Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) v15.1 just added several major improvements:
- HDRO support is now available on Windows too. This is one of the most substantial improvements to image quality in decades.
- AVIF file export. This means you can directly save your HDR images in a format that looks amazing on the web. This also offers substantial size reduction of regular images over JPG for non-HDR images. I’ve seen images up to 85% smaller (though 20% size reduction is more common).
- GPU acceleration for HDRO for faster performance.
How to use HDRO (High Dynamic Range Output):
High Dynamic Range Output (“HDR” or “HDRO”). This name might be confusing because we’ve used the term “HDR” for years, but now that same name is being used for a completely different display technology. This involves hardware, it requires a monitor capable of a minimum brightness of at least 400 nits. And when you see it, it is nothing short of spectacular. It’s the most significant improvement in image display I’ve seen in decades.
HDR editing and display results in:
- Vastly greater dynamic range. Pixels are up to 4 stops brighter than anything before.
- Glowing city lights.
- Boosted brightness without losing saturation for gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.
- Intricate details in the highlights for white cloud, flowing rivers, a bride’s white dress, stage lights at a concert, more colorful skin tones, etc. I’ve seen potential for improvement in every genre of photography I’ve shot for the last couple decades.
To enable support in ACR, go to PS Prefs / File Handling / Camera RAW Preferences / Tech Previews, check “HDR output” and restart Photoshop.
All the great HDR features I demonstrated for Mac a month ago are now available for Windows (ie, the “Mac-only” comments are no longer relevant and everything I showed works exactly the same way on Windows now). I’ve gone back to RAW files from 2004 (when I got my first digital DSLR) and found details in highlights I never knew were there! If you’ve been properly exposing your images all these years, you’ll be amazed at how many of them look significantly better just by clicking the “HDR” button in ACR. And regardless of any hidden highlight detail, you can take your RAW or previously processed images and push them into the HDR range for some truly stunning improvements.
Be sure to also check out gregbenzphotography.com/hdr for example images, my free HDR e-book, details to properly edit and view HDR, troubleshooting tips, monitor recommendations and more.
AVIF file export:
AVIF (AV1 File Format) is a next generation image format which offers numerous advantages over JPG, including:
- Support for HDR (JPG will not properly show the brighter image content of your HDR images)
- Dramatically smaller file sizes (for any image, not just HDR). This means much faster web page loads, reduced bandwidth and storage costs, and probably higher search engine ranking due to improved page speed. This is a major improvement.*
- Support for transparency. Couple with the smaller files, this is a much better option than PNG when you need to show product images or anything with a transparent background.
* I would predict that this ultimately replaces JPG for most use as it offers so many compelling benefits. The only limitation compared to JPG is Edge and legacy browsers or importing to other third party apps, but that will almost certainly improve substantially in 2023. Support for AVIF has been growing rapidly. AVIF is supported on roughly 80% of all web browsers now (for SDR or standard dynamic range images, HDR support is currently limited to Chrome/Brave). Once MS Edge supports AVIF, this image format is likely to take off significantly.
To export images as AVIF from ACR v15.1, you should do the following:
- Enable the HDRO tech preview: PS Prefs / File Handling / Camera RAW Preferences / Tech Previews, check “HDR output” and restart Photoshop
- Open your image directly into ACR and there will be a convert and save icon at the top-right of ACR (right next to the gear icon). This will ONLY show if you open the image directly into ACR, not if you invoke ACR from within Photoshop.
- Opening a RAW image in ACR is pretty straight forward, just double-click it from the Finder or Explorer.
- If you’ve created a TIF, you’ll need to:
- Update a preference so that ACR will be used to open the TIF: PS Prefs / File Handling / Camera RAW Preferences / File Handling and set the TIFF dropdown to “automatically open all supported TIFFs”
- Note that this preference will use ACR for any single-layer TIF (as long as that layer is not a Smart Object). Layered TIF files will never open in ACR.
- The easiest way to generate the required flat TIF is to use Web Sharp Pro to export as a TIF. This will ensure ACR opens an HDR image properly, which may not happen with a manual export. Additionally, it lets you choose image size, sharpening, borders, cropping, watermarks, etc.
- To create a TIF you can manually: save a flattened (single-layer) copy of the image and then open that new TIF.