If you’re familiar with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, you’ll know the results can look otherworldly (good) or cartoony (bad) or somewhere in between. Sure, sometimes you want cartoony, or an image that appears more like a painting or an illustration, but other times you really want a better photo, so that’s what this is about. (I’m calling it HDR+ for now…)

So HDR+ is the combining of an HDR image with the original non-HDR image to get the best of both worlds.

December HDR/Original
Original Photo(s) by John December.

I asked John December if I could combine this HDR photo with the original photo to see what it would look like… and he agreed.

I layered the two images in Photoshop, with the HDR on top at about 25% transparency, and I added some Gaussian blur to the sky to get rid of some of the pixelation. I also did a bit of dodging and burning here and there.

Labelle Pool

This shot of some water at Labelle Cemetery in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin is also a combination of an HDR and non-HDR image. I wanted to get rich, vibrant colors, but not have it look like an HDR image. I think it turned out quite well.

For this one, I processed one RAW file into 4 separate (different exposure) TIFF files and combined those into an HDR image, then layered two of the original TIFFs with the final HDR to get the final image.

If you’re doing HDR photography, consider playing around with this technique to get a new perspective on things… HDR plus a little more, if you will.