Not to be a dick, but I’m totally gonna be a dick…

Aspiring photographers, listen up. Have you heard of HDR before? HDR, to dumb it down, is a process where you normally take three different images, and then use software to post-process them into one picture. The purpose of this is that it will give you much greater contrasts in images where you want to preserve both the darkest shadows and the brightest lights. It can be used to create incredibly cool images.

It is also massively overused and incorrectly applied, and I mean like 90% of the time. It does not automatically make every pic look good. In fact, it will frequently ruin a perfectly good photo. To illustrate this, here are some examples culled from the HDR subreddit. 

This one is a perfect example of a poor application. It’s totally unneeded here. The light here is very even. There are no major dark spots worth keeping, and they’re not trying to highlight any light anywhere. Further, the whole thing looks washed out and blurry: this is a side effect of HDR, especially when photographing something moving, like water. The original picture would have been alright.

Another example, with similar causes. Again, the light is very even so there’s nothing, bright or dark, to really call out with HDR. So again, it looks blurry/hazy and washed out. I should point out that making photos look washed out isn’t a bad thing. It can be very well applied, and would even have looked good here. But the HDR fuzzes the colors up very badly. This would have been a great shot.

And then there’s this. Or there’s this. These shots are bad and all but rather than harp on that, I’ll point out that these are perfect examples of everything HDR can fuck up. 

This one is properly applied. Not the best photo in the world but the circumstances were the right kind of thing for HDR: the brights (both of the sun and the sunlight highlights on the buildings) and the darks (clouds, the remaining shadows, etc). Little too washed out though.

This image is incredible for a few reasons, but the HDR is also properly applied. You have a huge variety of lighting contrasts that are called out wonderfully. 

Do you see what I mean? There’s a time and a place for HDR. Just slapping HDR effects on a photo and dumping it online doesn’t make it good. It will often make it worse. With that said though, there’s never a right and wrong. I’ll wrap up with this image. Normally I’d say that this scene was a bad time to use it, but the resulting photo has come out so surreal and odd looking that it’s really quite incredible.