I admit, I’m as guilty as anyone I will accuse in this post!
I’m guilty of tinkering with my photos digitally until they please me. Who doesn’t? Way back when the Darkroom was still king, photographers tinkered with their photos too. They dodged and burned, chose a certain paper gradation to get the contrast they wanted. They even cropped! And toned… and last but not least they hunted the dust spots. With ink and a very fine brush!
That was an art, I can tell you. They tried to bring out the essence of their photo by applying these techniques. They either ‘developed’ it to their taste, to match their style or to represent reality as accurately as possible. If they wanted a sunrise landscape, they got up early, often several times until the photo was right.
Nowadays it’s so much easier. We have all those software packages that ‘help’ us to tweak our photos. Film scans or digital files, they are easy to work on and if ever you mess up, well you just UNDO. Easy peasy! A sunrise you say, wait, here’s a sunrise photo I can overlay on that listless landscape to make it pop.
But there’s a trend that raised it’s ugly head those last years. A trend that I suspect originated with the likes of Instagram. Something that you can see in nearly every photo posted on Facebook.
I don’t know how those people see our world but it’s certainly not like this:
Honestly, this is the way lots of people make their photos look today! All the effect sliders to the right, full. No limits! We can do it so we do it! I call it Velvia on Steroids.
By the way, this is how the scene looked to me.
Just slightly washed out, hazy summer light. Nothing more!
The ugly phenomenon I talk about has a name:
HDR – High Dynamic Range
In fact it’s not a bad thing in itself. If simply means that you try to bring out the best possible range of shades, from utter black to utter white, all the while trying to maintain the details in both the shadows and the highlights. That’s what photographers have been trying to do all the time. It’s what photography is all about. Rendering our world as well as possible.
Of course I like high contrast, deep blacks and moody looks to my photos.
Just my bad taste, and I can’t blame anyone for blaming me. Though this only counts for black and white. My color photos are more often than not on the smooth side.
Now back to HDR. Modern software has made it easier than ever to create imaginary sunsets, garish colours and the internet abounds with examples. A quick image search for ‘HDR’ brings up this:
Those colours don’t even exist, I hope! If you just want to take the magic out of our world, go ahead and do HDR to the max. Just don’t expect me to like your photos!
The problem is not the software. MacPhun’s AURORA is a great HDR application. I use their LUMINAR for my photos every day and you can be considerate and gentle with those sliders. But unfortunately most people are not. Mind you, I have no advantages by talking about those programs. I just use Luminar as I said here and I like it!
I wonder why this has come about. One answer might be that we only look at the world through a smartphone lens and Instagram filters. This look has become so ‘normal’ to us that we automatically tend to edit our photos in that way. It has become how the world looks to us.
Like so many things today it means that we are gradually uncoupling ourselves from reality. We live in a virtual, colourful, bright world while all around us reality goes to shit!
Like I see it, this HDR-trend is only one of the signs that we are losing the world, that we are losing ourselves.
I might be wrong but I think we have to open our eyes, to look at the world, not on a screen but on the genuine thing. It’s there! See it, feel it, if I may paraphrase ‘Tommy’.
Let’s take less pictures and try to make photos instead! Make photos of the beautiful world around us. Show others what you see, not what your crazy imagination dictates.
But if over the top HDR is your thing…. OK, go ahead, just don’t expect no ‘likes’ from me.
Thanks for hearing me out…. feeling better now 😉
P.S.: I just found a nice quote by landscape photographer Ian Plant:
These days, there are many who resort to extreme Photoshop manipulation to create stunning landscape “photos,” using the computer to change the very substance of the scene photographed by replacing skies, radically warping compositional features, and adding color and light that simply weren’t present when the shutter was triggered.
Personally, I resist that approach: I consider myself a photographer, not a Photoshop artist (or whatever you want to name it). Call me quaint, but I believe the true magic of the landscape is found out there, and not something to be fabricated while sitting at home in front of the computer.