Underexposing photos with Raw

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by xsouthpawed, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. xsouthpawed

    xsouthpawed TPF Noob!

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    So, I shoot raw. (I know this is controversial at times) but The main reason why I do, is because I usually purposely slightly underexpose my photos (using Aperture priority) and then push the exposure up in Adobe Camera Raw or something. (I feel like Raw offers better color control anyways, letting me focus more on composition and such)

    So my question is, is my "technique" of underexposing photos bad? Why or why not?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. brianT

    brianT TPF Noob!

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    Yes, underexposing is bad unless you're using it for some artistic merit. Read this: Exposing to the right - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Also, google search "expose to the right" and read up on that technique.
     
  3. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    Typically, it would be considered bad. Though, it really depends on how you're underexposing. If your histogram isn't clipping, then it really isn't a terribly big deal. But if you're clipping shadows, that's bad juju. When you push the exposure of dark areas of a photograph, noise tends to occur.

    An exposure technique that is common and popular for DSLR's is what's known as Exposing to the Right, or just Exposing Right. This is a technique where you expose the shot so that the histogram gets very close to, but doesn't clip the highlights (right) side of the histogram. The reason why this is good to do is complex, but in essence, the way the camera stores information, it stores a lot more information in the highlight side, than it does the shadow side. By exposing right, then bringing the exposure down in post, you're capturing as much detail as possible. By deliberately underexposing, you're losing a lot of detail, especially in the shadows.

    Here's a link that provides a much better explanation to why Exposing Right is a good technique to use.

    Expose Right
     
  4. JG_Coleman

    JG_Coleman No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Here's the thing... it's not the end of the world that you slightly underexpose your photos, but it's not a good habit to get into. When you brighten up an under-exposed shot more than, say, one stop... you'll inevitably begin introducing color noise and luminance noise.

    Basically, your camera records the most color data in the brighter portions of the image. The darker portions of a photograph progressively record less and less data. So, by under-exposing your shot, you're actually reducing the color data you have to work with. If anything, you're robbing yourself of some control over color, not affording yourself more control.

    Your best bet with a digital sensor is to expose your photograph as much as you can without blowing out highlights. You'll retain much more color data to work with if you darken an image that is too bright, rather brightening an image that is too dark.

    Either shoot for an exposure that is "correct" as far as what you're looking for in your final product, or if possible, over-expose the shot just a bit and darken it later in post-processing. Avoid under-exposing.
     
  5. MohaimenK

    MohaimenK TPF Noob!

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    That's a good technique. You can bring out an underexposed image far better than an overexposed image. Trust me, I've played w/ it a bunch. If you can, get the shot just right but when in doubt, underexpose it a bit
     
  6. Buckster

    Buckster Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Do you like the results you're getting with that method? If you do, it's good. If you don't, it's bad and you should try something else.

    Depending on the circumstances, sometimes it's right to underexpose. Other times it's right to overexpose.

    Here's an example: The other day, I was shooting copy of 2 ft by 3 ft blueprints that were mostly white with black and red lines. The camera looks at that expanse of white, automatically decides (just like always) that it's a neutral gray, and sends that info to my strobes behind the umbrellas to get the "correct" exposure. As soon as I see the first shot (dark and gray) I realize what's going on and bump the strobes up to overexpose by 1.5 stops, which made the next 30 or so images I needed perfectly exposed for human eyeballs.

    On the other hand, usually when I'm shooting sunrises or sunsets, I like to underexpose by a stop or sometimes even more because it makes the sky color so much richer and deeper, which is the whole point of shooting those scenes.

    There is no bad or good way to shoot as such a general statement because it all depends on what you're shooting; There are only bad or good results based on understanding when and why to shoot "outside the (neutral gray) box".
     
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The histogram defines underexposure, not the light meter, so Buckster's comments are accurate,with reservations,and right within the context he is detailing. But generally, underexposing hurts overall dynamic range and hurts color quality, and tends to push noise levels upward, compared with exposing well and fully. Underexposing to boost color saturation was a time-honored method many slide film shooters used for many decades, and it's a tough habit to break.
     
  8. brianT

    brianT TPF Noob!

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    I know what you're saying. And I think the artistic vision of the photo should take precedence over technical details. But because the OP said he/she is shooting RAW and post-processing the photos, you'd still be better to expose-to-the-right (without clipping the highlights), then lower the exposure (using Adobe Camera RAW as the OP is using). That way you'd maintain better color and noise control.

    If it was only JPEG's being saved on the memory card, then yeah, you need to shoot exactly what you want the photo to look like.
     
  9. cyngus

    cyngus TPF Noob!

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    everyone had great input into your question.. however im curious by what you said about shooting raw being "controversial" how so? unless im providing my client with images literally ON THE SPOT before the shoot is over i would never shoot raw + jpeg ever again..
     
  10. Ryan L

    Ryan L TPF Noob!

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    :thumbdown:
     
  11. Buckster

    Buckster Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Indeed, good points all around.

    I should have read the OP's post closer though. Shooting under and then pushing exposure back up in post to compensate just doesn't make any sense at all. The folks here saying that it's bad practice and giving the reasons for it are correct.

    My scenarios are only valid if you're over or underexposing with a purpose in mind and intend to use them at that exposure level.
     
  12. xsouthpawed

    xsouthpawed TPF Noob!

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    Sorry guys. The reason why i underexpose is so that I can get my shutter speed up. A lot of times, the lighting is really poor (high school gym), and I needed a higher shutter speed to compensate the motion blur (i was using 70-200mm f/4 on a Canon 10D 1.6x sensor)

    I'll try not to underexpose from now on though :D
     

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