Enough already with the HDR bashing

Even as I write this title, I know it wont do any real good. But it’s how I feel today, I’m riled up and I’m dusting off the ol’ soapbox.

I’m sick and tired of the term “HDR” feeling like a scarlet letter that forces photographers to feel ashamed about their work. I know a guy on Flickr who removed his whole HDR set and stopped tagging his photos with “HDR” so he can quit hearing the crap spewed from people about his pictures.

Are you kidding me?

The real sad part about all of it is that in my experience, 99% of the bashing comes from fellow artists…fellow photographers.  I’m  young in the world of photography…I’ve sold barely a dozen prints, but 95% of them have been HDR photographs. So far the feedback from non-photographers on my work has been nothing but positive.

Yet photographers, those that would never lower themselves to “HDR”, seem to enjoy bashing those that use it as a tool to convey an image. It’s amazing to me how easy it is for some artists to trash the work of others  just because they don’t like it.

Aren’t we all in the same boat? Aren’t we are all artists trying to create “something” that we hope people will appreciate or will somehow find meaning in? Or we’re creating something that WE like, and don’t much care if anyone else does. But regardless…we’re a brotherhood of people using various tools to create art. Why attack each other?

For example…I’m not much into computer generated imagery. But the guy who created it loves it, other people love that style of art and therefor who am I call it fake because a computer helped with making it? Who am I to write a blog dedicated to trashing the “art of computer generated imagery?” Am I supposed to go on a crusade against it?

But that’s what people do. They don’t like HDR, so they go out of their way to tweet about how much they hate it, they write blogs on how much it sucks or they stalk users on Flickr with insulting comments.

Again…are you kidding me?

Art is art. It’s about creating something. Whether you take an image straight out of the camera and print it to a canvas, or if you spend hours on HDR processing to get the vision you want, it’s all about you conveying something to the viewer.

Purists out there despise Photoshop and post-processing. I just read a person’s profile on JPGMag.com and within three lines he makes it completely clear that he still uses a darkroom and Photoshop is for losers. I don’t get it. I feel no need to tell these kind of people to get out of the stone age and realize the beauty of Photoshop, because I try to appreciate all ways to make a photograph. If you want to dance naked in a cave and paint murals onthe walls with your own blood…so be it. Have at it. I don’t want to do it, but if you do…more power to you.

It’s funny to me. Some photogs will make a big deal that they don’t touch their pictures after taking them. They snap the shutter and print the image. “That’s how it should be.”

Ah…but interesting. You are basically pointing the camera at something and letting it do all the work. The type of glass, the ISO, the aperture, the shutter speed…maybe the quality is dependent upon the manufacturer of the camera. So you snap the button and just take what you get. What did you actually do? Compose it? Well done…hopefully the image comes out the way you envisioned it in your head.

The last sentence wasn’t meant to be serious. The point I’m making is that it’s so incredibly easy for any artist to bash another artist’s style. Why?

Photographers…unless you can snap a photo with your eyeballs and print it out directly from your brain, you are always using SOME KIND OF TOOL to make your picture. Ansel Adams, the classic, ultimate photographer, used tons of darkroom processing techniques to make his pictures look how he wanted them. If you somehow think that’s so much different than using Photoshop, you’re out of your mind. Whether you use post-processing or not…the bottom line is this:

Are you proud about the picture you created? Is it what you wanted?

I was chatting with my good friend Brian Matiash about this stuff before writing this blog and he gave me the conclusion to this article.

I am a photographer. I take pictures. I make pictures. I like HDR. I like black and white. I like portraits. I like landscapes. I like storms.

I am a photographer.

If you don’t like my work, tough cookies. Perhaps instead of wasting energy bashing someone else’s art, go make more of your own.

13 replies
  1. Phil Cohen
    Phil Cohen says:

    Mike – very well said indeed. This struck a nerve with me and I couldn’t agree more. I think folks need to get over themselves and save their energy…whether it’s for producing “unadulterated” images or actually bringing some positive energy into the world.

    I’ve also had great success with people, primarily non-photographers, who are tremendously appreciative and supportive of the images I produce. Thankfully those folks keep the fire stoked for me, and all the other awesome HDR photogs I’ve met help too!

  2. Rob Hanson
    Rob Hanson says:

    I posted a comment on this subject on another site only yesterday. It works here, too.

    Brian Matiash summed it up well, but I’m not nearly as succinct as he can be.

    To engage a fool is to be a fool. To be affected by what others think presumes that the HDR photographer actually gives a damn about what other people think. Engaging in an argument about what HDR is or isn’t, or should be or shouldn’t be, is a rather pedantic dispute that I would avoid completely.

    Put another way, I think that photographers should execute their vision, showing in the best way possible their interpretation of a scene as they saw it, without regard to satisfying a particular audience. In the end, isn’t this about a individual artist’s vision?

    When we free ourselves from arbitrary constraints about what is or isn’t proper, then creativity can flourish. Some output will hit, and some won’t, but if we don’t break free of limitations and push the envelope of the technology, then we won’t advance/evolve at the rate that is possible.

    More simply put: You can’t please everybody all the time. Be true to your vision and do what you want to do. F-em. All the great artists bucked the trend and flew in the face of propriety. That’s what made them “great.”



  3. Rich Beaubien
    Rich Beaubien says:

    Ever since the first photo was taken the “photography tent” has been pretty big. It has always encompassed a large range of craft and artistic styles. There have been numerous shifts of technology in this medium so these arguments have many parallels with the past – makes me chuckle.

    Here we are at an juncture and masses of folks are moving in new directions with photography. Some trying to drag the old into the new era and others trying to shed the old. Me, I’m pretty happy to be marching along in this wonderful day and age trying to create work using whatever tools make sense.

    It’s about the image not how you got there.


  4. Jacques
    Jacques says:

    Well said, my friend. Of course, I suppose I am biased, but I agree 100% that we all should be allowed to create art the way we see it, feel it and want to try to convey to others. I think the fact that so many non-photographers gravitate towards HDR images speaks volumes, as I would consider them less biased one way or the other; they would, most likely, choose what they love to see based purely on the aesthetics, whereas a photographer might focus (pun intended) more on how it was done, and whether the process fits into that photographer’s creative comfort zone, if you will. In the end, it is as you say: do I like what I’ve created? If the answer is yes, the process is irrelevant.

  5. Mike
    Mike says:

    @Rob Hanson – I honestly don’t give a damn anymore what people think of HDR or of my work…this was more of a rant on people who bash other artist’s work, as if what they do is somehow “better” because it’s more “pure” or “right”. It’s all silliness to me.

    @Rich – Good stuff man.

    Thanks everyone for their comments…appreciate you all stopping by and sharing a little bit of your feelings!

  6. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    From my totally nonscientific observations, the same crowd that bashes HDR as not being “real” photography is the same crowd that bashed digital cameras as not being “real” cameras.

  7. Preeti
    Preeti says:

    Okay, this is one of the best posts ever! Came across your blog via Scott Wyden’s twitter. I agree with everything you have to say here. Everyone should find their own vision and strive to capture it. I completely don’t understand the bashing of other people’s artwork either. Rant on!

  8. J Howe
    J Howe says:

    Very well put. There is art that I like and art that I don’t, but it doesn’t make one ‘right’ and one ‘wrong’. There are HDR images I like and some I don’t, but I won’t bash the producer of those that I don’t since it is only my opinion and others may have different views.

  9. Mike
    Mike says:

    @Aaron – I’ve noticed that 🙂

    @Preeti – Appreciate that and totally agree, obviously.

    @J Howe – Exactly…nothing is right and wrong when it comes to art.

    @Tony – You are welcome!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] next referenced an article I wrote called “Enough Already with the HDR bashing” in which I stated a lot of my opinions and feelings regarding the way non-HDR photographers […]

  2. […] to get the vision you want, it’s all about you conveying something to the viewer. – Mike OlbinskiThe SituationNo, this is not “Jersey Shore”.  The following example was not a paid job […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Pringle, Dave Wilson and Mike Olbinski, Gerry Chaney. Gerry Chaney said: Very well said RT @mikeolbinski: Got all riled up from @dawilson's tweet about what people think of HDR. Soapbox time – http://bit.ly/9lj6Vi […]

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