Photo tip of the week: Create stunning HDR shots

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I've been doing HDRey (not a word) stuff for the past eight years or so. Sometimes I go extreme, and sometimes I back off. It depends on my mood! I'm a big believer in every photo turning out different and it's a reflection of your personality and feelings at the time. There's no right-or-wrong with any kind of creative process. However, I have figured a few things along the way that may prove useful to you. At least, I hope so.

New York
Tip 1: Avoid making the "whole thing" HDR

As you can see in the photo above of New York City, only part of the photo is using the HDR technique, and that is the reflection of the buildings. The blue sky above was mixed in from the original RAW file.
White sands at sunset, New Mexico
Tip 2: Confuse and Delight People

HDR can often do strange things with colors that make people's brains wonder a little bit. This is a good thing. So many photos nowadays are so literal and boring. As opposed to what you might think, people's brains love to be surprised!
Leaving the South Pole, Antarctica. Quite by chance, there was a polar sunbow over this Volcano
Tip 3: Use a Single RAW

You don't have to use 3+ photos in autobracketing to create a good HDR photo. This one above from a volcano in Antarctica was a single RAW taken out of the cockpit of a CL-130. There was no chance for 3+ autobrackets in this condition, but you can see how well it turned out. I used Aurora HDR Pro to make this final result.
Dubai, UAE
Tip 4: Use Reflections when Possible

For some reason, having a reflection makes more "extreme" HDR more believable. People will often see the reflection and it gives you a lot more artistic leeway to must things more into the hardcore HDR zone.
Mt Cook, New Zealand
Tip 5: Don't forget about the other "Rules" of photography

Well, I don't follow many rules since I didn't write them. In fact, I think many rules are false. One that does always seem to work though is "leading lines." The more of these compositional rules you follow, the more forgiving the use of HDR will be.
Venice, Italy
Tip 6: Ignore Feedback from Photographers

I notice that photographers, for some reason, really seek out the approval of other photographers. I see this with all peer-groups and it is a strange thing (magicians often waste tremendous amounts of time trying to impress other magicians, for example). Remember, your audience is OUTSIDE of your peer group. Non-photographers generally love HDR. If you listen to traditional photographers too much, they will have you tone things down to the point of being banal. So keep finding your own style, experiment boldly, and don't let other people get you down. The hollow critiques of others say more about them than you. Just be awesome and create, since that is what you were born to do anyway, right?
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