Monday, December 10, 2007

On Transient Appeal

Maybe you've already heard of "HDR" -- high dynamic range -- photography. As the name suggests, the idea is to capture an image with a very large difference between the darkest dark and brightest bright, rather than flattening dark areas to black or blowing light areas out to white.  In theory, a true HDR system would include a specialized HDR camera, an image format with more dynamic range than normal, and a display device with extraordinary contrast ratio and color bit depth.

All three of those are very complicated and only really understood by imaging professionals who spend most of their time trying to explain it all to people who make cameras, image formats, and display devices.

Fortunately, you can also just apply a couple photoshop filters to a regular digital photograph and simulate the "look" of HDR by flattening the tonal curve of the image into the median range. If you go to and search for "HDR", you'll get thousands of photos where people have done this.

Here's an example I made:

HDR image comparison

Generally I think the HDR version looks like garbage, but the thing is: most people prefer it. It reads as clearer, more colorful, better. As the photographer, I find that really irritating because it's completely disconnected from what I saw, and because I can see all these little artifacts of the photoshop filter like the soft halo around the building. Anybody can apply a photoshop filter to any old photo.

The point of this post, however, isn't about photography. It's about cookies.