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My 2009 Wish: Make Beautiful HDR Photography Super Simple!

This is a bit of a New Year’s Eve rant – and a wish for 2009!

Computers are here to help us make things more productive and efficient. Unfortunately, computers today (including the processors both in my MacBook Pro and in my Canon DSLRs!) have yet to be utilized appropriately in helping us both take the photos and manage the post-production process associated with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.

Both the camera companies and the software companies share the blame for the shortcomings. Because of their lack of decent HDR support, we have to cobble together our work, trying to remember arcane camera settings, burning up memory card space like crazy (couldn’t image alignment and consolidation be done automatically IN THE CAMERA?), and pushing the images through a post-production process that’s just a cumbersome PITA – not integrated with our photo management applications, software that’s sluggish and frustrating to use because it ignores the power of our computer’s on-board graphics co-processors, etc. We slog through it and get it done – but today’s HDR workflow is truly painful and unproductive. It’s silly.

Why can’t my iPhone 3G take beautiful HDR photos? Why can’t Photomatix Pro simplify the post-processing rather than make it even more complex? On and on it goes…

Sorry. I said this was a rant. Others have posted about this before – including finding some accommodations. But it still feels like we’re living in a 1995 world when it comes to HDR photography.

I have a dream – that I’d like to see fulfilled in 2009 – and that’s brain-dead simple yet beautiful HDR. I want to press 1 button on my camera and put it in HDR mode. Even better, I’d like my camera to propose that the particular photo environment I’m looking at would look great if shot in HDR – and ask “should I do that?” I’d like my photo management software (Lightroom or Aperture) to just deal with the incoming sequence of images and propose HDR handling for them. Etc.

Am I being unreasonable?

PS: Happy New Year 2009!

2 replies on “My 2009 Wish: Make Beautiful HDR Photography Super Simple!”

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m not sure I agree with you, Scott. In general, of course, all worthwhile technologies should be as easy to use as possible, and given that increasing the dynamic range of photos is a good idea, I find myself thinking that it should somehow be reserved for the ‘elite,’ whoever that is. Isn’t that awful of me? I sorta like that I have to go to a fair amount of trouble to do something that not everyone else can do. It also means I spend more time selecting and composing shots. But I could be just as careful (or not) if it were easier, so why would I want it to be harder for me or anyone else? I need to visit a therapist. Maybe I’ll be more reasonable in 2009. I only have an hour to wait. Happy New Year.

Sometimes I also enjoy activities where special skills or techniques are part of the fun. My complaint with the current HDR process is that it’s exactly the opposite for me – it’s just not fun. It’s a straightforward series of setting the right settings, pushing the right buttons, etc. – something a computer can handle more efficiently and help make me more productive as a photographer!

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