Recommended this week: Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography, by Ferrell McCollough. (Here's a U.K. link.)
Perhaps the most controversial processing technique in digital is "HDR" or high dynamic range photography, whereby two exposures of the same subject are merged using a software program to create an image with rich detail in both the shadows and the highlights.
The problem with it seems to be that some (most?) people who practice it overdo it, creating images with an instantly identifiable "look," one that is often bizarrely surreal. This tends to polarize opinions: some love it, others hate it.
But a tool is just a tool, and doubtless some photographers use the technique with subtlety, or to rectify specific problems.
I'm not an expert in HDR, but this book seems to provide a serviceable introduction to the technique, at about the right level for otherwise capable photographers desirous of learning something new to them.
And, it's cheap. ;-)
Featured Comment by Geoff Wittig: "Ferrell McCollough's book is a good, practical introduction to HDR imaging, and will get you up and running quickly. There are four other books I'm aware of. Christian Bloch's very in-depth HDRI Handbook reviews a lot of the underlying principles and available software, and it's probably the best resource for folks who want to 'go deep' into the topic. I found it fascinating, but it's probably a bit much for the casually curious. Michael Freeman's Mastering HDR Photography has just a bit more depth than Ferrell McCollough's book. Chris Weston's book I haven't looked at. There's also a new book by Jack Howard that is similarly approachable.
"I think a lot of the 'overcooked' appearance of many HDR images has to do with the available software. Photoshop CS3 has a very clumsy HDR implementation that is best ignored. Photomatix is the default industry standard HDR software, and it's endlessly flexible, but what initially appears attractive on screen tends toward a certain artificial look that has become a kind of cliché. Used with more restraint, it's a very effective program. Another option is FDR Tools, a deceptively powerful scripting editor with a simple graphical interface. This handles moving objects like clouds or waves more elegantly than Photomatix and it defaults toward a more 'photographic' and less 'illustrated' appearance, but it's a bit more challenging to use. There are a number of other HDR programs with numerous powerful options, but these tend toward the arcane and require serious study. For the more casual amateur Photomatix and FDR Tools are the first place to look."