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Thread: Overexposed? How can I fix?

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    Quote Originally Posted by TCampbell View Post
    When in doubt about an exposure, learn to take a peek at the histogram. Not sure what camera you use, but usually when you're viewing a photo on the LCD screen of your camera there's generally a display button you can press repeatedly to change what sort of extra info gets displayed and one of those displays will show the histogram.

    Here's the histogram for this image:

    Attachment 7240

    If you're not familiar with how to interpret a histogram there are numerous tutorials on the web. Here's one: Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Tones and Contrast

    You can think of the histogram as 256 columns ... standing side-by-side. The height of each "column" represents the number of pixels in your image that have that particular level of tonality. A tonality of 128 would be exactly in the middle. A tonality of 0 would be complete blackness. A tonality of 255 would be completely white (maximum values on all three color channels).

    If the black graph is "climbing the walls" on either the left or right side then the image is clipped. If it's climbing the walls on the LEFT then it means you had so much data at tonality of 0 that REALLY you probably had data at tonalities in negative values that your camera simply could not capture. In other words, your "shadows" got clipped. If it's climbing the walls on the RIGHT then it means you had so much data at the maximum tonality of 255 that REALLY you probably had a lot of data at tonalities even higher than 255... but your camera couldn't capture those. As a result you lost data because your "highlights" got clipped.

    Once you lose data there is no recovery (not unless you're a really talented artist and you can fake in something that make it look reasonable.)

    A quick glance at the histogram after any shot where you question whether the exposure was good will tell you if you're safe or not.

    ALSO... since you posted the exposure info (ISO 100, 1/250th @ f/5.6) we can see immediately that your exposure would have predictably over-exposed this shot. How could we possibly know that without being there when you took this shot and metered the light for ourselves? The "sunny 16" rule: The rule says that in "full sunlight" that a correct exposure should happen at f/16 (hence the "16" part of the name) AND with the shutter speed set to the inverse of the ISO speed. So at ISO 100, you'd use 1/100th (and for a lot of cameras the closest they can come to that is 1/125th).

    We can see that this was taken in full-sun. You were at ISO 100. Had you been at f/16 and 1/100th, you'd have got a "correct" exposure (although the background would have been sharper than you may have wanted). Your shutter speed was 1 stop down (1/250th -- technically that's 1-1/4 stop faster, but close enough for round-off) but your aperture was 3 stops up. That means your exposure was predictably 2 full-stops (or 4 times more light) than you wanted for this shot.

    If you wanted to shoot this at f/5.6 (as you did) to create the same level of background blur, then you're shooting 3 stops down from f/16 (f/11 -> f/8 -> f/5.6. That's three stops down.) So you have to move the shutter speed three stops UP. From 1/100 -> 1/200 -> 1/400 -> 1/800. And if you had a non-digital camera (mechanical shutter speeds were generally 1/125 -> 1/250th -> 1/500th -> 1/1000th) then 1/1000th would have worked. There would not be a significant difference in exposure results from 1/800th to 1/1000th. I know this "seems" like a large difference, but "stops" require a full doubling or halving. The actual difference would be only slightly noticeable -- close enough that either 1/800 or 1/1000 would have been useful.

    The "sunny 16" rule was designed as a base-line back in the days when cameras didn't have built-in light meters. The rule is a bit more elaborate than what I've stated above (it has guidelines for what to do in light overcast, heavy overcast, various levels of shade, etc.) Even though modern cameras have built-in meters, knowing the manual rule can help as a kind of sanity check.
    I want to make one qualification here concerning this point: "A quick glance at the histogram after any shot where you question whether the exposure was good will tell you if you're safe or not."

    I'm assuming you're referring to the histogram display available on the camera. Camera's have either a live histogram that you can check before the shot and/or a histogram after the shot. It can be valuable to check the camera histogram however its data is only valid for the camera processed JPEG. Both the live and after-shot histograms displayed by the camera are derived from how the camera JPEG engine will or has processed the sensor data. If you shoot camera JPEGs that histogram is golden. BUT if you shoot RAW that histogram is false. I shoot RAW only and both my cameras will typically hand me a histogram that indicates clipped highlights when in fact I have the exposure right.

    Shoot RAW and get the best exposure and you get better end results. To do that you have to understand that the camera histogram is the product of the camera's image processor and take it with a very big grain of salt.

    Joe



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    Quote Originally Posted by Ysarex View Post
    ...........Shoot RAW and get the best exposure and you get better end results. To do that you have to understand that the camera histogram is the product of the camera's image processor and take it with a very big grain of salt............
    Because the histo is of the embedded jpeg.
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    I'm a noob so I could be wrong in my thinking but, I usually slightly underexpose my raw photos knowing I can fix them in photoshop. (as sparky can attest to. Thanks again sparky for a great explanation!) Also to help myself with overexposure I use the "blinkies" setting on my camera when reviewing a photo I have taken.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shefjr View Post
    I'm a noob so I could be wrong in my thinking but, I usually slightly underexpose my raw photos knowing I can fix them in photoshop. (as sparky can attest to. Thanks again sparky for a great explanation!) Also to help myself with overexposure I use the "blinkies" setting on my camera when reviewing a photo I have taken.
    The "blinkies" setting is just a way to see where in the photo the clipping is taking place. If the the histogram is climbing the right wall the "blinkies" will blink. It can help to know what specific content in the photo the camera is clipping. When we talk about overexposed highlights as the worst possible exposure error it's assumed we mean the diffuse highlights and not specular highlights. Clouds for example are diffuse, a white tee shirt is diffuse, the sun reflecting off chrome is specular. A specular highlight is a small reflection of a light source from a mirror or mirror-like surface. So if you're photographing your low rider in the sun those specular highlights will clip and that's OK. But NEVER overexpose a diffuse highlight.

    Back to the problem of how to know; It's a problem. Right now if you wanted an answer that came with a guarantee, I'd say sure, that answer exists: A properly used handheld incident light meter in conjunction with a carefully tested camera. But I don't do that and I don't know anyone right now who does, I assume some few do. It's too tedious and impractical.

    The problem is that as soon as you engage "matrix metering" or start chimping histograms you have software algorithms intervening between you and your goal and so back to the problem. In this case your feedback data coming from the camera is skewed by what the software engineers designed into your camera in order to get the camera to produce a final JPEG. All kinds of basic assumptions are being made and since those engineers aren't there at the time and don't know what you really want, those assumptions must be predicated on a rule of averages -- the very big grain of salt.

    So how do you get an excellent exposure in a RAW capture. A small group of photographer's have been complaining to the camera manufacturer's for years asking for a "RAW histogram" display on the camera. Right now we don't have that -- it'd be nice. In the meantime we do what we've always done. Vigorously test our equipment. Before you begin testing, understand what you're testing for, how the machine you're testing was designed to work, and the performance outcomes and limits you expect. Make sure your testing methodology is valid.

    To help with the question of exposure in RAW you want to understand the concept of ETTR (simple Google search). The implication of ETTR is that for excellent results you want to push your exposure as close to the edge as possible. cambridgeincolour.com uses the best analogy: Best exposure is a game of shuffleboard. The puck closest to the edge wins. Just remember that if your puck goes off the edge your loss is total -- no partial points for falling off the cliff into the abyss.

    Afraid of falling off the cliff? Want to play it safe? Sure. Hold back from the cliff a little. You used the word "fix" in reference to what you can do in Photoshop if the exposure is a little under. I've fought this battle all my life. Back in the day they used say, "shoot color negative film if you want to be safe, it's got plenty of exposure latitude." No it didn't! What they meant was, "shoot color negative film if you want to be safe, if you miss the exposure you can save your a** and still pull a print you can sell." When we keep using the words that make us feel better about our less than excellent performance we quickly settle into complacent acceptance. So we need a different word than fix here. Fix implies it's as good as if it were right in the first place. Well.... how about "patch it up."

    Joe
    Last edited by Ysarex; 05-01-2012 at 10:32 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ysarex View Post
    A small group of photographer's have been complaining to the camera manufacturer's for years asking for a "RAW histogram" display on the camera. Right now we don't have that -- it'd be nice.
    Joe
    Technically, we do. If you don't mind green looking pictures, you can use a unibal as a preset white balance and adjust your picture controls to get you as close to a 'RAW' histogram as possible. Only problem with that, is with HDR techniques, being able to process a RAW several times, and shadow recovery advances have made it more effort than it is worth.

    In any case, it is available for those that want to extend the effort.
    The best of all things is to learn. Money can be lost or stolen, health or strength may fail, but what you have committed to your mind is yours forever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ysarex View Post
    A small group of photographer's have been complaining to the camera manufacturer's for years asking for a "RAW histogram" display on the camera. Right now we don't have that -- it'd be nice.
    Joe
    Technically, we do. If you don't mind green looking pictures, you can use a unibal as a preset white balance and adjust your picture controls to get you as close to a 'RAW' histogram as possible. Only problem with that, is with HDR techniques, being able to process a RAW several times, and shadow recovery advances have made it more effort than it is worth.

    In any case, it is available for those that want to extend the effort.

    You're right, Uni white balance does exist and I've been aware of it. I don't mention it because it's not endorsed or supplied by the manufacturers and you basically have to kludge your camera to use it. But if you're camera will take it, it is an option for the truly committed ETTR practitioner. Personally I lean toward ETTR practice but I'm not that committed.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ysarex View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ysarex View Post
    A small group of photographer's have been complaining to the camera manufacturer's for years asking for a "RAW histogram" display on the camera. Right now we don't have that -- it'd be nice.
    Joe
    Technically, we do. If you don't mind green looking pictures, you can use a unibal as a preset white balance and adjust your picture controls to get you as close to a 'RAW' histogram as possible. Only problem with that, is with HDR techniques, being able to process a RAW several times, and shadow recovery advances have made it more effort than it is worth.

    In any case, it is available for those that want to extend the effort.

    You're right, Uni white balance does exist and I've been aware of it. I don't mention it because it's not endorsed or supplied by the manufacturers and you basically have to kludge your camera to use it. But if you're camera will take it, it is an option for the truly committed ETTR practitioner. Personally I lean toward ETTR practice but I'm not that committed.

    Joe
    And neither am I. With the last few years of advancement in sensor technology and post processing, tweaking out that little bit of extra performance is hardly worth it to anybody. Actually, I don't personally know any photographer who needs that last bit of dynamic range enough to accept the inconvenience.

    In any case, just to add to what was said earlier, an 'overexposed' image that is not clipped in all channels can still be recovered. Also, specular highlights are supposed to be blown, rendering the 'blinkies' a bit less useful. Just because it's blinking doesn't mean it matters. Like you said earlier, it is only important if it is detail that needed to be retained. The sun reflecting off a bumper is not something that needs to be retained. It is supposed to be bright.

    Overexposure isn't near the problem that it used to be, and to be honest, neither is underexposure. As much as you hate the phrase, 'yes, we can fix it in photoshop'.

    Now, the next step is actually creating good light, good composition, and a compelling subject. Those items aren't nearly as easy to 'fix in photoshop'.
    Ysarex likes this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ysarex

    When we keep using the words that make us feel better about our less than excellent performance we quickly settle into complacent acceptance. So we need a different word than fix here. Fix implies it's as good as if it were right in the first place. Well.... how about "patch it up."

    Joe

    I certainly don't want to settle for complacent acceptance. However as was pointed out before I don't want to lose photo data. Also I am getting used to the meter on my new d7k. I use spot metering for a lot of the photos that I take and have noticed that quite often the meter reads good but the photo appears over exposed.

    In either case you all have given the OP and many other noobs (myself included) a lot of info to digest and I don't want to overtake his thread. Thanks to all for the overwhelming details.
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard

    Now, the next step is actually creating good light, good composition, and a compelling subject. Those items aren't nearly as easy to 'fix in photoshop'.
    These are the areas that I lack! I am a mason and do stone walls which can be like a puzzle. Every once in a while we (masons) get what's called "rock block" which is where none of the stones seem to fit. I have the equivalent of "rock block" when it comes to good composition and compelling subjects. The majority of the people's photos on TPF IMO far surpass what I create.
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by shefjr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard

    Now, the next step is actually creating good light, good composition, and a compelling subject. Those items aren't nearly as easy to 'fix in photoshop'.
    These are the areas that I lack! I am a mason and do stone walls which can be like a puzzle. Every once in a while we (masons) get what's called "rock block" which is where none of the stones seem to fit. I have the equivalent of "rock block" when it comes to good composition and compelling subjects. The majority of the people's photos on TPF IMO far surpass what I create.
    Keep experimenting. Don't worry so much about what other members are doing. Some of them have been doing it for 20+ years. Some are relatively new. It's a pretty wide gamut of experience.

    My advice, once a month or so, go through everything you have shot, and make a copy of those images to one folder. Delete everything but about 10 photos(Deleting the copies, not the originals). The next month, do the same with all of your newer images. Go through those, and delete all(of the copies) except about 10 or so. Next month, do the same thing. After a while, you will know what you like and what kind of situations get you there. Ansel Adams used to say if he had one good image a year, he was successful. When you get where it is hard to decide on the top 10, drop it to five.

    Honestly, that's how you improve. Having 10's of thousands of files in harddrives that you are never going to look at again isn't going to get you any further. Constantly looking at your best work and refining it is what is going to take you to the next level.
    The best of all things is to learn. Money can be lost or stolen, health or strength may fail, but what you have committed to your mind is yours forever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard

    Keep experimenting. Don't worry so much about what other members are doing. Some of them have been doing it for 20+ years. Some are relatively new. It's a pretty wide gamut of experience.

    My advice, once a month or so, go through everything you have shot, and make a copy of those images to one folder. Delete everything but about 10 photos(Deleting the copies, not the originals). The next month, do the same with all of your newer images. Go through those, and delete all(of the copies) except about 10 or so. Next month, do the same thing. After a while, you will know what you like and what kind of situations get you there. Ansel Adams used to say if he had one good image a year, he was successful. When you get where it is hard to decide on the top 10, drop it to five.

    Honestly, that's how you improve. Having 10's of thousands of files in harddrives that you are never going to look at again isn't going to get you any further. Constantly looking at your best work and refining it is what is going to take you to the next level.
    That is great advice for me! For two reasons. One as you said, "After a while, you will know what you like and what kind of situations get you there." and two, I have been really overwhelmed with the amount of photos that I have been loading onto my computer. Not that I'm "spraying and praying" I am trying to take time to set up/ compose the shot. I'm just taking a lot of photos. These are both two simple yet great tips that will really help me! Thank you!
    John

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  12. #42
    I spend too much of my life on TPF!
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    Also seeing as your flower is the brightest part of your picture, try using partial or spot metering rather than evaluative which is what Im guessing you used.

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    You are more than welcome...how about every month or so, you post that top five. Give us a chance to see the progress...
    Quote Originally Posted by shefjr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard

    Keep experimenting. Don't worry so much about what other members are doing. Some of them have been doing it for 20+ years. Some are relatively new. It's a pretty wide gamut of experience.

    My advice, once a month or so, go through everything you have shot, and make a copy of those images to one folder. Delete everything but about 10 photos(Deleting the copies, not the originals). The next month, do the same with all of your newer images. Go through those, and delete all(of the copies) except about 10 or so. Next month, do the same thing. After a while, you will know what you like and what kind of situations get you there. Ansel Adams used to say if he had one good image a year, he was successful. When you get where it is hard to decide on the top 10, drop it to five.

    Honestly, that's how you improve. Having 10's of thousands of files in harddrives that you are never going to look at again isn't going to get you any further. Constantly looking at your best work and refining it is what is going to take you to the next level.
    That is great advice for me! For two reasons. One as you said, "After a while, you will know what you like and what kind of situations get you there." and two, I have been really overwhelmed with the amount of photos that I have been loading onto my computer. Not that I'm "spraying and praying" I am trying to take time to set up/ compose the shot. I'm just taking a lot of photos. These are both two simple yet great tips that will really help me! Thank you!
    The best of all things is to learn. Money can be lost or stolen, health or strength may fail, but what you have committed to your mind is yours forever.

    --George

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerbouchard
    You are more than welcome...how about every month or so, you post that top five. Give us a chance to see the progress...
    I would love to do that but, I'm lucky if I have one mediocre photo a month. I've been on TPF for months and have only started two threads for c&c. It comes down to time and decent weather neither of which I have enough of unfortunately.
    John

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    I'm a chronic underexposureist so I spend some time learning how to understand the histogram. I googled and googled, and read and watched you tube video's. I totally recommend spending time on learning the histogram among 1001 other things

 

 
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