current state of producing photos for HDR display?

Started Oct 1, 2022 | Discussions thread
Brian Kimball
OP Brian Kimball Contributing Member • Posts: 759
Re: current state of producing photos for HDR display?

Thank you, that was incredibly helpful in getting me oriented to this technology. You've given me a bunch of great jumping off points to learn more. Really appreciate it.

It seems like the video world has this more or less already figured out, but the stills world is floundering and very late to the party.

Here's a high-level summary of what I think I know about photos made for HDR display. It would be much appreciated if you could tell me if I'm still misunderstanding things:

Generally speaking, HDR-enabled still photos...

  • have no specific color space requirement
  • have no specific bit depth requirement
  • employ a special gamma encoding that either generates an absolute intended brightness of a pixel (PQ) or a brightness that is relative to whatever display and viewing environment is being used (HLG)
  • or alternatively are in a special 16 or 32-bit .EXR format which is linear
  • or alternatively are in even more obscure formats that are unlikely to be usable outside of very specialized viewers


  • PQ and HLG were both developed for HDR video first, many years ago. Only now is support for them starting to show up in bleeding-edge versions of JPG and PNG specs. Who knows when or if Apple/Google/Microsoft/Adobe will ever support HDR JPGs or PNGs.
  • .HEIF and .AVIF already support PQ & HLG, but software support for producing one's own photos in these filetypes is still quite limited
    • this may be the result of patent/royalty/political issues between large tech companies

So on a practical level, to produce a photo ready for HDR display today, one must...

  • shoot SOOC in HEIF format on a modern iPhone from the past 2-3 years. This will use HLG
  • shoot SOOC in HEIF format on a Canon 1DXmIII, R5, or R6. This will use PQ
  • possibly shoot SOOC in HEIF format on some Android phones. Unclear here.
  • shoot raw/jpg/whatever, edit in Affinity Photo, export as .EXR
  • shoot raw/jpg/whatever:
    1. with any camera
    2. edit & export in any editor
    3. open that file in Davinci Resolve
    4. perform magic
    5. end up with an HDR-enabled .AVIF file that is only viewable in... Chrome?

Any insight you can give with these last few points would be much appreciated! 🙂

And finally, for proper viewing of HDR-enabled photos, one must:

  • have an HDR display
  • view them in Apple Photos (if HEIF), or
  • view them in Google Chrome (if AVIF), or
  • somehow view them on an HDR TV, or
  • if .EXR, view them in in tev or some other compatible viewer or
  • view them in .... what else?

Thank you! 🙏

Edit: my ultimate goal, I should add, is to edit in Lightroom Classic, grade to HDR in whatever app allows it, and eventually end up with a HEIF file I can view in HDR on my Apple devices (using Apple Photos) and HDR TV (using Apple TV).

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