Flickr HDR
The popular photosharing website Flickr is hosting many images that are tagged with 'HDR' or related. The sheer number of these images shows that high dynamic range imaging is becoming a popular tool for a large community of photographers. At the same time, these images are attracting a lot of discussion, often centering around the 'HDR look'.
The general look and feel of high dynamic range images is an often mis-understood issue, not helped by the fact that apparently high dynamic range imaging and tone reproduction tend to be seen as one and the same thing. On this micro-site, I will explain what the problem is, and show a very small and somewhat informal comparison of high dynamic range images, tonemapped in various different ways. The point is that the awful 'look' of most HDR images as seen on Flickr is not intrinsic to HDR technology, and is utterly avoidable.
Disclaimer: The argumentation and the comparison presented here are for information and education only. It is not intended to be critical about Flickr, or even about Photomatix. In tone reproduction, the parameter adjustments are intended to enable the best possible compression while minimising artefacts. In Photomatix, as with some other operators, finding this sweet spot is not easy. As a result, it requires knowledge and persistence to get something useful out of it. Most HDR images on Flickr were tonemapped with Photomatix, using parameters that are vastly outside its useful operating range, and the resulting dreadful imagery is now equated with 'HDR". It is this problem that these pages aim to highlight.