.

  26. #1 looks less manipulated (or more natural, whichever you prefer), and I dislike the bright frames which appear on the inside of windows in #2 and #3.

  27. Image 1 was the winner for me. I liked the other two but it’s the style of HDR I like. It doesn’t look to over cooked and the colors looked more realistic. Did you put these through the same HDR plug ins? Or are you trying the image through three different HDR plug ins?

  28. # 1 looks more natural than others.

  29. Scott, #1 is my preferred choice, being the most ‘natural’ looking one out of the 3. IMHO the other two scream over saturated colours, over use of Topaz Detail (or the like) and have strong halo’s in the highlight areas.

  30. #1 gets my vote. Although all three are ‘over’ in my taste, #1 looks more ‘believable’ and gives the best inside/outside lighting balance (I would even have lightened up the outdoor areas, closer to what they look in #2).

    #2 runs over is micro contrast, #3 is way over in saturation and color boost.

  31. I like the clear and sharp version #1. Looks very natural and has a good portion of detail in it. #3 is also nice but but looks more like a painting. If this is the effect you are looking for use #3.

  32. 1 for sure. HDR has been overdone for years. 1 shows a reasonably realistic view with all the benefits of HDR in terms of expanded dynamic range without the over the top realism.

  33. #2 is my pick – the table and chairs in the right front corner are nicely lit, but the chairs are overly lit in #3

  34. I like #1 best overall as it appears the most (relatively) realistic of the 3, but I prefer #3 where the wall meets the ceiling. #1 and #2 appear to be glowing on the join.

  35. I’m not a huge fan of HDR (and they all look HDR to me) so no.1 gets my vote as the most natural looking one.

  36. The chairs look took fake in #2 and the mountains aren’t as bold. In #3 the halo is off putting, so I’d say #1 is best because it looks like they are all trying to be realistic but only #1 succeeds, if you were to do an even more extreme overly processed one, that could give a different feel and genera, so could work.

  37. I like #3 because my eye does not get drawn to the people outside who are just too out of focus.

  38. No 1 for me as it looks more natural. For me this sort of image looks better as a subtle HDR image.

  39. #3. I like it because the colors really seem to pop out. All 3 images look great, however. Tough choice.

  40. For me it’s the first one. It is most natural looking. 2 and 3 are to much HDR in my opinion.

  41. Just because you stated: “if you had to choose one … if your life depended on it” , i`d go for #1. It`s flat enough not to hurt my eyes, the sky is still blue, and it has potential to actually become a 3rd page photo. Add perspective correction and you get something usable in the end.

  42. I’m also gonna go with #1. Out of the three, it’s the one that made me look at it and say “is this hdr or real”? The other two were just a little too hdr for my taste. Even found #2 to be a little washed out. But I gotta say that for me, it’s the color of the chairs that had the last word. I love the dark green they have in #1.

  43. There is no “hero” in this photo, so they all fail!:)

  44. I voted for #1 because it is the one that has the least amount of “Glow” in the furniture and floors. It would seem to me that #1 is the closest representation to what I might see that scene if I were standing at that doorway/window.

    If I had a choice though I would take it one step further and take just the white walls of image #3, except for the halo around the painting and blend them with all the rest of the elements of image #1. For some reason it just seems that the wall and ceiling in #1 are a little too contrasty while #3 has a more pleasing (again without the halo around the painting).

    On their own, #2 has more haloing than I would like to see and comes across as more grungy that I think I would see if I stood looking at the scene in person and #3 looks more like something I would expect to see from a Bert Monroy painting.

    I guess for my taste, I do not like haloing and I don’t like it when solid objects that wouldn’t appear iridescent if you were viewing the scene live do in the photo. I think it is almost the equivalent of a portrait taken in IR B&W… it just doesn’t look right to my eyes.

  45. In my opinion, #1 is a no-sense mid-way. The #2 has bad halos.
    Since this image is admittedly an HDR, I would choose the “most HDR”, so the #3.
    I would also try to eliminate the halo in the door…

  46. Of the three I would pick #1. Mostly because it is the most realistic of the three. Has a little more contrast and the shine is less.

  47. I like #3 the best! Love the soft tones and textures in the ceiling, and aso how the green chairs pop out. Colors are vivid!


  48. I went with 1 because it has more of a “painterly” feel to it. I think it has the right amount of saturation and contrast. The interior in 1 is slightly darker than in 2, which looks more natural.

    Personally, I can’t stand 3. To me, it looks like someone tried to mask in a darker exposure of the doorway and the floor in front of door and did a terrible job of it. Because light is coming through the doorway, the area directly in front of the door should be the brightest part of the floor. Instead it’s too dark and the entire doorway and floor area has that grayness from using an underexposed shot. Also, the doorway was masked in but the windows weren’t? It just looks sloppy.

  49. One is my ‘favorite’ I don’t like any all that much to be quite honest, I’m not much of a fan of this type of processing….also I don’t think the image itself stands on it’s own. It’s a great shot for a photo book or travel slideshow but not a framer for me….just my two cents of course….everyone’s millage varies.

  50. I like #1 the best. HDR processes are so heavily applied in all cases that I think you might as well go whole hog and smooth out the imperfections (for example in the ceiling and the door) as well to get a true cartoon feel to it. Like other commenters have said, the other two choices just seem dirty.

  51. #2 for me. #1 is too dark, #3 looks way too “electrified”; #2 is just right.

  52. I liked number 1 the best because it seemed less over the top of the 3. I like HDR’s though so I’m not playing the hater. :)

  53. Sorry but I wish there were a “none of the above” radio button. All three look too over processed for my taste.

  54. I’d say the first one

  55. A little too much HDR for my taste, but I would choose #1. Not only is it the least processed, but I like the additional black/depth in the right side of the room and less highlight/glare on the wall.

  56. At a guess, #1 Photoshop, #2 Photomatix, #3 NIK?

  57. To my eye, image #1 has been progressively dodged in #2 and #3. I like the level of selective dodging in the chairs and the wall photo of image #3, it makes ’em pop and I kinda like it. So it’s #3 for me.

  58. I voted for #3. The interior of the cafe seems lighter giving more of the scene to look at and explore.

  59. I voted for #1, but the truth is that there were elements of each that I would rather see mixed together. For instance, I liked the shade of blue on the right wall in the first image, but I preferred the tone of the green chair in the second image. The blue chalkboard sign in the 3rd image pops a bit more than in the others. So does the green chair, but for my taste, it pops too much in the 3rd image.

    It’s all very subjective, though.

    • I agree, I like elements in all three and do like the blue wall in number 1, green chairs in number two, but think the floor looks best in 3! I voted for number 2

  60. #3 for me. It’s a scene that screams “please make me HDR” so I like the fact that it isn’t hidden by retrained processing. Not every HDR should be overboard, but I think there’s a time and place to crank it up a little and to me this was it.

  61. Scott, I would say that all three exhibit what was once considered blatant over-sharpening. The result is that of images that look conspicuously contrived and artificial. However, if I had to choose which is the least objectionable, it would be number 1 because it seems to have a trace of normal foreground to distant ground lighting. I wonder how many out-of-gamut colors Photoshop would detect before you tried to print anyone of them?

  62. I think the relative lightness of #3 fits the scene best.

  63. I actually like the texture better in #2. However, I voted for #1 because the skyline outside the door seemed the most natural to me. I don’t really care for the overly hazy (glowy) look in #3. Though, obviously its a very subjective call.

  64. #1 – The brightest / lightest part of the image is what I focus on. The people. Works for me.

  65. I voted #3. I thought the shot was all about the empty interior, but when I got to #3, my eyes suddenly snapped to the people eating outside, and that now became the subject. It spoke to me about why the room was empty, because it was so beautiful outside. Looking back at the other two after that, I barely notice the people outside.

  66. I like #3 the best. The lighting is brighter and makes the scene look more inviting to walk thru the doors.

  67. #1 for me, when it comes to HDR I prefer just a hint of it. Can’t stand HDR when it’s over processed.

  68. I choose #2 for a couple of reasons. While each photo has its pros and cons #2 gives me the light balance that I like. The portrait on the back wall is darker which is less distracting. I would like if the sky wasn’t so washed out though. And ready… the lens distortion on the front doors on 1 and 3 bothers me.

  69. Hey Scott,
    I voted #1 even though I like the grain on the close right table better. What did you use to process these images? I’m guessing that they are three HDRs One Nik, one Photoshop, and one Photomatix.
    See ya,

  70. I would be nice if people would simply READ before they insist to WRITE so much…

    “Now, if you don’t like any of them—no problem (it won’t affect what this is about), just skip the poll altogether. Many thanks—Scott”

    • I was going to reference the same quote. Obviously Scott has lost touch with his audience if he expected them to skip the poll altogether. :) Maybe the poll is just a ruse and he was trying to get a reaction to HDR.

  71. The scene is a restaurant and #3 makes me want to go into the place more than the others.

  72. I think the transition of darkness to bright in #1 draws the eye to the people, which I suppose is the intended subject. Maybe the cafe owner might prefer #3 to show the interior better. If there were a solitary patron sitting inside I might also say #3. Which lighting best fits the story you want to tell?

    I am sure we all recognized these as HDR right away. But if you had popped a flash on the interior at three different power settings we might have very similar comments dicussing the virtues of available light.

  73. I didn’t vote because all of them feel over-done.
    #2 is definitely ruled out immediately in my opinion. The tone-mapping is twisting the light in an uncomfortable and unnatural way. It feels like something straight out of a photomatix preset.
    #1 and #3 both of things that I really like about it, but still have a lot of problems. Halos, etc. I think image-wide tone-mapping is only really the first step processing a truly-awesome looking HDR image. You’ve still got to work the image hard later making selective edits.

    Really just my two cents. I know you already know all of this.

  74. I voted for #1. I like the shade of color outside, but I’d like to see the inside just a tad lighter/brighter (somewhere between #1 and #2)

  75. All three are WAY overcooked, I really don’t know what people love about halos and strange lighting conditions. Number 1 feels ok if I have to decide, but I don’t really feel comfortable with my choice …

  76. #1 hit me first. however on further pondering, #3 came out on top because with them all being ‘over processed’, #3 seemed to have more of an artistic feel.

    If I could modify one to get my favourite end result, I would choose #1 with a boost in exposure in the room, and less processing to be closer to ‘normal’

  77. #1 looks “more realistic” to me…in the sense of less HDRish than the others.

  78. Didn’t read a single comment, before writing this. Just to make it more objective.

    They all look a tad over processed, but when picking one, it’ll have to be no 1. Less halo and thus a bit more natural.

    How’d you make them? A new iOS app?

  79. #1 I voted for, but #3 I liked too. #2 feels… like it is covered in plastic.

  80. I like #1 because of the lighting. The interior is darker, as it would be and the lighting on
    the floor tiles lead to the people at the tables at the far end of the scene.

    #3 is way too evenly lit, resulting in no focal point for the image.

    #2 lacks depth, compared to #1.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! ;-)

  81. I rejected #2 outright because of the faded mountain in the background. Then I had to go back and forth between #1 and #3, trying to see the difference. Too much glare on the tile floor of #3 finally steered me to #1.
    Thanks for asking my opinion and trusting that my monitor is calibrated anywhere near where it is supposed to be to show the photos as they were intended!

  82. I prefer #1 : it looks more natural than the others especially with the view on the outside. #2 and #3 are also great

  83. I picked #1. I like the dark and gritty feel, better than the brighter #2. I just don’t like the floor in #3, dark in the centre and light at the sides.

  84. I swear I posted a comment around 7AM today, but I don’t see it … I voted #2 for the more natural looking green tones and also the less contrast on the floor and overall. Also, it’s easier for my eyes to see the interior a bit darker – note the painting on the wall – I think it gives the photo a less HDRish look =)

  85. #1 is the least over-blown and doesn’t have halos around the highlight areas. It’s also the only one that looks like it might be lighter outside than in!

  86. I chose #3 because the lighting gives it a bright, upbeat, energetic feel, but of course it depends on what it’s being used for. The deliberate us of hdr to overprocess an image gives it an artistic feel which I like here.

  87. I usually shoot like #1 (contrasty and a bit gritty) although in this instance, I like #3. The bright, airy feeling looks like it matches the scene.

  88. I liked number 1 but would like to see more samples in random order to determine if it was the placement of the image or the Processing of the image that made me select it.

  89. Hello Scott,
    Every of them tell story about itselfs, and every of them are great.
    But for me, hmmm… #1 is the in the real HDR mood :)

  90. I voted for #2 but wanted a “none of the above”

  91. It’s the reflection on the floor. The reflection is more distracting in #2 & 3. (Eyes being drawn to light points, blah, blah blah).

  92. To me, the small versions in the post look over-processed; however if you click for the full size they all look much better. Based on the full versions, I choose #3. #2 has a blown sky and #1 is a little too dark inside.

  93. Very interesting to see that people really enjoy the built in HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5. I’ve been leaning toward that for nearly all of my HDR images. It’s a great tool, and the more you use it, the more you really understand how it works. I’ve really been happy with my results. I own both Photomatix Pro and HDR Effex Pro, but I keep coming back to CS5

Leave a Reply