Sunday, March 17, 2013

To HDR, or not?

I've been considering of late the benefits and risks associated with using HDR techniques for property shots.  I'm pretty happy with the use of HDR for exterior images, but am becoming increasingly dubious about the advantages of this technique for interior shots instead of using flash or studio lights.
7 shot HDR blend processed in Photomatix Pro
It was a comment from one of the agents that really made me think that HDR for interior shots may not be the best solution.  The remark was that the images looked "dark", which I didn't really think was the case.  However, "dirty" may be a better description!

Some shots seem to work OK, but are they really better?  In cases where there's many reflective surfaces the use of flash is quite challenging, but in "normal" rooms I can't help feeling that HDR techniques produce a less than realistic impression of the scene.  It tends to have a more "artistic" or painted look about it, which in some cases is entirely appropriate.
Tone mapped interior shot to balance window light and interior light.
HDR blend to emphasise the warm tones in the timber interior of this Lockwood home.
Is it quicker to produce an HDR image as opposed to using lights?  Well, in some cases yes, but in others most definitely not.  One bit problem I find is with whites.  I've played with HDR photography for several years now and have worked my way through the various effects achievable yet still find it awkward to produce "clean" whites as well as provide the necessary contrasts in the image.
Single frame HDR image to illustrate the "grittiness" or "dirtiness" achievable with HDR techniques.
Single Frame HDR image the accentuates the textures in the concrete.  "Dirty" perhaps?
Speaking of being "easy" or less time consuming consider the image below.  This was shot with a single light source, a 300W studio light with a 1m ball diffuser attached.  The aim being to scatter light all around the room and present the impression a clean, bright, white kitchen.  Little to no post processing and ever so easy to setup the lights and camera.  Would I be able to obtain the same effect with HDR?  I suspect not ... but perhaps you could!  If you can, then perhaps let me know how!!
Single shot image using a single studio light and ball diffuser.
Just for fun, lets take a look at two shots that may help illustrate what I mean by "dirty".  When working with HDR processes I've often been amazed by the extra details that appear in the processed images.  When looking for clean whites the unfortunate effect here is the details appear dirty.  Below are two shots taken at a wedding reception.  I'll let you decide which is HDR and which is not!

OK, so perhaps I've been a little enthusiastic with the HDR processing, but I think you can see the "dirtiness" in the second image.  The first image has no hint of this grubbiness on the walls, whereas the second seems to accentuate it.

As I said at the start, I'm still contemplating the relative benefits of using lights and HDR for property shots.  As such, comments, hints and tips are, as usual, most welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment