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Author Topic: Is ETTR still worth it?  (Read 4360 times)

Mosccol

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Is ETTR still worth it?
« on: May 18, 2018, 04:37:37 AM »

ETTR has been documented and debated at length, including here. However, with advances in both sensors and RAW developing applications do we still need to add the extra step of pulling exposure in in post/risking inadvertent burning of whites when shooting?

I am continuously amazed how far Lightroom has gone in retrieving shadow details since version 1 and I find that over-flat skies is a more difficult problem to solve than anything else. Also, as I blend proper camera and telephone pictures (shot in jpg) I then get a stream of mixed pictures, some exposed to the middle and others to the right...

Has your workflow/position changed over the last couple of years as a result of technical developments?

François
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2018, 05:25:33 AM »

Working on a tripod with spare time I tend to use ETTR still. Why not.

Faster work where I am havinn to shoot quickly no I don’t. I protect highlights and will adjust in post as needed.

Modern sensors with the huge amount of dR make ETTR not as important as the t once was. That’s my opinion and that’s how I work.
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Tony Jay

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2018, 06:35:42 AM »

ETTR is always worth it - when it makes practical sense...
The fact that DR has improved, and with it the issue of sensor-related noise generation, however, neither the essential principles of sensor light-gathering nor the physics of light itself has changed!

There are many scenarios where all one can realistically aim for is avoiding overall underexposure...
However, if one is shooting at a slow pace, particularly if one has the camera on a tripod, the scene is relatively still relative to shutter speed, and one can shoot at base ISO, then it is well worth it to get that histogram well over to the right!

Shot noise, related purely to the physics of light, is always going to be present, no matter how good a sensor gets, and so the more light hitting the sensor the better.
Any part of an image with the same hue (like a blue sky in a landscape shot) as well as any area with low exposure are where shot noise will become more apparent although it is present everywhere.

Frankly, for ultimate image quality, being able to sharpen without concern for exacerbating the effects of any noise that is present, and, conversely, not needing to bludgeon an image with noise reduction relying rather on very subtle noise reduction (some is always needed) can, potentially take image-making to another level...
(Obviously, pointing one's camera at a worthwhile scene is always primary and post-processing is always consequent to that!)

So, yes when I am shooting wildlife, my only concern is keeping my camera/lens still and having a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action (aperture is wide open, and to hell with the ISO..) ETTR is the last thing on my mind!
However, if I am shooting on a tripod with sufficient light to allow me to capture what I want at the aperture I want and a sensible shutter speed for the subject then absolutely, ETTR will allow me to squeeze the last bit of goodness out of what are already excellent sensors...

Tony Jay
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Garnick

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2018, 06:36:14 AM »

ETTR has been documented and debated at length, including here. However, with advances in both sensors and RAW developing applications do we still need to add the extra step of pulling exposure in in post/risking inadvertent burning of whites when shooting?

I am continuously amazed how far Lightroom has gone in retrieving shadow details since version 1 and I find that over-flat skies is a more difficult problem to solve than anything else. Also, as I blend proper camera and telephone pictures (shot in jpg) I then get a stream of mixed pictures, some exposed to the middle and others to the right...

Has your workflow/position changed over the last couple of years as a result of technical developments?

François

Hi François,

When possible I always try to use the ETTR approach.  Of course it is not always possible to do so to the limit, but I always have my camera set to add at least 1/3 stop to the meter reading.  In traditional B&W photography the approach was always to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights, the basis of the Zone System, perfected by Ansel Adams.  And again, that approach often depended on the particular situation and the amount of time involved.  The reason behind that approach was to be sure you had enough exposure in the shadows to accommodate a full tone B&W print, and not a lot of grain in the shadows.  Of course we now refer to "grain" as digital noise, but the unwanted effect is very similar.  If you haven't read the article on this site by Bob DiNitale "The Optimum Digital Exposure", I would suggest that you do so. It offers an in depth description of the process, along with the reasons for using it when possible.  You can find it here - https://luminous-landscape.com/the-optimum-digital-exposure/ and I strongly suggest that you read it.  His approach is a bit over the top, but after using it myself I can say that it definitely does work as advertised.  And again, this approach is not always available in every photography situation, but when possible it can capture more tones than your camera meter can.  The secret is in the processing, as usual.

Gary 

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digitaldog

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2018, 08:58:13 AM »

Optimal exposure for ideal data is always something to strive for! Exposure is far, far from rocket science and if fact is a fundamental part of photography. Why not get it right IF you can?
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2018, 09:07:43 AM »

Hi Francois,

You are raising a good question. The evolution of sensor technology has been so rapid that it's worthwhile reviewing past recipes insofar as technology is enabling, while the recipe at hand was meant to make the most of how linear response works and what the sensors of the time could deliver.

The logic underlying ETTR hasn't changed - every f/stop-worth reduction of aperture cuts the light reaching the sensor in half. The less light that reaches the sensor the greater the risk of seeing banding and noise especially in the quartertones. What has changed, however, are (1) the ways in which the sensors react to reduced exposure, and (2) the capabilities of post-capture software for adjusting tonality to reveal detail. The dynamic range of sensors has increased over the years and the software has improved dramatically. These two factors give us more latitude in how we place the exposure, insofar as compared with years ago the risk of banding and excessive noise in the quartertones has lessened with some departure from ETTR; this kind of flexibility is welcome.

The important operational consideration is how one exposes the scene with today's cameras, and I like to think of this in respect of two situations: a bright scene where protecting highlights is really important, and a darker scene where nothing all that bright causes concern. An example of the former includes skies where protecting clouds can be vital to the success of a photograph. As little as half a stop to the left of ETTR can work wonders for revealing excellent detail in clouds without a lot of gymnastics to pull it out in Lr or Ps. I usually use the camera's default scene metering with a bit of negative exposure compensation for achieving this, and it usually works well for both highlights and shadows when combined with appropriate post-capture adjustments in Lr. For darker scenes, no reason not to go ETTR.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2018, 09:11:19 AM »

Optimal exposure for ideal data is always something to strive for! Exposure is far, far from rocket science and if fact is a fundamental part of photography. Why not get it right IF you can?

Sure, but the question is "what's right" and does that change as a result of technological evolution? I'm suggesting that the basic principle hasn't, but in practice more variants can be "right" depending on the scene, because the technology enables better outcomes under more conditions than it would have years ago.
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kirkt

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2018, 09:50:39 AM »

One of the downsides of practicing ETTR has been the sacrificing of JPEG quality and usability for the sake of essentially "overexposing" for the raw file.  The general trend in increased sensor performance permits metering/shooting for raw and JPEG simultaneously - I see that as the ultimate benefit of less dependence on ETTR.  If you need to shoot JPEG for expediency or other reasons, but expose for ETTR, your JPEGs were typically destroyed as a result.  Nowadays, you can relax the extreme ETTR exposure shift and still get a good raw file to work with as well as acceptable, if not optimal, JPEGs.  Tuning the in-camera JPEG controls (color styles, or whatever they are called on one's camera) will also help bring the raw v JPEG exposure closer together.  Being able to relax the ETTR exposure also gives you some wiggle room when lighting in the frame is changing, ensuring that, even if the JPEG highlights are blown, the raw highlights will be preserved.

kirk
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digitaldog

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2018, 11:27:59 AM »

One of the downsides of practicing ETTR has been the sacrificing of JPEG quality and usability for the sake of essentially "overexposing" for the raw file. 
Different data, different exposure. There is nothing about over exposing with ETTR! It's solely about optimal exposure for the data (raw) which requires a different exposure than a JPEG. Pick one, expose optimally for that data. Or not....
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Andrew Rodney
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rdonson

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2018, 11:49:50 AM »

I use ETTR when I'm taking a single shot but.... if I'm shooting a scene with a wide range of light in it then I'm shooting for HDR and skipping the ETTR routine.  Its so easy these days in the camera to bracket exposures and then process in any of a number of HDR tools to achieve great looking results.  HDR is no longer synonymous with grunge. 
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Schewe

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2018, 03:44:52 PM »

Sure, but the question is "what's right"....

What’s ‘right’ is doing whatever it takes to get the the friggin’ shot.

If you are in a sutuation where you only get one chance to grab some frames bracket...if you only have one shot, preserve the highlights because you can pull up shadows but not easily replace burned out highlights.

But if you have the time, shoot till you got it rights-pixels are free (it’s the camera and lenses that cost real money)!
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Tony Jay

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2018, 08:09:37 PM »

One of the downsides of practicing ETTR has been the sacrificing of JPEG quality and usability for the sake of essentially "overexposing" for the raw file.  The general trend in increased sensor performance permits metering/shooting for raw and JPEG simultaneously - I see that as the ultimate benefit of less dependence on ETTR.  If you need to shoot JPEG for expediency or other reasons, but expose for ETTR, your JPEGs were typically destroyed as a result.  Nowadays, you can relax the extreme ETTR exposure shift and still get a good raw file to work with as well as acceptable, if not optimal, JPEGs.  Tuning the in-camera JPEG controls (color styles, or whatever they are called on one's camera) will also help bring the raw v JPEG exposure closer together.  Being able to relax the ETTR exposure also gives you some wiggle room when lighting in the frame is changing, ensuring that, even if the JPEG highlights are blown, the raw highlights will be preserved.

kirk
Some rather strange comments above...

ETTR is NOT about overexposing a raw file.

If one is shooting JPEG's no one in their right mind would expose those images in the same way as shooting raw, ETTR style, so...complete straw-man argument.

If one is shooting JPEG and raw together then the above point applies, one cannot employ ETTR.

You seem fixated on shooting JPEG - ETTR is never an option for you...
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Rory

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2018, 10:08:55 AM »

Modern sensors with the huge amount of dR make ETTR not as important as the t once was. That’s my opinion and that’s how I work.

Increased DR actually increases the ability to ETTR.  However I get what you are saying - with increased DR generally comes decreased noise in shadows and less need to ETTR.  While I totally get the ETTR thing, especially at base ISO, I always thought the original proponents were so enthusiastic because they shot Canon gear, which at the time, and indeed, until only recently, produced files with lower DR and ugly shadows.
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BJL

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2018, 05:20:53 PM »

ETTR has been documented and debated at length ... However, with advances in both sensors and RAW developing applications do we still need to add the extra step of pulling exposure in in post/risking inadvertent burning of whites when shooting?
I will put aside for a moment my skepticism about pursuing increases in SNR and such that are often measurable but not visible in the final displayed image, at the cost of both time and effort (and thus perhaps lost opportunities for other photographs) and also losing the convenience of having default JPEG conversions that are useful at least for preview and triage, and in many cases perfectly good for final use.

That leaves another question: one option for this goal of maximizing sensor exposure and thus SNR levels is to bracket exposure and then select the file with the best raw histogram(s) as viewed on the computer; so:

how often does one need instead to fiddle in the field with "overexposing" (relative to traditional light metering approaches and to what is needed for usable default JPEGs) and approaches like using "UniWB" white balance settings that mess up the live view and in-camera preview?
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kers

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2018, 06:13:36 PM »

IMHO ETTR has some negative side effects; it changes the overall contrast of the image ( different contrast slope)
I get the better contrast envelope in my images by not to exposing as ETTR but just normal.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2018, 07:22:28 PM »

IMHO ETTR has some negative side effects; it changes the overall contrast of the image ( different contrast slope)
I get the better contrast envelope in my images by not to exposing as ETTR but just normal.

It's normal that if you expose to the right more of the image data is parked in the brighter zones of the histogram - that's the whole point, and it is expected that in post capture processing you will redistribute it, making contrast correct. But by doing this you have more data to redistribute, hence less risk of undesirable discontinuities.
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Tony Jay

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2018, 07:42:32 PM »

It's normal that if you expose to the right more of the image data is parked in the brighter zones of the histogram - that's the whole point, and it is expected that in post capture processing you will redistribute it, making contrast correct. But by doing this you have more data to redistribute, hence less risk of undesirable discontinuities.
Exactly!

Tony Jay
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kers

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2018, 08:05:45 PM »

It's normal that if you expose to the right more of the image data is parked in the brighter zones of the histogram - that's the whole point, and it is expected that in post capture processing you will redistribute it, making contrast correct. But by doing this you have more data to redistribute, hence less risk of undesirable discontinuities.
Yes, i know all that, i am only saying it is more difficult for me to get a photo with the overall contrast that i like.
Sometimes it seems even impossible to get the same contrast as with a normal exposure....
Still i would say my skills are good with photoshop and ACR. I work with photoshop since layers were introduced, so 20 years or so.

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Rand47

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2018, 08:10:50 PM »

Exactly!

Tony Jay

+2    An ETTR raw will almost always be "brighter overall" on initial ingest into PP software than I find "ideal" - BUT as long as none of the data is clipped, I have more data to move about where I want it in terms of tone(s).  Shadows w/ less/no noise and lots of detail is often one benefit.  As Andrew says "also," all this can be very scene reference image dependent.

Rand
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Garnick

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Re: Is ETTR still worth it?
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2018, 11:50:37 AM »

Once I had purchased and read "The Optimal Digital Exposure" from Bob DiNitale I immediately set about some experiments of my own.  As he mentions in his article, if the raw unprocessed image does not look like it has been dipped in milk, it is probably suffering from underexposure.  Therefore, his procedure is built around pulling the exposure down, instead of pushing it up as is usually the case when using the in-camera meter only.  Once I had enough various subjects to satisfy my experiment I started opening them in ACR, and the one with the most exposure (I do bracket) was always visually very "milky", and the "Exsposure" scale would generally show approximately + 80 on average.  However, once I started to pull the exposure "down" the details started to show immediately.  Yes, there is often a small degree of clipping, but when I compare it to the one with the least exposure there is nothing there of any consequence, and may time pure white.  Therefore, nothing to be concerned about in my opinion.  I will say that until I ran my own experiments I was somewhat skeptical, but I was rather quickly convinced that this method does indeed work very well when applied properly.  And of course not all situations lend themselves to this procedure, but I think that is quite obvious.

As the old adage goes - "The proof is in the pudding".  Or perhaps in this case, "the milk".   :)

Gary     
« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 11:56:26 AM by Garnick »
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