A lot can be said about HDR Photography, good and bad. If done properly, it can elevate an image from ordinary to extraordinary. The problem is, too many photographers get caught up in what is considered “the HDR look”. IMHO, a good HDR image shouldn’t really stand out as an HDR image at all. It shouldn’t jump out and slap you in the face and scream “I’m HDR, Beeatch!” Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I have seen some fantastic images that employ the often heavy-handed use of HDR. However, technically speaking, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which means that your image has good tonal value throughout, from shadow detail to highlights.
Take the following image for example (click for a sharper look):This was taken on a tripod with a 1/8 of a second Shutter Speed @ f16 (to get everything sharp from foreground to background) with exposure compensation set to -0.7. Not bad, right?
But now let’s compare it to the image below (again, click for a sharper look):Compare the sky in these two images and buildings at the bottom of the CN Tower. This image is a combination of 5 different bracketed images (-2.0 | -1.0 | 0 | +1.0 | +2.0) that I then blended/enfused using a great donationware plug-in for Adobe Lightroom called LR/Enfuse. Doesn’t look like your typical HDR shot, does it? But the tonal range is there, giving it a nice subtle punch that you wouldn’t be able to get with a single shot.
I find that this style of HDR suits my taste more than the heavy-handed style that is prevalent right now. But hey, that’s just my two cents. Besides, I’m too cheap to fork out the $99 for Photomatix (arguable the most popular HDR Software on the market today).