Once upon a time, I used a single Jpeg – into Nik’s HDRfxPro2 – to make use of its very considerable ability to lend a photo tonal separation. This tonal separation is crucial, and especially before making black and white conversions. A gentleman of extraordinary skill and knowledge with the black and white form did once roundly criticise my choice by saying that the ‘photographic integrity has been compromised because you’ve taken the photograph two steps away from reality: HDR and B&W conversion.’
I agreed with the sentiment that the further removed from reality, the weaker the integrity of the photograph., But, I deeply questioned the idea that HDR was ‘a step away from reality’ at all? I discovered soon after the criticism was made that the reason behind the criticism was an ‘acute dislike of HDR – and especially the way it makes plants and bushes look sharp, halos, and noise!’
My well-argued rejoinder to my critic was to explore the possibility that HDR is – after all – a superior kind of dodging and burning – and an automated way (using Photomatix, HDRfxPro etc) of toning down the highlights, and opening up the shadows, to find more detail. And yes, if you do tackle the halos, over-crisp herbiage, and the sooty, grimy overkill that can ruin too many HDR photos, then an excellent tool for acquiring tonal separation in any photograph (B&W included) is there for the taking!
For an in-depth consideration of why HDR is really just a superior, and finely-tuned, system for dodging and burning, see my words below at “HDR – an especial form…”
But to open up the argument further – how many steps away from reality is actually a betrayal of the photographic form? When a photograph has its horizons “set more towards the face of art” it becomes digital art; if its horizons are “set towards photography” then it retains its integrity? Where is that line crossed? Where and when does a photograph cross the threshold “losing its integrity” and become art… ?