HDR Output (Technology Preview)

Note:

High Dynamic Range Output is a Technology Preview feature in Camera Raw. This means that the feature is still under development and not yet final. We are actively working on several areas, including support for Windows, and Lightroom, user interface improvements, and better interoperability with Photoshop and other apps. Please provide your feedback and suggestions to improve this feature.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays offer greater brightness and contrast than Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) displays. Photos optimized for HDR displays have brighter highlights and more detailed shadows, resulting in an increased sense of realism and greater impact.
Camera Raw already offers related HDR features, such as Merge to HDR, which blends multiple photos to create an HDR photo. However, in previous ACR releases, the rendered results have always been limited to SDR. For instance, the final 8-bit pixel values were always limited to 0 to 255, and the on-screen results were restricted to the standard brightness range of the user interface.
Camera Raw 15 now introduces High Dynamic Range Output. With this you have:

  • the ability to view and edit HDR photos on compatible HDR displays.
  • the ability to save HDR photos to disk and open them in Photoshop.
Note:

Currently, HDR Output is only supported on macOS.

Enable HDR Output

To enable HDR Output, do the following:

  1. Navigate to Adobe Camera Raw > Preferences > Technology Previews.

  2. Select HDR Output.

    Enable HDR Output

  3. Click OK.

System requirements and recommendations

To use the HDR Output feature, you need the following:

  • macOS system
  • Supported HDR display. Recommended HDR displays for macOS include:
    • Apple MacBook Pro 14” with XDR display (November 2021 or later)
    • Apple MacBook Pro 16” with XDR display (November 2021 or later)
    • Apple Pro Displays XDR
  • Graphics processor (GPU) support. To verify, see Determine if Camera Raw is accessing the GPU.

Working with HDR Output

When HDR Output is enabled, Camera Raw offers the following additional capabilities:

  • An HDR button in the Edit panel for enabling High Dynamic Range photo processing.
  • Open and save photos in the JPEG XL format.
  • Open other HDR formats such as 10-bit HEIF (.HIF file extension) files from recent Canon and Sony cameras.

The HDR button is enabled for HDR photos (for instance, DNG files created from the Merge to HDR feature) and off by default for other photos.

HDR option

Most options in the Edit panel works similarly in SDR and HDR modes. However, they may need different settings for optimal appearance. HDR processing requires Process Version 3 or later.

HDR Display

Camera Raw supports the display of HDR content for the main image view only. This includes side-by-side and split views. However, Camera Raw currently does not support HDR display in the filmstrip thumbnails, or in other dialogs that display photo content, such as the Merge to HDR, Merge to Panorama, or Enhance dialogs.

Note:

If Use Graphics Processor is set to Off in the Preferences dialog, you can continue to edit HDR photos, but the result will not be displayed correctly within the main image view.

Saving HDR photos

Once you've finished editing a photo in HDR mode, click the Save button to save it to the disk. Make sure to select the Enable HDR Display box in the Color Space section.

Enable HDR Display

Supported non-Raw HDR file formats include:

  • JPEG XL
  • TIFF
  • PSD
  • PNG

Recommendations

  • Use JPEG XL for sharing and web applications, such as online web galleries.
  • Use TIFF or PSD for workflows where additional HDR work is required, such as compositing.
Note:

Converting a raw photo to DNG preserves all the raw information and enables the DNG to be edited in HDR mode too.

JPEG XL

The new JPEG XL format offers several advantages over JPEG, including higher bit depth support and smaller file sizes, making it a great choice for HDR photos.

When the HDR Output feature is enabled, Camera Raw 15 supports opening and saving photos using JPEG XL. You can use JPEG XL for other types of photos as well.

Note:

JPEG XL is a new format and therefore support across apps and platforms is limited.

HDR Color Spaces

Camera Raw currently supports three color spaces when editing, opening, or saving a photo in HDR mode:

  • HDR sRGB (Rec. 709)
  • HDR P3
  • HDR Rec. 2020

These are HDR-enabled versions of the existing sRGB, Display P3, and Rec. 2020 color spaces. sRGB has the smallest color gamut and Rec. 2020 has the largest.

Histograms and Color Readouts in HDR mode

When editing a photo in HDR mode, the histogram is split into two parts- an SDR section on the left and an HDR section on the right. A vertical gray line between the two parts indicates the standard graphics white level, the white of the user interface. If the histogram extends to the right of this divider, the photo contains HDR content, and will require an HDR display to show correctly.

HDR Histogram

The dashed gray vertical lines mark zones above graphics white, in increments of 1 exposure value or f-stop.

The yellow horizontal bars underneath the HDR section indicate HDR ranges that the display can currently show. Red horizontal bars indicate ranges that are beyond the display's current capabilities.

RGB color readouts use 0 to 255 range for pixel components within the SDR range. However, they use the exposure value (or f-stop) convention for values in the HDR range. For example, a value of +0.5 means 1/2 stop above graphics white. This convention applies to both live and sampled readouts. Yellow values indicate pixels within the display's current capabilities, and red values indicate pixels beyond the display's current capabilities.

Lab color readouts are not supported in HDR mode.

Visualizations

The highlight clipping warning indicator (small triangle button in the upper-right corner of the histogram) uses the same color scheme as the histogram's HDR range-yellow indicates highlight areas in the HDR range that is within the display's current capabilities, and red indicates pixels beyond the display's current capabilities.

Highlight Clipping Warning
An HDR photo with the Highlight Clipping Warning enabled.

In addition, the Visualize HDR Ranges option provides a color-coded visualization of different HDR ranges, in f-stop increments. To toggle this option, right-click the histogram and select Visualize HDR Ranges from the context menu.

Visualize HDR Range
An HDR photo with the Visualize HDR Ranges option enabled. The four colors correspond to the four horizontal bars shown on the right half of the histogram.

SDR Preview and Tone Mapping

When an HDR photo is viewed on an SDR display, it must be adjusted, or tone mapped to preserve its appearance as closely as possible. The High Dynamic Range section at the bottom of the Basic panel provides additional options for previewing a photo on an SDR display and adjusting its appearance. These controls affect how Camera Raw saves an HDR photo when the Enable HDR Display box is unchecked in the Save dialog. They also influence the appearance of the filmstrip thumbnail in the ACR dialog and for previews in Bridge.

Preview for SDR display

Open in Photoshop and Camera Raw Filter

Opening an HDR photo from Camera Raw into Photoshop automatically sets the Photoshop document to 32-bit depth with HDR color space. You can then use Photoshop to composite the photo with other HDR content. Camera Raw Filter within Photoshop also supports editing HDR photos.

To correctly display HDR content in Photoshop, navigate to the Technology Previews section of the Photoshop Preferences dialog and select Precise color management for HDR display option.

Lightroom

Lightroom does not currently support HDR edits made in Camera Raw using the HDR Output feature. For example, if you use Lightroom to import an HDR photo that you previously edited in Camera Raw, Lightroom will not show the HDR content, nor will it process the HDR edits. Also, Lightroom currently can neither import nor export JPEG XL photos.

Other Apps

Google Chrome supports JPEG XL photos and the proper display of HDR photos. 

Note:

JPEG XL support in Chrome currently requires enabling an opt-in switch. Visit chrome://flags/#enable-jxl, change the dropdown menu for Enable JXL image format to Enabled, and restart Chrome. After that, you can view JPEG XL photos in Chrome.

This makes it possible to make standard web galleries that contain HDR photos. It is recommended to use Chrome version 104 or later.

Other apps on your macOS system such as Finder, Preview, and Safari may not currently support reading JPEG XL photos. Even if they do, they may not support displaying HDR content. The same is applicable for apps on other platforms, such as Windows, Android, and iOS.

Workflow limitations and recommendations

Software support for HDR photos across is limited. Currently, you can use the HDR Output feature in Camera Raw to view and edit HDR photos, open them in Photoshop for additional work, and save them to disk in the JPEG XL format to be viewed in Google Chrome.

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