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Quick Exposing to the Right Thread

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by WT21, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    After reading in the Luminous Landscape and other online journals/bloggers, I decided a few months ago to start experimenting with 'Exposing to the Right.'

    Basically, this means that you watch your histogram, and adjust exposure (in my case, I shoot in A and adjust the EV) so it gets as close to the right side of the histogram without clipping (or I should say, without clipping things you don't want clipped -- see the example below).

    The benefit of this approach is that, when in high ISO, you saturate your sensors with the image you want, and then you pull back to the exposure you want in post, and it GREATLY reduces noise in your image.

    For me, I do this in RAW. I'm not sure if it's effective in jpg.

    Here's an example.

    First, the photo for a general idea of what is being shot:

    (exciting composition!)
    20110729-E7291692.jpg

    I took three shots all at ISO800 and f/2.5 on a Panny 14mm lens (EP1) and using evaluative metering:
    1) a shot with zero EV (let the camera decide)
    2) a shot with a negative exposure comp, to preserve highlights
    3) a shot using the histogram to push the darker areas as far as I was willing. Note: on this shot, I knew the light would clip regardless, so I chose to blow it out to prove the noise point. Actual use is likely to lead to slightly lesser effects, but the benefit is always there.

    In post, I brought each shot to a similar exposure level as the zero EV shot (i.e. I brought up the underexposed shot, and brought down the overexposed shot).

    100% crops:
    Detail, showing the overexposed shot on the left (darkened in post), and the 0EV shot on the right (untouched).
    Screen_shot_2011-07-29_at_8_58_53_PM.png



    Detail, showing the overexposed shot on the left (again, darkened), and the underexposed shot on the right (lightened in post).
    Screen_shot_2011-07-29_at_8_56_29_PM.png



    Detail, showing the overexposed shot on the left (darkened in post), and the 0EV shot on the right (untouched).
    Screen_shot_2011-07-29_at_8_58_13_PM.png



    Detail, showing the overexposed shot on the left (again, darkened), and the underexposed shot on the right (lightened in post).
    Screen_shot_2011-07-29_at_8_59_25_PM.png



    I take no credit for this. I learned it here: Expose Right

    I've been playing with it for a number of weeks, and I'm finding my pictures are richer and also respond better in post. I know other folks use HDR, which I haven't gotten the hang of. And Thom Hogan uses a process call UniWB that I have to admit I don't understand.

    Do other folks use other methods? I'd love to learn other approaches, and I hope to learn HDR someday, too!
     
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  2. thearne3

    thearne3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    807
    Jan 28, 2010
    Redding, CT USA
    Thanks, Bill. One conclusion I reach is that with respect to the Histogram adjustments on the E-P3, not need to drop the high off of 250. You just want to get as close to saturation as possible. The nice thing about the Highlight/Shadow screen is that it shows you exactly what, if anything is 'blown'.

    On the Jpeg/RAW question, I'm guessing that RAW continues to give some 'headroom' that the Jpeg lacks in post processing.

    Great stuff!
     
  3. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    High ISO is, in effect, underexposure. So increasing the signal (exposing to the right) will give a better signal to noise ratio. Exposing to the right also increases image contrast and saturation. It works well in this situation (ignoring the light) as the scene has relatively low contrast. What you have done is to simply make the decision to expose for the shadows and mid tones where the camera is is being influenced by the light and is trying to balance everything. You will notice the camera's settings have preserved more detail in the highlights on the knife handles. (I just read the LL article. I am not very convinced by the film/digital comparison.)

    There is no such thing as a "correct" exposure in the sense that there is only one correct answer--camera meters have a way of reenforcing that. It is really important to expose for the scene. What that means depends on the scene. "Exposing to the right" is one way of doing it. (Actually, the idea of "exposing to the right" is/was done with film.)
     
  4. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Exactly what Hikari said. Trade DR (ISO) for exposure time - less exposure means less light which always brings more noise. Always shoot at the lowest ISO (highest DR)* and expose fully. Usually other considerations occur that requires adjustment of exposure time so the dance of trading DR for time begins. As long as there is enough DR to cover the range in the scene all is good. The physics of film is different so direct comparisons are not so trival.

    Raw does indeed give 'overhead' in the cases where low ISO and exposure levels give more DR than can be 'stuffed' into jpeg. Raw native 10 or 12 bit data can easily have more DR than an 8 bit jpeg. The bits are not important but the DR is.


    *some cameras have their maximum DR at a slightly higher ISO (like E-P1 at ISO 200 even though it also has ISO 100 setting).
     
  5. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
  6. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    An interesting but reference from the ETTR article: On Safari

    Sums it up nicely (and way exposing to the right is better than exposing to the left, as long as you a) shoot in RAW and b) avoid clipping):

    "the vast majority of the tonal information that a sensor can capture lies on the far right side. In fact, usually 75% of the total tonal information a sensor can capture lies in the small right hand area of the two top F/stops just below pure white. And yet, almost all cameras leave the factory calibrated to center the histogram instead of moving it as far to the right as possible. To make matters worse, the screens in the backs of cameras are also calibrated to show a good exposure with the histogram centered. This is nonsense! What this means, is that many of the photographs taken using auto exposure or built-in meters are grossly underexposed in terms of capturing the bulk of the tonal information a sensor can capture. "
     
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  7. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for posting, and for the time taken in putting together the test shots. They make the general point very well.

    Taking care with exposure can make a substantial difference in the overall finish. being able to quickly view images with a histogram has been one of the great things about digital. With live view, being able to view the histogram as you frame a shot can be fantastic.
     
  8. pictor

    pictor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    636
    Jul 17, 2010
    Exposing to the right is very easy with cameras of Olympus. Just switch to HI spot metering and meter the brightest area of the picture. You may still watch the histogram in order to ensure you have really metered the brightest area.
     
  9. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    I would not get too excited about the LL articles on exposing to the right. Unfortunately, there are very strange claims coming from them including Michael's latest article.

    First, there is no such thing as shooting jpegs. jpegs are simply converted from the RAW. This is why a camera can have a RAW+JPEG option without the need of taking two images. Your camera will also have a faster capture rate in RAW than jpeg.

    Second, there are some serious problems with color and tonal reproduction if you simply shift the histogram to the right. Now if that give you what you would like, that is fine, but that is personal preference and requires post processing from the photographer. Cameras are design to give the most accurate reproduction of a scene without the need of processing. Now this does not mean they always succeed, but the ETTR would introduce far more problems.

    (With a DR is 12EV, I would like some evidence that 75% of the "tonal" information is in the top 2EV.)

    Now you are right to explore exposure. The camera is giving something that is OK, but not always ideal (and camera meters can be fooled which is why most cameras have exposure compensation). There are many exposure techniques depending on the subject and conditions.
     
  10. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Thanks Hikari,

    Good stuff to think about.

    My one comment on the above -- I understand what you are saying about there is no such thing as "shooting in jpg" but the point as I take it is that a lot of the tonal information is lost and un-recoverable, because the RAW is deleted. So, it's academic whether it's "shot" in jpg, or simple immediately converted to jpg, and RAW is deleted. Just my thoughts. Of course, you can always shoot RAW + JPEG, but that slows down card writing, and doubles the workflow on the backend. I prefer to just shoot RAW, have a profile applied on import to LR, and then edit individually the ones I think need a bit more. It's pretty easy.

    Overall, though, my experience is that matrix metering in the Olys leads to flat looking shots, so I'm shopping other approaches, and ETTR is working better for me, though there is a bit of a color shift, which is interesting to note.
     
  11. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Yes, I can only think that Hikari is misunderstanding Reichman's jpeg point: in fact he explains what he means, that the camera shoots RAW, then converts in camera and what you can adjust from there is limited.

    I have found ETTR to be very effective and useful in gathering a broader range of tones etc.
     
  12. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    My comment was not about shooting jpegs per se, but rather if there is something different about shooting RAW. It would not be practical to have the exposure system work differently when set to RAW compared to jpeg, especially since jpeg is simply a camera processed RAW.

    And you are actually reenforcing my point with your flat RAW files. ETTR boosts contrast and saturation. Fine is you like the heightened look, but this requires work on the photographer in post. I prefer a metering system that is going to give me neutral tones and colors rather than one that is going to exaggerate them--I can always ETTR if I want to.
     
  13. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    My thoughts, but some background:

    1. I shoot Jpeg.
    2. I normally shoot high contrast scenes.

    So, in saying that, I nomally shoot at -.3ev. Even using the historgram to "try" and not clip highlights, in most cases, I can never get the DR I need with the metering of the camera. I can always recover shadows. I've lost too many shots with blown out highlights even if the histogram shows that I'm on the threshold.

    When I do shoot low contrast, I typically will try and shoot more than 0 EV.

    For me, it really depends on what I'm shooting. Do I want detail in the shadow or do I want to preserve highlights?

    In most cases, for my shooting, I have to do the latter.
     
  14. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    There is nothing wrong with ETTR. It has benefits. It has been around a long time since film was the only game in town. The problem comes when you have your camera meter do this. It would result in inconsistent contrast and saturation (and it would really be a problem once the scene contrast exceeds the the camera DR).

    The camera is built to give you consistent and as far as possible accurate contrast and color in terms of reproduction. As a photographer, you may decide you do not like that and can change things. The sophisticated metering systems the cameras have are great and so is the concepts behind them. Camera companies are always working to improve them as well. But there is so far you can go before things start looking nasty. An ETTR scheme would fail in most situations, which is why it is best to let the photographer decide when to use that method.
     
  15. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    ETTR isn't worth it for jpg at any rate, and if you are shooting jpg, the camera will likely smooth out the noise in the shadows anyway, so I would think ETTR wouldn't at all be worth the effort for you.

    I was shooting this with RAW on my EP1 and getting improved results over simple metering, but I've tried it with the EP3 (where I'm shooting jpgs, because LR doesn't convert EP3 RAW yet), and it's not really workable, so I completely see the need to ignore this when doing JPG.
     
  16. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I'm finding ETTR is succeeding in most of the situations I am shooting in, though not all, rather than failing in most.

    I think perhaps you are speaking to the author's point about the camera doing the ETTR for the photographer? I agree that I would not want that. For example, there are times when I'm willing to let a highlight blow, but auto-ETTR would not do that. I'd much prefer just to have a sophisticated histogram representation, and let me make my own call. I don't need "in camera" ETTR, so I think we may agree on that.
     
  17. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    856
    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I played around with ETTR on dark scenes and it definitely generates cleaner (less noisy ISO) images. Didn't know about this so it's been quite educational - thanks!

    I'd like to add 2 points.

    1. This requires post-processing 100%. For those raw shooters who don't care about JPEG, this is of course a moot point.
      I'm sort of a hybrid kind of guy. I shoot with both JPG+RAW. If the jpegs are good enough, I leave it as is. It's only photos which I feel come out unsatisfactorily or I want to touch up that I go into RAW post-process mode.
      Using this technique, I would have to remember which pics I took are ETTR and process accordingly.
    2. Seems to me you're trading shutter speed for ISO noise. Sound familiar? :smile:
      Look at the first example: your standard non-ETTR picture was shot at 1/400. The ETTR version was much slower, at 1/160.
      So for the cases where you're using high ISO to avoid movement blur of the subject, this technique probably won't be that helpful. For static low light situations (or where shutter speed is a non-issue), I can see this being more useful.
     
  18. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Yes! 100% agree. You have to look at the whole thing, as it does lower SS. It's kind of fun, as I'm thinking about all the elements of the exposure and the shot.

    I'm really liking this as a learning experiment.
     
  19. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Great point - learning and exploring.

    I generally pay more attention to it when shooting static scenes, especially landscapes: where the camera is stable and conditions more controlled. I do keep an eye on it generally, but more so in these scenes, where I will want the broadest range of tonality and texture.

    While watching my LCD histogram carefully, I also bear in mind that it reflects the in camera jpeg, rather than the RAW file, and I can expose a little further right than the histogram indicates.
     
  20. thearne3

    thearne3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    807
    Jan 28, 2010
    Redding, CT USA
    What about compared to the equiv. lower ISO?

    I've reread this, but maybe I missed it...

    In your test shots, how does the overexposed ISO800 compare to simply setting ISO to 400 (assuming Exp Comp is +1) and exposing normally? Still better? I assume better, otherwise, why bother? It would be interesting to see the comparison.