Note: This is a completely unbiased review. I am in no way affiliated with Stuck in Customs and there are no affiliate links on this page. I purchased the book myself, and this is an honest account of what I thought.
A few weeks ago Trey Ratcliff released his latest ebook, Top 10 Mistakes in HDR Processing (and how to fix them). I knew that I was making many of these mistakes with my HDR photography, but wasn’t entirely sure how to go about fixing them. Needless to say, I purchased the book immediately and sat down and read it in about 45 minutes.
Over all I thought Top 10 Mistakes in HDR Processing was an extremely well put together book that provided a nice basic overview of some of the traps that I find myself falling into with almost every image I create. However, there are certainly areas where I wish he would have gone into detail about the “and how to fix them” part – but we’ll talk about that later.
Trey Ratcliff for those of you who don’t know him, is one of the most highly regarded HDR photographers in the world today. Having composed the first HDR image to ever be featured in the Smithsonian, he is probably someone you should pay attention to if you want to improve your HDR photography.
The more time I spend on his site, Stuck in Customs, the more I realize just how bad many of my images are. However rather than dishearten me, it provides motivation to improve my skills one photo at a time.
So now that we’ve established who the author is, how was the book itself?
As I mentioned earlier, Top 10 Mistakes in HDR Processing is a fantastic overview to some of the most common problems amateur photographers run into when creating HDR. There were certainly a few “aha” moments where I realized that some of the content I shoot, or methods of processing are far from the ideal way to go about creating spectacular HDR.
One of the coolest aspects of the book is the fact that he showed us all of this while using his own images. The book was worth the cost of admission for this alone. It proves that even the best photographers had to start somewhere and the chances are, even you have probably put together better images than some of these (although there are a few “crappy” ones I would have gladly taken credit for!). This really just made me feel like there was still hope for the rest of us.
Essentially the way the book is set up, is that he devotes one page to identifying an “HDR Mistake”, another page providing a solution, and then a third page showing an example of that particular problem corrected or done well. This is a cool approach, and really helps to define the mistakes. However, one of my few complaints about the book is that I feel like there are a few too many images. Ok I know what you are thinking, this is a photography book! And while this is true, the vast majority of the 38 pages are taken up with photos; there’s actually very little text in the book. If I’m going to pay for a premium product I want specific details about how to fix the problems I’m having.
Trey does a really good job of identifying the problems, and giving great overview responses, but he doesn’t go into much detail about the specifics of how to solve some issues. Although, this could just be good business tactics as it makes me want to buy his other products, but still, I was hoping for a little more.
An example of this would be layer masking. He mentions multiple times that you can “simply remix the HDR version with the original picture.” While I understand the basics of layer masking, it would have been much more valuable if he had gone into more detail about the specifics of how to use this technique to solve the problems he identified.
Another very minor complaint is at one point in the book he mentioned you can use a certain tool that’s available in Photomatix 4 or later. Well last I checked Photomatix 4 isn’t available yet, so that didn’t provide a whole lot of value. (Note: I understand that this issue will be fixed soon, and he only said this to ensure the longevity of the book, but it was still a little frustrating when I ran over to HDR Soft only to find that the product still isn’t out yet).
For $9.97 this product is well worth it and I’m extremely happy with my purchase. However, I don’t think the greatest value of Top 10 HDR Processing Mistakes is the “how”, but rather the depiction of just how far Trey has come in his photography. To look at some of his older photos and understand generally how he improved upon them, as well as how I can apply that to my photography is extremely valuable.
Bottom line, as long as you know what to expect out of Top 10 HDR Processing Mistakes, you will definitely not be disappointed!
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