I use a couple of high dynamic range (HDR) programs to give an edge to my images once in a while. I really like Photomatix Pro, but I also take advantage of HDR in apps like Lightroom Classic.
HDR works by taking highlights from underexposed images and shadows from overexposed images and blending them together. The more exposures of a single scene you have, the more an HDR program can help. I usually shoot about five images of a scene at five different exposures when I am planning to use HDR.
I tell my photography students that HDR can be very useful, but it can also wreck an image pretty easily.
I wrecked an image just today, with interesting results…
I set up to photograph a handheld Citizens Band radio in my home studio, using a combination of window light, LED lights, and, in the background, Christmas lights. I made the first exposure mostly accidentally, shot at a super-low ISO and a very small aperture, as it had been set for an entirely different scene. On the camera monitor, I saw it was almost black and might have grumbled at myself for missing the exposure. The next frame was about right, using a higher ISO and, more significantly, a much larger aperture.
When I saw the frames next to each other in Lightroom, I told myself that I would merge these images just to see how bad the result might be, and yes, it’s bad. But, I always tell myself, it doesn’t hurt to try different things.
The internet got kinda crazy years ago with HDR when it first hit the scene, but it simmered down after a year or two and became a useful tool in the toolbox.