Review: “The HDR Book” by Rafael ‘RC’ Concepcion (@aboutrc)

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: June 22, 2011

Category: General

I guess it’s fair to say that there are few topics in Photography that cause as much of a reaction, be it good or bad, than HDR…people either love it or loathe it!

I guess it’s also fair to say that most people’s exposure (excuse the pun) to HDR would have been the highly overprocessed, surrealistic, fantasy look with masses of detail, dark clouds and saturated colours. However, there’s so much more on offer than that, as this new book by Photographer, Photoshop Guru and all round ‘Go To Guy’ RC Concepcion shows…

As you would expect the book starts off by covering the photography side of things with regards to what it takes to capture images for making a HDR image; camera settings, number of exposures, equipment and so on and then moves on to discuss what kind of images should be considered for HDR.

Like most things, when we discover and start dabbling in a new technique there can be a tendency to use it on everything and HDR especially is one of those techniques that needs to be handled with ‘kid gloves’ and used wisely as it definitely won’t suit everything. RC does a great job of discussing where it can be appropriately used; sure it’s not a definitive list but through his obvious experience of HDR he clearly has a pretty good idea where and where not to use it.

Where I think this book is set to be a winner though is not how it covers the ‘capture’ side of the HDR but in covering the post-processing side of things; let me explain…

There’s no question that HDR is an extremely useful technique to have in your  photography ‘tool bag’ allowing full detail in the shadow and highlight areas across an entire image but if that’s the case why has it attracted such vocal reactions against it in the past? … well, the answer lies in the post processing, and this is exactly where RC nails it!

Capturing the necessary images to make up a HDR isn’t rocket science. Once you’ve chosen your subject and you understand how to capture the necessary shots all at varying exposures, you’re up and running in no time but it’s how you ‘complete’ the image when sat at the computer that it all comes together.

Having explained the capture process, the rest of the book is made up of projects showing how to post-process a whole range of images such as dimly lit interiors, landscape, real estate, black and white images and portraits…yes HDR can be used extremely well for portrait shots but again it’s knowing the how, when and what that is so important and this RC covers in great detail.

What I particularly like about RC’s approach throughout the book is that he doesn’t push any one particular processing software and rather deals with the 3 main players (Photomatix, Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop) and covers the pros and cons of each, so that you can make your choice of what to use as opposed to feeling compelled to make yet another purchase.

Through an understanding of the editing process RC shows how to edit your images to be ‘photorealistic’ through to the ‘surrealistic’ depending on what you prefer and as you’d expect, the pages are packed full of some wonderful examples.

In the past I’ve ‘dabbled’ in HDR but it’s something that I tended to steer away from because I, like most, had a preconceived idea of what it was having seen the ‘fantasy’ type images in the past. However, when you look at the work of folks like Joel Grimes who makes use of HDR in his images I’m now of the opinion that I need to look at it a lot closer and that I’m going to look at putting together some HDR backgrounds for use in my workshop [Link].

So, to summarise…RC’s done it again by producing another ‘killer’ book and a book that people have been wanting for quite some time…

Finally HDR isn’t a dirty word!

Highly Recommended

The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pro’s Hottest Post-Processing Techniques by Rafael ‘RC’ Concepcion
Paperback: 288 Pages
ISBN-10: 0321776895
ISBN-13: 978-0321776891
Currently priced at £17.15 from Amazon UK

RC Concepcion on Twitter [Link]

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  1. Allen Ross Thomas

    RC’s got the sexy radio voice ;-). Not generally a fan of HDR (far overdone) but this clearly shows how its subtle use can enhance a photo vs obfuscate it.


    • Glyn

      @Allen…Agree entirely but not so sure about the sexy radio voice…lol 🙂

      Hope all is well with you Buddy,
      Catch you soon,

  2. DaveT

    I have to say that the overdone HDR , which has been quite prolific on the net, doesn’t really do it for me, but following your review Glyn I may need to take a second look at what is possible. It certainly has potential for those contrasty interior shots that are outside the dynamic range of most DSLRs.

    Looks like my photo book library is going to have a new addition.

    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Like you mate I kept thinking of the overdone ‘surrealistic’ images but RC has done a great job at showing it doesn’t have to be so. Well worth getting a copy 🙂


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