What is HDR Tone Mapping: Learn the Complete Details

This article will help you understand what is tone mapping and HDR photography to bring out the vivid details of an HDR image, making it look more realistic and accurate.

Many people love photography, but if you are passionate about and refine your skills, you can quickly become a professional photographer. Many photographers get confused between tone mapping and HDR, or High-Dynamic Range. For the uninitiated, HDR is a process that combines many images together to increase the overall dynamic range of the final output. 

You may not get an oversaturated or high-contrast image, but one that has a lot of details to work with. Tone mapping essentially helps bring out these details from your HDR image. 

Now you have an idea of how tone mapping works. But for the complete details, let us understand in brief what is tone mapping, its importance, its types, and how you can work with still HDR images of moving and static subjects. Also, you will be in for software to upscale your SDR videos to HDR10 and Dolby Vision using AI technology with ease. So, without wasting any time, let's get started!

What is HDR Tone Mapping


Before beginning with the process, you may wonder what is tone mapping. In simple terms, it is a process that lets you bring out the fine details of an HDR image.

Despite using the large fancy sensors of high-end, modern cameras and equipment, you may not cover the details equivalent to a human eye. So, no matter whether your scene is captured to display high-quality and sharp photos, it may still lack realistic and lifelike effects due to the absence of dynamic range. 


In order to capture high details, you can take numerous shots of a particular scene and then merge them. However, you cannot merge the same image as it won't have any effect on the dynamic range. Instead, you must pick an image with balanced exposure and then capture more images with underexposed or overexposed techniques. 


Now, when you will merge these photos, you will be able to see incredible details in the shadows and highlights. You will get a picture with maximum details. However, this image is still not realistic or true to life. Here's where you can incorporate the HDR tone mapping algorithms to bring vivid colors, contrast, brightness, and sharpness with enhanced clarity.

Various pixels form a complete image, and each pixel has a color like black and white. Tone mapping helps modify the pixels' tonal values through a digital image process. It can adjust the image's tonal values using a high dynamic range to view on digital displays. It helps to scale down the dynamic range while preserving the image's originality. 


Tone mapping is applied to HDR images specifically for a dynamic twist to bring out the full potential and give a realistic look. With the mapping, you can adjust your image's luminance and color to get the best display and presentation. 


Importance of Dynamic Tone Mapping 


Dynamic tone mapping is quite beneficial for adding a blast of details to your flat HDR images. Using tone mapping, you can reduce your image's tonal values so it is easier to view on a digital or modern screen. 


Dynamic tone mapping helps add colors and details to your image, making it appear more lifelike and realistic on modern devices. Generally, digital displays fail to reproduce the file's HDR when your video or image merges multiple photos. Here, dynamic tone mapping becomes essential in cutting down the tonal variation of such images. 


For example, a tonal value must range between 1 and 255. So, if you have an HDR image with a dynamic range of 100,000:1, you must use tone mapping to reduce the tonal values, ensuring the final output lies within the range. 


Tone Mapping Algorithms


Generally, you may find two types of tone mapping algorithms: Global Operators and Local Operators. Let us understand both of them. 


1. Global Operators 


In this method, each pixel's tone mapping is done according to its global characteristics, irrespective of its place in your image. To be more precise, this method does not consider your pixel's position in the lighter or darker areas of your photo. In fact, it simply calculates a single matching luminance for the whole image, making the process much easier and faster. Though the Global tone mapping technique is a speedy process, the output may result in a flat image. 


2. Local Operators


Local Operators are contrary to Global Operators. Here, the Local Operators focus on the localization of each pixel and consider their positions in the lighter and darker areas of your image. Accordingly, the spatial characteristics of these identified pixels are considered. It actually calculates the adaptation of luminance for each pixel based on its position and neighbor pixels. As a result, great efforts are put into getting the fine details of each image. You will be mesmerized by the final outcome as it has visible details, making it more realistic and appealing to your eyes. Sadly, the Local tone mapping technique can be time-consuming and require effort. 


To tone-map an image, you don't need multiple exposures to make it appear like an HDR photo. Shooting in RAW is the best way to generate stunning results for the unversed. You need not necessarily shoot in RAW to get HDR images; however, if done, you have plentiful information to get started. 


As you know, RAW files or digital negatives are lossless; they can capture uncompressed data from your camera sensors. It is the essential ingredient of an image that you can further process to infuse techniques and generate high-quality end results, bringing your image's full potential. 


Fortunately, many image editors enable you to use these local and global tone mapping techniques to create fabulous HDR images. Unfortunately, even these editing software only work with images of still subjects, like landscapes or architecture.

Tone Mapping Algorithms


HDRinstant: Create Still HDR Images of Moving Subjects 


HDRinstant is wonderful software that enables you to create still HDR images despite moving subjects. Unlike other image editing software, it allows you to create stunning HDR images from moving subjects with great results. In addition, it does not take much time. With minimum effort, you can produce excellent output. 


HDRinstant offers many tone-mapping options and presets to get a natural effect from your HDR images. You can also fill in details and more vivid colors to present any scene with a creative angle. Let's quickly check out its tone-mapping and preset options with detailed usage steps.  


Tone-mapping Options and Presets


1. How to Use HDRinstant's Tone-Mapping Options 


HDRinstant's tone-mapping options allow users to polish the settings and take complete control of their projects. With Tone-mapping options, you get professional control to get excellent and detailed results. Here's how.


Step 1: Open HDRinstant and choose a tone-mapping using the dropdown menu. 

Step 2: Adjust sharpness and customize the tone to meet your preferences. 

Step 3: Return to the default tone-mapping settings by tapping Reset. 


2. How to Use HDRinstant's Presets 


Presets offer a more simplified process for everyone. They are pre-built customized filters that use tone-mapping algorithms to easily achieve the desired results. You can alter your photo in a single click using numerous preset alterations. You can adjust the exposure, shadows, contrast, vibrance, and so on. Here's how to use the Preset options of HDRinstant. 


Step 1: Download and open HDRinstant. Then, choose a preset. 

Step 2: Go to the Image Edition tab to see the tone mapping using which your selected preset was designed. You will also notice the tone processing and sharpening settings.

How to Use HDRinstant's Presets

Step 3: Use the sliders to make any adjustments manually if you want to. This step is entirely optional. 

Step 4: You can return to the original settings by clicking the preset. 


Whether you need to upscale nature photography, special effects scenes, or night photography to capture intricate details with high precision, UniFab HDR Upscaler AI can help you make your files more realistic and detailed.


How to Get the HDR Videos With Upscaled HDR Effect  


UniFab HDR Upscaler AI is a wonderful and versatile solution to upscale your files to HDR with AI in a single click. You can take advantage of its artificial intelligence algorithm to give your SDR videos a deserved makeover by upscaling them to HDR10 or Dolby Vision for an immersive visual experience. 


UniFab uses multiple technologies to upscale your videos and maximize video quality. You can view different scenarios using Universal and Cinema modes and pick the one that best syncs with your storage. Recently, UniFab has introduced a new mode, cinema mode (fast), which significantly increases the speed of conversion while maintaining high-quality images. The conversion speed can be up to 5 times faster, so that most users only need 1-3 times the duration of the video to convert to 1080p HDR 10. Cinema mode processes videos more quickly than universal mode and results in a dimmer overall picture effect. The fast model is swifter than the high-quality model but with a slight compromise in quality.

You can also choose a color space between DCI-P3 and Rec. 2020 for excellent displays and a wider gamut. Its editing and trimming functions also help to improve the overall video quality. 

HDR color space between DCI-P3 and Rec. 2020


What Makes UniFab HDR Upscaler AI a Preferred Choice for Beginners and Professionals 


  • Upgrades the SDR videos to Dolby Vision or HDR10 in one click
  • Generates Dolby-standard dynamic metadata  
  • Two HDR10 video modes for compatibility with the HDR10 standard devices 
  • Supports two colors spaces for excellent and enhanced display effects 
  • 50x faster speed to complete video conversion and editing with GPU acceleration 
  • Efficient trimming function available to trim unwanted footage 
  • Enables fulfilling personalized demands with video editing features 
  • Upscales videos directly by importing videos from DVDFab and StreamFab. 


How to Upgrade to HDR Videos Using UniFab HDR Upscaler AI


Step 1: Launch UniFab on your computer 

Download UniFab from the official site on your Windows computer. Tap it twice to open and launch the main interface. Choose the HDR Upscaler mode to upscale your low-res videos.


Step 2: Import your SDR video

Load the low-res videos into the program that you want to upscale. 

Import your SDR video


Step 3: Customize the video output 

Customize your video's output settings, including video and audio. You can adjust the video's quality using the slider to Standard or High. You can set the visual mode, video's codec, resolution, frame rate, bit rate, encoding method, and color space. Regarding audio, you can set the codec, sample rate, channels, and bit rate. Once you've done this, click OK. 

unifab-hdr upscaler3.jpg

Step 4: Upscale and edit your video

unifab-hdr upscaler 2.jpg

Preview the customized settings once and touch the Start button to begin the conversion and editing process. That's it. UniFab HDR Upscaler AI completes the task with GPU acceleration at 50x faster speed. 


The Final Words


Tone mapping is a part of HDR processing. You can efficiently perform the processing technique on single or HDR images despite the original image being created by merging multiple photos. However, we advise you to shoot videos in RAW for high details in the final image. In fact, merging two images with different exposures can also help bring the fine details of your image. Regardless of your manual techniques, you can try the AI power of UniFab to upscale and enhance your low-resolution videos with a click. Its editing and trimming functions also help enhance the overall video quality. 




Q. How do tones affect my image? 


When capturing a photograph using your camera, it measures the amount of light falling on your scene. Using this information, an image is created. Generally, the tone denotes the darkest and lightest areas in your image. As a thumb rule, your pictures are bound to turn to an average grey tone of about 18%, while every image may not be grey up to this percentage. So often, the image may not match the expectation. You must understand how your camera deciphers tone and other factors that can help you capture better photos. 


Q. What is the difference between tone mapping and gamut mapping? 


Generally, tone mapping works on scene-referred images. On the contrary, gamut mapping works on display-referred images. These images have already been tone-mapped by a camera.  


Q. Can I upscale my videos to HDR with AI?


Yes. UniFab HDR Upscaler AI is a beautiful, versatile solution to upscale and enhance your SDR videos to HDR10 and Dolby Vision using the AI algorithms in a click. Its 50x faster hardware acceleration enables a speedy conversion. 


As an avid enthusiast of software testing, AI, and tech, I bring a fervent zeal for precision and innovation to my editorials. With a love for ping pong and badminton, and a passion for exploring new horizons through travel, I live by the maxim "Done is good." My articles aim to serve as your trusty compass in the fast-evolving tech landscape.