Tone mapping refers to the conversion of luminance values recorded by a digital camera or other acquisition device, to the luminance levels available from an output device, such as a monitor or a printer. Tone mapping can improve the appearance of rendered images. Although there are a variety of algorithms available, there is little information about the image tone characteristics that produce pleasing images. We devised an experiment where preferences for images with different tone characteristics were measured. The results indicate that there is a systematic relation between image tone characteristics and perceptual image quality for images containing faces. For these images, a mean face luminance level of 46–49 CIELAB L* units and a luminance standard deviation (taken over the whole image) of 18 CIELAB L* units produced the best renderings. This information is relevant for the design of tone-mapping algorithms, particularly as many images taken by digital camera users include faces.