Making “Grunge” Work for your Photographs

High dyanmic range (HDR) photographs often tend to have a certain “over the top” look. Much of the time it only detracts from what might otherwise be a great natural image. But sometimes that look can really help your image communicate…

Today we were traveling on the mostly abandoned US Highway 66 through the Mojave Desert. Shuttered gas stations and cafes with burnt out neon signs dotted the landscape as a mere ghost of the bright and colorful world of automobiles traveling across country in the 1930s and 1940s before the Interestates were built.


But how to communicate the lost grandeur. One obvious solution is a black and white rendition or even faded colors. But to do something different I decided to use the HDR processing in Photomatix Pro to bring out some of the hidden glory in this famous sign for Roy’s motel and cafe.

I particularly liked the way the motel building itself (designed to look futuristic ‘back in the day’) looks with the almost pastel colors of the HDR. For comparison a more traditional rendering of the scene using the Saturated preset of Adobe CS5 HDR is below: