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HDR editing and display



  • Nicolas

    There are now a few threads on this topic.

    My impression is that the recent push of Adobe over the last year (as well as others) to support HDR display has made some people - surely me!- look at the "HDR" topic one more time. This time, we are not talking about photos with tons of overly processing mid-tones. I personally find this article good to understand some of the many aspects of the HDR area (display, editing software, file formats...).

    I think HDR is interesting not only because it makes -some- photos look -very- good, but also because it makes photo editing more efficient. The RAW files that we all have do contain, typically, more dynamic range that can be displayed on a non-HDR display. We all spend efforts to preserve details in highlights and shadows - this is essentially is a matter of compressing the high dynamic range captured by camera sensors into the smaller dynamic range of a non-HDR display, with some taste. The is very time-consuming, despite automatisms. Worse case scenario one needs to do local adjustments (they can be use for others goals as well), and that takes even more time. All these adjustments are also fun to do, but still they take time. With HDR monitors and HDR-capable image processing, image processing is much faster because the dynamic range of the camera sensor is much better matched by the dynamic range of an HDR display.

    No doubt that HDR in photography is not fully mature and not relevant to everyone. Not all web-browser are supporting it, and "portable" file formats, e.g. JPG XL, are poorly supported. While Adobe Camera Raw supports well the processing of RAW files, Photoshop only partly supports 32-bits (HDR) files. Also, if your main goal is to make prints... HDR processing and displaying is quasi irrelevant - the dynamic range of a piece a paper on which ambiant lights reflects is already smaller than that of non-HDR display.

    I still think it would be good to hear from Capture One on this topic. Is this something they find relevant? If yes for which application? How do they intend to support HDR processing and display?

  • SFA
    Top Commenter

    Is part of the discussion here surrounding the issue of how this capability is to be consumed by the viewers?


    For the past 3 years I have had a Dell notebook with an HDR "capable" screen and a control utility to allow use of it.

    It's very interesting. Does some amazing things if I switch it on to a relevant mode when working with C1.

    However, if I edit that way and enjoy the results I still have the question about whether people then viewing the results will have a better or worse experience using whatever devices they may have.

    And, presumably, the brilliance of the screen's display would not be carried over to printed output - at least  not with the same results.

    So, how does this new facility fit in with the mass market's consumption of the technology's outputs? 

  • Nicolas

    It is a good question, SFA.

    Some people point to the fact that many of the new phones have "HDR" capabilities, and that a turning point for HDR photography and media creation would be when social media, e.g. instagram, tik-tok, will embrace these new HDR formats. I am confident that the "pop" and attractiveness that HDR photos have, will be very appealing to content creator or advertisers on platform where attention is in high competition.

    As for bigger screen, the question of adoption is open, but to me, past the first "waow effect", HDR photos are still far more life-like. Just like colour-photos are more like-like than black&white photos*. So I guess the adoption "makes sense". But I assume that the technology adoption will be a lot faster if there is an application that pulls it. 

    *: I still enjoy B&W photography, and HDR B&W photos are also super interesting. 

  • BeO
    Top Commenter

    Hi @SFA,

    However, if I edit that way and enjoy the results I still have the question about whether people then viewing the results will have a better or worse experience using whatever devices they may have.


    Search for the chapter "JPG Gain Maps: Share great images with everyone" on this page:

  • SFA
    Top Commenter


    Is this a bit like the long discussion people, especially older photographers somewhat used to the difference between film stock and film brands back in analog days, had regarding the "look" of camera manufacturer's preferred settings for in-camera jpgs?

    These days it is perhaps more about how phone cameras present their images.

    Settings are chosen to suit consumer taste - and may (possibly) vary from region to region globally? - rather than absolute "accuracy", especially for colour rendition.

    Bright, shiny colours may have greater instant attraction than "natural" results. Maybe somewhat like the difference between oil paintings and watercolours.

    The drive for HDR processing seems to be mostly about Video work rather than still images. 

    That makes sense since all video consumption can be assumed to be via colours projected and presented using a light source whereas still images still have a strong presence in printed (reflective) media circles and that is a constraint that seems likely to be with us for some time yet.

    I'm not entirely convinced that all images generated using HDR are more life-like, though in some cases they may be - depending on one's preferences for what "Life-like" means.

    Bright and glitzy scenes - fashion shows for example - sure. If that sort of subject is considered to be "life".

    Take the clothes out of the heavily lit fashion show and put them on the streets, worn by ordinary people and the understanding of "life-like" may be somewhat different - at least in so far as the available light and colour influences are concerned.

    In fact, I am starting to wonder if most fashion retailers are using HDR to delight in their on-line sales images whilst forgetting that many mobile device users are not using their devices with the screens turned up to maximum brightness all the time.

    Some dark clothes - which seem to be particularly common purchase options these days - are very difficult to see in detail even on a hi-res, high output screen turned up to full output. 

    Recently I have realised that items that look pretty awful on screen  - to the point that I wonder how they are ever approved for sale - look much better in the store under whatever colour balanced (or not colour balanced) light sources have been installed.

    On the other hand food images always look much more interesting in photos than they do as served ... but that is a different discussion!


  • SFA
    Top Commenter


    Thanks for the link.

    Doing some digging it seems that this screen is limited to HDR on Video Playback. (Although it has other settings that provide HDR display level simulation - or something like it.)

    Microsoft specification requirements seem to suggest quite recent hardware specs are required for full functionality. 

    I noticed also that the link lists several potential constraints and gaps in support across various devices, currently. (I did not check the date on the article but assume it was quite recent.) 

    So does that mean that "expecting" support now is part of a movement for the technology to gain wider acceptance by encouraging software companies to provide a solution to what is, currently, a somewhat niche requirement? 

    Or is the concept gaining rapid acceptance and will be in wide use by the time any fully functional facility might be ready to be released?

    I will need to do some more research.

  • BeO
    Top Commenter


    My Dell XPS from 2020 also seems to support only HDR for video.

    I find the video "Creating HDR images with Lightroom" from Greg quite interesting, not only that LR supports it but also the two (landscape and the cityscape) images look really good and natural in HDR in that video.

    I don't understand why Greg mentions (a few times somewhere on his site) setting a monitor to half of max brightness, but interestingly the difference between a HDR and non-HDR (SDR?) video appears even bigger than with full brightness (colors aside), see the sample video in Windows HD Color Settings.

    All M chip MacBook Pros come with HDR displays, according to Greg. HDR is supported by phones, so HDR imagery will most likely come out of its niche, no matter what... :-)

    I think that side by side, or one directly after the other, many HDR images can shine compared to its SDR version. On the other hand, human vision is extremely adaptable, and with no direct comparison we can probably enjoy SDR versions as much as we can enjoy HDR versions.

    And yes, for printing, my ultimate goal for my images, HDR doesn't play a role.

  • Mike Cheng


    From my point of view, HDR is not guaranteed to be better than SDR, but it does offer a larger dynamic range to show the images. It's about giving people more freedom to edit and display the file.

    For example, people usually shoot RAW because it has a larger dynamic range, smoother color grading, and larger color gamut, even though in many cases, the generated 8-bit jpeg image doesn't take any of these advantages, but RAW file provides them the option to tweak the settings if needed. As for printing, on the one hand, I think most photos are shown on displays these days rather than being printed on paper; on the other hand, printing should use CMYK color gamut or Adobe RGB rather than the sRGB color gamut that most SDR images use. In other words, even for SDR, people still take advantage of these larger space to edit and show the photos. Besides, I think the hdr environment has better support of different color gamut, e.g. if your display always works with its largest supported color gamut, the software side can handle all the color gamut transformation and you don't need to change any display setting.

    Last, I think based on the standards of HDR, HDR only offers a larger dynamic range than SDR, so it should perform no worse than SDR. SDR image can look the same in an HDR image or be edited to show better highlights in those bright areas, like the light bulb, the reflection on the metal, etc, while maintaining the same look in mid-tone and shadows. Any HDR photo that looks too bright might be caused by 1) improper editing, 2) improper viewing environment that doesn't match the HDR image, or 3) bad standard or bad product that only follows PQ (perceptual quantizer) and does not consider the lighting of the viewing environment. What's more, even though I may not fully understand the intention and standards of HDR, I think the technology and those companies do make some mistakes that prevent the wide adoption of HDR. The standards are barely ready (like, and many HDR formats are not fully supported by the mainstream image viewers or browsers (like JPEG-XL, AVIF, and HEIF). 


  • Nicolas

    If anyone in this thread or at Capture One is interested I found this video by Apple and Adobe quite good for explaining the concepts of SDR, HDR, "diffuse white", gain map.. and many other topics relevant to this the topic:

    I think it would be very good to hear from Capture One how they see this topic.


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