How to easily tone-map a digital HDR photo

When you are standing in front of a landscape, some parts of the scene are very bright and some parts are very dark. Our eyes are capable of adjusting appropriately to see the details in these parts. But modern cameras don't have such a capability. They can not capture details in all parts of the scene with large differences in brightness. After you shoot such a scene, you will find the details in some areas of the shot are overexposed or the details in some areas are underexposed. To capture more details, you need to take multiple photos of the same scene with different exposures and combine them. Then, you get a HDR photo with a lot of details in both highlights and shadows. To bring out the details, you have to use tone mapping. Tone mapping compresses the tonal range of the HDR photo, revealing its details in highlights and shadows for display devices. There are a lot of photo editing programs that can help you handle the task. But many of them are very hard to use for photo post processing beginners. If you are looking for easy-to-use tone mapping software, please continue reading this article. In this article, I will introduce a beginner-friendly photo editor and show you how to tone-map a digital HDR photo.

Photo HDR by Vertexshare

Tone-map the HDR photo with Photo HDR

As the title implies, Photo HDR is a photo HDR app that is developed to make gorgeous HDR photos. This piece of software is more than a HDR photo creating tool. It allows you to tune the photo effect by using a wide range of in-built parameters and decorative objects.

After launching the program, you will be greeted by a sleek and clean window. Load photos with different exposures into the program and these photos will be joined into a single HDR photo. Click on "Next" and you will be taken to a new window. Here you can tweak a wide range of settings to adjust the effect of the photo. The window consists of three panels. A rich collection of special effects you can apply to the photo are located in the left-side panel. You can see small preview thumbnails of these cool visual effects. The middle panel takes up most of the window. This is a preview area where you can see any change applied to the photo in real-time. A variety of parameters are located in the right-side panel. You can change the exposure level by altering the contrast, saturation, and brightness. Moreover, you can fine-tune the local contrast and apply the Lab adjustments to the photo. Besides, you can compress the dynamic range of a photo and tone map the photo. In addition, you are allowed to remove the noise from the photo and sharpen the blurry photo. Other parameters are graduated filter, vignette filter, channel mixer, vibrance, and soft light.

All in all, Photo HDR is not only a HDR photo creator but also a photo effects filter editor. With an assortment of tuners and preset effects, it lets you fast make great-looking photos. It is worth having around if you want to obtain realistic a photo effect. The simple layout and intuitive settings makes the app be easily mastered by both less novices and professionals.

Let's dive into the part of how to use Photo HDR to tone-map a HDR photo.

How to tone-map 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 "Tone Mapping section". Click on the "Tone Mapping" button to activate the function of adjusting the parameters. The parameters in this section are strength, gamma, edge stopping, scale, and reweighting iterates. Let me explain each parameter for you.


This parameter is used to control the overall effect. It preserves the average luminance of the photo. As the value is increased, the highlights will be raised and the shadows will be lowered. As the value is decreased, the highlights will be lowered and the shadows will be raised.


This parameter moves the action of tone mapping to the shadows or highlights. It is used to adjust the mid tones. Increasing the value will make the overall photo darker. Decreasing the value will make the overall photo brighter.

Edge Stopping

This parameter affects the sensitivity to edges. As the value is increased, an illumination change will be more likely to be considered as an edge.


This parameter is used as the dividing line between the local contrast and the global contrast. A higher value means the detail to be boosted needs to be larger.

Reweighting Iterates.

This parameter is used to cope with the cartoonish appearance and soft halos that might be produced by tone mapping. Increasing the value will help solve these problems.

  • Drag each slider to adjust the effect to fit your needs.

The "Tone Mapping" section of Photo HDR

Step 3.

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

Now you have learned how to use Photo HDR to tone map your HDR photo. When it comes to post-processing a digital photo, the most commonly used tool should be Photoshop. Photoshop gives you the possibility to tone-map the HDR photo. Let's see how to use Photoshop to tone-map a HDR photo.

How to tone-map a HDR photo in Photoshop

  • Open Photoshop and throw your HDR photo into the program.
  • Click on the "Image" menu, go to "Adjustments", and then click on "HDR Toning". The "HDR Toning" dialog shows up.
  • Make sure the "Preview" box is checked so that you can see the changes applied to the photo as you configure the settings.
  • Choose a preset tone mapping method in the "Method" drop-down menu. Let's say, "Local Adaptation". Use the sliders to adjust the parameters. For example, drag the "Exposure" slider to increase or decrease the exposure, move the "Detail" slider to increase or decrease the sharpness, and pull the "Vibrance" and "Saturation" sliders to adjust the color of the photo. You can also use the "Tone Curve and Histogram" tool to control the overall brightness and contrast of the photo.

Tone-map the HDR photo in Photoshop


Tone mapping is a technique that compresses the huge range of brightness to make the flat HDR photo look punchier and reveal its hidden details. Photo HDR is a great tone mapping app to help you get the job done. Give it a shot and you will not be disappointed.

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