jrista…. I really want to thank you for this topic and the other fascinating posts over the last days regarding DR, the debate has I think on the whole been excellent. I don’t even begin to understand the science being discussed hell I don’t even know what ADC stands for but I do get your point « Reply #95 on: Today at 01:33:15 PM » you don’t need to be a scientist to understand that.
Thanks. I've been trying to explain that since the D800 came out, and no one seemed to understand my point. Hopefully that little narrative gets it across now.
Anyway to my question(s) I’ve read many times about exposing to the right but have been reluctant to try it as I would prefer if anything to expose to the left to lift my shutter speed and reduce camera shake. I’m just amazed by the example you posted though so I want to try this for myself. I understand that once a highlight is clipped it’s gone so therefore simply setting exposure for a dark area and letting the highlights take care of themselves (over expose) isn’t enough. Is the easiest way to do this in a fast changing situation to bracket say 0, +1, +2 or +1, +2, +3 and use the highest non-clipped file, is the histogram the best way to do it or is there another way?
Well, if you really want to start ETTR, its best to experiment for a while. Whatever it is that you photograph most, experiment a lot and learn where your highlights blow out. You could try to just take a bunch of shots each time you photograph something, with EV 0, +1, +2, +3, +4, etc. But that is really time consuming to do as a matter of practice. It WILL be helpful to do that when you first start, as you will simply need a variety of samples to figure out where...for the kinds of things you photograph, your highlights really to tend to blow the highlights (such that they are unrecoverable). You should also use the in-camera highlight warning feature. That feature in Canon cameras is based on the JPEG previews, so it will usually start the blinkies a little before you actually do overexpose so much that you can't recover. I've learned that with RAW, you can usually handle at least a small amount of highlight warning blinks when previewing your photos in-camera. In some cases, a LOT of the photo may blink (as was the case with my original sample image of the dragonfly.) You really can't know ahead of time if you've actually blown or not. If I think I have, I pull back some...maybe 1/3rd to 2/3rd of a stop.
Another excellent tool is the in-camera histogram. USE THIS! Its really your best tool. When you photograph something, check the histogram. That should really be a matter of practice, actually. You'll start to get a feel for what the histogram means, and when it indicates you've blown out your highlights. Again, the histogram is based on a JPEG conversion of the photo taken, rather than the RAW, so it won't be 100% accurate. You can usually get away with a little bit of the histogram riding up the right-side edge of the histogram display. How much it can ride up will depend on the camera, the scene, and the overall key of the photo (high key, low key, etc.)
It will take time and experimentation, but you'll eventually just get a "feel" for what your camera is telling you, and you'll start to intuitively know when you have or have not actually blown your highlights from the in-camera preview with highlight warning and the in-camera histogram. Also, if you ever feel that you've gone too far, you should always pull exposure down a bit, by at least 1/3rd of a stop, and take another shot. If you are photographing action that only occurs once, its better not to push ETTR that far. You can still expose to the right, but you don't want to go so far that your histogram is riding the right edge. Its better to keep the histogram a couple pixels away from the right edge at least, and probably a little more than that. The key difference between shadows and highlights is that with shadows, you just didn't capture enough, but lacking shadow doesn't mean your photograph is unusable. You can always lift shadows, sometimes a lot, and even if there is noise, FPN, banding, whatever...there are ways to clean that up and get good shadow detail. On the flip side, if you blow your highlights...they are gone, for good. You can't recover them, and if you overexpose enough, you might just blow more than highlights. So when you aren't sure you'll be able to re-take a shot, play it safe. Either just expose normally, or if you are comfortable with your ETTR skills, just ETTR less...give those highlights some physical headroom on the sensor. You usually only need 1/3rd to 2/3rds of a stop, but if you have a lot of bright daylight pounding down on a baseball player in a white jersey, you might want to drop exposure by a whole stop or so.
(Note: The true benefit of the D800 is not really that it doesn't have any noise...its that you don't have to spend time cleaning that noise up. On the flip side, having shadow noise doesn't mean your photograph is throw-away or that you can't recover shadows...it just means you DO have to spend time cleaning up all the noisy junk in the shadows before your photo is finally acceptable.
Also when you talk about amazing highlight recovery in Lightroom 4.1 with -4 EV exposure correction and 60% highlight recovery what would be the equivalent options in say DPP or Photoshop?
Photoshop, yes...since that uses ACR, which ultimately uses exactly the same RAW processing engine as Lightroom. As for DPP, I couldn't say. It uses a different RAW processing engine, developed by Canon. Technically speaking, I would kind of expect Canon's own RAW processor to produce better results...although that's not always proven true. I think DPP is able to extract more DR out of the average .CR2 file, however its demosaicing algorithm is somewhat wanting (it tends to leave jagged edges and color artifacts around, where as ACR/LR's demosicing algorithm is AHDD-based and produces very clean results.)
DPP might be able to do even greater wonders with exposure recovery, and work even greater magic than -4 EV recovery, if you can put up with the demosaicing.