Tone Mapping HDR

The Manager Module – Use Tone Mapping HDR to combine several photographs with varying exposure ranges into a single picture via tone mapping. Unlike Exposure Blending HDR, it enables work with an unlimited number of source pictures.

This function helps solve the problem of the limited dynamic range of camera sensors. Because of this limited range, digital cameras cannot satisfactorily capture scenes with large differences in brightness, like a dark forest beneath a bright sky, or a dark room with light pouring in from a window. Since a photograph cannot capture a scene with such a large exposure range in a way that captures details in all parts of the scene, the photographer is forced to “sacrifice” detail in either the light or the dark areas. However, if the photographer prepares several shots that are identical except for their exposure levels, tone mapping HDR can be used. Zoner Photo Studio then uses the most relevant parts out of each of these images and assembles them together to create a new HDR image, to which tone mapping is then applied.

An unlimited number of source pictures can be used for tone mapping HDR. After selecting source pictures in the Browser, use Create | Tone Mapping HDR. To create an HDR image, the program must know the exposure value (EV) of each source picture. Darker pictures have lower exposure values than light ones. The exposure value is taken automatically from EXIF using the data for aperture, exposure time, and ISO. If there is not enough data available for that, the EV must be entered manually. Click Set to set the exposure value difference between pictures. Alternatively, a separate exposure value can be entered for each picture. In the next step, the pictures are automatically aligned. Double-check the alignment and manually fix it here if needed. For advice on checking and fixing alignment, see the Help topic named Aligning Pictures, as that function contains a similar window. In the next step the HDR image is actually created, and tone mapping is initialized. Various settings are provided there for influencing the final output.

Brightness Method works exclusively with the Brightness value. Use this method to maximize the suppression of picture’s lights and shadows. It lightens dark regions and darkens light regions. Contrast method works with contrast values in the area around a given pixel. This method emphasizes details and leaves the original distribution of light and shadow in the picture intact. Use the settings here for fine-tuning.

Use Intensity to set how strongly the tone mapping affects surrounding pixels. Compression determines how strongly the whole HDR dynamic range will be represented in the final output. Use Light to suppress lights and shadows effects. To set color intensity, use Saturation. Use Gamma to shape the gamma correction curve. The White Color and Black Color settings determine the “cutoff” percentages for the effect. Lights Intensity and Shadows Intensity set how strongly the effect is applied in the picture’s lights/in its shadows.

In the last step, you can either save the final HDR picture to file or open it in the Editor, where you can continue editing it.

Note that one possible and even attractive use of tone mapping HDR is the creation of HDR from one single image (typically JPEG or RAW).

More Information

Add Color and Dynamism to Your Photos with HDR

How to Create HDR Photographs in a Few Easy Steps