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Exposing "to the right" question

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by Czechman01, Oct 21, 2005.

  1. Despite the fear of exposing some fundamental photographic ignorance, allow me to ask this question:

    If you adjust your exposure by the histogram so as not to blow out highlights on a white shirt you get a certain combination of shutter speed and f-stop.

    Now replace that white shirt with a gray shirt to create a scene with essentially no white. If you use the same exposure and look at the histogram there is "dead space" on the right side of the histogram.

    Since we have recently learned that underexposing by one stop means you are losing 1/2 of the data in a properly exposed image, does this mean I should open up the exposure (overexpose?) to get the histogram data moved more "to the right" without going off the scale?

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2005
  2. Yes Woody that is correct. This will allow you to bring out details in the shadows. It takes some getting used to as the images appear blown to some extent at first. I still find myself trying to get a perfect "normal" exposure most of the time but some of what I have done "to the right" has been truly outstanding once properly processed.
  3. Actually I think there is more to this question than "meets the eye"... :wink:

    I would suggest that the answer to your question will vary, depending on the personal preferences for post-processing of the individuals who answer it.

    For me personally, I'm more inclined of late to expose as brightly as I feel I can get away with at the time of capture, moving the histogram as far to the right as possible without losing detail in the important parts. Even if that exposes the image above what the eye normally sees.


    Because of the same reasons that you are hinting at, I believe. In particular, exposing in this way leads to an image with inherently less noise in the raw data, greater clarity in the shadow and mid-tones, and I can always pull down the exposure in post if I need to. Furthermore, with gamma adjustments and shadow/highlight adjustments I feel I have a bit more control over things that way.

    The downside, of course, is that you pretty much guarantee that you will have to post-process, but I end up doing that on most of my shots anyway (I'm a glutton for punishment I suppose).

    My 2¢...
  4. Yes, to clarify, I shoot everything in RAW and the nature of what I do means a lot of post processing. In that heavy workflow adjusting levels, etc. is the least of my concerns.

  5. Baywing


    Feb 22, 2005
    CT USA
    In the ancient days of film, slides were exposed for the highlights and the shadows landed where they did. I do just about the same in digital. I can, though, see a point to increasing the base exposure if the "highlights" were grey in order to increase the exposure in the shadows. With slide film, you can't do that, lest the the entire scene goes to overexposure. There are other ways (with chromes) to bring up the shadows and still hold the highlights. A camera that can handle double exposures is usually required and the technique is known as pre-exposure. It's actually used quite often in large format.
    As for the point of the question, yes, you can increase exposure to bring up the shadow info, just be careful that you don't blow anything out.
  6. I am tempted to take a slight contrarian view here and say it depends...

    If you are shooting at a higher ISO then it certainly pays to overexpose and correct in post processing, because you will have more noise to deal with. But when I am shooting in the 100-200 ISO range in an evenly lit scene I just expose for how I want the final photo to look like. This gives me more leeway in the highlights, especially skin in daylight, and less post processing.
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