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Do I Need HDR for Photo Editing?

by Ledmond Team
A man seated in front of a photo editing monitor

“Do I need HDR for photo editing?” is a reasonable question for any professional photographer. Even amateur photographers have come across HDR as smartphones now have the added ability to take HDR photographs. HDR is also a popular selling point on televisions, so it may seem necessary to have it on the best PC monitors for photo editing. But first, what exactly is HDR? The acronym HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.

What is HDR?

HDR describes how a device can display the contrast between the darkest and brightest points of an image while maintaining its true colors and natural lighting. The aim of HDR is to display images with as realistic lighting as possible to produce a vivid, true-to-life image, as intended by the content creator. HDR brings images on screen to life via an extensive color palette and high brightness, hence they are a popular feature of televisions.

What Are The Types of High Dynamic Range (HDR) Standards For Monitors?

There are various types of HDR in the market today. The main differences are in the brightness they can display and their range of colors. The three displayHDR standards created by VESA, include:

  • DisplayHDR 400: This has a brightness of 320cd/m² which reaches a peak of 400cd/m². Color coverage is set at 95% of BT.709 color space..
  • DispayHDR 600: Brightness ranges from a minimum of 350cd/m² to a maximum of 600cd/m². Color coverage is at least 99% of BT.709 and at least 90% of DCI-P3 color space.
  • DisplayHDR 1000: Minimum brightness is 600cd/m², which reaches its peak at 1000cd/m². Color coverage is also at 99% of BT.709 and 90% of DCI-P3.

Along with these VESA standards, there is also a DisplayHDR True Black standard. TrueBlack standard monitors display more contrast between the dark levels which improves the image clarity. So a monitor will have similar features to one without DisplayHDR True Black, plus greater image clarity and the ability to change from light to dark.

What Will It Take To Use HDR on a PC Monitor?

As you consider if you need HDR for photo editing, you should see what it would take to get HDR on your PC monitor. Not just any monitor can handle HDR; it requires a few things. 

Graphics Card

First, you will need a graphics processing unit (GPU) that supports HDR. This means that your monitor or graphics card’s integrated graphics should be compatible with HDR. Fortunately, most NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards can support HDR, so that should not be a problem for you.

Display Support

The second thing needed is a display that supports HDR, which is usually indicated among the monitor’s specifications. You will either see an ‘HDR support’ label or a reference to one of the VESA certifications listed above. It is important to note that only in-plane switching (IPS) panels and vertical alignment (VA) panels support HDR. Twisted nematic (TN) panels do not. So this will influence your choice of monitors if you want HDR.

Connectivity

The third thing you will need is the latest ports that will connect to and transmit HDR content into your monitor. As such, your monitor requires a DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0a, or newer connections which are among the best monitors for photo editing under 500. With all these in place, you should be able to do some Photoshop and HDR image editing on the images taken through HDR photography.

A photo editing laptop next to a camera and cup of coffee
HDR has revolutionized photo editing and offers numerous advantages in a photo editing monitor
Photo by Mylene Tremoyet on Unsplash

What Are the Potential Benefits of HDR to Photo Editing?

Image Quality

HDR can do a lot for your display’s image quality. First, it will enhance your image luminance and chrominance to produce vivid, life-like images. Luminance is a measure of the amount of light emitted from a surface. Since brightness affects color accuracy, the better the luminance, the better the image. Chrominance is the difference between a specific color as displayed on the screen and the same standard color at equal luminance.

Eye Safety

This higher luminance and chrominance make for better image quality in HDR than in SDR. As such, you will be able to see your photo editing work more clearly and work safely and efficiently. HDR monitors support the entire color spectrum, which means images displayed on an HDR monitor will be vivid and life-like. A wider color spectrum offers higher color accuracy than on SDR monitors. We all know that color accuracy is critical in photo editing work. Therefore, an HDR monitor will make your work easier as a photo editor as you will be able to alter and manipulate colors accurately for excellent results.

Color Accuracy

Have you noticed how SDR monitors have this prominent blue tone around areas with shadows or black color? Well, HDR monitors completely eliminate that distracting hue by giving true, deep, black color to your images and shadows. At the right brightness, accurate darks and blacks improve picture quality and produce an exact replica of the created image. HDR monitors also have higher brightness that helps display colors and hues accurately. Further, HDR monitors have Stops to keep the brightness from passing completely through the screen.

So, Do You Need HDR For Photo Editing?

No, you don’t need HDR for photo editing. Monitors that are compatible with HDR are usually more expensive than those that are not compatible. So unless you are really determined to have HDR, you can get the best monitors for photo editing under $200 with great specifications that will do just as good a job. In fact, the people likely to insist on getting HDR monitors are serious gamers and possibly video editors.

However, if you want to get the most out of your graphics and have the financial capability, you should certainly get an HDR monitor. The accompanying benefits will greatly enhance the quality of your work and possibly reduce the incidence of digital eye strain due to excellent image clarity. So if you are due for a laptop or PC monitor upgrade, and you have a little extra cash, you should definitely get an HDR monitor for photo editing.

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