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Thread: Exposing to the Right & PP

  1. #1

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    Exposing to the Right & PP

    In my two most recent threads I have been working on pre-sunrise photos and have been successful at exposing the images as far to the right as possible.

    My reasoning for this was to maintain as much of the shadow detail as possible which based on my understanding of the concept would give me the most flexibility in post processing.

    Here is the rub...some people felt the image was too bright (this is the thread if you want to take a look) for that time of day (20 minutes or so before sunrise).

    I did double check the RAW file and confirmed that the only only a fractional increased in brightness was due to my PP (I believe that increased contrast was the cause).

    So the question I have is since I didn't intentionally brighten the exposure in post how do get it looking like the right time of day in PP? I understand that I can apply gradients and selective curves and levels to different parts of the image but then I can't seem to get it looking 'right' which I know is subjective. I guess another way to put it is I feel like I am altering reality and becoming more of an artist when I take these steps (not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing )

    Alternately, should I just make a decision to sacrifice some of the shadows at the time of capture and go from there?

    As a side note, I do recall the morning being brighter than I thought it would be too which is only adding confusion to my approach to the PP

    I think that this is an issue that others may have and I am hopeful that this discussion will be wide ranging on the subject and be something that I and others can refer back to in the future for sound advice.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Shane,
    I looked at your picture in the other thread, and let me state beforehand that I liked it best in the first, uncropped version; I would not have cropped the sky.

    Second, which program(s) do you use for PP?

    Thirst, to sacrifice shadows when exposing the frame is never a good idea - unless the dynamic range of the scene is too large and you don't want to clip the highlights, but even then a second exposure for the shadows is, whenever possible, the way to go. In most programs, there is an exposure slider which gives you the possibility to adjust this the way you want it.

    About "looking like the right time of day": remember that every editing/developing of a file is giving a subjective interpretation. What I would do, aqnd what I would advise you to do, is to go either the way you remember the scene, and/or the way you want to have it. For that, it is good to make some basic decisions: do I go for high or for soft contrast? Where in the frame do I want contrast? At which luminosity value(s), in which parts of the picture? What should be the overall color cast? How bright/dark do I want the picture to look?
    For more advice, it would be helpful to know the software you use.

    Lukas

  3. #3

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    I use Photoshop CS5 Lukas. You have given good food for thought in your response and I will be interested to see how knowing my PP software takes it next...

    Also, thank you for you vote on the crop

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Hi Shane,

    Here's a good one.

    When you step outside at night from your house at first it looks very dark and then your eyes slowly become accustomed to the dark and all begins to look lighter. So what was right, what you saw at first or what you saw when your eyes adjusted?

    I have not got a clue but something else I thought about since answering your last post.

    Grahame

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Hi Shane,
    Firstly, well done. You found a great location, you got up at stupid o'clock, and you witnessed the sun rise. Even without a camera that's a great thing to do, no?
    For what it's worth, I too, wouldn't have cropped any of the sky out of your image but i would have worked on the sky a little to reduce its brightness.
    As for your question regarding exposure to the right and overall brightness, my understanding is that you expose as far to the right (without clipping the highlights) in order to capture as much detail in the shadows, BUT by definition, you have increased the exposure levels, so in PP you need to selectivly reduce the exposure levels in the brightest areas. This could be achieved through layer masking multiple exposures/gradient masks/ curves & levels/ or luminosity masks, depending on your original files and of course your PP skill levels.
    I hope I have understood your question, and helped.
    If not, good luck and I hope your dawns continue to amaze !
    mat

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Technical optimisation has very little to do with aesthetic appreciation. When a photograph has a large number of competing bright area's it is often difficult to get a composition that does not look a bit disjointed. I have always assumed that because our eyes get drawn to bright area's if there are too many of them our brain has to work harder. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that our brains are lazy and get far more enjoyment from images that are visually coordinated and relatively simple.

    In your image the bright reflecting water surfaces are competing with the bright regions of the sky. Your the photographer it is your problem ...

  7. #7
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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Shane,

    If you read that thread again (mainly post #15 where Greg briefly mentioned brightness and post #21 where Grahame provided a method of shooting) there really wasn't that much concern with the image brightness, more critique about how much sky to include in the shot. It may have been a comment about another image regarding brightness.

  8. #8

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Good point Grahame!

    Mat, just seeing the sun pop over the horizon never fails to provide me with a moment or two of excitement and awe.

    L.Paul...

    Your the photographer it is your problem ...
    I guess that is what I was looking for advice on...I wanted to learn how others would deal with a situation like that both in camera and in post.

    John, Greg made the comment quoted below on the point in that thread and you are right in recalling that it was also mentioned in the first early morning thread as well.

    I can't help but wonder why the scene is so bright, particularly the sky.
    I guess I feel like the brightness of the sky (and the unfortunate cloud formation) was the issue when discussing the crop. I believe that the brightness of the sky was enhanced by ETTR but when I bring the brightness down in post the sky then looks unnatural to me

  9. #9
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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP: Shane's Overly Bright Sky

    Shane,

    This is the image from your original post. If I were bringing this image into camera RAW, I would make only minor changes to the highlights/whites. My only concern with the brightness would be if it overshadowed the rest of the image, does it distract the viewer from seeing the whole image. Does it burn a hole in my retina.

    Exposing to the Right & PP

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP: Shane's Overly Bright Sky

    Shane,

    ETTR as it was originally explained was published in 2003. The concept is to intentionally overexpose as a means of compensating for deficiencies of sensors at the time. Those deficiencies are less of an issue with today's sensors, especially when shooting at low ISO values as you probably do when using a tripod.

    For more details about all of that, see this thread. I recommend paying special attention to post #5 written by Manfred as a post that summarizes stuff you may want to consider. That post also provides a link to the original publication and an update to it nearly ten years later.

  11. #11
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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP: Shane's Overly Bright Sky

    The shot in the post you linked to is a good shot Shane. I like the exposure for the beach. The sky is bright but not blown. You say you already know about gradients and curves/levels but you can’t get it to look “right”. Maybe it already looks right as it is to you and all the “too bright” comments aren’t working for you because of this?

    I think we all go through this from time to time. Sometimes I feel like a dog chasing a car! If I catch it what the heck am I going to do with it? It’s a cool thing because at this point you are open for anything. This from someone who is completely devoid of artistic vision!

    So for processing it? If I caught the shot you linked, and the sky bugged me because I thought for whatever reason it looked too bright or uninteresting, or whatever, I’d put it back in ACR and use the gradient tool on it.

    From there I would adjust (play with) the contrast, highlights, clarity, color balance, and saturation of said, anything I could to see if I could coax something I liked better. All of this within (and only within) the gradient I marked out with the gradient tool. If I’m not mistaken you have this in CS5 and maybe you have already tried it on this shot.

    Maybe not to your (or anyone else’s) liking but a quick example of one post possibility for the sky. There won’t be a decisive answer here. Which is as it should be. Like you said it's subjective.

    Exposing to the Right & PP

    Here's one going the other way...

    Exposing to the Right & PP

    You’re asking some great questions and getting some great answers, but ultimately these are questions you will have to decide for yourself to get out of them what you are looking for (referring to the “it’s your problem” comment).

    I have the gut feeling that you already know this. I also have the gut feeling that you are going to find the answers you are looking for if you haven’t already.

  12. #12

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP: Shane's Overly Bright Sky

    I would like to go on record that I have never seen such a long post written by Terry that contains none of his typically sick humor. Indeed, I never realized how boring he can be; he must have tried especially hard to be so boring.

    He even almost got through the entire post without including anything typical of his false self-deprecation. But not quite. His failure was to mention that he is devoid of artistic vision, which is regularly disproved simply by viewing his studio shots.

  13. #13

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Shane,

    CS5 should be good enough for everything. I will give it a try, keeping in mind that I don't know your editing habits and skills, and that the proposal I give is, of course theoretical - that is, I would myself have to try it in order to know whether I like it:

    1) In ACR, I would try a somewhat warmer color rendering, keeping in mind that early morning light has a quite warm temperature - the eye adjusts, however, so it shouldn't be too much.
    2) In order to get the sky right, I'd open the same file, after having made all the other adjustments, 2 times, once with a lighter and once with a darker exposure in ACR, for sky and earth basically. I would place the darker exposure as a layer over the lighter one.
    3) In order to make the sky visible, make a selection, either by selecting the sky with the quick selection tool, or by using a highlight luminance mask. I'd apply such a mask to the darker exposure layer as well as to a curves adjustment layer to tweak the sky (well, I am certain you have done this already).
    4) another layer with an inverse mask for the darker values.
    5) try a black layer with soft light, see which opacity suits? (good idea to add a mask, blacking it where you don't want the enhanced contrast)
    6) if the rocks turn out too dark (I don't like black shadows), another layer with overlay blending mode, and painting with white into it to lift the shadow values. Opacity to gusto.
    7) save the masks as channels, save the work so far, flatten, convert to lab color-space, see whether you want to tweak the lightness curve, whether you want to apply an unsharp mask to the lightness channel (even though I think a highpass might work better with the sand), see whether you would like to tweak the a and b color curves (perhaps using one of the saved masks) in order to get the light quality as you feel it should be.

    I hope this helps,

    Lukas

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Shane - if you are bound and determined to shoot ETTR; make sure you are shooting a scene with a constrained dynamic range.

    The histogram of your shot shows blown highlights and blocked shadow details. Not a good candidate for ETTR as you would be moving more shadow detail to the right side of the histogram and losing highlight details. If you take a shot and find that the histogram is showing a lot of darker colours, without any data at the right side of the histogram, in theory, you could bias that shot to overexposure and then correct back in post. The physics makes sense and you will have less shadow noise; BUT with a modern sensor, this may be more of theoretical argument than one that you will notice from a practical standpoint.

    I can't think of too many circumstances where I might want to blow out (more) highlights in order to preserve shadow detail.

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Yet another ETTR thread

    I tried to refrain from posting but can't help myself Read in its totality, I think one thing this thread points out is how modern photography can get very confused between technical and asthetic issues.

    The concept of ETTR is (or should be) a purely technical consideration. The idea is that by exposing just to the verge of clipping on the bright side of the histogram ensures that the maximum amount of data is recorded for later manipulation in PP. Others have already pointed out some of the potential pitfalls of this strategy.

    Technical considerations aside, for purely asthetic/artistic objectives, one should choose exposure to achieve desired goals of enhancing/obscuring parts of a scene. For example under exposing a sunrise/sunset scene to maximize SOOC color saturation in the sky and render other part of the image in silhouette. The same thing can (arguably) be achieved by ETTR followed by significant alterteration in PP.

    Anyone interested in SOOC images and/or minimal PP is headed astray if utilizing an ETTR strategy. It is a tool for increasing the opportunities available in PP for the serious editor. I'll leave others to continue the argument regarding the validity/necessity of the concept given modern technology.

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    Yet another ETTR thread
    The issue I have with ETTR threads is that a lot of people, myself included until not long ago, don't realize that ETTR means intentionally over exposing. That's very different from only exposing to get your brightest tones on the right side of the histogram without clipping them.

    I find fault primarily with the person whose name escapes my mind who came up with the term, ETTR. He should have called it something else that indicates intentional over exposure.

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post
    Technical optimisation has very little to do with aesthetic appreciation. When a photograph has a large number of competing bright area's it is often difficult to get a composition that does not look a bit disjointed. I have always assumed that because our eyes get drawn to bright area's if there are too many of them our brain has to work harder. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that our brains are lazy and get far more enjoyment from images that are visually coordinated and relatively simple.

    In your image the bright reflecting water surfaces are competing with the bright regions of the sky. Your the photographer it is your problem ...
    Good points L. Paul.

    1) The dynamic range of a sunrise/sunset is very often (usually?) larger than what a camera can capture, and what an LCD screen or a printer can display - so there will be compromises somewhere. This might be where HDR would be useful.

    2) Maybe having a well calibrated monitor is the first step, followed by adjusting the image to suit the photographer's "vision" or intent.

    3) The problem with sunshine reflecting off water (specular highlights) is that it's most always blown out, and no matter what you do in PP, it won't look great because it's pure white and has no detail at all.

    Glenn

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    The issue I have with ETTR threads is that a lot of people, myself included until not long ago, don't realize that ETTR means intentionally over exposing. That's very different from only exposing to get your brightest tones on the right side of the histogram without clipping them.

    I find fault primarily with the person whose name escapes my mind who came up with the term, ETTR. He should have called it something else that indicates intentional over exposure.
    Michael Reichmann - Luminous Landscape

    Under the heading Some Caveats, he clearly states: "But it (ETTR) definitely doesn't mean blowing the highlights".

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

    And further to Shane's comment about "ETTR is about maintaining shadow detail": This is only part of ETTR. The other part is about about maximizing the amount of detail recorded by the sensor. Refer to the little table between the first two images. So, OK, maybe some cams can record twenty stops of DR - but wouldn't the theory still hold true?

    Glenn

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    First of all, let me say that I am not bound and determined to use ETTR (or any other technique) I am just trying to understand if I made a poor decision in doing so on a scene like the one in the linked thread (low light/early morning).

    Also, I think that the the conversion to JPEG shows more blown highlights and blocked shadow details than I saw in Photohop before I resized and converted it to a JPEG (why would that be?):

    Exposing to the Right & PP

    As you can see my processing was minimal with only a curves adjustment for the foreground and a levels adjustment for the sky.

    This statement by Dan gets the closest to what I was trying to get to in my question in the first post in the thread (I may have worded the question poorly and if that confused folks I am sorry):

    Anyone interested in SOOC images and/or minimal PP is headed astray if utilizing an ETTR strategy. It is a tool for increasing the opportunities available in PP for the serious editor.
    I would not classify myself as a serious editor by any stretch of the imagination and maybe that is the problem along with my inability to have a vision for the image that is outside the realm of 'enhancing reality'?

    Having made this statement and with the technical information that many of you have referenced maybe I am better served to avoid ETTR and not worry so much about losing the shadow detail in scenes like this? Alternately, shoot a series of bracketed shots and work on improving my less than serious editorial skills?

  20. #20

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    Re: Exposing to the Right & PP

    Quote Originally Posted by ShaneS View Post
    ...maybe I am better served to avoid ETTR and not worry so much about losing the shadow detail in scenes like this? Alternately, shoot a series of bracketed shots and work on improving my less than serious editorial skills?
    Short term you could consider going old school and using a graduated ND filter to tone down the sky. But if you are going to produce this sort of scene improving your PP skills/tools will be a big help. Taking multiple frames and blending into an HDR image can also take a good bit of skill in manipulating the chosen software.

    Regarding having blown highlights when you convert to jpeg, that's pretty common. Two possibilities is that it is the nature of the 16 to8 bit conversion (assuming you're working with 16 bit in PS). Another possibility is that you have sharpening enabled as part of the conversion process. Sharpening is simply localized contrast enhancement so if you are already close to the bright end of the histogram, sharpening can push edges over the limit.

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