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HDR photography: Love it or hate it?

By Nancy Thanki, Special to CNN
  • High dynamic range (HDR) is the merging of several photographs to create a hyper-real image
  • Its popularity has sparked controversy over realism vs. artistic liberty
  • Techniques range from combining images with photo software to smartphone apps
  • See more HDR photos on CNN iReport

(CNN) -- High-dynamic-range (HDR) photography -- the art of creating one image by combining multiple exposures -- has gained popularity along with some criticism in recent years.

The result can transform an ordinary photograph into an image that looks like a painting. But critics complain that the result is over-processed and unrealistic.

Traditionally, HDR images have been created by taking three photos of the same scene at different exposures -- regular, underexposed and overexposed -- and then combining them using a digital editing program. But photo editing programs and HDR apps for smartphones are automating the process for amateur photographers by making it possible to mimic those effects with a single photograph. Point, shoot and voila, you have an HDR image.

It may have started as a novelty, but HDR imagery has begun to be taken seriously as an art form. While the images are often likened to paintings, some enthusiasts say that the technique actually allows photographers to create images that are closer to what the eye really sees, and that it eliminates the need to delete "bad" photos that have been exposed too much or too little. They say it is potentially the end of dark, blurry shots and gives almost anyone the ability to create professional-level photographs.

As iReporter Andrew Stowe puts it, "It is not the end-all, be-all of how to take great pictures. It's merely a different way of capturing a scene when the final intent is to achieve a maximum level of detail."

What do you think? Take a look at the gallery and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jareen Imam contributed to this report.