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Thread: ETTR - do you use it often?

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    ETTR - do you use it often?

    Hi,

    This thread was prompted by a post in the RAW/SOOC debate, which suggested that with today's sensors ettr was rarely needed (SOOC shooters can smile indulgently and move on, at this point )

    Just to check my understanding, ettr (expose to the right) is to deliberately over-expose the image in order to move as much of it as possible into the brighter regions where there is less noise, whilst avoiding blown highlights.

    So the suggestion was that the earlier digital sensors generated significant noise, and that ettr made sense to compensate for this. However, sensor technology has improved to the point where noise levels are generally low, and there is little need for ettr.

    I think I understand that low light levels can still give rise to noise, and that for large prints and/or particularly critical clients or subjects it may be important to reduce noise as far as possible. Maybe also b&w images (with high structure?) are more likely to show noise?

    So, my question is, how often do you actually use ettr in practice?

    Dave

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    As much as possible - most of my recent work has been at night though - I want to reduce blown highlights and their effect on areas in the immediate vicinity, so ETTR doesn't quite hold so true in this case.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Virtually never with my Nikon D200 and suspect it is going to be never with the D800. I absolutely loath losing detail in highlights but I will usually accept a little bit of noise in shadows. If I am in doubt I will bracket the exposure. Most of my subjects are slower moving then me so bracketing or HDR is fine.

    There is one protected native bird called a Tui that has very dark iridescent plumage and a small white tuft of feathers on the throat - on a sunny day a dynamic range nightmare (a nightmare in the middle of the day?) It is quick and HDR would only work if you kill it first and glue it to a branch. As it looks best alive it is one subject that ETTR may be appropriate but if you spot read the dark body plumage it will tend to overexpose anyway.

    The ETTR theory is possibly lurking in the back of my mind when I adjust exposure compensation and if the shadow detail in the subject was more important than usual I may give it +1/3 stop more than I would have in the past with film.

    I suppose the theory has made me relax a little bit more in that direction than I used to but I would hardly call it ETTR.

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    DanK's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Depends on what you mean by "overexpose." If you mean moderate right-side clipping that can be pulled down in post, I virtually never do that deliberately. If you mean exposing so that a histogram that is narrower than the full possible range on the camera is toward the right side, I do it often. I would not call that overexposing. If there is a range of acceptable exposures (no clipping), I would rather have the empty space at the bottom than the top.

    The reason is simple: noise is constant across exposure, while signal is not. ETTR means a higher signal-to-noise ratio. My camera is not known as a low-noise camera, which gives me an extra incentive to be careful about this. As long as you are not clipping at either end, you are not losing detail, so you can easily pull exposure down in post if it looks better.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    So, my question is, how often do you actually use ettr in practice?
    All the time.

    What I do and how I do it (slow-paced landscape photography) means that I only fire the shutter when the histogram gives me information that I'm going to get what I want/need in order to process the file up to final image. That, for me, always means going as far to the right as I can (without blowing any highlights). But, as Colin has advised on here before, you can go beyond the 'blinkies' point on the LCD and still know that you'll have detail that can be brought back in at post processing (in other words it's not really blown).

    Knowing how far you can go is solely a matter of experience and of knowing your camera. The secret, of course, is to not over-expose. It is to expose to give yourself the best possible RAW file from which to work.
    Last edited by Donald; 12th August 2013 at 12:22 PM.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    The famous Luminous Landscape article that introduced the world came out some 10 years ago;

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...se-right.shtml

    Even the updated commentary is a couple of years old:

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...exposure.shtml


    I've experimented with ETTR and with the latest generation sensors and find that while the physics that drive the ETTR strategy still apply, the amazing S/N ratio performance of modern sensors, even in low light situations means it really isn't quite as important as it was when the original article (and even the second article) was written. Carefully said, ETTR is important when there is a lot of noise in the shadow detail as it is one way of reducing it; but if there is less noise captured due to better technology, the situation has become a bit less straight forward.

    In practice, what this means to me is that I ignore ETTR in low ISO, well lit situations where the histogram shows a broad distribution from lights to darks. If I am shooting at higher ISO settings and in situations where the image is biased towards the darker tones (nicely said, low light shots), out of habit, I will bias the exposures to the right (without clipping the highlights). I've done some bracketing to see what ETTR gives me and frankly in some situations where I would have shot / do shoot ETTR on the D90, the D800 gives better results without using ETTR.

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    When shooting predictable, static scenes, I tend to use ETTR. Frankly, I wish camera manufacturers would have metering options that directly observe the histogram. Basically, program the camera to set an exposure that blows no highlights. Maybe 1% or so, because we live in the real world. I don't see why ETTR, expose to the left, and histogram peak at middle aren't available metering settings. None is universal (though ETTR is bloody close), but making all three available, along with spot, center, average, and matrix metering, might be quite useful.

    When shooting low light action with flash, trying for ETTR is like firing an arrow at a teacup from a flat-out 200mi/hr car's window. You're moving so fast that precision is nigh impossible. In such cases, I usually increase my margin for exposure error by dialing in more negative exposure compensation or speeding up the shutter. That way, if my flash metering system goes out to lunch, it's less likely to blow the highlights to kingdom come. Yes, I sacrifice SNR, but that beats large blown highlights.

    Blinkies and Photoshop seem to use slightly different methods of determining over-exposure. Photoshop blinkies seem a little more lenient. It pays to view the histogram (which seems more consistent) to judge overexposure. But it's worth mentioning that pulling down the highlights (with the Highlight slider, or equivalent) will not recover detail from blown highlights. It'll make them slightly darker and less obtrusive, and may help with the contrast of nearby objects, but you can't magically recover data from blown highlights.

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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    "I've been confused by that exposure compensation thing because the histogram was all over the place when imported into LR.

    Since starting to shoot in manual mode, utilizing Live View's histogram, those problems are a thing of the past. Technique is:

    That LV histogram is based on a jpeg rendition of your image so you need to "neutralize" (slide them to the left) all your "picture style" settings.

    Set-up your LV to display a RGB histogram and blinkies whenever it's opened. Now it's a simple matter to adjust SS, F/stop, and ISO to

    "push" that histogram to just shy of the right side, a technique referred to as "Exposing To The Right".



    Now simply input wanted/needed SS and f/stop and use the ISO to push that histogram to the right or...any combination of the three settings."

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    Wayland's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    It's my SOP when doing landscape work but if I'm shooting stuff that moves about or is less predictable I rely more on the camera's metering.

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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    I shoot the camera with the best high ISO/low noise performance available and I still expose to the right (though I never saw the ETTR acronym until joining CIC) It's not only about noise reduction. I mentioned in that other thread that my methodology is to consider the camera as a data collection device. And as was pointed out in one of the discussions that Colin linked in his post here, the more light you let the camera gather (i.e. the farther you expose to the right) the more data there is in the resultant RAW file to work with. So once one makes the mental shift away from the expectation of producing finished images SOOC, it is only logical to gather as much data as you can to work with. Without question it takes far more time in post to deal with shadows (when desired) than to bring out detail in highlights.

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    Wayland's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    That is my thought too. It is less to do with SNR or any other TLA as far as I'm concerned.

    For me it's about the camera having more discreet range to record information in the upper half of it exposure range.

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    Jeff S's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    In answer to the question posed, I virtually always use ETTR for the same reasons already mentioned by others (so I won't repeat them here).

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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    I use it in situations where the dynamic range of the scene means that I need all the dynamic range of the sensor.

    At other times I don't because I feel the risks outweigh any benefits - and it's also wasted effort (a bit like driving fast to an appointment, and then having to wait 1/2 hour - a lot of effort and risk for ultimately no gain).
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 13th August 2013 at 04:24 AM.

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    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    I'm with ctein on this one. It's always felt right to me to treat digital like slide film, despite all the arguments for ETTR. YMMV. Obviously.

    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad...h-of-bull.html

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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    We've had this discussion already on this forum, and as I recall, not much was settled.

    Glenn
    Last edited by Glenn NK; 13th August 2013 at 02:55 AM.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    We've had this discussion already on this forum, and as I recall, not much was settled.

    Glenn
    The black eyes and bruises have just about all disappeared so it is obviously time for another go.

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista;331901[url
    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2011/10/expose-to-the-right-is-a-bunch-of-bull.html[/url]
    My only quibbles with this article are that the author assumes one's using an extremely low-noise camera. If you have to use a high ISO, I think ETTR suddenly becomes way more attractive (improved SNR). That article would have been a lot more credible if called "ETTR: Not Perfect For Every Shot," instead of "ETTR is a Bunch of Bull."

    Can we just admit that literally nothing's perfect all the time? We'd have a lot more time to go out and take photos.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    "ETTR is a Bunch of Bull.
    Well the title certainly catches your attention, so from that standpoint it works.

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    Can we just admit that literally nothing's perfect all the time?
    100% agree with that, and the only way to know whether or not the technique will work in a specific situation is to be very familiar with your camera's performance under different shooting conditions. Shooting lots is the only way to do that. There are too many photographers that I've met that seem to shoot by formula and seem disappointed when their favourite recipe fails.

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    Re: ETTR - do you use it often?

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    My only quibbles with this article are that the author assumes one's using an extremely low-noise camera. If you have to use a high ISO, I think ETTR suddenly becomes way more attractive (improved SNR).
    I completely agree with Lex. ETTR was a real consideration when I was using the Sony a77, but the a99 is so blessedly low noise, that I rarely even think ETTR now- I just check the histogram for clipping in either direction.

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