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Author Topic: Chasing exposure  (Read 1787 times)

Heavyweight67

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Chasing exposure
« on: September 25, 2012, 06:40:02 AM »
It seems the further I delve into photography the more there is to learn, gone are the days of just Pointing and Shooting and accepting what the camera chooses...
These were the days I would look at photos taken by pros and hope that one day I could achieve similar.

Everyday I try to learn something and then attempt to put it into practice...

My latest reading is in relation to the "Zone System"...at least the simplified for digital version of it...

As much as I enjoy using this system for obtaining the correct (subjective exposure) it doesn't seem to be "everyday practical" (again subjective, as it depends on your everyday needs).
Spot Meter, choose your tone, Spot meter, choose your tone...the system seems to work best if you have the time to take numerous meter readings, to determine where your shadows and highlights will fall.
Obviously this system is dependant on choosing and knowing where your tonal values fall, and for colour, knowing which colours are Zone 5 (18%)

Then there is the ETTR school of thought, push the exposure to the right but avoid clipping the highlights (or at least the highlights that matter), this seems to be the quickest method, quick look at the preview and histogram and adjust...

Even though it seems quickest is it the best, my luminance histogram will show clipping based on the JPEG, not the raw file, so I need to know how far I can push ETTR, but this luminance histogram doesn't show the possible RGB clipping.

Questions:
1. Am I over thinking this
2. Is there a preferred method.

What got me thinking about this?....I live in a tourist town, I watch people all day everyday taking photos, from camera phones through to 1Dx, rarely do I see anyone consider composition or exposure, everything is left to AUTO mode (yes, even on some of the very high end cameras I see people use)

So I started thinking, was I better off knowing less about photography and never understanding 18% grey....or am I better off knowing more but always chasing the "Perfect exposure"...

Photography and Golf, both pursuits that drive you crazy seeking the perfect game ( I gave up golf early on, realising it would drive me mad)

 




« Last Edit: September 25, 2012, 06:42:13 AM by Heavyweight67 »

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Chasing exposure
« on: September 25, 2012, 06:40:02 AM »

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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2012, 07:23:36 AM »
Don´t waste a lot of time studying the metering methodes if you are a beginner.

But you need the basic skills about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and composition.

If you want to shoot in auto mode only, don´t waste a lot of money for expensive cameras and lenses.

Use the Av, Tv and manual mode. In Av and Tv mode use the exposure compensation to get the perfect exposure.

For the perfect picture you need the best light you can get (mostly early morning oder late evening).


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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2012, 11:01:33 AM »
It seems the further I delve into photography the more there is to learn, gone are the days of just Pointing and Shooting and accepting what the camera chooses...
These were the days I would look at photos taken by pros and hope that one day I could achieve similar.

Everyday I try to learn something and then attempt to put it into practice...

My latest reading is in relation to the "Zone System"...at least the simplified for digital version of it...

As much as I enjoy using this system for obtaining the correct (subjective exposure) it doesn't seem to be "everyday practical" (again subjective, as it depends on your everyday needs).
Spot Meter, choose your tone, Spot meter, choose your tone...the system seems to work best if you have the time to take numerous meter readings, to determine where your shadows and highlights will fall.
Obviously this system is dependant on choosing and knowing where your tonal values fall, and for colour, knowing which colours are Zone 5 (18%)

Then there is the ETTR school of thought, push the exposure to the right but avoid clipping the highlights (or at least the highlights that matter), this seems to be the quickest method, quick look at the preview and histogram and adjust...

Even though it seems quickest is it the best, my luminance histogram will show clipping based on the JPEG, not the raw file, so I need to know how far I can push ETTR, but this luminance histogram doesn't show the possible RGB clipping.

Questions:
1. Am I over thinking this
2. Is there a preferred method.

What got me thinking about this?....I live in a tourist town, I watch people all day everyday taking photos, from camera phones through to 1Dx, rarely do I see anyone consider composition or exposure, everything is left to AUTO mode (yes, even on some of the very high end cameras I see people use)

So I started thinking, was I better off knowing less about photography and never understanding 18% grey....or am I better off knowing more but always chasing the "Perfect exposure"...

Photography and Golf, both pursuits that drive you crazy seeking the perfect game ( I gave up golf early on, realising it would drive me mad)

There is no such thing as perfect exposure. I tend to prefer Under-exposure for Drama while others prefer a different look. Exposure is subjective.

but hey! That's just me.
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TrumpetPower!

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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2012, 11:31:50 AM »
The perfect exposure is the one that results in the perfect print.

So, first you have to decide what would constitute the perfect print. Then, you'll want to experiment with different ways of determining exposure until you find a workflow that lets you get that perfect print.

It might be that you normally only shoot well-lit low-contrast scenes in a controlled environment. In that case, your best bet is generally an exposure in which a gray card gets rendered as middle gray, or a traditional "correct" exposure.

It might be that you're shooting a high-contrast scene where you don't have any control over the light. In those cases, you've got some choices.

It might be a field with lots of dewdrops with colorful specular highlights that you want to draw attention to, in which case you want to expose for those highlights lest you blow them out and lose all the color. That might mean ETTL, or "expose to the left," which would be okay because you were planning on crushing the shadows anyway in order to provide more contrast with the sparkly bits. Nighttime cityscapes where it's the colored lights you're shooting are similar.

Or, it might be that your subject is dark and in shadow, that you really want to bring out its texture, and you're planning on blowing the highlights again to provide contrast. In this case, it's ETTR all the way.

You might be looking to do a bit of both, in which case you're either back at the "standard" gray card exposure as a least-worst compromise, or you need to use some other technique to tame the dynamic range (such as HDR or graduated filters, if not lighting / reflectors / whatever).

The one thing I'd recommend against is automatically getting on the ETTR bandwagon. The whole point of ETTR is to reduce shadow noise, and it does so by effectively reducing the ISO rating. As such, it only makes sense for low-contrast scenes shot at base ISO -- and modern DSLRs just don't have any appreciable noise in such settings. In high-contrast situations where you might wish for less noise in the shadows when you have to boost them in post, ETTR is going to blow out the highlights. That's great if you care more about the shadows than the highlights, but lousy if you care more about the highlights than the shadows. And, at anything other than base ISO, you're much better off lowering the ISO than using ETTR.

Also, most ETTR workflows apply the exposure compensation after the tone curve has been applied, which results in all sorts of weird tone and chroma shifts; if you're serious about ETTR, you really need to be working with the linear RAW file...something that's generally waaaaay more hassle than it's worth -- in no small measure because you're then giving up all the wonderful modern tools like Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom and their shadow boost / highlight recovery / etc. stuff.

Cheers,

b&

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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2012, 12:25:09 PM »
If you have the time and inclination the this book might be of some use (I benefited from it tremendously).

"Perfect Exposure" (no kidding, you just used this phrase) by Michael Freeman, Focal Press, 2009.

Some people may recommend Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure", but I think your questions are better answered in Freeman's book.
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Heavyweight67

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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2012, 12:50:12 PM »
Thanks for the replies and entering the conversation, this is the type of discussion I was hoping for...

I'm aware that exposure is subjective, what I think is exposed correctly others may disagree.

My photos and My vision will be different from others, how I view a scene will be different to others.

Starting the thread was a way to "pick the brains" of forum members, there is a huge knowledge base within the CR forum.

As there are so many variables I like to improve my knowledge, this way I have a resource pool to pick from when the need requires, as well as being able to pass on this knowledge as I have two daughters that show great interest in photography.

The internet is a great tool for learning, but, sometimes you have to sort through allot of CRAP to find what you want.

CR is generally a great place to start for the information I seek.


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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2012, 02:08:05 PM »
Are you overthinking it?  In a word, yes. I think its important to know and understand techniques for different light, but it sounds like you are concerning yourself with exposure so much you may be missing shots. Modern cameras were designed to take some of that thinking out of it. Personally I generally expose to the left as I don't like blown highlights and would rather add some fill flash if practical. That being said I shot a friends wedding this weekend and had to remember to go ahead and blow the highlights otherwise risk underexposing the dress (couldn't use flash unfortunately). So each situation will be different. You certainly are better if you understand different techniques, but at noon on a family vacation, I see no problem with setting my 5diii to auto and just enjoy the day with the family.

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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2012, 02:08:05 PM »

Studio1930

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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2012, 02:52:25 PM »
gone are the days of just Pointing and Shooting and accepting what the camera chooses...

I'm not sure I remember those days (outside of my 110 camera at the local zoo).  Skipping any of the critical steps in photography can result in mediocre images (which is a large portion of the images coming out of DSLR cameras these days, from what I can see).  Exposure, composition, compression, DOF and now post processing are just a few of the critical steps required to break past the so-so looking images.

Others have given great advice and I agree that you need to learn several techniques that work with DSLR cameras and use the method that renders the best results for your type of subject matter and shooting style.  Ignoring it and using an Auto mode may work sometimes, but it won't work all of the time and more often than not will result in those less than professional looking images.

Personally, I shoot to the right most of the time and zone it some of the time.  My 1DX is different than my 1Ds3 and 1D4 which has caused me to slightly change the way I shoot just like using slide vs film caused us to expose completely differently based on which one you were using.   :D
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Re: Chasing exposure
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2012, 02:52:25 PM »