Does this photo go too far?

Think the processing in this photo of the Taj Mahal goes too far?

I found it while looking through stock photos to get some inspiration for our Photo Expedition in India in March.

My photos never come out this bright and colorful... but that’s because this photographer used something called HDR.

You may have heard about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. It’s a process where you take multiple photos -- some brighter, and some darker, then combine the best parts of each in Photoshop.

Some argue that HDR goes too far. But when you do it well, you can come up with a photo that sells. The above shot has sold over 300 times!

Here’s another one that I think uses HDR... though I’m not certain. It’s more subtle here, but the colors in this photo really stand out:

When we go to the Taj Mahal, I want to try this technique. If you’re coming with me on the India Photo Expedition, we’ll do it together.

Of course, you don’t need to have Photoshop or use HDR to take travel stock photos that sell.

Here are some other stock shots of India that I’ve found for inspiration. These were all taken in places where we’ll be going... and they’re making me really excited for the trip!

Whether you come with me to India or not, it’s a good idea to go onto a few stock photo sites and see what’s selling. Not so that you can copy those photos. But so that you can get inspired and put your own twist on what buyers are looking for today.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

7 responses to “Does this photo go too far?”

  1. Scott

    Although asking the photographer is the only way to be sure, I'd put my money on the use of a Circular Polariser and very low ISO for the second Taj Mahal shot instead of HDR. While both HDR and CPs can give greater intensity of colours, CPs tend to stop short of the unrealistic over-saturation commonly associated with HDR photos, however one giveaway for an image shot through a CP is the amount of contrast between the sharply defined clouds and the intensity of the blue sky equally in both the sky and the reflection. The only real downside to CPs is that you lose a stop or more of light, so they aren't as useful in lower light conditions, depending on the capabilities of your camera.



  2. Graeme Barnes

    Re the HDR shots. I see HDR as a good tool to use when the end result reflects the true situation at the time of taking the photo. As camera sensors do not have the the same dynamic range as our eyes it is often difficult to get a true representation of the scene taken. In film work you would use dogging and burning to bring out the highlites etc. HDR, when use correctly can do this for us.
    I think that the shots in question are a good example of HDR. I have seen shots in photography magazines where I think it was really overdone.

  3. Cliff

    I think the first photo probably has been run through an "HDR" program of some kind. After looking over the other photos here I'd guess some have been "Tone Mapped" at very least. As far as your question goes...(too far), beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I use HDR and Tone Mapping for different projects, but its very easy to go too far.
    I enjoy the news letter....

  4. Pauline Everest

    Having been to the Taj Mahal I feel the pictures that have been changed due to HDR give the wrong impression. The Taj is a magical place and there is often that subtle mist surrounding it which gives the visit to this wonderful place that 'hair raising at the nape of the neck feeling', totally lost in the above photo's.

  5. JoAnn

    I think the photos of Taj Mahal are beautiful - but seem way too contrived.

  6. Steven Graham

    I too enjoy the color saturation of the Taj Mahal pictures, although they do at first glance look more like paintings than photos. Very interesting effect. But overall, I believe I would go with a circular polarizer to get more contrast/vibrant colors and keep it more natural looking. Both effects have their place.

  7. Joel Marvin Rosenberg

    I grew up w/Photography in the late 60's & 70's. We shot then with B&W mostly & color slides. The techniques then were to learn light well, use light meter only when a difficult light situation occured, and use the technique of dodging and burning when I worked in a Studio. I personally go "overboard" with Photoshop and get rejected w/the Stock sites quite often. I am striving to JUST reproduce as closely as possible what I saw with my eyes and overdue...I just have to be more disciplined!

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