I have struggled to understand whether I really like HDR or not and also tried to understand its style.
For me, there are four main visual elements: -
Shape is two dimensional. Think of a square building block where you take a photo of one end. What do you have? A photo of an object with a certain height and width and because you cannot see the sides, top or bottom it is just a shape with two dimensions. Lighting is normally direct and from behind the photographer. Similarly with backlit shots we have the classic silhouette that again is just shapes.
Form is three dimensional. Think of our square building block again where you take a photo from slightly above and to the side of the block. What do you have? We can now see the front, the sides and top. We can gauge the depth of the block and while the photo frame has two dimensions we can start to impose the third dimension of depth on the subject. Lighting is normally from the side and shadow details help us identify with the depth and structure of an object.
Now, is our block smooth or does it have a rough surface. The angle of the light falling on the block will display ridges, bumps, swales, etc on the surface and give us more information about what our block might feel like if we touch it. Again lighting is normally from the side to reveal shadow detail.
Balancing the use of colour is important. Nature normally has a beautiful balance but when using manmade objects you need to make sure the colours work together – either harmoniously (colour opposite each other on the colour wheel) or in discord (those colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel). The direction and intensity of the light will be evident in colour saturation.
So what does HDR really do?
I appreciate HDR is a technical process and I know many like a challenge. It does open up shadow detail to expand the dynamic range so we can see all hidden details in an image. By eliminating shadow details we effectively eliminate two of the 4 basic photographic elements; namely Form and Texture.
We finish up with a flat, two dimensional images with amplified colour saturation to compensate for the lack of depth and feel to an image.
So, for me, HDR does not deliver the essence of a scene nor draw you deep into an image or portray the feel of the subject. I can appreciate it is a form of expression many like to use but after some careful consideration I am afraid it is not for me.
I am sure this will invoke some discussion from the proponents of the art, which I welcome.