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Lightroom's new HDR mode


LMF-Patron Gold
Lightroom just introduced a new HDR editing mode. It is similar to the HDR editing mode introduced in Adobe Camera RAW a few months ago, but much more useful. Of course HDR already has another meaning in photography, but this is different - this means photos that are to be displayed on an HD monitor, not an SD monitor like most computers use. HD monitors can display a much brighter image with a wider dynamic range. The HD display we may be most familiar with is the HDR TV, but computer HD displays are becoming more common.

In my case the new Lightroom HDR capability is exciting because I edit and produce HDR video and it is always a pain to incorporate still pictures into HDR videos. This is true even though our mirrorless cameras have plenty of dynamic range - there just isn't a way to conveniently get pictures into a format compatible with HDR video. Until now.

My experience with Lightroom HDR editing so far is really good. Fortunately I edit with a Pro Display XDR monitor, which displays up to 1500 nits. I've been working with some shots I recently took at Niagara Falls, and the sun glistening off the water combined with the bright cloud of mist reaching for the sun gives an effect completely different than with an SD image. I posted a couple of the SD images earlier this month, and they are really dull compared to the HDR versions. I sometimes say SD video is boring and HDR video is exiting. Now I seem to be saying the same thing about pictures.

The best way to use Lightroom HDR editing is with an HD monitor. Adobe does have some tools to edit with a SD monitor, presumably so you can show them on your HDR TV. I've displayed them on my HDR TV, putting them on a timeline with Davinci Resolve. You can export the photos from Lightroom to several formats. AVIF, PSD and PNG work with Resolve.

If you want to display the still pictures on your computer with an HD monitor, the best solution I've found is to use Google Chrome. Chrome can display .AVIF and .PNG , and it is a really good HDR viewer. I really detest someone saying pictures pop, but sorry, these pictures pop.

I'm interested in others experience with Lightroom HDR, and happy to answer any questions if you are just getting started. Warning, I do all my editing on Mac's with HDR displays and this may not translate directly to PCs.
This is great information, thank you!

From what you have found, do you know of any other raw editors that can edit and output photos in HDR? I don't use Lightroom typically because it slows down my ancient PC :)
This is great information, thank you!

From what you have found, do you know of any other raw editors that can edit and output photos in HDR? I don't use Lightroom typically because it slows down my ancient PC :)
The only other one I know is ACR which comes with Photoshop. So if you run Photoshop this is available. But it is pretty awkard to use and I don't recommend it much. I would expect over time there will be other solutions available.
I know this post didn't get much attention. I don't know how many are using HDR in Lightroom - I hope it is many. But I would like to give the pitch again.

I've been going over quite a few older RAW photos and converting them to HDR. This is both at home with an HDR display, and when I travel with my iPad and its built in HDR display. Now and then I literally gasp when I see an ordinary photo transform into something spectacular. Our cameras have such great dynamic range, yet we don't get to experience it with SD monitors. This evening I was going over some photos of northern Australia, in the jungles and rain forests. It is almost impossible to get a well exposed photo under the canopy in a rain forest, with a few splotches of bright sunlight peeking through, and the jungle floor in the deep shadows. But with HDR this came alive, with both the bright ight and the shadows well displayed, and it took me back to what it was like to be there. Almost hearing my friends walking with me. That motivated me to write this note, to encourage others here, if you haven't experienced this dimension of our cameras, to please try it.

Of course it isn't just for rain forests. Almost any photo with high contrast, such as outdoor shots, will look better in HDR. Some with the right sky and light are amazing. I'm to the point where for almost all outdoor pictures that I import into Lightroom, I process them in HDR. And as I mentioned I'm constantly going back and looking at old RAW photos and viewing them in HDR. There is the expense of an HDR display if you don't have one. And there can be some learning curve if you aren't familiar with HDR or you don't work with Lightroom. I see there are a few tutorials popping up on YouTube. And I can always try to answer any questions.
I'd not tried this before but noticed that Affinity Photo 2 has the capability, and my 2021 MacBook Pro has a HDR display.

So, for anyone else who may have Affinity Photo 2 and an HDR display, you can set it up quite easily (I'm assuming an Apple Mac here, for Windows the menu names may be different):
  • Go to "Settings", "Assistant", click the "Develop Assistant" button, set "Raw Engine" to "Serif Labs" and "RAW Output Format" to "RGB (32bit HDR)"
  • On the "Window" menu, select "32-bit Preview" and then check "Enable EDR" on the "32-bit Preview" panel.
Now, when you open a RAW file, you'll be able to view and develop it in HDR mode.

The results are interesting. As Charles has said it's at its most impressive with high contrast photos: I tried some of Aysgarth Falls that were a mixture of deep shadow and sunlit water in the falls with very impressive results. Another situation where it worked quite spectacularly was with some photos of the interior of Ripon Cathedral where I'd exposed images to retain detail in the stained glass windows; I was able to up the exposure to show the interior of the cathedral without destroying the colour in the windows, and the results appeared quite natural instead of getting that typical "compressed HDR" look.
So, for anyone else who may have Affinity Photo 2 and an HDR display
That is good to know about Affinity Photo. This is almost worth trying on my iPad. Do you know if they support S5 II RAW? And G9 II RAW?

I wonder if there are even more photo editors that support HDR? It is a hard thing to search for because the term HDR also refers the the older "merge to HDR" process that does nothing to expand the display brightness. Lots of photo editors have this "older" HDR. I would expect DXO to introduce HDR, to compete with Adobe.
Do you know if they support S5 II RAW? And G9 II RAW?
The Serif Labs RAW engine currently doesn't support the newer Panasonic cameras which use a different RAW compression scheme since it's dependant on the public domain LibRaw library which updates every 12 to 18 months. The documentation suggests you should use the Serif RAW engine, but I think that's just so you have non-destructive editing (i.e. you can subsequently modify the developed RAW without affecting your other edits).

Apple's Core Image RAW does support the S5ii https://support.apple.com/en-gb/105094 and it works fine on my Mac (macOS 13.6.1) and iPad (iPadOS 17.1.2) although my iPad doesn't support HDR. The G9ii isn't supported yet.
Your HDR enthusiasm makes sense Charles, I loved HDR upon getting a 4k TV with Planet Earth 3 etc. It is more realistic and appealing for macro landscapes to distant landscapes.
I must try it with LR before subscription expires.

Unfortunately my 24" Viewsonic VP2468 photography monitor is non HDR, it has been in storage and "oh no not more gear going obsolete" Z04 Computer Haukaputt

Please someone make the case for non-HDR, obviously it'll work for B&W monochrome too though so no argument there either.