10 Easy Steps To Advanced Photography Skills

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By Trey Ratcliff (aka Stuck in Customs), one of the most famous and renowned HDR photographers on Flickr. In his article Trey describes some professional insights and useful photography tips that he collected over the years of his career.

A camera does not work like an eye; film does not work like memory. There is a fine line between a photo that is quite nice and one that is quite breathtaking. At some unknown point, a photo can cross the Rubicon and be forever a piece of beautiful art. That hinterland between a regular photo and evocative art is a shifting area from person to person and taste to taste. However, that zone can be narrowed a bit once you start to consider the way the brain stores memories and emotions.

And yes, it gets a bit touchy-feely here trying to determine if your work has crossed that line. With rigorous practice and peer feedback, you can start to appreciate where that zone is and, consequently, improve your hit ratio.

Farewell India1
The back of the Taj Mahal during a summer sunset.

The good news is that divining your way to more beautiful photos does not require rune rites of scapulimancy. There are some basic things and mantras to keep in mind as you practice and fail, then practice and succeed, then practice and fail, then practice and succeed, and rinse and repeat. We’ll detail a few of these below.

1. Think About The Brain

I’ve always thought about photography differently. I grew up seeing out of only one eye, thanks to several botched surgeries in the 1970s using refurbished archaeological tools of the Australopithecus medicine men.

When you see out of one eye your whole life and then start using a camera in your mid-30s, something happens to you! You come to realize that a camera works nothing like the eye. Forget 3D; I’m talking about the way the brain stores images and scenes.

Upon birth, you have legs, but it takes a few years for your legs to get along with your brain well enough to actually walk you around the savanna a bit. The eyes are the same. They get wired faster than the legs, but the neural pathways from the optic nerve to the parts of the brain that matter take a while to find their chemical trails. You start to sense light levels, then shapes, then edges, then relative positions and the like. And then, around the age 2 or 3, you finally come up with a tagging system that allows you to know generally what a “barn” looks like. Your brain has been working nonstop over that time to give you the visual and memory infrastructure to enable this watershed event.

Fourth on Lake Austin2
Fourth of July on Lake Austin: the first HDR photograph to hang in the Smithsonian.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. You’re older, your brain is more or less fully formed, and you happen upon a barn in a field. But it’s not just any barn: it’s the barn you’ve been wanting to see your entire life. And in the distance, a storm is brewing as a gentle sun sets. It’s beautiful; you lock it into memory. The way you lock it into memory is nothing like the way a camera records the image on film (or a CCD). This is what I quickly came to realize as I sat there, looking at a photo I took with a fabulously expensive Nikon and showing it to a friend. “Well, you really had to be there.” I’m sure you’ve all said that!

Now, this first step is a big step: it’s a philosophical re-assessment of how the camera works in contrast to how the memory maps a scene, the latter being a process of layering visual reality with the emotions and memories linked to that scene. You see, you are not just remembering that barn but are remembering every barn; you are not just remembering that storm but are remembering every storm. A beautiful photo must tell the epic tale of the memory, linked with the other emotions that fold into a whole.

2. Engage In The New Global Salon

In the 1860s, all art roads led to the Salon in Paris, which was the most important judged competition of art in the western world. During a period of just over 10 years, the Impressionist masters battled it out in a competitive and cooperative tour de force that created a panoply of creations that we now cannot imagine the world without.

The reason Paris became the center of the art world and an explosion of new art is the combination of new technology in travel and communications combined with Napoleon III’s focus on infrastructure around the Salon.

The Megopolis Hong Kong - What Happens Around Dusk (by Stuck in Customs)3
Hong Kong from a peak on a summer night as the city comes alive.

Today the same thing is happening, although perhaps not everyone really realizes it in a grand historical sense. It’s called Flickr. Flickr has become a techno-Salon, allowing the world to easily use the Internet to enter the competition and force each other to evolve and improve their art. The automated “Explore Algorithm” does a pretty good job of automatically filtering the best photos that are uploaded every day. Go ahead and look at some of the current best of the last 7 days4.

Click “Reload” a few times and I promise you will have seen something that impresses. It is quite unbelievable the level of art and beauty that is created every single day. Now, all of this amazing art on Flickr can either inspire or intimidate you, depending on your mindset for competition. I hope it inspires you to upload one photo a day and see if you can make it in the top 500 or even the top 10. And don’t give up. Competition makes everyone better; this is an undeniable truth, and you are not realizing your full potential if you remove yourself from the process.

I can think of a number of things Flickr can do to improve this new global competition. Its AI algorithm to find the most interesting new artists still makes many mistakes. Maybe I will save that for another article! But in many ways, Flickr is close to squandering an amazing opportunity to set the art world on fire.

3. Get Rid Of Your Toy Camera

Oh, look at that camera you have! It’s so tiny and slim and techno-looking. Look! It fits right in your pocket! Oh my, you can take it to parties and sporting events, and it’s so convenient. Oh, it is 10 megapixels, too? Oh my. Well, that is a good camera then!

No, it’s not. It’s a toy: give it to your kids or the nearest gradeschooler (for whom it was designed) and get serious. I know that 19-year-old punk at Best Buy told you that your compact camera is really neat and just what you need. But are you gonna listen to him or me?

Get yourself a DSLR (I have suggestions on my page5 that aren’t very expensive for people just starting out). For those of you who don’t know, a DSLR is one of those cameras you see the pros carrying, but it doesn’t have to be a giant one like what you see in the NFL endzone.

Sorry to be rude about the toy thing, but you want to take more beautiful pictures, no? Well, a decent DSLR has such a good sensor chip, combined with more flexible lenses, that your batting average will dramatically improve.

The Lost Hindu Temple in the Jungle Mist (by Stuck in Customs)6
An ancient Hindu temple at sunset in the jungles of Indonesia.

Also (people with DSLRs already know this), it is important to have a good wide-angle lens for landscapes. Beautiful photography does not have to be of a landscape, but it commonly is, and this is what many people envision when they want to make their own beautiful photos. So, we should talk about wide-angle lenses here for a moment.

If you are used to using a toy camera, then you have never really seen the world through a good 10 to 24mm lens. It’s almost the difference between regular TV and HDTV. The vistas are wide and bold; the clouds, sun and mountains all fit; the river and bridge are easy to compose; and so on. Once you go wide-angle, your landscape will never be the same!

4. Carry A Tripod For Those Beautiful Sunsets And Sunrises

Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to carry a tripod? What are you, a 9-year-old? Now, come on. You’re a grown-up, and you want to take some seriously beautiful photos. Do you think pros carry around tripods because they like the extra weight? No, of course not. They know what the heck they’re doing.

If you bit off on getting a DSLR, then you are going to need a tripod, especially for sunset and night shots. Unless you have the steady hand of a T-1000, you are going to get some camera shake.

A tripod allows you to do the following things with landscape photography (in no particular order): set up and take your time to compose a photo with serious intent; keep noise low as the shutter stays open longer; look cool as you carry it around; keep the shutter open for 5 or more seconds for those fleeting sunrise and sunset shots; use it as a weapon in a tight spot while traveling (not kidding).

The Bombing of Dresden217
Dresden, Germany

So, are you still worried about carrying it around? The problem, you understand, is mostly your attitude. Let me provide a different perspective. Nothing in life is worth doing unless you’re serious about it. Believe that you are going to shoot that sunset, and you are going to take your nice DSLR and tripod out there and make it happen, and no one is going to stop you. You’re carrying that tripod around because you’re serious about it. Otherwise, you could just go sit on a pretty beach at sunset and drink beer with your friends and not be serious about it. Go ahead… but you won’t be getting any beautiful photography out of it.

5. Admire Impressionism

I spoke earlier about the Salon of Paris and what happened during the Impressionist movement. While the process and examples of what happens when artists start cooperating and competing is interesting from a social-group evolutionary perspective, this section is more about the art itself.

Early critics of the art form found it crude, sloppy and unconventional, to the point that they felt it didn’t even deserve to be placed alongside the classic masters. But the public was awestruck by the new art form. It doesn’t take a critic to know good art, but it does take a careful and discerning eye.

Consider the colors and styles of Degas, Cézanne, Monet and Renoir. There is not a single detail about any well-known Impressionist painting that is the slightest bit “realistic.” But yet, the rough shapes and colors still make sense. Something about it just feels right. What is that something?

The Majesty (my largest photo ever. (by Stuck in Customs)8
An icy lake at sunrise, fed from the seasonal melt at Glacier National Park; a panorama of 90 shots.

To me, what feels right about Impressionism is what we discussed above. These Impressionist images go deep into viewers’ brains and evoke memories of shared scenes and events. The memory is in fact an Impressionist playground of fleeting colors, shapes and edges. A face here, a blur there, a hint of something almost there, but not quite.

Look at Monet’s work. Think about how the yellows of a sun in the distance is the same yellow as an up-close flower. But something about the colors makes the sun feel brighter than the flower. How does he do that? Can you get closer to achieving this with your photography?

As you look at Impressionist paintings, juxtapose them with your own photography. If you want to evoke the same sort of feelings, then consider how it was done without resorting to realism.

6. Practice With HDR

What is HDR? It’s short for High Dynamic Range photography, and it’s all the rage. I have a tutorial on HDR on my blog9. But here, I’ll explain HDR in a circuitous but meaningful way.

About 80% of my photos are in HDR, but I do something a little different. As you start looking into HDR (many of you already have), you will begin to notice how absolutely horrible most HDR looks. When many people begin experimenting with it (myself included), it is overdone and looks too psychedelic. Over time, mine have improved via rigorous self-examination and an evolving methodology.

Remember that bit about me growing up and seeing the world with one eye? Now, we come to the second part of this daring mini-biography as we are cross the stepping stones to my point. My background in college was Computer Science and Math, so I’ve always thought about things in terms of algorithms and software. The very first time I used a DSLR camera, when I was 35 or so, I very quickly came to the realization that something was missing.

This is Nathaniel (by Stuck in Customs)10
A young Amish boy allows me to freeze time after I help him carry wood with his sisters.

That missing something was the “software” layer between the eye and the memory. Consider what you do with the barn and apply it to how the camera works. You survey the scene. Your eye jumps around from interesting object to interesting object, sometimes moving slowly, sometimes quickly. Your eye lets in more light in some areas, less in others as your pupil dilates. You squint into the setting sun and see warm colors splashed across the clouds, grass and barn. You remember other barns, other storms, other sunsets. You may have been with someone or were alone, but you certainly remember. You lock it all up in your mind’s eye forever.

Because we are visual creatures, a photo or painting can evoke great memories. But the only way to trigger some of those intense memories on a deep level is to adjust the light levels in the photograph, so that the light levels and color match those buried in your head. The HDR process can help achieve these goals.

7. Take Your Camera Everywhere

Don’t just take your camera out on those rare occasions when you actually decide to set aside a portion of your day for photography. Face it: we’re all busy people with real lives, and setting aside three to four hours for anything extracurricular is tough. But it takes only a few seconds to get inspired for a photo, and it’s no good if your camera is back home.

The Icy Pit to Hell (by Stuck in Customs)11
Gulfoss in Iceland. Catholic theologians of old believed this was the entrance to hell.

Keep it in the trunk of your car in a fun little photo backpack, with a small selection of lenses. You never know when you will see something wonderful. Use this opportunity to take at least one photo a day. It doesn’t have to be a grand landscape; just something small and nice that you may not have noticed before.

8. Understand The Fantasy/Reality Membrane

Do you have kids? Are you a kid at heart? Think about when you were a kid and what happened when you turned into a jaded old grown-up. Maybe by the end of this section you can ask yourself some new questions about reality.

Kids have this remarkable “membrane” between fantasy and reality. They can jump back and forth between the two in an effortless way. In fact, the membrane itself is wonderfully “thick,” in that there is a vast dream-state wilderness where the world is both fantasy and reality. When pressed, kids will tell you what is real and what is pretend, but that is often a painful process that pries them from the escapism they felt so viscerally just a few moments before.

Learning to Draw by Candlelight (by Stuck in Customs)12
My personal foray over the last year into learning how to draw.

When we are all grown up and serious, that membrane is razor thin, and there is little tolerance of “pretend” and “fantasy.” Why is this? Is it because we are surrounded by other serious people and want to conform? Is it because fantastic escapades are what “kids” do and thus not pertinent to our lives?

Obviously, we can all still get into that fantasy zone, and we all love it. That’s why movies are still such a potent force; they give us social permission to be like kids for two hours, once a week. It also explains the growing relevance of online games.

But when we start talking about photography — well now, that is a different subject! Photography is a serious art form, practiced by classically trained masters whose reality is quite serious indeed! There mustn’t be anything fantastical in the art form. The process goes from camera straight to the film, you see!

Poppycock.

9. Learn To Draw

This is a weird one, eh? Who on Earth has time to learn to draw? Well, you would have time if you stopped wasting it on less important activities. You’ve got one life here, so you might as well start applying yourself. “I don’t have any time! I have kids to look after, a full-time job, a bunch of cool games to play, books to read, exercising to do, a bit of photography, and blah blah blah.”

As a personal experiment, I wanted to see if anyone could learn to draw. This is similar to an earlier experiment I did on myself to see if I could take something I hated and turn it into something I enjoyed. That experiment was with coffee, but I was afraid that learning to draw would be harder, particularly because of the jitteryness introduced from the first experiment.

The Place Where Rebekka's Horses Run Free (by Stuck in Customs)13
A tame wild-haired horse on the windy fjords of Iceland.

I’ve always admired people who can just grab a pencil and paper and make something amazing. Man, I’ve always wanted to be able to do that! I began the experiment with the hypothesis that great natural artists can draw anything without any instruction whatsoever. These are true masters, and I was unlikely unlikely to reach that level. However, I thought I could become adequate at drawing and be at least satisfied with myself. A great side-effect, I envisioned, would be new insight into photography: into line, shape, light and composition.

All of this turned out to be true. So, if you have hit a rough spot or are in the doldrums with photography, take up drawing. A few instructional books out there are practical hands-on guides that give you basic pointers. I think you will be quite impressed by how it starts to bleed into your photographic art!

10. Make Mistakes

Make a lot of mistakes. Throw yourself and your art out there and see what works and what doesn’t. Show your stuff to true friends who will give you frank feedback.

Don’t be like those sorry saps on American Idol who make fools of themselves in big auditions because they’ve spent their whole life listening to their tone-deaf mom tell them they are incredible at singing “Over the Rainbow” or because Aunt Mabel enjoyed it so much during the grade 2 play.

Get yourself online and begin making friends by finding other photographers who you respect. Beg and plead for them to come look at one or two of your photos and give frank feedback. They will cut you apart, but just take your medicine, lick your wounds, and go out there and improve.

Fin

And there we have it: 10 things to shake up your world a little bit. I’m no Baudelaire when it comes to writing these sorts of polemics. However, just as he drove Manet to be Manet, perhaps I can do my own little part to stoke the fires and help drive a new art revolution. Evolve and evoke, or whither into nothingness.

Extra Credit

To end off, here is a random selection of some of my other favorites.

The Lonely Trinity (by Stuck in Customs)14
The Lonely Trinity

Hindu Ascent (by Stuck in Customs)15
An elderly woman, who has never cut her hair, ascends the stairs to her daily Hindu pilgrimage

A Snowy Night at the Kiev Opera House16

Dante's Gates of Hell (by Stuck in Customs)17
Dante’s Gates of Hell, a sculpture by Rodin, captured in proper lighting

Stuck in India - Humayun's Tomb18

On Frozen Pond19

The Veins of Bangkok20

The Bombing of Dresden217

One Night in Bangkok22

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://stuckincustoms.com/2007/11/15/farewell-india/
  2. 2 http://stuckincustoms.com/2007/04/03/smithsonian-photography-contest-two-of-the-top-ten-winners/
  3. 3 http://stuckincustoms.com/2008/11/08/the-megopolis-hong-kong-what-happens-around-dusk/
  4. 4 http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/?
  5. 5 http://stuckincustoms.com/my-equipment/
  6. 6 http://stuckincustoms.com/2008/03/17/the-lost-hindu-temple-in-the-jungle-mist/
  7. 7 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  8. 8 http://stuckincustoms.com/2008/09/27/the-majesty-my-largest-photo-ever/
  9. 9 http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-tutorial/
  10. 10 http://stuckincustoms.com/2006/07/26/this-is-nathaniel/
  11. 11 http://stuckincustoms.com/2007/02/11/the-icy-pit-to-hell/
  12. 12 http://stuckincustoms.com/2008/11/25/learning-to-draw-by-candlelight/
  13. 13 http://stuckincustoms.com/2007/02/19/the-place-where-rebekkas-horses-run-free/
  14. 14 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  15. 15 http://stuckincustoms.com/2006/08/20/hindu-ascenthindu-ascent/
  16. 16 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  17. 17 http://stuckincustoms.com/a-world-of-textures/
  18. 18 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  19. 19 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  20. 20 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  21. 21 http://www.stuckincustoms.com
  22. 22 http://www.stuckincustoms.com

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Trey Ratcliff describes himself as a slightly evolved monkey that happens to carry a camera. He's become unintentionally popular from his photography blog, mostly because his mom emailed about 350,000 people to tell them about it. Trey can found there on his blog or followed on Twitter at @treyratcliff, where you'll be the first to get news of his latest daily creations.

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  1. 1

    I’ve always loved smashing magazine but I’m on HDR overload. Its beautiful, in moderation. Easy does it next time :)

    3
  2. 2

    Great tips for both amateur and professionals alike

    -1
  3. 3

    wow.. HDR photos are absolutely amazing…
    thanks for your great tips

    0
  4. 4

    Great info! Thanks!

    0
  5. 5

    Nice to see some advanced photography-related articles on SM! Thank you, guys.

    1
  6. 6

    Ugh. Too much HDR. I’m sick of it. Reality is where it’s at.

    3
  7. 7

    Really nice article! Hope to see more photo-related in Smashing Mag!
    Great job

    1
  8. 8

    The author is such a toss pot! How much self-important crap can you fit into one article? Stop taking yourself so damn seriously! Get a life.

    5
  9. 9

    Amazing list! Really makes you start thinking about the simple yet dramatic photos that can come out of following these steps.

    And definitely some amazing photos as well. Will be sure to follow your work!

    1
  10. 10

    I’m sorry, but that’s a piece of crap! The whole idea of HDR technique is to produce a NATURAL LOOKING high-dynamic-range photo. These photos shown here are good example how NOT to tone-map your pictures…

    5
  11. 12

    The best and most expensive DSLRs in the world will not make up for an “artistic eye”. I’ve seen photographs taken with “toy” cameras and cellphones that are truly inspiring and beautiful.

    @Jason: I agree, too much HDR. It’s like they’re trying to make up for the lack of talent with too much color. Just look at the Hong Kong skyline photo, it would just be ordinary if it wasn’t HDR.

    1
  12. 13

    The camera does not make the photographer. There are some photographers that take AMAZING photos with a point and shoot (or toy camera, as the author said).

    I’m done with crappy HDR… like most of the photos “featured” in this article.

    1
  13. 14

    Man, what a load of cr4p. I am so over HDR and you dont need a DSLR to take good pictures. Just look at all the fanastic low res stuff on flickr taken with ‘toy’ cameras.

    Get over yourself, per-lease…

    2
  14. 15

    I totally disagree with the comment about having to purchase a DSLR. I personally have one, but my inspiration comes from this guy from Japan Kishimi He takes most of his shots with the PowerShot G9. All of his photos are pure awesomeness. DSLRs are great, but only if you know how to work it. This guy from Japan doesn’t need a DSLR…he’s got a natural eye and with that you can use whatever you want to shoot with.

    0
    • 16

      If your personal inspiration comes from this guy, you should change your inspiration source :). That’s just bright lenses used at wide aperture. Nothing really fancy down there, nothing close to a “natural eye” :).

      0
  15. 17

    I’m with Jason here.. way too much HDR.

    0
  16. 18

    Wow, 1st time I completely disagree with an article on this website. Please let this author enjoy his flickr fame with these horrible pictures but don’t let him pollute SM again.

    0
  17. 19

    agree with the commenters, where’s the link between “advanced photography” and hdr photoshopping? i think hdr is just a hyped thing that will soon be considered lame and disappear

    -1
  18. 20

    ah and btw.. flickr have nothing to do with an art salon, and yes with popular preference. all you have to do is follow the very link provided here (best of the last 7 days) and see how really crappy pictures make it to the top. i got a picture of sugar made birds, a heart with some toys, and a kid with a black eye.

    -1
  19. 21

    Oh, now I understand what HDR is. You take a great photo and then digitally manipulate it to the point where it looks as if some B-grade graphic designer whipped it up in Photoshop on their coffee break. Cool. What was the point again?

    Does anyone think this HDR thing is a bit like 80s fashion? That we’ll all – especially the author – will look back on this trend and be really, really embarrassed in about 10 years time. Heck, I’m embarrassed now.

    -1
  20. 22

    Some interesting points here – I teach students at degree level and at times are amazed at how unengaged they are. An article like this simply states how it is; get out, get working, be serious and passionate about what you do. Make mistakes and learn from them, enjoy the challenge of learning a new language – visual language – and begin to explore who you really are.

    The ten points mentioned are all relevant but particularly the one about drawing – It gets you looking and understanding relationships between the essential elements that make up an image and it also teaches you that most important point about translating 3 dimensions back into 2. All photography is an illusion – it’s how much we realize this that makes the difference.

    I also run a photography blog that deals with similar themes – I’m just starting out so some subscribers and comments would be welcome! You can check it out here:

    1
  21. 23

    the ancient Hindu temple above is call “Candi Prambanan” … very dramatic indeed

    1
  22. 24

    I like the DREADLOCKED person

    0
  23. 25

    Please. No more hdr.

    0
  24. 26

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who is completely sick of the ‘HDR look.’ HDR is a very powerful tool, but the work above is trite and boring. In addition, the author’s masking skills in photoshop are terrible. You should not be able to see halos around buildings if the photographer knows what they are doing.

    There’s a lot of capable photographers out there. I’m sure Smashing Magazine can find somebody who can really contribute some skills. How about David from the Strobist blog? That guy has contributed more to modern photography than all the HDR shooters in the world…

    0
  25. 27

    Oh boy a little controversy and some constructive criticism I see! :)

    It’s all good… thanks for the feedback. I think if you want traditional photography advice, there are hundreds of books on the matter. I obviously have my own set of thoughts on the matter, and I’m perfectly at ease with people that disagree. I’m convinced that people see the world differently… I notice this in many arenas. Whenever people DON’T see the world like you (whether it is in visual photos, politics, religion, or whatever), they are always very ready to tell you that you are wrong and the way they see the world is right. Anyway, it’s okay and I take it all in stride.

    One other comment on HDR photography that I did not throw in… I’m also sure that the pupil needs to move around in order to accept different light levels (just like on the scene). Sometimes, with a small thumbnail, like here or on Flickr, the eye/mind auto rejects so many light levels at once. This is a finer point, but one that I think is important… this is why I keep the pics at 900 pixels across on my blog, so that they eye can traverse the photo, like the eye does when really on location.

    3
  26. 28

    Thank you so much for this! I am awestruck by HDR photos and haven’t yet figured out to get the look out of my SLR. Yes, I’m a poser! It’s awesome that my #1 web design blog is becoming one of my favorite photography blogs too…

    2
  27. 29

    Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard worse advice.

    0
  28. 30

    great article, and even more awe-inspiring photographs! good job!

    1
  29. 31

    I prefer my photos to be natural. Not look like they were done in 3-D studio max. Ease up on the HDR. You mentioned something about taking feedback from friends and others.. well… here you have it. I’m pretty sure the masses have spoken. Out with the HDR. The Amish kid photo looks like something my nephew did for his first Photoshop project. There’s potential in the images… just don’t try so hard.

    I do agree with three things: draw, bring your camera everywhere and well, just always be prepared.

    2
  30. 32

    Mr. Ratcliff…you are so amazing. Such a fabulous artist. Ever since I stumbled upon your work I have loved it. Thank you for sharing this insight. You are such an inspiration…I’m gonna take my camera out right now and hopefully *hopefully* fire off a good, non-over-processed HDR. Chances are slim, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

    1
  31. 33

    Oh and I’m sure tim (sic) didn’t mean to sound so mean. I doubt he’s really looked into your HDRs…they really are splendid. The photo of the young Amish boy truly is breathtaking. And if his nephew takes shots like that for his first Photoshop project then, man, I’d really love to see his work, and I’m left wondering why he hasn’t had multiple photos hang in the Smithsonian castle…

    0
  32. 34

    HDR photography, like many other digital photo fads, will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of history. As it should, because HDR is anti-art.

    -1
  33. 35

    I think that the author really knows how to make ^normal^ pictures, hdr is a tool, and you can agree or not but he really master it. Some people say too much hdr…but he was one of the first to use this techique and he always helps others to learn…i suggest to see the non hdr pictures on his flickr-s page and then we can talk.

    0
  34. 36

    I find it endlessly fascinating that people can simultaneously condemn HDR photography and praise toy camera photography when they are essentially after the same thing–creating a photograph that is more than a snapshot and is instead a piece of art. If you quit looking at Mr. Ratliff’s photography expecting “realism”, and instead understand that his creation is about evoking a feeling–which is exactly what art is–you’ll learn to appreciate so much more than your tiny universe has allowed thus far.

    0
  35. 38

    Regarding (3. Get Rid Of Your Toy Camera), I have a nice Canon DSLR, and after a while it has begun to sit in the closet because it’s just easier to use a point-and-shoot. I firmly believe in having both.

    1
  36. 39

    take a look at joey lawrence photography… that guy’s techniques and pics can really teach you how to capture an image.. even if it is with a disposable…

    1
  37. 40

    People criticizing HDR here: did you even read the article? Or did you just scroll down the page glancing at the images and then proceed to add your anti-HDR rhetoric? Constructive criticism is indeed useful for any artist, but calling something “anti-art”… what does that even mean? I personally find Trey’s take on HDR to be quite intriguing… and would love to hear differing opinions on the subject from someone who actually took the time to read the article.

    0
  38. 41

    Wow, if you don’t like HDR then don’t read an article about it and then spend time bashing it. I’m not a big fan of blurred out lens baby shots, but I’ll tell you I don’t spend any time writing negative comments on fans of them. HDR can be subtle or blown out. It’s art so there is no right or wrong. Good article and thanks for sharing your perspective Trey.

    1
  39. 42

    All those HDR photos are not really photos. They are digital paintings. For so much talk about the eye and the brain, I finally see what Jeffrey Friedl meant when he said your brain knows that HDR is so much smoke and mirrors.

    Don’t get me wrong these HDR paintings are nice but they are no different from a Toulousse LeTrec painting or Maxfield Parish. Stunningly beautiful works of art but they are maybe creeping outside of photograhpy and into the realm of digital design.

    The camera is a limited medium so I won’t knock this guy too much. Spend some more time working with the photograph and less time with the photoshop.

    THe HDR amish kid looks good. All the others are the latest craze. Remember solarized prints? Put HDR in that same bin.

    -1
  40. 43

    Wow, I have never read so many dumb comments to an article.
    I have been following Trey’s photography for years now, and it is truly inspiring what he does. Nobody is forcing you to shoot HDR or gives a damn if you like it or not.
    It’s really interesting to see that so many people comment and waste time to do that if they don’t like it all.
    Trey, never mind these weirdos, there’s many people who love your pics.

    1
  41. 44

    Steps to advance your photography skills – all good! Just would of been good to include things on 3rds / lighting and use natural ( NON PHOTOSHOP IMAGES )

    If you’re a sports press photographer – you have to count on your PHOTOGRAPHY skills not your cs4 skils

    0
  42. 45

    this is not HDR, this is a sucky attempt at hdr.

    sorry for adding an adress but THIS is true HDR http://www.debevec.org/Research/HDR/

    i like some photos in this post. other not that much. but still, there’s a difference from photoshop and HDR.

    -2
  43. 46

    It’s easy to be critical, but venom does not replace constructive advice, it just points out the mental limitations of the commenter.

    I found the article interesting, educational and informative, especially as a novice in photography, for whom I suspect the article was intended.

    I found some of the comments to be totally unhelpful and a waste of my reading time. I once met a great artist who used cigar ash as a medium, but his best works were using the whole palette. similarly you can certainly take good photos with cheap cameras, but better ones with the right equipment..

    And Joannae, a toss pot is (from the urban dictionary):
    “An old English double-noun which, because of the use of the word, toss and its own synonymous resonance with masturbation and wank, does not mean “a wanker”.

    A toss-pot is a drunkard, a toper; a would-be alcoholic still managing to function in society.”

    Is that what you meant?

    Cheers
    Bill

    0
  44. 47

    All this HDR is utter trash. How can anyone take you seriously when this is your work? There is something useful in having an extended dynamic range of light to work with, but when you compress it all into such a narrow visual space, I’m sorry, it looks like surreal digital garbage. These huge glowing halos around anything that meets the sky should tell you that you’re overdoing your effect tremendously, so much that even the algorithms can’t give you the color compression you’re trying to drag out of those images. It’s honestly hard to tell you if a photo is decent or not when the postprocess retouching has gone absolutely mad and blown out every single pixel in the image to a max-sautation impossible-contrast mess.

    -1
  45. 48

    WOW.. awesome article… a good article on smashing after a long time.. wonderful..

    1
  46. 49

    it’s interesting seeing all these comments from people who are so against HDR. Although I must agree with them that it is overused and abysmally abused by many, many photographers, Trey is a pioneer and a master of the HDR technique.

    You have to keep in mind that the intention here is not to get a xerox of the world – it’s to convey a particular person’s impression of the world. There is always going to be a little of the oversaturated, the unreal, when doing this. Did Picasso’s pictures look like an exact image of what they were representing? No, of course not – but they did convey his impression of whatever it was.

    I’m aware that it’s far too soon to say that HDR will be elevated to the same realm as impressionism, cubism, and the like. On the other hand, it is worth noting that these were also not accepted as true art when they first appeared, and that it’s far too soon to write HDR off as a fad, particularly as it truly is in it’s infancy still, and still has a long way to go in becoming a technique that is properly understood and implemented by most people.

    1
  47. 50

    GREAT CAPTURE!

    1
  48. 51

    I have also found its important to know how to touch-up a picture. I don’t mean adding sucks to the lake picture you took, I mean adjusting the light levels of that sunset picture you took to make the colors stand out more, and how to selectively darken/lighten areas of a photo to make it more dramatic.

    0
  49. 52

    HighlyDynamicPhotography.com

    February 17, 2009 9:36 pm

    Its funny, people either LOVE hdr or HATE it. Seems most who hate are purists (or closet HDR wannabes who can’t figure out all those sliders!! Oh my!). Dude, love your article, it’s tough love, but eloquent truth. A good camera is a big start, but the artist is what makes the image. If you want to be good you have to think about everything, always. And get the right tools like a tripod and a decent camera. People don’t want to hear that, they want to whip out a toy and take a stuckincustoms™ style awesome picture. Without using photoshop or other software. Or using their brain. I hear from people all the time “oooh, nice picture, did you use photoshop?” Then wrinkling their nose when the answer is yes. Its like asking a mathematician if he uses a calculator then looking down on him when he says yes. Or she.

    Anyway dude, awesome article — even if its too high-level for most :)

    1
  50. 53

    you skipped a step: Exploitation. Seriously man, get your own style instead of trying to hijack HDR. “The very first time I used a DSLR camera, when I was 35 or so, I very quickly came to the realization that something was missing.” You make it sound like you thought this up or something. Quit glossing over the fact that you hopped on the bandwagon like everyone else.

    0
  51. 54

    Stop with the HDR, please. Great photography is NOT nightscape through HDR. It works once, twice, but not the whole time.
    It’s hard to take the message seriously.

    0
  52. 55

    Great info.. Thanks! Now let’s go back to a web design/developing article :D

    1
  53. 56

    Ugggh. HDR is a great tool to bring life to a photo, something to have in your bag of tricks when needed. But this, this is too much. Your eye can see a greater dynamic range than your camera, great HDR compensates for that. It should make a landscape look how you remembered it not like it came from some comic book.

    0
  54. 57

    HDR overblow out here.

    I am not impressed by people that can manipulate an image with photoshop and nor am I impressed by HDR.

    I am impressed by beauty, light, energy, color and SUBJECT. What is in the FRAME – is it real?

    Or does it look like a comic book as stated by an above poster…

    0
  55. 58

    Whoa, whoa Herbalizer. Saying that Trey “jumped on the bandwagon of HDR” really says to everyone else that you know very little of his work, and especially the HDR scene. Trey is a pioneer with this evolution of photography. I can track his HDR use all the way back into early 2006. So unless you can bring some meat with your own photo gallery, all I can say to you is: Don’t be jealous boy.

    1
  56. 59

    hmmm.. cool… im very new to photography and it would have been cooler if the article talks about advanced techniques in getting photos and not PPeds or whatever.

    0
  57. 60

    Before buying expensive camera gear and editing every single shot in PS is not what makes good photography. You CAN do serious shots with a “toy camera”. Photograhpy starts where most of today’s digital photographers fail: No Photoshop, but good exposure, perspective/point of view, arrangemenet/composition.

    Anyway this list isn’t that wrong at all…

    Cheers
    Gerrit

    0
    • 61

      Federico Capoano

      August 13, 2010 9:06 am

      This is true bullshit, you have to have a good camera, being some kind of compact or a DSLR, but it has to be a camera specialized for some kind of photography, not just a normal camera that costs 80€ to take snapshots.. cos the images delivered by this type of camera are very low quality, a good composition with a bad quality looks just silly.

      -2
  58. 62

    I like the article, but I think the photo choice were unfortunate. From the title of the article + the photos, you’d think that “Advanced Photography skills” = HDR.

    I guess this means there’s never been any “advanced” photographer before the invention of HDR a few years back.. :p

    0
  59. 63

    Geez! to all these haters above me! i think you all are the ones that need to chill! These images are wonderful and they reflect Trey Ratcliffs perspectives on the world. You call yourselves artists but your not open to anything that isnt exactly like yours or “natural” one word!! Jealous

    1
  60. 64

    Ignoring the take it or leave HDR aspects of this article, I agree with quite a few others that it has been poorly thought out and badly researched (if at all).

    As has been said, “toy camers” can take brilliant photos. There are examples on flickr of people taking brilliant photos using camera phones for examples.

    You are far better off learning to use your camera and learning how to compose and view a scene properly than spending out on a DLSR. A camera with more features doesn’t take better photos, the photographer does.

    The tripod comments were also badly put. You need a tripod for longer exposures, ie, at night/low light, or for blurring water. Though I may point out there are ways around that as well. No point lugging a tripod about if it stops you getting somewhere to take that amazing shot. Perhaps for merging exposures it is handy to have the frames all lined up, to save you doing that as well as merging the pictures. You certainly don’t need a tripod for sunrise and sunset shots as standard.

    I think the title was misleading for the article. It seems clear to me this was about HDR, and the authors site also seems to be prominent in that technique. So put me in the camp of being disappointed by this article. Some perspective on the points made would have been better than waxing lyrical about 19 year old sales people.

    0
  61. 65

    First of all, what ignorance. Second, what is normal? Anyone want to tackle how you take a normal image?
    People need to realize that humans are DIFFERENT. We see things differently. I myself am color blind to cetain colors. So a normal image to me, is obviously going to be different than someone else. How can you criticize someone for how THEY see the world??? I can tell you one thing, I dont see just highlights or shadows. The human eye sees things in a form of HDR. Therfore in my opinion, HDR photography is more “normal” to the eye than a non-HDR image. Can you not at least accept this fact?
    Finally, I have no problem with critiques…But at least bring a valid argument and stay away from comments that just make you sound ignorant.

    0
  62. 66

    by “advanced” you mean HDR? nice try!

    1
  63. 67

    These HDR make me sick. HDR should be banned from the Internet!

    1
  64. 68

    sorry, but HDR sucks, no matter how strongly you push the colors and the contrasts…it’s too obvious and way overdone by now. Capturing great images with “toy cameras” is way more fun, which in the end should be the main purpose…Overall, I disagree with pretty much everything you wrote except the “take your camera everywhere” part…

    0
  65. 69

    Wow, a pioneer(!) of over saturated images? Going back to 2006! Who cares that tone mapping is automated burning and dodging and that people have been doing it since the first enlargers. This is obviously new and exciting!

    2
  66. 70

    Gonzo says, “Capturing great images with “toy cameras” is way more fun, which in the end should be the main purpose…”

    So having fun is what the main purpose is??? I guess that exludes people who have fun taking HDR images….

    1
  67. 71

    HDR is for the blind

    February 18, 2009 12:33 am

    Sorry. HDR is a crappy trend, plain and simple. 5 years from now (I hope less) people who thought they loved it will realize it’s complete garbage. Dig deep people, it’s nothing but eye candy and that’s all. HDR has no soul. True photographic art has some meaning to it, not just “oh, look that’s neat!”.

    -1
  68. 72

    This article says:
    DSLR+ HDR + Photoshop => the best way to be a good photographer.
    In my opinion it is not true.

    HDR photos like shown above are nice but simply boring. Period.
    There are milions of similar photos on the web. They are made the same way, with the same tools and same plugins, according to same books or “professional” tutorials. I see no creativity in such photos. Just a mix of unnatural glows, lights and heavily oversharpen areas. Its scarry when you see nice photo like “Amish boy” spoiled by HDR resulting muddy looking artificial skin.

    The best way to be better in photography is to study old masters like Ansel Adams. Its worth to make mistakes and wait couple of minutes for proper light than make a bunch of bad photos and trying to create another “HDR-monster” in Photoshop.

    0
  69. 73

    Why do most HDR-pictures have such gruesome colours? The real world never looked as distasteful as that. It’s almost as black/white-photography got its second renaissance for me with all these over-the-top messy HDR-photos.

    I hope the HDR-trend will change and the propagators will start considering colour above anything else when doing their gigs.

    0
  70. 74

    Why so many HDR pictures? Anyway, I like the statement about Toy cameras. Very true.

    0
  71. 75

    I shoot pinhole…

    -2
  72. 76

    Interesting article, but the title should be more on how to make advanced digital camera HDR photos. Great to see how far you can go with a photograph.
    I still believe that great (and real IMHO) landscape photograpy should be done with a medium/large format film camera. Buying an (expensive) DSLR seems to be an advice from the camera makers and has “nothing” to do with making photos.

    But all in all interesting article

    1
  73. 77

    hdr cloudy sky is sooooo unbelievably boring…

    0
  74. 78

    dear mister, you have just inspired me.

    0
  75. 79

    HDR reminds me of those A1 posters we had in the 80s. Way too much color, saturation and “fantasy look” – in my opinion.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people think that photography has something to do with the camera (it doesn’t) or the Photoshop skills (definitely not). A good photographer is someone who can frame a shot near perfect in very little time and get the light and emotion right as well – not many can (check out http://www.mb-photography.com – I am not affiliated in any way ;) ).

    In my opinion, the best images are the ones that need the least post production.

    But then again, the images posted here are art, so they do have merit. Good job for writing all the information!

    1
  76. 80

    I’ve yet to see a good HDR photograph. These like many others are pretty much crap, in my opinion anyhow. It’s just more photoshop trickery that does nothing new or exciting from photographic point of view. Using HDR usually just seems to ruin a possibly good photograph and at best it just leaves the watcher focused on the after effects instead of what’s really in the picture. Photographs are composed from light and that’s exactly what HDR kills. Thus not leaving you with much if anything at all.

    -1
  77. 81

    thanks a lot for theses advices, very helpful!
    you used a lot of french references and expressions, do you speak french?

    1
  78. 82

    I am truly surprised by all the anti-HDRites out there. I agree that HDR imagery can be overused and overdone but at the same time it can be used as a tool to create some truly awe-inspiring works of art. And, in my opinion, there is none better at achieving this using the HDR technique than Trey Ratcliff.

    My foray into photography began with trying out creating my own HDRs with my first DSLR after becoming fed up with the limitations of my digital compact.

    The results from my own experimentation made me see my surroundings in a completely different way. By posting my images on flickr and Facebook I engaged others to try out this technique and photography in general.

    If you look at art from over the centuries you will see the use of more saturated colours and increased contrast, as you see in HDR images. These techniques are nothing new, but being able to achieve results like this using modern technology makes producing such visually captivating imagery much more accessible to everyone.

    I also don’t believe the article is suggesting that HDR is the be-all end-all of photography but I have to agree that using a DSLR over a compact and carrying your camera with you will result in far superior results than shooting your holiday with your iPhone. Personally, I’ve taken aspects of Trey’s tutorial and use HDR when I feel it’s appropriate and other techniques for enhancing images when I feel they will make the image more dynamic. I also agree that flickr is one of the best things to happen to modern photography – I’ve met some great people through it and learnt an array of different techniques for everything from landscape to wedding and portrait photography.

    I for one would like to thank Trey for his contribution to the art world, and it is art pure and simple. And like all forms of art that have come before it’s all subjective. Some people will love it and some will hate it. It’s just a shame that the haters seem so much more vocal here!

    1
  79. 83

    Wow Thanks!

    1
  80. 84

    HDR es una horterada, la saturación de color que produce … aburre y cansa al ojo del espectador

    0
  81. 85

    I’m not really into HDR, because it distracts us from the real substance of photography.
    I guess everyone here is “advanced” enough to know what I mean.

    It is a bit of a shallow post and I expected more after reading the headline.
    But I like the topic – more photography stuff from smashing magazine please ;-)

    0
  82. 86

    Just a small request for the SM webmasters: would it be possible to produce PDF versions of articles so that one can download the article and eventually read it later? In my company, lots of images are filtered/blocked, consequently, I can just read text of articles. If it was in PDF format, I would be able to download the entire article.

    Many thanks !

    0
  83. 87

    So what’s your opinion about using cannon powershot (g9/10) as start up camera instead a DSLR?

    0
  84. 88

    @charles,

    there are webservices that save websites to PDF. Just google it

    0
  85. 89

    really great post. and awesome images.

    1
  86. 90

    Point 3 is totally wrong. Of course, some pics can’t be taken with common compact cameras, but to tell somebody “taking good pictures is only possible with an expensive DSLR and even more expensive lenses” shows the incompetence of the photographer. I’ve seen so many breathtaking pictures that were shot with compact or bridge cameras that really prove you wrong in this point.

    Your problem is, that you nearly completely focus on colors and lights in your example pics, but none of them shows interesting content to think about. (except for the amish boy and the sketches. I like those pictures far more then the others).

    1
  87. 91

    Hey Trey, fantastic insight into the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ – it’s something I’ve been trying to put my finger on for a long time, and that would appear to explain it. I’m surprised by the resistance*, especially here, but you got through to at least one person :)

    * I never seem to expect Dunning-Kruger…

    1
  88. 92

    Actually I think most of the pictures you posted here are “too” HDRed and I didn’t like most of them.

    1
  89. 93

    The HDR here is over cooked, it looks nasty

    1
  90. 94

    Some very good tips here. Great post!

    1
  91. 95

    Man, there’s a lot of hate in these comments.

    In fact, photography articles seem to generate more hate than anything else on SM. For those of us who aren’t photographers, wow, you guys seem a bitter bunch.

    2
  92. 96

    PLEASE stop believing that HDR is anything like an advanced technique!!! it’s just some kind of technique that’s misunderstood in 90% of all photographs!!
    there aren’t any advanced techniques in photography because gaining techniques is only the beginning as you can see on those HDR-pictures on this site, which are all nothing but amateur-pictures. You can’t compensate the lack of individual look & feel with HDR! of course, there are quite nice things you can do with HDR, but only if you know how to use it in a decent way without ruining tha authentic and natural expression of the picture. oversaturation of course can lead to interesting results but shouldn’t be the standard procedure.

    0
  93. 97

    EVERY DSLR is rubbish it cannot take pictures like the eye sees. You have to use photoshop (or similar, gimp corel etc) to make the picture realistic looking, however I am against HDR. Research traditional print techniques such as Clean and Boost and then apply the same principles in photoshop. Create actions to automate it and your almost there.

    Cleaning works on the principle that to make something yellow appear more lifelike you would remove the other colours. example yellow take away cyan and magenta. this would make it more vivid and lifelike. Give it a shot in photoshop Image > Adjustments > Selective colour.

    The advantage this has over saturation is that it doesnt change the colour over the WHOLE image, just the selective colour you are working on. Heavy saturation applied in photoshop just looks wrrong. This clean and boost technique works alot better.

    People serious about photography should read up on print theory… You can learn alot

    http://www.gavinwill.me.uk

    0
  94. 98

    Wether you like HDR or not, I think the issue with the article here is the misleading title. There are no ’10 easy steps’ to advanced photography. Advanced photography is not something you get done in 10 easy steps.
    This article should have been called ’10 TIPS that could help you on your way to advanced photography’.

    1
  95. 99

    Here’s been a very good tip. Good article!

    1
  96. 100

    Trey Ratcliff should work for Squeenix to help gloss up their next Final Fantasy-games.

    Man, this stuff looks more like CG-renders with every applicable filter used on them than real photographs of real settings.

    0
  97. 101

    I think for 6 you meant “use HDR all the time until every picture looks the same and we’re all sick of seeing it”…

    -1
  98. 102

    I think the best approach would be to look at the results of the work that came from this article, and then try to approach photography in exactly the opposite way then described. Hopefully then you’ll have some good photos, which will be the opposite of those presented here. Absolutely hideous.

    -1
  99. 103

    Man, isn’t there anybody anymore on this planet who is not on this boring HDR trip?
    Nice tutorial though, and almost all of the points are valid also for non HDR photography.

    1
  100. 104

    Wow, super smashing great article. SM does it again. Fanstastic. The HDR shown here looks like a crazy fad! The monkeys newest toy.

    1
  101. 105

    Maybe it’s because HDR is so new, but I tend to be distracted by the technique rather than the content of the photograph.

    I’d also point out that in this 1984 world, it’s probably good to have a small pocket camera for those spontaneous moments that can often dissipate once a giant threatening camera is introduced to the scene.

    0
  102. 106

    littletommytrucker

    February 18, 2009 5:09 am

    Wow Trey! Looks like you stirred up all the traditionalists. I’ve been following your work on Flickr for some time now (awesome). I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder (I use a point and shoot myself) and I admire you for making HDR part of what it is today. No, HDR is not appropriate for all occasions but the creative and aesthetic quality are undeniable when viewed as an art. When correctly done it is simply more pleasing to the eyes. Keep up the good work!

    1
  103. 107

    I hate tonemapped photos :(

    0
  104. 108

    That’s the best article I’ve ever read about photography in the whole wide internet! Keep up the good work!

    1
  105. 109

    The ancient Hindu is NOT in the jungles. Not even close to the jungles… There are barely even a jungle left in the island of Java, Indonesia…

    0
  106. 110

    Art. Define art people? HDR photography is art.

    Some of you are quick to be critical of this photogrpahers work. Remember he has multiple prints that have been dispalyed at the Smithsonian. How many of you haters have prints hanging there???

    2
  107. 111

    Really good points in this article (specially the Monet part and how we should see beyond and use our brains).
    However, HDR has been overused and overdone.
    Most anyone can HDR a shot to make it (according to them) pretty, but if the composition is missing, then HDR is not going to fix that.

    0
  108. 112

    The points made in the article are great, the example photos referenced are not.

    -2
  109. 113

    Good work, Trey. I’m amused at all the jaded HDR haters. It’s true that the technique has been beaten to death by plenty of low-talent hacks (myself included), but that doesn’t mean that all is bad. Trey, your images are fantastic and inspiring, as are your helpful posts. Thanks for taking the time!

    1
  110. 114

    I think people like to criticize what they don’t likem, sometimes just because they don’t understand. Some people like HDR and some people don’t. It’s a fact! Wherever… if you don’t like HDR why the heck you wast your time doing comments about it?
    Anyway, very nice article. I am more into web designs but I do enjoy those articles about photography also.
    Trey, great article. Thanks for sharing with us.
    SM keep this articles about photography coming, please!

    0
  111. 115

    Bad. Please don’t do this again.

    -2
  112. 116

    Brilliant Article, love following your work on Flickr… Im still very new to HDR and personally still way overdo it, but im sure i will tone down once the novelty has worn off a little. With regards to the whole HDR scene being to some peoples dislike, i can fully understand this, but every single person i have shown my newbie prints to, really love them! So why stop? Luckily in life we have choices, so either choose to turn away, or, play with hdr, master it, then add it to your repertoire of photography skills… The more you can learn the better right? Plus if you ignore the range within the photographs, imagine them as they where shot, they are still really nice photos, composed well, and very pleasing content to ones eye…

    1
  113. 117

    Wow, Great Post ! I love HD..

    Good Day Smash!

    1
  114. 118

    Ok… all of your hardcore fans are saying that the ones against your work are tradionalist, jealous and we can’t appreciate art and your point of view as an artist.

    I’ve seen HDR photos that are fantastic (not in this article), because the treatment is subtle and enhances the photo instead of distorting it.

    I think the main issue here, is the tittle of the article, and I think it should be illustrated with natural-looking photos instead of HDR, and at the point in where is sugested that we should try HDR, THEN use GOOD HDR examples, not this crap. I don’t know all of your work, but I do tell (and some others here think the same), this is a poor selection and it doesn’t make me feel curious about the rest of what you do.

    So, it’s your artistic view of something. Perfect, I agree is your vision and then is not wrong. Therefore, don’t come and write an article, telling us what are advanced photographic skills when you are showing us that you can’t take a photo with photographic principles, and always have to use a photoshop technique.

    Though, it is your right to do what you want with your photos, but it is ours not like it… and it looks like your hardcore fans can’t take that, so who’s really intolerant here?

    1
  115. 119

    haha! And a vigorous discussion ensues!

    Good feedback above… I appreciate all kinds.

    Well, I suppose people that read the article know that only one or two of the 10 points dealt with HDR photography (even though 80% of the photos I featured in the article are HDR). I proffer that my points are applicable to all types of photography.

    The fine crew here at Smashing had changed the name of the article a little bit. That’s okay and it’s their prerogative. My focus was more “My Principles of Beautiful Photography”, since I know I have a different take on things, and, on occasion, the world is ready for some different thinking on these sorts of matters.

    I am totally sure, and reminded by the responses of this article, that people do see the world differently. Haven’t you ever wondered what “Orange” looks like to other people around you? So it’s not just orange, it’s every color, light level, contrast and shape. I think that everyone does not see the world in a vibrant way — others perhaps see it more in shadows and contrast. You can see many other photographers’ work deal with contrast and shapes in muted tones. Perhaps this is how their brain stores images differently than mine (or others that see like me).

    There are plenty of photographers out there that take black and white pictures of some emo kid sitting in a corner with a shadow thrown across his morose expression. That’s all fine and well… if I can be so bold as to quote my favorite artist, Auguste Renoir: “Why shouldn’t art be pretty?”, he said, “There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”

    2
  116. 120

    I love all of you haters out there. I seriously doubt any of you have a portfolio half as strong as Trey. If you have examples of better work, then post some links! I’d love and I am sure trey would love to see them so we can learn.

    0
  117. 121

    Thanks for the tips !

    1
  118. 122

    When I read title First thing pop to my mind is “This is probably good article how take great photos with digital camera”.
    …But….
    Article has nothing to do with it.
    70% is about author talking about him self and promoting his HRD photos.
    Another 30% philosofical aspect and image editing with photoshop and other softwares.

    List of cameras author provided on his web site is lame.
    What about other cameras like Canon, Pentax, Olympus?

    Very dissapointed.
    SM can do better.

    1
  119. 123

    It is called art. Who ever really liked an art critic. I personally don’t ever want to read another critisism of someones art. Whether it is an HDR photograph or a painting of a velvet Elvis. If you don’t like it STFU and move on. Why waste your time and ours with your useless drivel. Like I am doing now. I just wasted two minutes of my life defending Trey because I admire his work. I don’t like all of it but no one like ALL of someones work. But don’t criticize just to do it. Move on to something you do enjoy. Either way learn from it.

    1
  120. 124

    A friend of mine insists that processing photos in Photoshop is “cheating” somehow. I remind him that film used to be processed in a darkroom; digital photography requires Photoshop. Ever compare a one-shot picture straight out of the camera to one that was properly processed in Photoshop? Immense difference! I use HDR whenever possible, because I find that photos without it are often flat and boring. I need the extra “light” if you will, the illumination that HDR brings to the picture. I want to see what my eye saw. I love saturated colors (if they existed when I took the picture). I also use Pixel Lift to define the textures, because yes, they too go missing in a digital photo (Trey uses Lucis Art, which is too expensive for me). But most importantly, I always try to start with a superb photo; all the post-processing in the world won’t save a bad one. And I do always have my camera with me, everywhere. It’s not a DSLR, either, but a Canon prosumer point and shoot. http://www.pbase.com/zarabeth

    1
  121. 125

    This reminds me of that one time SM posted all of those guest articles for a contest. And they were all rubbish. And so is this.

    -1
  122. 126

    Regardless of what everyone says. HDR is beautiful! It really looks like another world.. a world in which we would love to see things. Author, you realy know how to bring out color..and color is beautiful! Dont let these other peeps bring you down :) I have a DSLR and LOVE my camera – I would NEVER go back to point and shoot. Yes you can take good pictures with a point and shoot but the artistic flexibility with a DSLR can NOT compare. Great article and keep up the great HDR photography – there are still us few who appreciate the different styles of art…especially when its beautiful — thanks!

    1
  123. 127

    There are photographers who utilize HDR sparingly to supplement reality. OK, cool. There are photographers who utilize HDR to deliberately blur the lines between reality and fantasy. OK, cool, too. But don’t confuse the two approaches and then criticize the photographer for not conforming to your preference.

    0
  124. 128

    Dear heavens above, could you be any more stuck up? Trey, you really need to get over yourself. Your HDR look like garbage. They strain the eyes and border on visual vomit. Put down the mouse and stop Photoshopping everything. It’s not the camera, but the eyes that use it that makes art.

    -2
  125. 129

    I am not that thrilled with HDR. I prefer “natural” color, or even better sometimes B&W photos. And as far as a camera, both a DSLR and a ‘Toy’ camera can be equally useful, for me though the ‘Toy’ has to have a good optical zoom.

    0
  126. 130

    HDR is played out! Move on!

    -1
  127. 131

    The comic book/video game comparison makes a lot of sense.

    1
  128. 132

    The article is not as bad as many post here. HDR has its place, just like any other photography style has.

    I think though the the heading was not wisely choosen ;)

    The “must have DSLR” part is bollocks IMHO. It is not the camera that makes the pictures it is the photographer.

    2
  129. 133

    lol… well I think that if SM haven’t change the title, then everything would be ok, haha… let’s torch them! (kidding)

    0
  130. 134

    Worst advice ever. DSLRs are for sports photographers and people who think theyre creative. Get over yourself sir.

    To all others: Get a nice Rangefinder or MF camera. Your pictures will look amazing without all the post processing.

    -1
  131. 135

    Very good points. This really give’s me a new way to think. Thanks for sharing.

    0
  132. 136

    What i don’t understand is why you waste this otherwise nice shots with loads of hdr crap.
    please, talk about design/coding and let photography for other blogs.

    -1
  133. 137

    What a bunch of terrible tips.

    -2
  134. 138

    @Matt

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not there. If you want to take an image that’s identical to the one you see through your viewfinder; you need an SLR.

    0
  135. 139

    I’ve got to start shooting again, I agree with everyone that you don’t need a DSLR like the article states (although I have one).

    There are many different types of cameras out there that can produce interesting and professional results whether it be a toy or specialty camera, a medium format, large format, a Polaroid, etc…its really all about choosing the right camera for the job, knowing how it works and getting the most out of it.

    A camera doesn’t make the photographer, the photographer makes the camera.

    1
  136. 140

    Hmmm? There is no any practical advice in this article! Its a shame.

    -2
  137. 141

    I’m sorry, but this photography is terrible and the advice is lame. I would love to see this article completely rewritten!

    -2
  138. 142

    1.) An expensive, DSLR camera does not a photographer make.
    Personally, I’ve taken more inspired, beautiful photos with my plastic Diana+ camera.

    2.) Just like all other art forms, there is no “one answer” for photography or becoming a better photographer.
    While I appreciate the effort, this guy shares his personal experiences like they are the Rosetta Stone for becoming the world’s best photographer! While some of the “advice” is valid (like having your camera always available), its nowhere close to revolutionary insight. As previously alluded-to in many other comments, a dash of humility would be well served.

    3.) Anybody looking to learn to draw, especially if you are out of your teens, should look into the classic book “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.
    This is a great way to retrain your brain to see in the way necessary for drawing (lighting, spatial relation, perspective, etc.), at the same time learning the physical skill.

    1
  139. 143

    I think HDR has its place, and many of these examples of HDR are quite beautiful, IMO.

    However — please don’t confuse HDR with advanced photography. It is advanced photoshopping. An “advanced” photograph shouldn’t need any HDR, although perhaps one can create a piece of HDR artwork out of an “advanced” photo.

    Also — be careful of looking at Flickr Explore photos as the best photos. It can pick out some great photos, as well as some doozies, and some amazing photos never get into Explore. It can definitely be used as a source of inspiration, but it’s not foolproof.

    1
  140. 144

    Brilliant read, had me laughing a lot! Excellent advice, too!

    1
  141. 145

    heather van de mark

    February 18, 2009 10:12 am

    a truly inspiring post.
    your selection of photos were exemplary. the one of rodin’s gates of hell is poetic.
    and to know you picked up a camera in your mid-30s, shows that anyone can do anything if they want to be serious about it.

    0
  142. 146

    With regard to “getting a DSLR” and throwing away the toys: This is obviously a required step because of the flexibility and quality that it brings, however, it does kind of sound like your saying it is not possible to take amazing photos with any camera. So many people thing that a DSLR buys you a way to take good photos. It doesn’t. It is a tool like anything else. Take a look at pro photographer Chris Orwig his words are a very good read after this very good post…

    0
  143. 147

    This is the worst article i’ve seen on this website so far.
    “HDR” as more and more people are calling this awful method of combining pictures are just bo***cs. Does anyone even understand what it is??
    It certainly is not something that is listed above. Awful pictures.
    It reminds me of all the overload amazing “space spraycan paintings” you
    can find everywhere amongst street artist…
    Btw. a true HDR image means it contains pixel information in a wide range.
    meaning you can take an overblown image and turn the exposure way down and
    still keep pixel info without any clamping happening. this goes both ways on the scale.
    Its NOT a layered/cut paste, erase what i dont need of lots of different photos taken at different exposure levels.
    Using HDR files mostly every day in my job as a CG artist and calling a picture like the examples above “hdr” has nothing to do whit what a hdr file is..
    how natural does it look?? it doesnt..
    I’ve enjoyed most articles on photos so far but this is utter c**p… sorry..

    For the rest of the overall ranting this guy is putting down as “steps to improve your photos” i got nothing to say..
    its that useless, immature and waste of webspace.

    1
  144. 148

    The article should be called “10 Easy Steps To Advanced HDR Photography Skills”.
    HDR is generally eye candy.

    0
  145. 149

    I have to say it’s pretty moving for a Tuesday morning. Great blog, I look forward to learn more about your tutorial and overall work.

    Cheers!

    0
  146. 150

    HDR killed my uncle in ‘Nam then came home and, under false pretenses, seduced my grieving Aunt and turned her into a junkie. When I tried to confront HDR, it cut my face with a straight razor and burned down my house (I have to say, the insurance photos are tone mapped with a spectacular glow…) I’m glad to see others who understand the true horror of HDR and its demon henchman, Trey.

    0
  147. 151

    Oh boy,
    so many haters. At first of all, I to think that HDR is easily overdone and a bit of a hype right now. But that does not mean it is crap, its just an possibility to make different pictures. How could anyone say those are “good” or “bad” pictures, they are just different.
    And of course there are people like Bil Zalman or Avedon, who just hit it of on more natural stuff and are stunning at that. But that has nothing to do with each other, its just different applications of the same medium.
    And I am so tired of the whole: It takes an good photographer not an good camera. Of course it does, but an better camera always helps to improve your pictures. And an crappy camera limits you in what you do, except when you want exactly that limitation to achieve an certain look (like with the Holga). I advise everybody to read this: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/Yes_It_Matters.shtml article on the Luminous Landscape.
    @B: The G9/G10? Come on, its more expensive than most of the entry-level DSLRs.
    Still the DSLR is superior in Image Quality to every P&S I know, just because of their bigger sensor.
    And last but not least, what is it with you guys, so openly insulting the guy who wrote this article, and obviously did put a lot of effort in it? What about an little decency, would you do the same if you were in the same room with him?

    Aahh now I need an beer…

    0
  148. 152

    I find the anti-HDR venom hilarious.

    I’m sure of these people had been around when the camera was invented they’d be waving their paint brushes in the air screaming that “this so called ‘photo-graphy’ is the Devil’s work!”

    It’s a tool – is using a tripod against the laws of photography? Is using a zoom lens cheating?

    Great article – thanks :)

    1
  149. 153

    this article really sux! you arent taking better pictures if you have a DSLR…

    0
  150. 154

    Wow… a lot of bitter rhetoric here. Like it, hate it, or indifferent there is no reason to be rude. Trey is sharing his opinion (and art has nothing but opinion to define it) and when you disagree with him surely you can do it is a polite way. Make an argument, don’t just call him down.

    I am fascinated by HDR, but I agree that it does not strictly represent reality. But then, neither dose an un photoshopped photo that is framed and composed to depict only a part of a scene. When any good photographer captures something they take it out of it’s context in a way that makes it more effective for the message that they wish to convey. To say that one of his images would not work if it was not a HDR is irrelevant… they ARE HDR and are composed and constructed to that end. This means slightly different cropping and composition as different aspects of the photo will be emphasized when you tone map it. Your center of focus changes with your medium.

    I love the surrealism of highly processed HDR and tonemapped photos, although I can see how some think they are too much, I think that they have a place. I make both highly processed photos and some that are not altered at all, and both effects can help us to show the world as we see it.

    Trey is a talented artist who was INVITED to share his opinion by this publication. Attacks on him for sharing that opinion are inappropriate. Complain to SM about their choice of artists to feature if you like, criticize the art all you like, and argue all you like, but please people! Be polite!

    1
  151. 155

    Wow, it’s clear that a lot of the Negative Nellies didn’t really read the article. The just saw HDR, skipped to the bottom, and left a comment condemning HDR. Read the article! Trey clearly says it’s a subjective art form, and NOT meant to depict reality. Sheesh! And I saw some mentioning that “the masses have spoken, and HDR is out”. B.S. The masses have spoken, and they clearly like it. Otherwise, Mr. Ratcliff wouldn’t have a shot in the Smithsonian!

    I guess you same people hate black and white photography, sepia, and tilt-shift lenses, because they don’t look exactly as your eye sees the world.

    Also, people totally took the part about P&S cameras out of context. I’m sure Trey doesn’t believe that no good photo can come from a P&S. But the fact of the matter is, if you want to make consistently good photos, with all your creative options open, then you need to get a SLR. If that weren’t the case, then all the big shot photographers in the world would be using toy cameras, and would save their 10 grand on a professional level camera. Case in point: how many of your P&S cameras have manual exposure control, allowing you to do multi-shot HDRs?

    Rant over. Lighten up people! And Trey, keep up the good work. I look forward to your latest post every day.

    1
  152. 156

    I think the problem with this article is not that it talks too much about HDR. That is just a matter of taste. Some like flower photography, some don’t. The same goes for HDR.

    The problem is that someone is being utterly dogmatic about photography as a whole here. The problem is that there is no formula you can stick to if you want to become a great photographer, at least not in terms of technical falderal (just looked this word up, I love it ;) ). Have a look at the World Press Photo Awards to see what I mean. Or look at Anton Corbijn, Martin Parr, [insert your favorite photographer here].

    0
  153. 157

    If you really buy a DSLR, don’t forget to invest even more money in good lenses. Otherwise you get crappy pictures like this mountain majesty that is plagued by purple fringing. And no, the exaggerated colors don’t help.
    One of the dumbest articles for quite some time.
    HDR is very nice if done right. This articles features a lot of pictures to show how HDR is done wrong.

    -1
  154. 158

    @ Tim – I totally agree with you… people who can’t do? Bitch… To many haters out today with NO skills to back up their rants

    1
  155. 159

    TLH_BobCat, Flickr

    February 18, 2009 12:39 pm

    I actually read all of this article. Glad to know your thinking about photography as a creative process. You and “Kris Kraft” were the first to welcome me to Flickr, a couple of years ago. Wanted to post my comment here because of the mix of impressions, good and not so good. See too much favorable comments like people are fishing for favorable remarks on their own work. Looking forward to following your evolution as a thinker, artist, and photographer..

    1
  156. 160

    Good tips. Very Deep. Too much HDR. Especially the horse one, it’s way to unrealistic. It doesn’t even look like a picture. I think you just put something in about a balance between realism and high dynamic range

    1
  157. 161

    wow. i’ve never been a fan of “stuckincustoms” work. he uses a bit too much HDR for my taste and he uses it in EVERY photo he takes. there’s a place for HDR .. and it’s not in a portrait.

    i don’t get why ALL of the photos featured in this article are from his website. it seems a bit biased.

    for deidre .. i agree with you. but, there is authentic HDR photography which is actual advanced photography. the ones in this article seem to be “advanced photoshopping”, as you called it and shouldn’t not be called photography. :)

    don’t get me wrong, both forms of this “art” take talent, but one shouldn’t be confused with the other.

    people that are good at manipulating photos with post production techniques shouldn’t be called photographers, IMO. but, they are good at what they do, nonetheless.

    0
  158. 162

    HDR is so overrated. I get that it allows you to work with tones beyond what’s REAL, but don’t we have enough fake shix out there already. Nauseating…. I’m a professional photographer who has been included by photography post writers here on Smashing before, but the Smashing editors cut my site….only to be replaced with the likes of this crap. What an insult…

    -1
  159. 163

    Just liked the article and find it very helpful.

    For all the haters. Show your stuff and than tell us why it is so much better. And why people love your pictures.

    Whatever these images from Trey Ratcliff are, they ewoke emotions.

    1
  160. 164

    Many of you are missing the point about HDR and Trey’s photography in general. Most of these shots would be great images even if they were shot on a cheap disposable camera. If a guy has the eye, then he has the eye. Sure, you can object to the processing but how many of you people could come up with shots like these in the first place?
    As for the HDR, that’s just a matter of taste. It has no pretensions towards realism, I agree that poorly done HDR, which is most of it, is pretty awful – over-saturated, noisy, and in many cases an attempt to turn a crap photo into a brightly coloured crap photo. But take a good photo and know what you’re doing with the processing, then the results can be awesome. No-one can reasonably argue that the photos on this page are crap, that’s just pure envy.

    2
  161. 165

    If nothing is worth doing unless you’re serious about it, why publish this article full of pretentious bs?

    -1
  162. 166

    Interesting comments – thanks everyone…

    In addition to my other two comments above…

    I can say that the part about the “toy” camera is only for the really cheapo ones. Someone commented above about the G9. It’s a good camera. So is the LX3. These are handheld prosumer cameras that you can still do a lot with (nicer lenses, nice fstops, etc.). I know perfectly well you can take a great shot with these cameras and many other of a similar ilk. So if you have a littler camera, don’t despair! :) Yes you can still take good shots with it! :) But I do suggest you think about moving to a DSLR sooner or later.

    I’m always interested in how HDR is such a divisive topic. It’s one of the few art forms in the world that is loved by one group and despised by another (in fact, they would not even call it an art form). I understand that some people don’t like it (my estimates are a very vocal 20% of people don’t dig the scene). But, the nature of the divisiveness itself is interesting, and it’s usually on par with discussing religion, guns, or Bush. Anyway, it’s all an interesting discussion an I am enjoying it on two levels! :)

    1
  163. 167

    I personally think this stuff is good. For those of you who are downing and dissing this article, What could be done differently. Do you have work that we can all see to show “how it is done right”. So many people can go around trashing someone elses’ work but not offer up any constructive criticism to go along with the bashing.
    Sad really. I like the article and the way the images came out. That is me.

    If you are the type of person who likes to down others’ work without offering anything positive or constructive to go along with your bashing then stay off of the comment boards.

    Doesn’t help us who are actually trying to learn things if you don’t offer anything else for us to engage in.

    1
  164. 168

    Whoa, way too much HDR.

    Also, “Buy a nicer camera?” Come on. I didn’t come here to read that.

    0
  165. 169

    Sure cool, but WAYYYY too much HDR guys.

    HDR shouldnt even be mentioned until people have a grasp of all the other points (and more) imo.

    0
  166. 170

    Can you please explain to me why you called the technique an HDR image??
    Clearly when you finish your photos (which are good some of them btw in their raw state)
    They are a mix of different photos taken at different exposure level.
    A composite from different elements of different photos..
    That’s my issue about this all HDR titling. It’s not HDR!!!!

    I have no issues with the artist behind the photos it’s just a shame it’s plugged in this way
    on a “professional” website.
    Just call it something else. tone mapped or artistic composits.
    Just anything else than HDR… that’s why its annoying to read..
    For all others that rant on against anyone that is negative about this article.
    Why do we have to back up our comments by posting photos that are better??
    Clearly that is not the point here.. and any comment is valid in any open discussion.
    Art for me in any form is about craftsmanship and ideas behind it from the artist.
    And this “hdr” tonemapping thing is just a really simple cheap way of doing something
    woooo. HDR that’s cool. When they don’t even know what they are doing really…
    Study compositing..(2D postproduction) get it rigth… before starting to preach about
    a technique… its just a bit ridicules…

    0
  167. 171

    Wow… I found some relavent points but most of it, was pretentious crap. Regarding HDR, I’ve seen stuff done properly, where it doesn’t appear to be horribly over tone mapped, and then I’ve seen just horrible. HDR is not the problem, though I am about over it too, high dynamic range (without the term being coined) should be achieved in all photography to a certain degree, in that you want to capture what the eye captures, that’s the point. Heavy, overlly tone mapped is retarded looking.

    My biggest gripe, and I own a DSLR, is that it’s not 100% the camera. It’s the talent. The camera makes a difference on overall clarity perhaps, but doesn’t make you a photographer. A true photographer can get great lighting, composition, and feeling from any camera.

    The author of this article has a bad attitude, and I don’t think fits very well with Smashing Magazine. I’d be dissapointed to see another article from the same person. As well, his blog is oversized, and really doesn’t look all that great. Kthxbai.

    -1
  168. 172

    TREY – YOUR HDR ROCKS. For all the negative commenters out there, step away from your Vic20, and head back to your darkroom. A toolbox has many tools in it, and HDR is merely a tool. It’s not the only tool, but for some – a very powerful one.

    Photography is defined as “the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.” If this form of processing is not to your liking, then move on. HDR is one of the fastest growing processing techniques, and the majority of people drool over it.

    Trey’s HDR shot of a custom chopper was what inspired me to get into it. I shot (2) large biker events (Ride for Sight, and Canadian Biker Build-Off) this past summer, and 99% of the clients wanted their images processed in HDR. Keep rock’n it Trey. Nuff Said.

    1
  169. 173

    No more HDR… please… it looks trashy

    -1
  170. 174

    Trey- I think your work is inspiring. It is unfortunate that a lot of people here haven’t seen some of your non-hdr work before they trash your hdr work. I thought art was in the eye of the beholder? I guess here personal opinion has it’s place, but I would like to stress the opinion part! There is a ton of art out there I don’t like, I simply turn my cheek and look for something that interests me more, that pleases MY eye. To sit and trash what someone else has created on their own is simply narrow minded and sad to me.
    -Also as far as a point and shoot: Sure you can get some great pictures, I think a lot of people here missed the point. to put it one way- I can play you a song on a toy guitar, and it will be a good song, but on a “real” acoustic guitar, it will sound much better! so, yes..you can do most of the same things, however the quality and diversity of the outcome will be substantially better with a superior product.
    -Sean a.k.a James Episcopal
    Anyways, I dig your work both HDR and non.

    1
  171. 175

    whilst i think your tips are good and many of your photos are great, i have to admit that i’m under-awed by your use of hdr.

    my problem with hdr is the same problem i have with fisheye lenses (for example). seeing a few hdr shots is good and they’re an impressive technique. however, seeing too many hdr photos is boring and rather unimaginative.

    your amish boy is a case in point. potentially an excellent photo but ruined by the overzealous use of hdr techniques. i’ve rarely seen a good hdr portrait … and this boy would have looked much nicer with less editing.

    i guess the pitfall of hdr is that many people use it to overcome their lack of photo skills (which is what you’re talking about in your article). if someone takes a mediocre photo, by giving it the “hdr” treatment, suddenly that terrible photo becomes a work of art.

    i’d like to see more of your work without the hdr … actually, i’d like to see fewer people use hdr and reserve that technique for photos which will do it justice.

    this is not a criticism of you, it’s more of a criticism of the ‘fanboy’ attitude to hdr and the fact that hdr has become a cliche.

    cheers

    david
    http://www.davidsmeaton.com

    1
  172. 176

    this article was really disappointing. Sorry moderators, but I’m not going to retype my response. It’s available here: http://tinyurl.com/c7ggj6

    -1
  173. 177

    Learn how to use a neutral density filter you noob!!

    -1
  174. 178

    Hello there! Youve got this wonderful tips and I really appreciate your works. It inspires me once again to go into photography. But of course I have a toy camera with me and can’t do much of these things. But I always bring it to capture wonderful things. Where ever I go!

    1
  175. 179

    1. Enough on the HDR on Smashing please. There is a massive body of work that is not HDR, in fact the majority of all photography.
    2. “Think about the brain”? – you mean try to put some thought into the message you’re conveying with your image? Correct sentiment, but a really roundabout way to explain it.
    3. Thumbs up for Flickr. A great place to learn and be inspired.
    4. “Get rid of your toy camera”? – What a crock of $h!t. A great photographer will produce great images regardless of the tool. Yes, a DSLR can make a lot of photos easier to create, and a bit quicker, but unless you know how to create the image, having an expensive tool isn’t going to help.
    5. No mention of learning composition? The relationship between exposure and depth-of-field? Correct lighting technique? The zone system?

    This article needed to be edited by another pro photographer to give it more balance.

    0
  176. 180

    the pics look good.. too good that in fact they seem so un natural… thanks for the tip though.. =)

    1
  177. 181

    Horribles examples, just two good advices I could agree, learn to draw and make mistakes…

    The understanding of photography is to “learn to tell stories”

    From documental: http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/
    To commercial: http://krop.com/muller/

    And here my own portfolio: http://www.evg3.com/photoblog

    By the way, HDR is so abused, so newbie and so “computer graphics”, please wake up and learn to tell stories and get close to your subjects.

    0
  178. 182

    I love how only point 6 is about HDR yet most of the comments seem to be from people who have read the article by looking at the pictures…

    1
  179. 183

    I thought art history has taught us not to be like the Salon and to break free of such pompous styles.

    And I like my toy film camera. They are obviously not meant for landscapes, and not everyone is a landscape photographer. Leave them alone.

    0
  180. 184

    You really ought to credit the photographer of each of these photos… that’s common courtesy. I recognized Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir’s icelandic pony photo right off the bat – she’ll hunt you down for posting this without permission.

    0
  181. 185

    Trey – thanks for writing this, it gives one many ideas on how to create better art with cameras. YOu defnitely stirred up a few people.

    Scott

    1
  182. 186

    Get yourself a DSLR???? eeeewwwwwwww!!!! Digital???eeeewwwwwwww!

    -1
  183. 187

    HDR…???eeeeeeewwwwwwwww!

    -1
  184. 188

    Before Photoshop, before HDR, people were manipulating their pictures manually in the darkroom. I hate how people think just because a picture was edited in Photoshop that it’s not real photography. Photoshop is just bringing the darkroom to digital photography, and sure it gets overused, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it at all.

    As for the “Buy a DSLR” comment, I partially agree. A DSLR definitely opens up the possibility for better pictures due to having more options than a “toy camera”, but it’s not required. I agree that people trying to be professional photographers should not be using a pocket-sized camera, but it’s not impossible to get a great shot while using one.

    1
  185. 189

    I’d wager dollars to donuts that since the dawn of artistic endeavor, there have been purists who object to any new methodology or medium as not being “true art”.

    If you just don’t *like* something, then great. Whatever. I doubt anyone here (or anywhere) cares that you “hate HDR because it’s so overdone.”

    But if you really have the audacity to spout off about what constitutes art and what doesn’t, keep in mind that you aren’t the first to speak and prove yourself a fool.

    Photography (10 years ago): “Digital photography isn’t real photography, because the camera does all the work for you, and because real photography uses film and developer and toner.”

    Painting: “Impressionist painting isn’t real painting because you aren’t even *trying* to achieve realism.”

    Music: “All this synthesizer crap isn’t real music. You have to use acoustic instruments, otherwise it’s just computers doing the work.”

    Cave painting: “Me use fingers. You use brush. You not real artist like me.”

    0
  186. 190

    Great article, and awesome images. Thanks!

    1
  187. 191

    Well, if you really want to learn how to take a photograph,, stay away from photoshop. This is just a software for corrections and improvements… You must be able to `feel the light`while taking a photo… trust your photometer, practice a lot and forget about great equipment. Some of the the most impressive photos i`ve seen were captured with a tin can and a cheap paper… You just need to understaind how to balance some things… hey, and get of Auto stills… go for manual if your goal is to reach professional results… But all of this is just too basic and everyone know that… so why am I talking?

    Becouse in every single pic of this article there was something reaaaaaly wrong with the dynamics of lighting… be aware of that!

    0
  188. 192

    Such a lot of old farts and gobshits making unfounded and shot from the hip remarks. They should also “get a life” and give HDR a try before uttering such uninspiring drivel. Maybe they are clever and can do it better than anyone else ever did, but I suppose they are just so lazy they never even tried. There are plenty of HDR shots which are very subtle and many left onthe cooker to burn, I can choose which ones I like!

    1
  189. 193

    I second HOWIE’s remark.

    Just a lot of old people wishing we were back in the good ol’ days, fighting progress.

    1
  190. 194

    Ya’ll are dissin’ an award winning photog…he was just honored by the Smithsonian a SECOND time. Take time to visit his blog. Sure he’s quirky, but that what makes stuckincustoms stuckincustoms…good job my friend.

    1
  191. 195

    It’s interesting how the anti-HDR brigade are so strident in their opposition. What evokes such dislike, even anger? I think it comes down to the fact that most people really like this sort of stuff, but it’s not achievable by everyone who knows how to use a camera well. A professional photographer might have studied for years, yet they are ‘left out’ of being able to produce what people are coming to enjoy more and more. Photography is only one skill in the production of a pleasing image. Advanced digital manipulation is here to stay and will only get bigger.

    1
  192. 196

    To all the haters…. WAAAAHHH

    Go cry to your mama’s. Jesus. People are amazingly ignorant. I hate Any Warhol. Does that make me right? Many would disagree. But that is my prerogative. I would not go onto a public forum and pass judgment like I am some kind of photographic know it all. Who cares if HDR is overdone. I personally find Trey’s work a little much for me too but guess who’s tutorials I used when learning how to process my own HDR’s. He is an artist and whether you like it or not he is a driving force in the photographic world. So bitch if you want but all it shows is you are better at criticism than constructive comments or intelligent dialogue. Congratulations… You haters have made yourselves look like idiots. HDR is here to stay so if you are gonna wine and cry and bitch please do so privately to save us from your self important negativity.

    Have a nice day. =)

    1
  193. 197

    Its Awesome man..

    1
  194. 198

    Half the images here look terribly fake. Photo enhancement must have a point. If the image is not taken in the right exposure, then editing it is fine. But for an image that’s already magnificent, extreme enhancement is ridiculous and takes away the essence of the subject in the first place, which is terribly sad. But some of the enhancements pictured here can apply to many a fairytale/Harry Potter setting, if that is ur purpose.

    -1
  195. 199

    Wow im amazed at how many haters re commenting on his work, when as many people have already said im sure that art is how you interpret it, and trey sees this as his art and i find it amazing to look at, people need to get off their unsuccessful asses and try something new and maybe one day their work will be appreciated like Trey’s.

    1
  196. 200

    It is funny the amount of people that say “enough of this hdr / hdr is just a fad” and so on. Do you really understand what you are saying? Really you should say “I dont like your images, they’re not for me” and move on, or “I dont like an oversaturated look to my images” instead of blanket banning High Dynamic Range.

    Idiots.

    Keep up the good work Stuck-in-customs. Inspirational.

    1
  197. 201

    HDR can be a great technique and give some truly beautiful results… unfortunately that’s not the case with the pictures on this article: they all look like shit to me.

    -1
  198. 202

    Maybe everyone who is commenting on the “haters” should come with some constructive
    comments instead. It doesn’t really put anything into this threads discussion..
    And if you compare this “HDR” techniques to the impressionistic painters then i think
    the art history books in the future regarding this century will be a sad and boring one..
    Its not about how the “hdr” look is achieved, in this case its evaluating different software capabilities (i.e., their built in tools) to be able to get the final result.
    For me as an artist i don’t think my artistic boundaries should lie within the limits of my tools. That’s just relying on 3rd parties to help you on your way of getting a look of your work. I think for many of the so called “haters” on this thread is the issue about how the HDR is presented. Its talked about as a style and compared to the impressionist.
    I feel that is even more a cheap shot than anything else..
    so yeah.. to create a new ground breaking art form..
    take a picture.. search for a software with the right filters..
    apply them.. voilà.. its done.

    I’m going to start running all my work through the emboss filter, just because
    its there. And start running tutorials on how to achieve this new ground breaking look.
    it is on the same par as the cubists or modernism. confined within the limits of photoshop…

    As for the examples used in this article its just unprofessional that they are not rightly credited.

    0
  199. 203

    Wow. A one eyed photographer, who encourages paints. Do you wear a patch or a glass eye. I like the patch, it’s all pirate like.

    0
  200. 204

    re Ed, post #198, “As for the examples used in this article its just unprofessional that they are not rightly credited.”

    What makes you think the images in the article are not all by Trey Rattcliff? Do you see these photos elsewhere under a different photographer’s name? If so, please provide links to them. I agree, if these are not all original photos by Ratcliff, then that is unprofessional. Making an unfounded accusation is also unprofessional.

    re Beth, post #180: “You really ought to credit the photographer of each of these photos… that’s common courtesy. I recognized Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir’s icelandic pony photo right off the bat – she’ll hunt you down for posting this without permission.”

    I looked at Rebekkas website. I do see some icelandic pony photos, but I don’t see the one in this article. Nor is the style the same. What makes you think the pony image is hers?

    Maybe I’m wrong and maybe not all the photos are original, but some proof that these are not TRs images would be useful.

    0
  201. 205

    re rich, post#201.

    Sorry about my previous post, it should have read “if” not “that”.
    “As for the examples used in this article its just unprofessional if they are not rightly credited.” Im not trying to make any unfounded accusations.

    0
  202. 206

    hehe… yes I steal all of Rebekka’s photos. This is well known. In fact, here are some more: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2007/02/24/rebekka-in-action/

    And yes, I do wear an eye patch with a skull&crossbones emblazoned upon it in gold lamay.

    1
  203. 207

    How about HDR in Moderation? Everyone seems to crank the crap out of the HDR meter in post processing… Rather, it should be a simple touch to slightly enhance the image, here are two examples: in color and in b&w.

    0
  204. 208

    very informative article , especially for a novice photographer like myself; thank you kindly for this, mr. ratcliffe

    some of the comments on here are ugly rants, but i did find two that i agree with.

    1. this article’s title is a little unfocused. when i first clicked on the link, i expected an article on advanced camera techniques in general; the hdr was a surprise. however, that is not to say that i did not thoroughly enjoy the article and appreciate the time and and effort in making it. i just suggest that some of the angry anti-hdr(/anti different-from-self-ideals) group may not have been so upset if this article’s title was a little more specific.

    2. PDF versions of article.
    my goodness, this would be brilliant!
    i suppose we, the visitors, especially those of us that are designers and are digitally savvy, should be able to do this on our own without any difficulty, but dood, hahahah

    anyway, yes, pdf’s would be brilliant.
    ok, maybe not brilliant, more like a wild idea.

    but man

    what a great one!

    thanks all you people at SM

    you people rock

    1
  205. 209

    sorry, but this is propably the worst article I saw on this website. things like “get rid of your toy camera” and “hdr everything” are total bulshit. you DO NOT have to own a dslr to make great pictures. this is just excuse to don’t make photos (“i don’t have proper equipment”).
    belive me – good photographer will make awesome pictures with everything, from pinhole to hasselblad, without even touching a computer. and i mean photos, not these photoshop generated graphics presented here

    9
  206. 210

    That was the best 9 minutes of my life. That was probably one of the most enjoyable articles I’ve read on photography.

    0
  207. 211

    Sheesh – all you folks who don’t like indoor plumbing, no worries – stick to your two holers! Beth – better have a little chat with Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir or have your eyes checked; Trey shoots his own stuff. For the storytelling angle, Google “chernobyl trey ratcliff”.. it’s wild.

    Trey – you are THE MAN! Thanks for sharing..

    2
  208. 212

    Leaving aside the HDR kerfuffel, three facts:

    1) You do indeed need a DLSR. Why? So you can attach decent lenses. Economize on the body. Go for your lungs on the glass.

    2) The advice to leave your kit in the trunk of your car should be retracted. You’ll kill your batteries in the winter and cook your body and lenses in the summer.

    3) The advice to take drawing lessons is spot on. It doesn’t matter if you never learn to draw. That’s not the point. The object is to learn how to see.

    0
  209. 213

    thank so much for your entry, my english ‘s not good,i cant’ express by my-self, i say only u are the top-one

    0
  210. 214

    I think author had no idea for this article.

    0
  211. 215

    first of all: trey – thank you for sharing your views and knowledge so unselfishly; you’ve been an inspiration to many, including me, for a long time. all your efforts ARE appreciated !!!

    secondly: I don’t pretend to be a “pro”, I just like beautiful images regardless of how the end result is accomplished and if “rules” have been followed or broken, but I spent quite some time reading all comments and it’s hard to believe (unfortunately not as shocking as it should be) how aggressive and rude some people can be, getting even down to personal attacks on someone trying to be positive and to encourage us “mere mortals” to have better results when taking pictures

    for those who truly don’t like over saturated images there is an easy solution – MOVE ON! but instead you choose to take precious time out of your life to publicly put a negative spin on honest advice and come up with “constructive criticism” such as:

    “the author is such a toss pot! … Get a life.” (8), “… that’s a piece of crap” (10), “I don’t think I’ve ever heard worse advice” (27), “masses have spoken” (29), “These HDR make me sick. HDR should be banned from the Internet!” (64), “.. .which in the end should be the main purpose” (65), “Bad. Please don’t do this again” (112), and on and on…

    do I detect censorship (64)? do I detect an internet census by an authoritative (God-like) figure (29)? are we being told what the end result “should be” (65)?

    who are you people? where did you come from?!? where is YOUR “art”? why don’t you let the “masses” of mere mortals give you the taste of your medicine and judge you, and your advices and tutorials? where is your “better” work that gives you the nerve to make these comments? (I’m not addressing the ones who bothered to explained their opinion, and with some good points too)

    could it be that a simple technique which doesn’t require a university degree makes the “pros” feel threatened and you feel you have to make this effort and criticize HDR to this extreme and try as hard as you can to crush it? could it be envy that something so simple has such a huge potential and you feel threatened? or you feel it’s unfair that normal people can achieve amazing results without all the effort it used to take (to come up with just a pompous result?). btw: Ross (192) and Philosaur (186) – you both have a great analysis !

    again trey – thank you for all your efforts!

    paul

    .

    0
  212. 216

    first of all: trey – thank you for sharing your views and knowledge so unselfishly; you’ve been an inspiration to many, including me, for a long time. all your efforts ARE appreciated !!!

    secondly: I don’t pretend to be a “pro”, I just like beautiful images regardless of how the end result is accomplished and if “rules” have been followed or broken, but I spent quite some time reading all comments and it’s hard to believe (unfortunately not as shocking as it should be) how aggressive and rude some people can be, getting even down to personal attacks on someone trying to be positive and to encourage us “mere mortals” to have better results when taking pictures

    for those who truly don’t like over saturated images there is an easy solution – MOVE ON! but instead you choose to take precious time out of your life to publicly put a negative spin on honest advice and come up with “constructive criticism” such as:

    “the author is such a toss pot! … Get a life.” (8), “… that’s a piece of crap” (10), “I don’t think I’ve ever heard worse advice” (27), “masses have spoken” (29), “These HDR make me sick. HDR should be banned from the Internet!” (64), “.. .which in the end should be the main purpose” (65), “Bad. Please don’t do this again” (112), and on and on…

    do I detect censorship (64)? do I detect an internet census by an authoritative (God-like) figure (29)? are we being told what the end result “should be” (65)?

    who are you people? where did you come from?!? where is YOUR “art”? why don’t you let the “masses” of mere mortals give you the taste of your medicine and judge you, and your advices and tutorials? where is your “better” work that gives you the nerve to make these comments? (I’m not addressing the ones who bothered to explained their opinion, and with some good points too)

    could it be that a simple technique which doesn’t require a university degree makes the “pros” feel threatened and you feel you have to make this effort and criticize HDR to this extreme and try as hard as you can to crush it? could it be envy that something so simple has such a huge potential and you feel threatened? or you feel it’s unfair that normal people can achieve amazing results without all the effort it used to take (to come up with just a pompous result?). btw: Ross (192) and Philosaur (186) – you both have a great analysis !

    again trey – thank you for all your efforts!

    paul (dex)

    paul (dex).

    0
  213. 217

    these photos could have been taken with a toy camera… 90% of that is photoshop

    i’m sorry but i don’t understand that as photography

    2
  214. 218

    don’t. please just stop.

    edit: whoops, according to paul i need to quantify my criticism… hdr is to photography what glass baubles were to the native americans.

    0
  215. 219

    Firstly, I’m not an all out devotee to the HDR technique but this is not the place for all the HDR haters to dump their opinions. There is a lot of god awful HDR out there but there’s also a lot of great photos. Whilst I prefer more realistic tone mapping, Trey Ratcliff’s excels in his own individual approach to the technique. “The Icy Pit To Hell”, “The Holy Trinity” and his highway photos are fantastic captures which are enhanced by HDR.

    Secondly, I agree with almost all tips except the “Get Rid Of Your Toy Camera”. Whilst this will mean you’ll take better pictures, a toy camera is a excellent way for people LEARNING to take photos to learn to take better ones. Especially if it’s an analogue point and shoot. Using a shitty camera will mean that people can only think about composition, not other superficial elements and learn to do things in the set up, not simply fixing things in post.

    I’d also suggest budding photographers switch to full manual mode if they can. Having to manually choose apeture, shutter speed and ISO levels taught me a great deal about how photography works, which in turn made me a better photographer.

    Finally, Trey, your drawings are fantastic, especially the first one. Keep it up.

    2
  216. 220

    so blake, you’re saying that anyone using HDR is superficial, “fine art” will never be achieved by using it, and the beautiful results only appeal to uneducated people?

    no, I didn’t ask you to quantify your criticism with insults, I asked you to put a link to your “fine art” in your comment and let us quantify ours (are we not worthy, or maybe you don’t know how to place a link?)

    0
  217. 221

    HDR is to photography as Thomas Kinkade is to painting.

    0
  218. 222

    It looks like there’s not much left to be said, good or bad–I’m not a photographer, or an artist, but just a flickr lurker who is awed by Trey’s work. I came to this article because I was hungry to know more about how his mind works, and how it translates into his art. This article did just that, and I find it utterly fascinating. What shocked me was the complete lack of respect in the criticism (many of them, anyway…) I’m usually too busy to spend much time reading online articles, and definitely too busy to comment, but I was really appalled at what I read today. It’s obvious that Trey takes it in stride, so he needs no defense from me, but to the commenter that asked if you would say to his face what you will type anonymously, you hit the nail on the head. The ability to spout venomous judgement with no repercussions has lead to a depersonalization of the artist/author. Come on, what ever happened to the idea that you should give your fellow man respect, especially when it concerns something as subjective as art?? Keep up the good work, Trey, your travels and your vision inspire me on many levels.

    2
  219. 223

    HDR Photography…
    It’s a contradiction in terms!!!
    HDR is NOT Photography…it’s Art but NOT Photography.

    I could go on, but basically I don’t like the examples shown at all. WAY OVER THE TOP use of HDR.
    I try to use as little amount of photoshop as possible in my photography. It should be as natural or as close to what you see with the naked eye as possible and HDR completely chages that effect.

    1
  220. 224

    andy – your definition of natural is a picture with as little manipulation as possible, but all pictures are subject to camera limitations: the fact is that a camera can not adjust to the many levels of light in most of the scenes, the same way the eye can, and HDR is just an attempt at making details visible from more areas that otherwise would be over or under exposed

    no one is pretending to create art by only using HDR, and it can certainly be misused, like any other technique, but some results are breathtaking and I, personally, like trey’s work a lot. his images inspired me and many others to start taking pictures, good or bad, and the world is richer for this

    also, you may have nice images but I can’t view your flash website on windows 2000 or vista. at least you have a backbone and can articulate your reasons…

    0
  221. 225

    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between fine art and photography is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between 35mm and medium format is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between film and digital is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between staged and candid is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between color and B/W is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between darkroom and Photoshop is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between market and inspiration is spot on.
    The line Holy Commenter #98745 drew between fearlessness and stupidity is spot on.

    Now maybe one day Holy Commenter #98745 will have a decent body of work, and someone will ask him to write about his truly awesome photography skills.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep learning from Trey Ratcliff.

    1
  222. 226

    There was no how-to in this tutorial which was disappointing, would be great if you could do that as achieving these things are still not easy for me

    1
  223. 227

    Quazi Ahmed Hussain

    March 4, 2009 4:58 am

    I agree with u that I should get a DSLR. But same time, I’m a jobber too and cannot switch over to a full time pro photographer. It’s my hobby and I love shooting nature and wildlife. Now, using a Canon SX110 IS with satisfaction. But contemplating to get a Nikon D90 with Nikkor 18-55mm VR and 55-200 mm VR lenses.
    May I request your comments on this plan?
    Thank you with regards.
    Quazi

    1
  224. 228

    Interesting views in this article. I agree that a DSLR is a nicer tool than a point-and-shoot camera, but it is really up to the photographer’s instinct and talent to draw out the best in any photo. This is the same in any field, an incredible artist can do more quality work just with talent and a pencil than a 10-year intensively trained mediocre artist with a degree and a full studio. Great drawings by the way.

    I for one am not a huge fan of HDR, if used I think it should be used to draw out a more natural balance, for instance the Amish boy looks waxy and disturbing to me, at first I thought it was an apple doll. That being said there are times when it makes a shot amazing, particularly when shooting hi-tech subject matter.

    In the end it’s all about personal preference. I don’t understand why people get so bent out of shape and take other’s views so personally…it’s called art people. You either like it or hate it, but if it made you feel anyway at all it has relevance. The only art that doesn’t qualify to me is art that is completely forgettable.

    0
  225. 229

    love the haters… without them, where would we be?

    cool post with some excellent imagery, all of it very interesting. thanks!

    1
  226. 230
  227. 231

    sorry- I think all of the images you cited look like 1000 piece puzzles

    0
  228. 232

    SailingThruTheCustoms

    April 6, 2009 5:26 pm

    Craps!

    -2
  229. 233

    self serving pretentious crap. I have been a member of the HDR group on flickr since there was a little over 300 members. You weren’t one of them. The very first photo posted in that group is more realistic than anything you have ever produced. You try and act like you are the beginning and end of HDR photography but you are just a hack. Get over yourself. Smashing Magazine: why would you even publish this sh*t?

    -5
  230. 234

    To all the losers and haters: You are all first class idiots! Have you even visited this guy’s blog, do you even know all the places he’s BEEN to existed? You probably never stepped out of your town/state. To not agree with someone’s style means letting him/her know of just that, not bash him/her like they’re garbage. Garbage is the flesh on your bones, not someone’s hard work.
    I for example absolutely hate footbal (american football that is) I firmly believe you have to be a retard to enjoy it…but that doesn’t mean I bash all the fans and players, if that’s what they like it must mean something to THEM. Likewise this guy’s work must mean something to SOMEBODY, else he wouldn’t travel the entire world or make thousands on selling prints.
    So to all opinionated losers, unless you know how to critique something, go back to learning how to code a webpage or whatever the f…you’re doing and stop telling other people what they like or should like!

    3
  231. 235

    Great work Trey.

    I really liked the hard work you put into this post and absolutely agree with the advice you provide.

    Great photo’s!!!

    1
  232. 236

    I could not agree more with Paul Schaffner (post #226) “The only art that doesn’t qualify to me is art that is completely forgettable.”

    THIS is what sets Trey’s work apart from most other photos. It succeeds because some people love it and want to tell the world about it. It succeeds because some people HATE it and want to tell the world about it. Love it or hate it, it has raised a strong emotional response from everyone who posted here. In essense that makes his art more “real” that many other photos out there.

    Trey, keep up the great work. As someone who brushed HDR aside a couple of years ago because I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, you have inspired me to spend more time to really push myself beyond my comfort zone to produce images as striking as what you have here (and many more in your portfolio).

    To anyone who thinks HDR is easy to do, you should really give it a try. I would be suprised if one of your first 50 attempts can evoke even a fraction of the emotional responses Trey’s images produce. It takes a lot of skill, talent, vision and sheer determination to push past a ho-hum HDR execution to something that is worth expressing your own opinion over.

    2
  233. 237

    Damon Atkinson

    May 3, 2009 9:38 am

    WOW! What a whole lot of HDR bashing going on in here. One would think that no great and wonderful photographer had ever manipulated an image outside of the camera before. Many of these ‘would-be photography masters’ bashing a new and innovative post-production technique must also despise such hacks as Ansel Adams, Mann Ray, Jerry Uelsmann, and so many others because of their mastery of not just the camera and film, but also for their blasphemous manipulations of their negatives (during processing), the image being exposed to paper (burning, dodging, filtering, montaging, etc) and print processing. All of these normal and generally accepted methods of creating an image in the traditional sense of photography are not so different from the use of Photoshop today.

    When I look at Adam’s images of Yosemite, I don’t see ‘realism’ – I don’t see the world in b&w – I have never seen the world with that range of contrast and sharpness. But not many people lambaste him for his mastery of the darkroom and film latitudes. The Zone System – developed by Adams – may not be as popular as it was in the 70′s and 80′s, but it is still highly relevant and very applicable to HDR photography. I do agree that there are a good many HDR images that are way too overly processed for my taste, but they may be evoking an emotion that the photographer was hoping for, or may be just trying to find the happy medium (learning). Many other HDR images look, visually stimulating, with bold, vibrant colors and textures, but are sadly boring compositionally – this does not necessarily make it a good image.

    I have personally found a substantial lack of good photography – or even decent – since the explosion of digital photography took over and replaced so many of the ‘classically trained’ photographers using film. I believe there is possibly just as much really good photography out there, but the ratio of really good to really crappy has been greatly displaced.

    As for the dispute between the ‘toy’ camera vs. DSLR – it had been, rightly, stated that the user is more important than the tool. A cheap, toy camera in the hands of a master photographer can, and usually always will, be far better than the most expensive, best quality camera in the hands of a hack photographer. That said, the image quality of the ‘toy’ camera vs. a professional quality DSLR in the hands of the same master photographer – there is no comparison – the images from the DSLR will always be far superior.

    I find this article from Trey to be most appropriate and educational for the novice level photographer looking to become a better photographer, sure there are about 20 years worth of specific topics that he overlooks in the article, but this is only an article about HDR imaging, not a masters degree level course on photography. For what it is it is well written and explains the area of this form of art quite well. Is it for everyone? NO! Trey’s work is very good, for HDR. I’m not familiar with the general readership of Smashing Magazine (came here via another link), so I don’t know if it is just an inappropriate audience for an article about HDR or if you are all just a bunch of classical artists who think if an image doesn’t look exactly like the real world, then it is trash. If this is the case, I am sorry for you.

    1
  234. 238

    If you browse through the comments, a lot encouraged by the article actually leave links but the bashers just leave mindless hate comments. Just goes to show that most haters are usually just losers who criticize and they haven’t even got anything to show! To all you bashers, make sure you can actually come up with something far better than the author of this article, ok?

    Trey, keep up the good work! You’re the man!

    1
  235. 239

    I hate hdr. it’s so fake and boring especially when done poorly. pay attention to the light sources and maybe your final might turn out a bit more convincing. two thumbs down buddy!

    -2
  236. 240

    Some of those images are too much processed. Pimping up a subject like “10 Easy Steps To Advanced Photography Skills” with HDR images is not fair. Good advise though.

    2
  237. 241

    I think author over-exploited capabilities of an HDR. Images do have visual impact but… too cartoonish. Same for “toy camera” – overstated. Quite often compacts produce better photos than DSLR just because they are THERE and DSLR isn’t.

    Best regards,
    Y.V.

    1
  238. 242

    One thing I have noticed about HDR, people that have little interest in art/photography gravitate to these photos. I have photos covering my wall(screen-saver) and the ones that get the “that’s cool” comments from passerby’s are always HDR. So amazing how they grab peoples attention. The author has helped me understand why this happens. I thank him for that.

    0
  239. 243

    OK – you’ve given me great stuff to think about, but most of all to DO!!! For this I thank you.

    1
  240. 244

    Sigh, some good points but mostly self indulgent rubbish. HDR is really over done and I found a lot of these pictures to be like fingernails on a chalkboard. Toy cameras are great by the way and it’s a bad tradesman who blames his tools.

    0
  241. 245

    Over-done HDR.

    1
  242. 246

    As a photographer and a former military photo journalist, that has been all over the world and covered the bombing of the Beruit Embassy, traveled with Bob Hope and experienced more than most photographers ever dream of, (I say all that just to establish my point of view), I’ve always said that photographers are the most critical and sometimes negative people I have ever met. Here was a person putting together a good article that I found to be full of wisdom and good practicle knowledge, and low and behold, you have the trolls come out of the dark room. Most “photographers” I meet never make any real money in the art because they are so busy pontificating and critisizing other peoples work that they never develop their own.

    0
  243. 247

    Way too much HDR. I find the images fake, and not really eye pleasing. It’s like clown vomit…

    -1
  244. 248

    Are those pictures edited?it’s very artistic but i rather prefer to do the natural way of taking pictures not merely by editing it coz’ in that way..you are able to see its beauty..i am no pro..and i’m just planning to start my photography lessons alone.. anyway..this is just my opinion..
    Thanks for the tips ^^

    1
  245. 249

    lets just max out the clarity levels in Photoshop raw and say “this photo looks good now”.

    Yuck, the photos look like contrasty digital paintings rather than a photograph. . . . . . .

    0
  246. 250

    all of these pictures look so kitschy, too much of everything. i think a kid could do this with a bit of playing around with software. sorry – but this is not good photography. the amish kid’s portrait? plain ugly.

    1
  247. 251

    waw thanx

    1
  248. 252

    as an amateur i find these great tricks to know.. but there is always more to photography..
    will definitely like to try my hands at these..
    and about dslrs…
    i moved from a film slr to a superzoom bridge camera… and i too feel that serious photography needs slrs.. just my thought. but on the contrary, if carrying your dslr all the time is a hassle, the next best thing is having a superzoom in your bag.. you can surely chug it along in your bag…

    1
  249. 253

    Yet another article promoting hideous HDR? Do we really need more cheap, overbaked plastic-looking crap? What will it take to make these people realize that their photos looks fugly?

    0
  250. 254

    Wow, what a great collection of over processed, poor perspective images.

    6
  251. 255

    Wow!!!
    I love the red highway one.
    Thats sooo cool!!!

    1
  252. 256

    Abhishek chauhan

    July 7, 2011 3:47 am

    loved d amazing shorts of pictures taken by u..
    hope i could learn some!!!

    1
  253. 257

    To all the people leaving negative comments: One of the truly maddening things about the internet is that it allows for a suspension in civil discourse, and turns people that would otherwise know better into 5th graders. Well, one thing is for certain. We won’t be seeing YOUR work in the Smithsonian any time soon. Good luck with that wedding though.

    3
  254. 258

    thanks a lot for the article, tho’ i am not much into photography it inspires something in my soul. And those pictures are awesome and love to watch those again and again since it is not something really existing but beyond that. I am totally impressed. Good luck!

    1
  255. 259

    goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood

    1
  256. 260

    What a load of crap HDR is and idiots like u promoting such thing to the general public while making money is deteriorating photography to the point of absurdity. Should be ashame of yourself !

    -3
  257. 261

    It’s nice to find reading material related to photography which is (actually) informative. I’m constantly working on improving my skills and as this article is truly inspiring, I wanted to leave a little word of thanks. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed your sesquipedalian albeit slightly cynical, or perhaps slightly arrogant style of writing ;)

    Sunday evening is my learn to draw start date. I love that suggestion. If in a year I am amazing, I will mail you a box of cookies.

    1
  258. 262

    Great inspirational musings/content but not reflected in the pictures used in the article are horrendous. Overblown, overdone “beginner” attempts to do HDR photography.

    1
  259. 263

    Dude!

    That was one heck of an article!! Incredibly interesting and informative! I love all the photos, but most of all, I love your writing style.

    “Oh, look at that camera you have! It’s so tiny and slim and techno-looking. Look! It fits right in your pocket!”
    “Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to carry a tripod? What are you, a 9-year-old?”

    I got one word ….. EPIC!!

    Keep it up man!

    2
  260. 264

    I so much enjoy your articles and i wish that one of this days i will become one of the professionals in photography tha can be recone with in the world. I will start by following the steps provided by you and hope to make you as a friend and a mentor in photography. Thanks for this wonderful articles mr Trey Ratcliff.

    0
  261. 265

    Thanks Trey it’s the simple things that can help new photographers take better photos. Then it’s up to us to explore and express our own artistic vision through trial and error.

    0
  262. 266

    Another quick tip: Pick one or two genres of photography and stick to them. Don’t try to get good at all types of photography. And don’t overspend on equipment, ESPECIALLY if you don’t intend to make money off of your photography. I don’t make money and just shoot as a hobby, and I willingly shoot EVERYTHING with a 50mm (equivalent) lens. Think about that for a few minutes.

    0
  263. 267

    it’s magnificent…i wonder if you could elaborate on the HRD concept because yours isn’t very different from the other pics that we see everyday(usual amateur pics)

    1

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