The Grid: The Grid: Episode 71 – The State of HDR


The Grid is a live talk-show about photography, Photoshop and other industry-related topics. Each week features a different guest (in-studio or online) and viewers are encouraged to chime in on the Liveblog here on or via Twitter by adding #TheGridLive to their tweets.
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Episode Summary

Matt is joined by photographer Brian Matiash as they discuss the state of HDR photography today. Matt and Brian include some viewer comments in the discussion as they debate what makes an HDR image good or bad. They also offer some blind critiques of viewer-submitted HDR photos.

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  1. Jon Reid says:

    I watched the show and whilst I was surprised that you guys had a go at the HDR hater, it made me appreciate your opinions a bit more. Too often, people give mediocre thoughts and opinions in the attempt to be PC – trying to please everyone pleases no-one.

    Since starting photography I’ve extended the dynamic range of my images. Whilst I’ve done this using a polarizer, ND grad and Lightroom – every shot in my portfolio is a single exposure, I can fully appreciate the work of someone like who gets a similar look using multiple exposures. For those who hate the HDR look, check out his work.

    I personally don’t like tone mapping for the simple reason that it results in too much detail. Compare a picture of choppy water and the same scene taken with a long exposure. Smoothing out the water simplifies the composition, making it easier on the eyes.

    In my opinion, tone mapping has the effect of making the smooth water choppy. For example, many people like the effect it has on brickwork and paving, but ultimately, you end up noticing the brickwork and paving instead of the main subject. Why would you want to emphasize something like brickwork?

  2. Joseph says:

    Okay, a lot of these comments are really negative against the guys for calling out the poster for his comments. I watched the show live (for the first time because I was sick and couldn’t go to work that day), so I was there to read the comments of the poster. While it may have been more professional for the guys to just ignore the guy, you guys need to know that he was posting TONS of posts dissing everyone who has ever tried to do HDR or even likes HDR. The guys read some of the comments, but not even close to most of them. The poster was being a real jerk about it and was very insulting. The guys made a mention about it when they pointed out that the poster was attacking everyone, he really was. So now you know why the guys were “unprofessional”, this professional photographer was posting a ton of mean crap and it sucked for the rest of us.

  3. I watched the show and after a couple of days thinking about this, I need to say something being just a viewer and not in the chat room. I was taken back watching someone get berated live. I had no idea what was going on. It was excessive in my opinion and esp. hard to watch the part doing a demo in Photoshop raw and mentioning this person. I cannot imagine something said in the chat even if harsh to warrant being singled out excessively live. They had no recourse live and I am sure there were others that were unable to get in the chat room viewing this just as confused. I would not want to be asked about my website and work live. This person happened to have strong work but what if the didn’t? HDR always has strong opinions and many discussions which could end up heated but one mention live would of been suffice. I just wanted to give my opinion about watching live and not being in the chat room.



  4. Jock Goodman says:

    This reminds me of the OLD arguments about digital when it started replacing film. I guess the point is whether a photo is good or not. It doesn’t matter how you get there (except for journalism or scientific photography), it is a creative process. How do you judge quality? Compare to movies. There are box office blockbusters that make a zillion dollars and are pulp. Then there are great films that don’t do well at the box office. Profit is one form of success and acclaim by your peers is aonther. Either makes the creater feel successful.
    I’d like to see a discussion about “is photography art?”.. Certainly the term “FIne Art Photography” is WAY overused. Artistic, yes, FINE ART should be reserved for the pantheons of the media, maybe top 5% like Weston, Adams, maybe John Paul Camponigro, etc, all eise is very fine ART for sure. Maybe you don’t like it, maybe it is successful financially or not. Anyway, food for thought isn’t always easy to digest. Jock

  5. Fabrizio Alcaro says:

    HDR is great technology for elementary students UNDER grade 6(that’s being kind). Why? Because these photos which you present are cool, but they are photo-shopped before they are photo-shopped. Its great to be lazy for elementary students are working hard at learning calculus and algebra.

    The people running this show are “professionals”? This reminds me of the decor profession where any layman can call themselves an interior designer. GREAT. Would you expect race car drivers to go fully automatic?

    I’ll tell you what is UNprofessional: slandering people who make comments WHEN you ask for opinions. Funny how you can give it, but can’t take it. I would love to see either of these buffoons take a photo with one of the cameras that blows up after one take. THOSE were experts.

    Maybe you are getting kickbacks for promoting HDR, but if that’s the case then you should specify your demography and also be specific with whom you are getting marketing coins from(ie elementary kids).

    If you TRULY indulge in HDR than so be it, but just because some professionals are also experts, have class, and they know how to craft and forge a photo with their brain and hands you should be able to take criticism a little lighter than you did on this show.

    This show was overall Biligerant in nature.

  6. Mike Searle says:

    While I’m familiar with both Scott and RC, this is the first time I’d seen the show, and I was disappointed with the way that one of the commentors was singled out.

    I’m an illustrator, not a photographer, so I won’t pretend to understand all the intricacies that go into an HDR photo. I don’t have any problem with HDR on it’s own, it’s a tool just like anything else. But some (not all) photographers seem to use it as a crutch to bolster a lack of technical skill.

    Maybe the industry is evolving and the use of HDR is just part of that process, but it should still be based on solid technical aptitude.

    More to the point, I think it is very unprofessional to solicit comments and then proceed to criticize them for sharing what is a very valid opinion. You don’t have to agree with them, but it would have been better to use that to open a discussion rather than dismissing them out of hand.

    The way it was handled made me really think before submitting my own comment and opening myself up for criticism. That’s not the kind of dynamic you should want.

  7. Nice discussion and nice topic!

    I’m quite new to all that, so I have a lot to learn! On the other hand I have no prejudice on anything. If it looks good, is good!

    On the HDR thing, using the proper name of the thing and not tone mapping. I think Julieanne Kost has showed a great reason to bracket and merge images in the last PSW. The 32 bits files you can do with HDR pro in photoshop and then you get a +/-10 stops range shadows, highlights, exposure … all that!

    Sometimes is an overkill, sometimes it saves the day!

    BTW, I liked the critiques! It’s good to know what to pay attention to!

  8. I honestly don’t care what your style of photography is. Whether you like HDR or you don’t. What I find terrible is how you asked for people opinions on both sides of this topic, when you got one you didn’t like you singled that person out. Made fun of him, questioned his education and wouldn’t leave it alone. Who was the bully here?

    The way it was handled was unprofessional and completely inappropriate. If you don’t like a question don’t read it live. This isn’t high school. Be professional.

    Makes me think twice about every voicing my opinion live on any Scott Kelby show in the future.

    Matt, you have got to set this straight in my humble opinion.

    Gee, am I going to get slammed now because someone doesn’t like my comments?? Seems likely.

    • Brian says:

      With a subject that can be as polarized (woo hoo, photography pun!) in reception as HDR, it should be expected that people will have different views on it, so I didn’t see the need to single one person out like that.

      Julie, you pretty much nailed it on the head. Don’t even read it live. Or if you do, allow someone else to have a viewpoint, and disagree with it as you may or may not want to do, and then move on. We can all agree that it’s fine to have a different opinion, so there is no need to go to great lengths to discredit someone if they say something that doesn’t sit well with you.

  9. Chris Sieritis says:

    Great subject and dicussion, and some of my questions were answered, maybe a followup show expanding on HDR techniques and effects

  10. Lee Calkins says:

    For all you “purest photographers” I wonder what the art world thought of Van Gogh & Picasso …oh that is right they art some the greats. Just let HDR have it’s own little space.

  11. Gavin Baker says:

    I thought it was another great Grid show, especially because my pictures got critiqued at the end of the show. Thanks for your sage words Matt and Brian.

  12. John Content says:

    I think the show was great and a good idea who’s time has come!

  13. james says:

    great show guys!

  14. Delos Johnson says:

    Episode 71 of “The Grid” was perhaps the most disappointing so far in this excellent series. It was not a bad program; a lot of good discussion occurred, but opportunities to teach the “meat and potatoes” of HDR were essentially ignored in favor of critiques. Additionally, I think too much time was spent commenting on one particular person who was offering up his own negative comments about HDR imaging. I was hoping this would be a show detailing HDR technique, programs, plug-ins, “how to,” and what not to do. I’m calling for a “re-do” where technique trumps critique.

    • Joseph says:

      You know, they sell books and have classes on doing HDR. Why would they take an episode of the Grid to teach something the have already offered the lessons elsewhere? Just a thought.

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