Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!

Started Mar 30, 2013 | Discussions thread
Tan68
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Re: Exposing to(ward) the Right
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

You did state that this is all your opinion and you believe ETTR to be bad for most photographers.  I also believe ETTR can produce undesirable results for most people that use it.  The point of your five reasons seems to be risk overexposure.  Yes.  There is increased risk of overexposure.  Overexposure meaning clipped highlights and not just a too bright image, yeah?

There can be some benefits to using ETTR and reduced noise is one.  Another is fitting all the light from your scene into one image.

I primarily expose to the right to be sure I don't block shadows.  This was important to capture all of a dynamic scene (sun, snow, grass, and trees in shadow or etc.) with cameras that have lesser dynamic range.  I find myself worrying less with ETTR now that newer cameras have greater dynamic range.

If I am using a low ISO and am not worried about noise and the scene is not very dynamic, I use whatever exposure makes me happy.  I call this the right exposure.

More with new cameras that have greater dynamic range, I find I have to set both black and white point.  Many scenes fit happily within the dynamic range of the sensor and look blah and washed out before compressing some of that dynamic range.  (in addition to reducing exposure, setting black point was always a part of processing an ETTR image but not so much white point)

I found that water, clouds, and snow didn't always look very nice with a strict, by the rules ETTR.  Even if the histogram shows no clipped channels and highlight recovery was 'successful', I felt like the finer points of things like these three were lost...  I think this is also somewhat software driven.  A recent upgrade to the RAW editor I use offers Much better handling of highlight detail whether the exposure was ETTR or not.  Anyway.

Just as some people find they do not get good results with ETTR, I find that pulling shadows too much gives me undesirable results...  I don't think I have ever considered ETTR with flash.  I suppose it is a valid technique, but I always figured having strict control of your light and the dynamic range of the scene made it less important.  However, I am not a big flash user.  Anyway, again.

I mostly expose Toward the right and not To the right.  If you aren't worried about noise, Toward might still be a thing to keep in mind if you are working with a very dynamic scene.  Exposing Toward the right versus what the meter recommends can help you capture all of a dynamic scene.  Sitting at the computer, you can decide what to do with (how to present) the information you have captured.

ETTR is a tool.  I don't think it always makes sense to use ETTR. When used, I don't think the implementation needs to be always To the right.  I think Toward the right can be helpful, as well. It is an advanced technique and that is for certain.  As you point out, it ETTR can lead to unhappy results if the photographer isn't careful.

You had a nice article going and I understand things from your point of view.  I think it is too bad you summarized things as being 'suck'.  This kinda cheapens some of the other points you are trying to make.

For your picture of the lady standing in the field, the histogram trails off to the right.  There are blocked shadows and not much detail in the ladies jacket.  Because I don't know what manipulations you made to the histogram, I am not sure how much you could have exposed to(ward) the right.

Overall, the scene looks like exposure could have been increased and I would have done this to preserve some detail in the ladies jacket...  I wouldn't have done this because I am worried about noise, I would have done it to fit as much dynamic range as possible in one image.  I would have done it because my eye would have seen detail in the lady's jacket.  To increase exposure more without making the lady's face too bright, the fill might have needed adjustment.

Consider using levels and adjust the slider to 244 or there about.  There will be some changes to the look of the grass.  You may or may not like it.  The exposure is one thing, but the white point might want a little adjustment.

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