Washington Post photo spurs debate over use of HDR technology

Poynter | The Washington Post | SportsShooter

Photojournalists are debating whether The Washington Post crossed the line by using a technology called "high dynamic range" (HDR) to create a single image based on several exposures. HDR is useful when it would be difficult or impossible to capture a properly lighted image by choosing one exposure. Michel du Cille, the Post's director of photography, told me that he doesn't think the technology is a problem, as long as the Post explains to readers how the image was created. But many photographers, including NPPA president Sean Elliot, are questioning the use of HDR in photojournalism:

Chuck Liddy, photographer with the News & Observer: "This could go under the Pogo quote 'We have met the enemy and he is us.' "

Frank Niemeir, independent photographer: "And this 24mm and 600mm junk has to stop too, as the human eye sees around 45mm, so everything must be shot at 50mm. And everything must be presented in color, none of this black and white stuff. Oh, and ISO? Everything must be shot at 400 or less. None of this outrageous high end ISO. Just because modern cameras can accomplish advanced functions, we must stick to 1950's values."

Ed Foster Jr., freelance photojournalist: "The simple question is, has truth been altered by technology that permits a more faithful reproduction of what our eyes can perceive? Perhaps if we believe that the use of High Dynamic Range techniques step over the line, we could make the same argument for the use of flash fill or adding any supplemental light source to lighten shadows or expand the dynamic range of a photograph. Perhaps too we could make the same argument for the compression of color, dynamic range and clarity of photographs that results from reproduction on newsprint."

Ted Han, DocumentCloud developer: "There should be no editorial controversy about legitimate uses of HDR. A photograph is simply a representation of a slice in time, captured on a single piece of film or image sensor. That slice of time could be a fraction of a second, or it could be minutes or even hours. An HDR composite is no different. It is a technique that allows a single slice of time to be captured in separate data files and stitched back together."

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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