Exposing for detail, highlights vs. shadow.

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by saycheese76, Dec 31, 2008.

  1. saycheese76

    saycheese76 TPF Noob!

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    I was taught to expose for the shadows and print for the highlights, but that was with film. Does the same go for digital? I hope this is in the right forum. I wanted to get an answer frome someone with experience in both. Thanks!
    Jason
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think of it more as exposing for the best image file and editing to get the result I want.

    A prevailing theory in digital photography is that you get more color information/detail (and less noise) in the higher/brighter end of the spectrum. So to get as much detail as possible, you would want to bias your exposure to the bright side. This gives you a better image file to work on. Basically it's maximizing the signal to noise ratio. Of course, you want to avoid overexposing parts that you don't want to loose detail in.

    With digital, a great tool is the histogram display...and this method is often called 'Expose to the Right' because the right side of the histogram is the brighter side. The idea is to set your exposure to give you a histogram that bias toward the right (for the parts of the image that you care about). You want it to be 'to the right'...but not clipped by the edge of the graph...as that might mean blown out and loss of detail.

    Understanding Histograms
    Expose Right
     
  3. tsaraleksi

    tsaraleksi TPF Noob!

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    I've heard both sides-- some people are ferocious in their argument that you should expose for the highlights to avoid clipping. My experience has been that when in doubt, shoot right is the best way to go about it because shadow noise is worse than white highlights in my opinion.
     
  4. saycheese76

    saycheese76 TPF Noob!

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    Man I love this forum. Thanks for the clear, specific advice!
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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  6. saycheese76

    saycheese76 TPF Noob!

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  7. ChrisOquist

    ChrisOquist TPF Noob!

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    There isn't always a clear, specific answer to every question! But there is a good way to get people to stop responding to your requests for help..
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    With film you are worried about zero density: under exposure (shadows) with print film and overexposure (highlights) with transparencies. Technically you could burn through too much density, and still recover details, although sometimes this is easier said in theory than actually accomplished in the real world.

    With digital you have to worry about both ends of the tonal scale during exposure. One step beyond either edge of the histogram is the same as zero density or 100% solid density.

    With digital I shoot raw, and generally follow the expose to the right school of thought. I am amazed at the detail I've been able to pull out of dark shadows, but I still think it ends up better quality, to darken raw files rather than lighten them. For instance it's my experience that I will end up with cleaner (less noise) looking photos shooting ISO 1600 and getting the exposure right on or slightly overexposing it, than I will slightly underexposing ISO 800.
     
  9. Coldow91

    Coldow91 TPF Noob!

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    When shooting landscape I do everything I can to avoid clipping (especially in skies)

    otherwise I shoot middle right
     
  10. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  11. saycheese76

    saycheese76 TPF Noob!

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    I wasn't being sarcastic. To the others, thanks again for the help!
     
  12. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Though it works, its close but not exact.

    According to the Zone System for digital photography, one exposes for the midtones. Why? Because in simple terms, thats all the camera does... it meters everything to 18% grey, and if we know this and can take advantage of this, we can never get technically a bad exposure.

    Sadly, it is very very rare that a technically correct exposure is also an artistically correct exposure.

    As a photographer, it is better to understand why we do it technically one way and then just decide what works best for us in an artistic manner. :)
     

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