SOOC versus HDR
A few more trade secrets… Above, a photo processed with Artizen, a High Dynamic Range program.
In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allows a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.
The two main sources of HDR imagery are computer renderings and merging of multiple low-dynamic-range (LDR) or standard-dynamic-range (SDR) photographs. Tone-mapping techniques, which reduce overall contrast to facilitate display of HDR images on devices with lower dynamic range, can be applied to produce images with preserved or exaggerated local contrast for artistic effect.
Sounds complicated, but it isn’t really. Basically, it allows you to recreate on your photos what you’ve really seen. Up to a certain point, of course.
There are many places where you can learn more about it, for example here. If you want to start doing it, I would suggest a little free program called EasyHDR. Or Photomatix.
And you can find many fantastic examples right here.
Below, the original SOOC, or Straight Out Of the Camera picture.