Well, this is an interesting picture. Sometime early last spring I’ve spent a lot of time trying to process it. I ended up with a bland version, where the outside was well in gamut and range. This was due to the incredible difference in light levels outside, and the small amount of light inside. It’s a north-facing window, after all.
Today, when writing this post, I wondered if I could do better.
The first thing was, to activate HDR editing in Lightroom. I’m editing on a 2021 Macbook Pro, and on its native display, it supports HDR.
Absolutely crazy! The image looked gorgeous immediately, and with a little fiddling, I managed to let it even look better. I wish I could show you the result, but of course I can’t.
I can export it in HDR in either JPEG XL or in AVIS formats. Adobe currently recommends AVIS, but they don’t really go into details about their three colorspace options HDR sRGB (Rec. 709), HDR P3, HDR Rec. 2020. I have tried looking at AVIS exports with sRGB and with P3 in the only currently available viewer, in Google Chrome. Both look fine, both look a little different from what I see in Lightroom’s edit mode, and that’s on the same display.
Yes, the only widely available viewer for these picture formats is a browser. It’s the market leader, but not everybody has it. Not even Lightroom can display the formats outside its editor. In Lightroom’s gallery or in its full-screen mode, it looks even blander than my initial rendition.
And even if everybody used Google Chrome as browser for surfing the web and especially my blog, even then I could not use it. Most people don’t have displays capable of rendering HDR. I suppose as long as you use a modern, expensive TV set attached to your computer, it would even work. For most kinds of computer monitors, even for many expensive ones, it doesn’t.
HDR exports become common in the video space, but for web-distributed pictures, the technology is still very experimental. If you have a recent Mac (as many photographers do), I suggest you try it yourself with one of your HDR pictures. You’ll love it, but probably you’ll hate me for the tip, once you despair trying to export it to anything your viewers could possibly see on their devices 😝
Finally, I ended up creating complicated masks, with different tone mappings for the landscape behind the window, the sky, and the interior separately.
The detour into HDR edit mode was at least very instructive. It told me, what the image is supposed to look. It made painfully clear, how inappropriate the original version was. What you see now is not real HDR, it does not look as good as real HDR would, but has the same character, in induces the same feeling.