Lightroom HDR Editing

When editing in Lightroom after DSLR scanning, I’m loving the results I get just by clicking the HDR button in Lightroom Classic 13.1.

Has anyone else tried this? Which file format are you using to export your images?

And does anyone kow does Lightroom HDR actually works? @nate – does it degrade the original scan in any way? It almost feels like “cheating”, and I want to make sure I’m not falling in love with a gimmick.

Edit: to be clear, I’m only using HDR after converting to a TIF positive.

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Seems like JPEG XL is a good file format, but it still has limited support. But I might switch my standard export to JPEG XL to future proof my photos, and convert them back to JPEG or HEIF only when necessary.

Are you actually looking at the result on an HDR capable monitor?

Yeah, I believe that Chrome doesn’t support JPEG XL anymore. For web, you could use JPEG or HEIC (with a gain map) and for better quality archiving, you could use AVIF…

Yep, that’s the way I do it, too.

Right now, that’s really the only way to get it to work like it should.

I was really surprised by what a difference it makes on my 2019 Macbook Pro (I think all the Macbook Pros since 2018 support HDR).

It’s like the monitor suddenly found the ability to produce colors it had forgotten it could produce… like I’m seeing slide film being illuminated from behind. It looks that much better. But I’m not sure how this can be conveyed to anyone without an HDR monitor.

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@Harry – Yep! I’m using a new Macbook Pro and the results are remarkable.

@nate – glad to hear you like it too, was just wondering if most people editing their film photos are using HDR editing or if was looked down upon / somehow negatively affected image quality. It feels like it makes a substantial positive difference to me.

I’ve seen enough to know that it’s going to be the next ‘big thing’, particularly in video though I’m not sure when it might make its way into stock photography. I’ve also seen an example posted on here (I think) where the ‘HDR’ version processed through NLP was clearly much better. But then I’m thinking, hang on, I don’t have an HDR monitor so if I can see it presumably I could have made it look like that without going into HDR, or perhaps it is a happy accident that going to HDR just gves better '‘normal’ results.

Clearly I probably need to see them side by side on a non-HDR and an HDR monitor to understand it properly.

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Of course what we knew as ‘HDR’ images have been around for ages in the form of images combined from different exposures, or even stretched from within a single RAW file using ‘HDR Photomerge’. Now this totally new type of image comes along and they decide to call it ‘HDR’ as well. Couldn’t it at least have been ‘HDR+’ or something.

I’ve uploaded a few files to a Google Drive link here (this forum wouldn’t accept .jxl and .avif file uploads). The original image was taken with a Leica R6.2 with 50mm Summicron, scanned with a Nikon D3400, and converted with NLP.

JPEG – 100 quality with sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color space
JPEG – 100 quality with HDR enabled and HDR P3 color space
JPEG XL – 100 quality with HDR enabled and HDR Rec. 2020 color space
AVIF – 100 quality with HDR enabled and HDR Rec. 2020 color space

You should be able to view the JPEG XL properly on Safari if you have a newish iPhone or a newish Macbook Pro. AVIF will render on Chrome but, again, you’ll need a proper monitor. The two JPEG files, with and without HDR enabled, are thrown in for reference.

Personally, I strongly prefer the JPEG XL and AVIF files. They offer much nicer colors and contrast.

Edit: tagging @nate here in case you’re curious!

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Great point!

There is a big difference between the two.

HDR photomerge is taking multiple photos of the same scene and then combining them. This is useful for scenes in which the dynamic range of the scene exceeds the range of your cameras sensor. But this is really never the case for film negatives. While the negative is able to capture a huge dynamic range, the film medium itself uses limited dynamic range, which easily fits into the range of your digital sensor.

I find that an HDR photomerge isn’t necessary when working with film negatives, and does not create consistent results.

HDR Display Compatibility, as I understand it, is simply doing a better job of utilizing the full dynamic range of your HDR display. For instance, with my MacBook Pro 2019 monitor at 80%, I can see that I have a full stop of dynamic range available in my monitor that is not being utilized with SDR (interestingly, as I increase my monitor brightness to 100%, there is only about 1/3 of a stop of extra dynamic range available).

To me, this looks incredibly promising for film photography, where the film medium has already been able to naturally capture and compress a large dynamic range, and now, we can more accurately display it back in a larger dynamic space.

I haven’t heard much discussion about it, other than here and in the facebook group.

I think the biggest difficultly, since this is new, is finding the right way to showcase it to others… for instance, I’m not sure how social media platforms are accepting this. And of course, if they don’t have a HDR display they might not see a difference.

Let me see if there is a way to enable HDR images in this forum…

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Certainly the two different meanings of HDR does make it quite difficult to research it as normally it is information on the ‘Photomerge’ type that comes up. I suppose it’s better to search on the special file types already mentioned. This Adobe blog post seems good, particularly as the ‘hover’ images will display in (new) HDR if your screen is capable of displaying it:

i’m wondering how it will take off widely, most if not all stock libraries only take jpegs and they convert them to the most basic sRGB colour space.


Let’s see if this works…

Here’s the regular JPG:

And here’s the AVIF file with HDR:

(If you click on one of these, you should be able to jump back and forth between the two)

If you have a display with HDR and are using a browser that supports HDR, you should much better color and separation in the sky, with the clouds appearing much clearer than in the jpeg.


^ This is a great explanation, thank you for sharing!

The difference shows up perfectly for me. The AVIF looks so good.

Just fyi I don’t have an HDR display and the ‘enhanced’ version looks muted and much darker. The enlarged version looks darker still, like it’sw nightime. Regular jpeg looks fine of course, both sizes. I’m on Firefox v121.01 so that’s probably why. The Adobe blog images simply look identical, standard or hover.


In case others are interested (and have an HDR display to view them on), here are two more examples. I set the quality to 50 on both to get the file size down to upload here.

Regular JPEG with sRGB:

AVIF with HDR:

Now, oddly enough, Chrome doesn’t seem to properly preview/render my AVIF. Wonder if that’s because I’m using the HDR Rec. 2020 color space.

All goes to show we’re still in the early days of this file format.

On Firefox 121.01 it is the same as with Nate’s images, dark & muted colours on the AVIF, really really dark on the enlarged. It is the latest version of Firefox but on an elderly Imac, so not HDR comptible of course. Pretty disconcerting though.

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The problem here is that the forum is taking your image and downsampling the size for the thumbnail size, and something is getting messed up in the process…

If you click on your avif image, you should see it suddenly look great, as it loads the original avif you posted and not the smaller thumbnail size…

Here’s the thumbnail that it is showing…

And here is the original AVIF:

I’m not sure I could fix this at the moment without globally changing some of the forum settings that could have an impact else… if you lower your dimension size, I believe it should show the correct preview…

Thanks, good to know. I think that is why I’ve seen recommendations to use a JPEG with an HDR gain map… so if the browser doesn’t support HDR or AVIF, it will just have a regular JPEG file to default back to.

I’ve done a little testing though and it looks like the forum software is stripping away the HDR gain map when I try to upload it…

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