The Best HDR is the One You Are Creating NOW

Article Written by Jim Nix

I’ll admit it – I am not always confident that what I produce and share is “my best”.  In fact, I know it isn’t.  In other words, I have self doubts about my shots at times.  I frequently second-guess some of my choices in post-processing, wondering if maybe it will get a more favorable response if I just changed this, or that…or both.  Or maybe if I had done something different in the field…or had a better camera…or if I just had a certain software package…or if I waited until my skills improved…or…something else.

Does this sound familiar?

I suspect that lots of photographers feel that way.  I think as artists we are all hyper-critical about our own work – that’s probably a natural thing.  And in many ways, it is a good thing.  We have to try and take an objective look at our work and determine if it is “good”.  It gives us milestones to reach white bouncy castle for, skills to acquire, and an eye for beauty.  Those are all good.

But, what is NOT good is wasting your time thinking that what you are currently doing is not good enough, or not your best work.  If what you are producing right now is what you are capable of producing right now, then it is your best work right now.

To completely rip off paraphrase the old expression that “the best camera is the one that’s with you”, I would argue that the best HDR is the one you are creating right now.

Don’t think about what might be some day, or could have been that day – but instead focus on what is.  Here are a few things to consider:

1)  Embrace where you are.  You are at the top of your game RIGHT NOW.  You have never been better at this.  Will you get better in the future?  Sure you will, if you keep working at it.  But remind yourself that your skills in the field and your post-processing skills are at an all-time high.  And it’s completely possible that tomorrow could be a new high.  But also know that progress is never linear.  It’s not a straight shot to the top of your game.  There are bumps on that road.

2)  Don’t dream of having a better camera.  Your camera (I am making a few assumptions here) works just fine.  It’s not about the camera.  It’s about what you do with the camera.  Some of my favorite HDRs were taken with my old basic Nikon and a kit lens.

3)  Don’t dream about new software.  Same as above – some of my old favorites are not even HDR, because I didn’t get the brackets right, or it was before I was shooting HDR.  Software won’t fix that – that’s a skills and experience issue.  One of my most-viewed shots is a single long exposure, which had minor adjustments made in iPhoto.  That’s it.  No Photoshop, Photomatix, Nik Software, Topaz, or OnOne.  Sometimes simpler is better.

4)  Don’t dream of better locations – make interesting photos nearby.  You don’t have to travel to get awesome shots.  A couple of my all-time favorites were taken less than 10 minutes from my house.  Online, I see all sorts of shots of ordinary things done in extraordinary ways.  You can do that too.  Just get creative.

5)  Produce now!  There is an old expression that your first 10,000 photos are your worst.  What are you waiting for?  Get those out of the way!  Go shoot something!  Don’t let any misperceptions fill you with doubt.  You’re an artist, and an artist makes art.  So, GO MAKE ART.

The real measure of your development as an HDR photographer is not to compare yourself to others, but to compare yourself to your former self.  Are you improving upon your skills?  Are you better than you were?  That’s the key here.  That’s the goal.

Practice, practice, practice.  And remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Jim Nix is a photographer, traveler, HDR enthusiast, explorer, iPhone shooter, and tea drinker based in Austin, TX. He shares his photos and travel experiences on his blog at

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  • Edith Levy

    Excellent article Jim.

    • Jim Nix

      thanks Edith!

  • Harry

    Hello Jim,

    great article! Thank you.

    You are right in all points you told from.

    • Jim Nix

      thanks Harry!

  • Mike Hardisty

    Great article. I used to have doubts, always questioning why I couldn’t get the same look as some of the recognised masters. Reading tutorials, constantly adjusting the way I did HDR and used the software. Never achieving “that look”. Then one day I saw the light, excuse the pun. The look I needed to achieve was mine, what was the point of copying someone else.

    • Jim Nix

      nicely said Mike and thanks!