How to compress the dynamic range of the scene captured in an HDR photo

The tonal range of values between the brightest areas to the darkest areas in a scene is known as the dynamic range. LDR is the acronym of low dynamic range. The luminance range of LDR photos may not reflect the scene in reality exactly. HDR stands for high dynamic range. In comparison with LDR photos, HDR photos provide a wider range of luminance and are closer to our visual system. As all photographers know, displaying HDR photos requires high bit-depth output devices. But most output devices are conventional output devices which can only display LDR photos. If you want the HDR photos to be displayed on LDR display equipment, you need to use dynamic range compression. Mapping the wide range to a range that is suitable for display is called dynamic range compression (DRC). There are innumerable photo editing programs that allow you to compress the dynamic range of your photo. But many of them have steep learning curves and are not suitable for photo editing beginners. If you are searching for an easy-to-use software tool to do the job, please continue reading this article. In this article, I'll introduce a beginner-friendly photo effect editor to you and teach you how to use it to handle the task.

Photo HDR by Vertexshare

Compress the dynamic range of a HDR photo using Photo HDR

With a suggestive title, Photo HDR is a professional HDR photo creator. It lets you blend multiple exposures to create a gorgeous HDR photo. What's more, it works as a photo effects app, offering a wide range of parameters and decorative objects to adjust the visual aspect of the photo.

After launching the program, you will be greeted by a sleek and clean window. Load differently exposed photos into the program and the HDR technique will be applied to them. Click on "Next" and you will be taken to a new window. The window consists of three panels. A set of preset effects are located in the left-side panel. You can see small preview thumbnails of these predefined visual effects. The middle panel takes up most of the window. This is a preview area where you can view all changes in real-time. A variety of adjustment parameters are located in the right-side panel. You can adjust the exposure level by altering the contrast, saturation, and brightness. Moreover, you can tone-map a photo, change the dynamic range, and make the Lab adjustments. What's more, you can modify the local contrast and mix the color channels. Furthermore, you are allowed to sharpen the photo and reduce the noise level in the photo. There are also some filters you can add to your photo, including graduated filter, vibrance, vignette filter, and soft light.

Overall speaking, Photo HDR is not only a HDR photo maker but a powerful photo effect editor. It enables you to fast make a HDR photo and tune the photo effect to enhance the photo quality. Its novice-friendly design ensures both less experienced users and experts can figure out how to use it with little effort.

Let's dive into the part of how to use Photo HDR to compress the dynamic range of a HDR photo.

How to compress the dynamic range of a HDR photo with Photo HDR

Step 1.

  • Drop your photo into the box "Drag and Drop Your Photo here". You can also import the photo by clicking on the "Add" button. To remove the imported photo, click on the "Remove" button next to the "Add button".

Step 2.

  • Click on "Next". Go to the right-side panel and scroll down to the "Dynamic Range Compression" section". Click on the "Dynamic Range Compression" button to activate the function of adjusting the parameters. The parameters in this section are amount, detail, and anchor. Let me give you an explanation of each parameter.


This parameter sets the amount of dynamic range compression. Increasing the value will lead to more dynamic range compression.


This parameter is used to tune the amount of details to be preserved. As the value is increased, more details will be preserved. As the value is decreased, fewer details will be preserved. Negative values reduce the local contrast and smoothen the photo while positive values increase the local contrast.


This parameter biases the action of compression to the highlights or shadows. It functions as the exposure compensation.

  • Drag the sliders to adjust the effect until it suits your needs.

The "Dynamic Range Compression" section of Photo HDR

Step 3.

  • Press the "Save as" button to export the photo to a desired location.

Is it as easy as falling off a log to use Photo HDR to narrow the dynamic range of a HDR photo?

PS: How to adjust the dynamic range in Photoshop

Perhaps you don't know Adobe Photoshop gives you the ability to adjust the dynamic range. I'd like to take this opportunity to show you how to use Photoshop to adjust the dynamic range.

  • Open Photoshop and import your photo into the program.
  • Click on the "Layer" menu, then go to "New Adjustment Layer", choose "Levels". Or go to the bottom of the "Layers" tab, press the "Create new fill or adjustment layer" icon, and select "Levels".
  • The "Levels" panel pops up. In this panel, you can see three sliders. From left to right, they are the black point slider, the midtone slider, and the white point slider. As you can see, the RGB value of black is 0, the RGB value of white is 255, and the RGB value of midtones is 1. Pull the black sliders to the right and the white point slider to the left. Move the midtone slider to the left or the right depending how you want the photo to look. If you move the midtone slider to the right, the highlights will be compressed and the shadows will be opened up. This will result in a lighter effect. If you move the midtone slider to the left, the shadows will be compressed and the highlights will be opened. This will lead to a darker effect.

Adjust the three sliders


The dynamic range of a scene in a HDR photo usually exceeds the dynamic range of the display device. In order to show the scene on the display device, you can use photo effect software like Photo HDR to compress the dynamic range into a displayable range. If you have any questions or want to add something to this article, please let me know in the comment section below.

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