I woke up this morning and did my usual routine of checking the internet for the day’s inspiration and ideas for what to shoot on the weekend, I came across this from Trey Ratcliff’s site. Of course, to some this is going to sound like I am trying to reach out and pat Trey on the back or jump on the “all hail Trey” bandwagon, but I am actually genuinely annoyed that the argument of “HDR is not photography” is still around.
First of all, we all have our share of haters and trolls. My ex-military father once told me “Jay, not everyone is going to like you… deal with it” That is true and while I struggle with criticism sometimes, I still get that gruff voice in the back of my head. However, this isn’t just about “not liking HDR” because the best way for you to “not like” something is just to “not look at it” This is more about the idea that HDR and photoshopped photos are “computer generated” and thus “hurting the integrity of photography” as the commenter blamed Trey for.
What greatly annoys me is the fact that when ever something new comes into established areas of interest, this same argument pops up. Years ago when snowboarding first came out, it was considered a fad. Once it gained a foothold on the mountains people said that it was damaging the mountain and then tried to get snowboarders sequestered to only certain runs. This argument is exactly the same for HDR and photoshop and thus you can see that it holds no ground.
When I took “intro to photography” at university, we were trained with completely manual cameras. The purpose of this was to acquaint ourselves with the basics of photography. This was not done because Kodak T-max 100 and my old Pentax Spotmatic F were a superior system to anything that was on the market at that time. No, it was strictly there to teach us to understand the basics of photography. Thus by the second term those cameras were put back on the shelves and we could use more current models. The same was for the techniques we used.
During this time, photoshop was becoming popular and there was lots of talk about how a “photoshoped” photo and later an image from a digital camera were not actual photos but “digital images” Contests had rules that state you must enter “unaltered” or “original” images or even separate categories for “digital works”. The critics were using the same arguments about photoshoped images but forgetting about the stack of coloured filters on the end of their lens or the graduated neutral density filters were also altering the original scene.
When HDR came out it had its fair share of critics but recently with the advent of numerous apps for smartphones that change or alter the image, purists are fading away. With the popularity of Trey’s site, his tutorials and everything else that he is doing, you can see that people enjoy his style of photography. Also, look at the popularity of instagram which basically alters the photo in strange and interesting ways. People love these effect and HDR, you can’t deny it.
The argument against HDR is one that basically notes personal taste. For example, I am not particularly fond of street photography. It just doesn’t do anything for me. Photos of women checking their make-up in a mirror on a subway never really gave me that sense of awe like a lot of Trey’s work does. Now, do I think that random shots of daily life are ruining the fine art of photography? hell no! Photography is what it is and that is artistic expression. How you choose to express yourself it is up to you.
It is my opinion, that even since the days of the darkroom and photo labs, people have been post-processing. Perhaps to make up for the part of the visual spectrum that the eye can see but the sensor/film can’t or to show what the mind interprets a scene when all the senses firing at once. To think that the greatest shots of all time were not “post-processed” in anyway, shows a lack of understanding in regards to photography. Photoshop and HDR give us the ability and the tools to replicate experiences in the way we want to remember them.
After all, with this type of photography reality is what you make it. A shot that I took one morning at my villa during my honeymoon is how I remember it. Perhaps the sun wan’t as warm or the flowers and grass were not as colourful but that is the way I remember it or just the way I wanted to remember it!
Finally, as I hope that this gets back to Trey, don’t take those comments to heart. I know that you probably don’t and I also know that you have tons of people who got your back, myself being one of them. You have inspired me a lot not just through your photography but your writing as well. You have done more to promote photography than many other people. You have gone way beyond simply pushing a button and hoping to collect a paycheque. You have educated thousands of people, inspired many more and have taken a style of photography that very well could have been “just a fad” into the mainstream and made HDR common place in the mainstream. For all of this. I must say thank you. You have inspired me and helped push my creativity to new levels and I feel that my life has benefited great from your work, your site and your books…. (the guy who did your ebook templates must kick ass!). If our paths shall ever cross I will be sure to buy you a cup of coffee.