Friday, January 20, 2012

Outrage Expressed About Use of HDR Imaging by Newspaper

The Washington Post published a color photograph on it's front page last week with this caption:

"A jetliner flies high over a tranquil scene at the 14th Street bridge, where 30 years ago winter weather and human error conspired to bring down Air Florida Flight 90 in a disaster that claimed 78 lives. This image is a composite created by taking several photos and combining them with computer software to transcend the visual limitations of standard photography" [italics added for emphasis]. 

It is a striking image shot at sunset with an irridescent orange glow from the setting sun providing a background to a blue-hued bridge spanning an expanse of water.  The picture has the unmistakable thumbprint of an HDR image. I became aware of this image and the controversy it sparked when I read a recent post in

To me, this kind of image has become so commonplace on the web I see no exceptionality in it.  But to diehard documentarians, such enhancements of shadows and management of highlights crosses the prohibition against alteration in the journalistic publication of images. To them, it has no place in the news.

Come on! In fairness, the details were always there in the shadows.  The saturated colors of the horizon at sunset were also really present.  What's so unusual about having them both in the same picture if they were there in the actual scene?  Just because a single exposure with currently available cameras can't capture the full dynamic range of the scene doesn't mean that applying software technology to expand the tonal range is a falsification of what is objectively present. Why would  exposing for the sky and using a fill-flash to reveal what would be hidden in deep shadows be OK, but applying HDR imaging be unacceptable? I don't see what the fuss is about. The only thing exceptional about the image is that something like this has never before been on the front page of a respected newspaper.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time for cameras to have HDR imaging internally available in their capture processing.  Get over it!

1 comment:

Clara Margaret said...

Thanks for the informative tips on HDR Imaging