There's no doubt that we can come up with breath taking, reality defying images using HDR and I'll be the first to admit I'm always ready to push the envelope in that direction. There are times, however, when we are required to stay within the bounds of credibility in order not to convey a false impression. Real estate photography is what I have immediately in mind. Straight forward non-manipulated images can be quite striking while making the subject look better than it did when we took the photo. Using a polarizer to minimize reflections and intensify skies is a good example. Did the house really look this striking? Was the sky really that blue? No, but we all agree that the use of the polarizing filter was easily justified.
So where do we cross the line into a fantasy land that we've created with our software toys? Usually the client wants and needs an honest portrayal of his or her property and as much as the "bloggers's delight" version might make them gasp in wonderment, it's probably way too far over the edge to be useful to them. But because we can show some restraint and produce realistic and honest photos using HDR, it becomes an excellent tool, especially if we're not inclined to make a major production out of a shoot using a truck load of extra lighting and peripheral equipment.
Above are the results of a shoot I did last week at Tamarack Resort here in Idaho. You can see it was a very bright, sunny day which makes great calendar scenics but causes us a whole bunch of unwanted issues when trying to do something out of the ordinary. The first is the "correctly" exposed image in the series of three I used, and it produced a decent shot that could have floated by the client. But compare it with the HDR composite image following it and tell me which you would prefer.
I like the way the shadows, especially under the eaves, opened up and the snow took on a more rich texture. Still, the photo looks fairly natural and gives a good showing of the house. Here are a few more that will show you some of the problems that bright day caused in a couple of rooms.
This last one of the staircase is admittedly coming close to the border of the fantastic but for me stays in the realm of the realistic and accurately portrays not only what I saw but especially what I felt when I saw it. I loved the mystery and inviting lines of these steps and I think that comes through in this image.
Have you been tinkering along these lines? If so, show me! I'd be glad to post a photo or two here I like them.