current state of producing photos for HDR display?

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Brian Kimball
Brian Kimball Contributing Member • Posts: 755
current state of producing photos for HDR display?
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As we all know, HDR displays are generally capable of much brighter peak output than traditional standard dynamic range, or SDR, displays. A few years ago Richard Butler wrote about the exciting potential of these displays right here on DPR.

So how do we take advantage of this display technology in our photo editing? How do we create a final output file that "turns on", so to speak, HDR display of that photo? Assuming of course one is using a viewer that supports such files and a display capable of displaying them.

Please note I'm not asking about HDR capture. I'm very familiar with blending bracketed exposures, but even that still produces final images that are displayed in SDR.

While searching the web I see a lot of discussion about video color spaces (P3, bt.2020, etc) with regard to HDR displays, but that seems to be a distraction. For years we've been able to produce files in wide gamut color spaces like AdobeRGB, ProPhotoRGB, etc, and yet they still only display as "SDR" photos on HDR displays.

So what else is needed?

Is there a mainstream photographic editing tool made today that allows you to edit for display on HDR devices?

For reference, iPhones have been taking and displaying HDR-capable photos for a few years now (again, not HDR multi-shot capture, which they also have, but single-shot HDR display). They display properly in HDR on the iPhone itself in the Photos app, and on HDR monitors like the new Macbook Pros and Apple's Pro Display XDR, again using the Photos app.

But interestingly, those same photos brought into Lightroom or other macOS image viewers like Preview do not display as HDR, even when viewed on an HDR screen. So what key metadata is turning HDR on in Photos, and how do we edit with an actual HDR screen as our viewing target?

This is not limited to just Apple.  Spider-mario has produced some special .avif files here that Google Chrome can open and display properly on an HDR monitor.  But they were made in Davinci Resolve, a professional video editor that has no concept of raw still photo editing.

Thanks for any insight and guidance anyone can provide.

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