Monday, September 14, 2009

HDR – An “ethical” question

This article will ask for your patience. I apologize for making this a non-photography article. But I feel its important for me answer your questions.

When I posted my first HDR link on and sent to my blog group I got this reaction from almost everybody.

“The pics are great, but…”

I knew what was coming :-)

“…they don’t look natural” :-)

There is an ethical question behind this. But before I go into that, I would like to tell you a story. Its my story, as is yours I am sure.

Let me take you about 23 years back, late eighties. I remember I was still in school days. I was in India. I hadn’t yet seen any of the world that I have seen now. We had only one channel on the TV called Doordarshan or DD for short. On this DD channel a program used to be aired called “World This Week” (WTW). It used to be aired every Friday night at 10PM. I used to wait whole week for this program, because this was the only program which showed us (kids in India) the world as it happened. All other news we used to get on national TV was just Indian or what government wanted us see of the world. News was controlled and censored by the government. Although WTW aired on government owned channel and was heavily censored at that time, it still gave us a best possible peek that we could have had to  the outside world.

This was also the time when compact discs (CD) were making a splash as storage media. One Friday night I was watching WTW and, I remember, there was a clip about how CDs can be used to store hundreds of songs as opposed to just 15 or 20 songs on a 2-sided cassette tape. A clip was shown how the CDs store information in 1’s and 0’s rather than continuous magnetic variations as in a tape. At the end of this particular news item, the anchor (Pranoy Roy) asked a question, which is still fresh in my mind “Is it as good as the cassette?” he answered himself “The future will tell”.

As you can see, magnetic tape is all but dead (doesn’t mean it was bad though). And the 1’s and 0’s have triumphed!

So how do I connect this to the HDR issue which I faced with my blog group?

I completely respect my blog group and their comments, for they have encouraged me so much. So I completely understand their predicament when they see an HDR enhanced image, which is;

“I was given a link for photographs, but I am looking at something which resembles painting. Where are the photographs?”

There is an ethical question behind this – which is “Should we use HDR technique to create something more than a mere photograph?”

Answer is – depends on choice, changes in tastes and trends. I grew up with a film camera, up to couple of years back, I completely detested digital cameras, because I could never get my photographs as well I could with a film camera (at least I thought so). Today – I swear by the DSLR and the four-thirds format (which takes me completely away from 35mm film camera). Trend does triumph in the end.

I posted the same flickr HDR link on my LinkedIn groups. One person, Eugene is her name, asked me about HDR technique and how it is done. Mind you, she did not comment at first, but contacted me privately. After I answered her back (privately of course) and explained her about HDR (as much as I know about it). She thanked me and also wrote a public comment on the group post which said;

“Puru very nice work, it has it's place in today's photo trends” and that my dear folks is your answer! :-)

HDR image -



Non-HDR Image



We decide what we want to like,  until the trend hits us :-) !