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G6 - Why do my images always seem a bit dark?

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by finerflower, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. It seems that I am always battling the exposure issue. I take a photo, it looks a little dark, the I boost the exposure, it looks better. Then I load it up on my pc and tweak it, then it always seems blown out or desaturated or just not good. Also, sometimes I get an image looking great in lightroom, then I upload it to Flickr or Facebook or sent it to print and its looks too dark??? I am an aspiring amateur at best.

    Here is a sample...


    Any advice would be so helpful.
  2. broody

    broody Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 8, 2013
    You're not alone in this issue, my friend. Here's my two cents on the issue.
    a) It's a rare camera that nails an exposure perfectly. The OM-D EM5 is famous for this, but I own two Lumixes and they both tend to underexpose a bit. I usually set mine to expose at +1/3 EV, and most often this works OK before editing in ACR.

    b) Then when you get to the RAW converter, contrast in your picture tends to be destroyed by the default import settings. There's a simple explanation: Your screen only has 8-bit pixels, while the RAW file stores anywhere from 10 to 14 bit per pixel, depending on the camera - you have a lot of latitude in the shadows and highlights, which looks terrible if it's all crammed into a single picture. Here you have to boost the contrast/clarity/vibrance usually, and fix your shadows and highlights to where you wanted them to be.

    c) Your eyes/mind are playing tricks on you. After looking at a picture for too long, you get used to the contrast in it, and can no longer easily tell whether it's too dark, too saturated, or has too much of a color cast. Happens to me all the time. Just move on, edit another picture or something, and then take a look again before saving it.

    d) Technology is a factor, too. It helps to have a nice screen with good color and contrast to help you get the PP just right. This is a rapidly improving area - just a couple of years ago most laptop/desktop screens were dreary, but mobile devices made big strides in screen tech and it is now trickling to consumer PCs, whereas before only Pro machines had nice monitors...
    • Like Like x 3
  3. Ok. So I'm going to boost my "everyday" exposure to +1/3. What about spot metering. I so very rarely use that feature. Should this be something I need to rely upon more?
  4. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    When printing always load up the printer profiles and do a soft proof. WYSIWYG is a hoax/myth/lie.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Spot metering, in my experience, is a powerful tool but adds time to the composition as you must deal with where to meter, and make adjustments from there. I would recommend enabling a histogram and using positive EV compensation, along with keeping an eye on your highlights. This method I use pretty often and it's fast and easy.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Nah, spot metering is only useful in certain specific situations that you don't need to concern yourself with.

    What "film mode" are you using? (maybe they changed the name again?!)
    What whitebalance mode?
    • Like Like x 1
  7. For :"Shooting Mode" I use Standard or Scenery, I am now using portrait as this was a suggested improvement.

    For : "White Balance" - It depends - Cloudy if its cloudy, Lightbulb if incandescent is the light source, Sunny if its sunny.....

    and "Auto" if I forget all about it. LOL.
  8. Uh. How do I do that?
  9. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I use Costco to print and their web site has profiles for the printers at the location of interest. AdobeTV has pretty good tutorials on getting this going and using the softproofing tools in Lightroom.

    Also might want to calibrate your monitor although strictly not required but it does help. Spyder4 is decent for this task.
  10. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Don't do that. Stick with the original exposure. Make adjustments on PC.

    That's because you boosted the exposure in camera. This is not a good idea on a G6 because its ISO settings are spot on.

    Set your Lightroom background colour to white or lightest grey, then adjust exposure to look right in that background. It will make a difference, I promise.

    In this example the scene has a low contrast ratio, and the G6 exposure meter has placed the mid exposure at mid brightness, so all the brightnesses are bunched around 50%, probably. You can afford to push this one a bit without blowing highlights, but watch the yellow for clipping.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    I completely agree with Rob! Monitor calibration is very important - there are several good calibrators available including the Spyder 4.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    I think that Rob Watson basically hit on what the problem is.

    By the sounds of it your PC monitor is too bright. This explains....
    1) Why they look fine in camera but too bright on your screen
    2) Why when they look fine in Lightroom (presumably on the basis that you have dialed back exposure), they end up being too dark in print or on Facebook.

    Calibrating your monitor is important but most of the cheaper calibrators only calibrate colors and not brightness and contrast. I would simply lower your brightness levels. Most monitors are set way too bright because bright monitors look good on the sales floor.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. Ricoh

    Ricoh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 2, 2013
    Any recommendations from this knowledgeable community. Definitely want one that calibrates colour, brightness and contrast.
  14. mazg

    mazg Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 20, 2013
    A few suggestions:

    Have you tried using your camera in manual mode. It is very easy to set exposure yourself in a certain situation, then providing you stay in the same situation for the rest of the shoot (and the sun doesn't suddenly disappear behind a cloud) you can use the same exposure for the whole shoot. Bryan Peterson (Perfect Exposure) gave a tip that I use frequently, when outside to set your exposure simply point the lens at the sky. Alternatively, hold your hand out in front of you and measure your exposure from that. Easy ;) 

    Spot metering can also be very helpful. I am a big fan of spot metering especially for portraits/candids. My D7000 was almost exclusively in spot metering mode and now my G5 is set that way. The best way to get perfectly exposed skin tones is to expose based on the light hitting the skin and not the surrounding area. Given that the G6 has a touch screen this is way easier to do than on a DSLR where you'd have to move the focus points, simply use the touch shutter/or touchpad function and the camera will focus and expose on whatever you just selected.

    Calibration is important too but to be honest, you'll probably hate a properly calibrated monitor, they look so dark. But you'll have better results especially if you print. The other issue with calibration is that you'll be calibrated but most everyone else isn't so if you share photos you just don't know what it'll look like to them or on another device.

    Have you tried using the histogram both in camera and in lightroom? A properly exposed image should not be clipped (going off the edge) and the curve should lean slightly to the right side if shooting in normal conditions.
    This might give you a clue as to what the real problem is, the camera, lightroom or the monitor.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA
    My G5 tends to underexpose also (or preserve highlights) if left to its own devices. I also think the EVF is incapable of displaying as wide an exposure range as you can capture in RAW, so what you see when taking the photo doesn't always match what you see on the screen later; the G6 may be better as its EVF is OLED but I have not used one...

    I tend to use center-weighted metering most, but will switch to spot if there's a lot of very bright or very dark area in the scene. I've gotten into the habit of bracketing quickly with the exposure compensation if I think a particular scene will be a problem later.

    What I have found with the RAW files is that they have a great deal of latitude when lifting shadows, and a lot less latitude when pulling highlights back, so underexposure isn't as bad as overexposure. I felt my Oly PM1 was just the opposite...
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Bif

    Bif Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2012
    San Angelo TX
    Bruce Foreman
    You can do a fairly close "eyeball" monitor calibration with a good calibration image. Download this one:


    Set contrast and brightness at midpoint USING THE CONTROLS ON THE MONITOR ONLY! Then using those same controls adjust contrast and brightness until you can see all steps on the grayscale. If you have been fairly happy with color you've been getting that may be all you need to do.

    One more thing is to set sharpness at midpoint and adjust for more or less sharpness until your monitor image is sharp enough without "noise". Oversharpening, even ever so slightly, will take normal image artifacting and emphasize it until it looks "noisy".

    Use ONLY the monitor controls for monitor calibration adjustments.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Bif

    Bif Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2012
    San Angelo TX
    Bruce Foreman
    This "eyeball" calibration should take care of the images looking a tad dark on your monitor. The next step is to get your eye "tuned" into what a well exposed image looks like on the LCD (or EVF) if it's bright outside. As one poster pointed out, the G6 does a very good job of getting a proper exposure.

    There are menu configuration settings that in Manual still mode, and in Manual video mode will pretty much show you how your exposure is going to look. On my Panasonics (GX7, GH3s, and GH4) they are:

    CONSTANT PREVUE set this to ON
    EXPO.METER set this also to ON

    The G6 should follow the same conventions.

    The first will, in manual exposure modes, cause the LCD and EVF image to darken and lighten as you make changes to exposure settings. The second will cause an exposure meter readout to appear center bottom of both LCD and EVF images.

    These are SUPER HANDY to really help you to preview what you image (or video is likely going to look like), but only in manual exposure modes. In Program, Aperture Priority, or Shutter Priority the system is always going to show you a "perfect" exposure.

    So start trying out Manual exposure, you have two "checks". The image itself, and the meter readout at the bottom. Once you get the "hang" of "seeing" the image darken or lighten as you adjust the dials and get the meter readout "somewhere close" to centered, you may never go back to auto modes, or any camera that won't do this.

    This is why I'm a bit against your selling your G6, you have one great capable camera with it. Go for something more portable but keep both. That's what I did going for the GX7. I DID NOT buy it new. I "haunted" B&H used dept (online since I live in West Texas) until I found one in "9" condition and snapped it up. Only had 270 shutter clicks on it and that is my "go everywhere" camera.

    Good luck, Ma'am!

    Bruce Foreman
    • Like Like x 2
  18. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    I'm wondering if you need to brighten the screen of the EVF and/or rear display (whichever you are using) on the camera. I also want to second the histogram suggestion. Using that is the most accurate way to gauge proper exposure. If you need to know more about that, let us know.
  19. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa

    ok, looking at your example and taking into account your stated beginner status this isn't going to be a simple answer. I'll try to do it as short as possible.

    The camera can't see, only we can see. The camera just checks levels (its one of the reasons you shouldn't trust light meters) and when we see the levels of the RED channel that flower is right up there.in levels, so I'm willing to bet the camera got fooled into thinking it was about to clip (and actually it was).

    The camera has to make decisions on contrast with just numbers at hand, often it gets it wrong. Which is why I personally always like to use RAW just in case one wants to tweak it later.

    Essentially with the complexity of lighting around there isn't "one size fits all" and so the camera has to make decisions. If it was using RAW then you can make those decisions in post processing.

    You could try dialing into the camera a lower contrast and fiddle with those settings, but to be honest what works in one place will not always work in another. I leave my settings vanilla ...

    If you decide to lighten the image by dialing in more exposure compensation you'll get channel blowout which will ruin the lovely texture of those sunflower petals.

    Here is an analysis of the JPG issues I was seeing back when I got my 20D of what can happen with channel blow out even without blinkies or over exposure (sometime in about 2006). The page is a bit 'low tec' but the mouse-overs on some of the images can perhaps help you to get my point here.

    So it seems to me that the image is too dark because of the gamma applied by the camera. The next thing to work out is that adjustment "curves" is mostly another name for Gamma.

    your image:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    and then here is the image with only the slope of the curve changed (by Gamma 1.5)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    My vision of the image suggested to me that the gamma was off, but a camera could probably not tell that from looking at the histogram (and I don't think a person could by only looking at the histogram either)

    Welcome to the slippery slope ;-)

    PS: nice shot of the sunflowers too
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