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Is HDR mode editing useful for SDR output?

Community Beginner ,
Dec 19, 2023 Dec 19, 2023

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I've been playing with the new HDR mode and trying to understand whether it's useful to me. After watching a bunch of videos from Adobe and others, I'm still no clearer. Maybe my estimable colleagues can help.

 

I sometimes capture HDR images using bracketing, but all of my work is targeted towards print, which of course is SDR at best.

 

Is there any benefit to editing HDR files in HDR? Or is all of that information already compressed into the SDR range when I'm editing in SDR mode?

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Community Expert , Dec 20, 2023 Dec 20, 2023

I would also draw a very strong distinction between HDR (merging from bracketed exposures) and HDR (display and output mode). The two features share very little... apart from, the identical initials!

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Community Expert ,
Dec 19, 2023 Dec 19, 2023

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My understanding is that you need to have HDR displays or there is no visible benefit in using the HDR mode.   

 

https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom-classic/help/hdr-output.html

 

 

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Explorer ,
Dec 19, 2023 Dec 19, 2023

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All of that information is still used and just compressed into SDR range when in SDR mode. The exact compression method in the traditional SDR mode is slightly different from the SDR downconversion when in HDR mode, so you might find one is subtly different from the other. Also, the tone curve module (specifically the point curve) works a bit differently in HDR mode which might be useful to you. Outside of those two things, there is no difference when delivering for SDR monitors or print. HDR mode mainly exists for delivering images for HDR screens.

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Community Expert ,
Dec 20, 2023 Dec 20, 2023

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quote

all of my work is targeted towards print…Is there any benefit to editing HDR files in HDR? Or is all of that information already compressed into the SDR range when I'm editing in SDR mode?

By @David Adam Edelstein

 

For images that will only ever be printed, I don’t think HDR editing is a good use of time given that HDR can’t be reproduced in print. If you’re all about printing, you’ll probably still edit your “HDR merged” images, and other images, for SDR. If you edit with HDR switched off (the default), the information isn’t compressed, it’s as it always was and as you’re used to. Enabling HDR would extend the tonal range, with your ability to preview it depending on how far your display extends into HDR.

 

If you did edit with HDR enabled, and you want an optimal SDR conversion (for print or for SDR displays), you should also be adjusting the SDR Rendition Settings. Because one of the major problems with HDR on SDR is that there is no automatic way to reliably make all HDR images look good when their tonal range is compressed down to SDR. It’s a reason there are multiple HDR-to-SDR standards for HDR video. 

 

If you adjust the SDR Rendition Settings in Lightroom Classic or Camera Raw, now you are taking control of the HDR-to-SDR conversion, manually tuning it for that specific image. This should look better than an automatic conversion. SDR Rendition Settings are a way that Adobe lets you store adjustments customized for both HDR and SDR in a single instance of the image.

 

Editing for print is still one step beyond an edit for an SDR display, as it always has been. If you normally find value in soft-proofing, that will still be valuable for tuning the image for your specific combination of printer, ink, and paper. So if you edited in HDR, and also tuned the SDR Rendition Settings, you would still probably want to preview that by soft-proofing through the print profile. Although the SDR Rendition Settings do have a Preview for SDR Display option, that is still at the display level, not using any print profile, so it isn’t a substitute for print soft-proofing.

 

Personally, for prints that have to look their best, regardless of whether I edit an image in HDR or SDR, I’ll probably continue branching off an SDR proof copy (virtual copy of a soft proof) with adjustments customized for the specific print specs.

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Community Beginner ,
Dec 20, 2023 Dec 20, 2023

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Thanks to all of you for the great responses. I feel way more educated now. 

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Community Expert ,
Dec 20, 2023 Dec 20, 2023

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I would also draw a very strong distinction between HDR (merging from bracketed exposures) and HDR (display and output mode). The two features share very little... apart from, the identical initials!

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