Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene

Started Jun 26, 2011 | Discussions
rondhamalam
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Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
Jun 26, 2011

This is regarding to pulling shadows on D700 and D7000

Some people said, "Expose properly and you don't need to pull shadows".

Those people either have limited knowledge or have never tried to shoot high dynamic range scene or high contrast lighting on single shot.

On a High Dynamic Range scene it is Impossible to Expose Properly.

Dynamic Range:

In the world there are Unlimited number of conditions where the dynamic range is so high that a camera can Not capture all the tone. But human eyes can see them spontaneously.

http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Learn-more/DxOMark-scores/Sensor-scores/Use-Case-Scores

Landscape photographers often carefully compose their images and choose the optimal time to shoot. This type of photography commonly involves mounting the camera on a tripod and using the lowest possible ISO setting to minimize noise, thus maximizing image quality.

Unless there is motion, relatively long shutter speeds are not an issue with a tripod. What is paramount is dynamic range, especially because photographers will often aim for detail in high-contrast settings, juxtaposing bright sky with shadowy foliage, mountains, etc. Ideally, the dynamic range of the camera should be greater than the dynamic range of the scene, otherwise either details in shadows are lost or highlights are burned.

Dynamic range falls rapidly with higher ISO settings, as any analog or digital amplification performed will increase the noise in the darker areas, making it harder to distinguish between fine levels of contrast.

Maximum dynamic range is the greatest possible amplitude between light and dark details a given sensor can record, and is expressed in EVs (exposure values) or f-stops, with each increase of 1 EV (or one stop) corresponding to twice the amount of light.

Dynamic range corresponds to the ratio between the highest brightness a camera can capture (saturation) and the lowest brightness it can capture (typically when noise is more important than signal, i.e., a signal-to-noise ratio below 0 dB).

The question to the people who says "Expose Properly":

How can you expose properly to a very high dynamic range scene?

Camera is very limited, on high dynamic range scene it has to choose to expose on one area at a time, either on the dark area or on the bright area.

On a high dynamic range condition it cannot exposed on both (average), or otherwise all details are gone !!!

Here two examples.

I exposed properly on the girl, the picture looks nice

But hey, I lost the details of the sky I want that dramatic sky to be captured in the scene.

So I exposed "properly" to the sky.
Indeed very nice blue sky with the clouds hovering.
But .... the girl and the canoes are dark !!!!

So what to do?

For HDR shooter shoot HDR bracketing of multiple exposure files and do a hdr post processing. On some cameras they show banding (pattern noise) in shadows area when you do HDR processing from bracketing.

But hang on................. why multiple files if you can get it from one file.

As Luke Kaven said, a Better Technology (Nikon, Sony, Pentax) has been developed to give a high dynamic range capable sensor, like on D7000 (and also D700 has a good dynamic range and free from low iso banding).

Using a good dynamic range capable camera, with only "one shot", one exposure on the sky, I can lift the dark area and post process WITHOUT multiple bracketing. I still have a lot of details in the shadows area that I can lift up.

Good details are details that are not clipped (no shadows clipped nor highlights clipped), and no banding at low iso.

The process involves pulling up shadows and pulling down highlights, that called Tone-Mapping, but this time it is from only "one" RAW file.

Some crappy cameras will show banding in shadows area if you pull the shadows, but a camera with excellent Dynamic Range will have smooth details in shadows area.

'

Another example, I exposed "properly" to the boats. Damn, the sky was blown away

So I exposed "properly" to the sky. But everything else was dark.

Now with a good camera I still have a lot of details (non clipped out details) in the shadows area and in the highlights.
Again, the process involves pulling up shadows and pulling down highlights.

Back to "Dynamic range" etc, DxOmark explain them here:

http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Learn-more/DxOMark-scores/Sensor-scores/Use-Case-Scores

And comparing D700 to D7000 at low iso (below 200) the chart shows:

D700 is only 2 stops below D7000 at low iso, and goes better than D7000 at high iso. (The high iso noise is better on D700)

Notes: The D700 is far better compared to my 5D2 that has horrible low iso banding on shadows area.

This is just an example of what a good dynamic range capable camera can do.

And most of the time people with HDR experiences are easily understand the concept and the use of dynamic range on a camera.

In the world there are unlimited number of conditions where the dynamic range is so high .....

DxOmark said Dynamic Range is important for Landscape. But in fact for JOURNALISTIC and street photography where there are a lot of various "unpredictable" conditions, the Dynamic Range often becomes very important. (as well as High Iso and decent AF).

Basically a good dynamic range capable camera can capture all details on a high dynamic range scene, without clipping on highlights or shadows, with low shadow noise, and no banding.

.

.

.

comments welcome

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Chas P
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Re: Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

I fail to see what you're saying here that hasn't been said in the 'D700 owners looking over their shoulder' thread. Is there anything? By exposing to preserve highlights one can then lift the shadows, within the flexibility of the sensor and depending on the cleverness of the PP software, no?

I'm not being deliberately obtuse - I can see and appreciate the trouble you've been to with your post, I just don't get the point - unless it's a 'conclusion' to the other thread..
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=38751624

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Rick Knepper
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Ignore this kind of BS
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

rondhamalam wrote:

Some people said, "Expose properly and you don't need to pull shadows".

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msjhaffey
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Re: Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

What tool did you use to combine the exposures? Photomatix?

Did I understand correctly that you are using RAW (NEF) files to adjust the exposure on a single image?

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Ray Soares
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So with the new Nikon cameras...
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

the conclusion is : shoot raw and expose for the highlights!

And if Nikon decide to change their jpeg strategy with the new D4 to not blown highlights (PLZ NIKON) and change the jpeg engine to lift the shadows by itself ?
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rondhamalam
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Re: Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
In reply to Chas P, Jun 26, 2011

Chas P wrote:

I fail to see what you're saying here that hasn't been said in the 'D700 owners looking over their shoulder' thread. Is there anything? By exposing to preserve highlights one can then lift the shadows, within the flexibility of the sensor and depending on the cleverness of the PP software, no?

I'm not being deliberately obtuse - I can see and appreciate the trouble you've been to with your post, I just don't get the point - unless it's a 'conclusion' to the other thread..

Although this subject is already discussed, but I would like to look from different context.

It's not for D7000 and D700 only, but I'd like to talk about dynamic range in general, and to highlight when people said pulling up shadows can be replace with proper exposure, where in fact it cannot.

In some extent you are right, this is a kind of conclusion.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=38751624

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rondhamalam
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Re: Ignore this kind of BS
In reply to Rick Knepper, Jun 26, 2011

Rick Knepper wrote:

rondhamalam wrote:

Some people said, "Expose properly and you don't need to pull shadows".

I agree. That's what I would like to show that they are wrong.
People saying "Expose properly and you don't need to pull shadows" are wrong.

We still need to pull shadows up and pull highlights down for high dynamic range photo.

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rondhamalam
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Steve Bingham "Luminosity Mask" is better
In reply to msjhaffey, Jun 26, 2011

msjhaffey wrote:

Did I understand correctly that you are using RAW (NEF) files to adjust the exposure on a single image?

Yes I have to use RAW (NEF) to resotre all the details in the shadows.

For comparison:

JPEG is 8bit data in each channel, it means 2^8 = 256 tonal luminance
RAW on 16bit has 2^16 = 65536 tonal luminance
RAW on 32bit has 2^32 = 4294967296 tonal luminance gradation

The normal RAW (NEF) has 16bit data
Merged HDR can have 32bit data

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What tool did you use to combine the exposures? Photomatix?

1. Photomatix: I open the file and tone-map in photomatix.

2. ACR or Lightroom: I push Fill-Light up to 100 depends on the need and sometimes increase Exposure.
Be careful with edge boundaries, you need to clone them out if needed.

3. Luminosity Mask: Combination between no.2 and a second layer of Opening with ACR normally (to get dark sky). And then combine those layers using Steve Bingham method of Luminosity Mask. Again be careful with edge boundaries, you need to clone them out if needed.

I quoted below, the Steve Bingham method

rondhamalam wrote:

Steve Bingham wrote:

http://dustylens.com/luminosity_mask.htm

Thank's Steve. I used your method a lot on my D700
and other cameras

Here D5100, I used Steve Bingham method "The Luminosity Mask" step by step with improvisation:

1. Open the Original photo in photoshop

2. Open the same file with exposure increased by (either or both):
Fill Light +100
Exposure +1

3. Put the Original photo layer on top of Brightened photo layer
(Shift + drag it to the target photo)

4. Control + Alt + "Tilde key" on old Photoshop.
(in CS5 you will use Control+Alt+2 or Control+Alt+3)
This automatically places a luminosity mask in place.
You will see the infamous marching ants:

5. Create layer mask by clicking this symbol

Look that the result needs further PP

6. Edit the Mask
(Alt + click the mask icon)

7. Menu Image Adjustments "Levels" (Ctrl + L)
And then shift this slider to the left to brighten highlights

8. Blur the mask with Gaussian Blur (level 2 or 3)

9. Further image adjustment

Brush the mask black or white
And do further PP as necessary

10. Final Result

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rondhamalam
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras... Anti ETTR
In reply to Ray Soares, Jun 26, 2011

Ray Soares wrote:

the conclusion is : shoot raw and expose for the highlights!

Exactly

100% agree with you

This thought has been going inside my head for months now. I am thinking of making and article about "Anti ETTR"

In the old days people were advised to Expose To The Right (ETTR) to avoid shadow noise. It means expose to the right side of the histogram (everything looks bright), then with PP to pull down the highlights.

But since I have a play with D7000 sensor (fitted on D5100 body ) I found out that the noise in the shadows was very low that I didn't have to follow ETTR anymore. And in the contrary I can expose to the left.

You are absolutely right, expose for the highlights (expose to the LEFT) where everything will look dark, then in PP pull the shadows up.

And if Nikon decide to change their jpeg strategy with the new D4 to not blown highlights (PLZ NIKON) and change the jpeg engine to lift the shadows by itself ?

That would be a great implementation.

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xrdbear
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras...
In reply to Ray Soares, Jun 26, 2011

It all makes you wonder how landscape photography was possible before 2008. If only I had had high speed bracketing on my Brownie 127.

Although I use HDR with bracketing myself the majority of landscapes fortunately lend themselves to correction with an ND grad or the software equivalent. In fact there is nothing to stop us using the ND grad with HDR to make it easier for the software.
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Chas P
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Re: Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

Thanks for your response - I thought I might have missed something. Happy shooting.
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xrdbear
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras... Anti ETTR
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

rondhamalam wrote:

This thought has been going inside my head for months now. I am thinking of making and article about "Anti ETTR"

In the old days people were advised to Expose To The Right (ETTR) to avoid shadow noise. It means expose to the right side of the histogram (everything looks bright), then with PP to pull down the highlights.

But since I have a play with D7000 sensor (fitted on D5100 body ) I found out that the noise in the shadows was very low that I didn't have to follow ETTR anymore. And in the contrary I can expose to the left.

You are absolutely right, expose for the highlights (expose to the LEFT) where everything will look dark, then in PP pull the shadows up.

I'm sorry I don't see what is supposed to be wrong with ETTR. Using ETTR you maximise the available DR of the sensor, minimise shadow noise, minimise posterisation in the shadows and preserve the highlights. What's more to like?

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Meuh
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras...
In reply to Ray Soares, Jun 26, 2011

Why do you have to wait for nikon to do this?

Most camera's jpg options are fairly customizable.

If your shooting jpg and your highlights keep getting blow, setup a -ev comp on the setting you are using till the highlights are ok. As for pulling the shadows.. use D-lighting at high and adjust the contrast and things in the jpg settings to pull the shadows.

I don't know about other nikons other than the d3 and It was fairly limiting with in camera options but you can load custom profiles? So maby you could set one of them up to boost shadows.

With the k5 I have now, I can set my camera to shoot jpg's with a crazy amount of dynamic range. I use pentaxs version of d-lighting to max, lower contrast and I also get the option to boost shadows and reduce highlights with its camera jpg settings.

The thing with this is that pictures can start to look flat, I remember doing a shot in my wee studio and I forgot the camera was set to the above jpg options, On doing a preview of my lighting with one light.. I had no shadows!! (I do have alot of bounce light from low cleaning and stuff) but putting it back to normal I had my shadows back and I could see where my light was hitting :). I shoot raw but jpg settings do affect the preview/histogram.

Ray Soares wrote:

the conclusion is : shoot raw and expose for the highlights!

And if Nikon decide to change their jpeg strategy with the new D4 to not blown highlights (PLZ NIKON) and change the jpeg engine to lift the shadows by itself ?
Best
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Ray Soares

See my pictures at http://www.pbase.com/raysoares

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dwight3
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Re: Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

rondhamalam wrote:

...On a High Dynamic Range scene it is Impossible to Expose Properly...

That's probably a good definition of "High Dynamic Range"

...And comparing D700 to D7000 at low iso (below 200) the chart shows:

So there's 14ev of dynamic range at best in that chart. Any more than that in the scene and bracketing will be the only way to go.

Personally, I do a lot of bracketing on important shots. Not only because I am trying to get around dynamic range issues, but just to nail the exposure on the medium dynamic range shots. Bracketing takes much less time than chimping and trying to examine the histogram (which is a linear display and doesn't show enough detail on my monitor to recognize blown highlights or clipped shadows when they apply to very small areas). And once you get past the capital cost, digital photos are free (not including printing).

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rondhamalam
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras... Anti ETTR
In reply to xrdbear, Jun 26, 2011

xrdbear wrote:

rondhamalam wrote:

This thought has been going inside my head for months now. I am thinking of making and article about "Anti ETTR"

In the old days people were advised to Expose To The Right (ETTR) to avoid shadow noise. It means expose to the right side of the histogram (everything looks bright), then with PP to pull down the highlights.

But since I have a play with D7000 sensor (fitted on D5100 body ) I found out that the noise in the shadows was very low that I didn't have to follow ETTR anymore. And in the contrary I can expose to the left.

You are absolutely right, expose for the highlights (expose to the LEFT) where everything will look dark, then in PP pull the shadows up.

I'm sorry I don't see what is supposed to be wrong with ETTR. Using ETTR you maximise the available DR of the sensor, minimise shadow noise, minimise posterisation in the shadows and preserve the highlights. What's more to like?

Sorry for loud thinking.... and loud title

Nothing's wrong with ETTR.

ETTR still always work very well, and even better on a good dynamic range sensors.

What I mean is with new development of large dynamic range sensor there will be some points where we don't have to worry about noise anymore and we don't need the ETTR.

I think someone (Luke?) called it ISOLESS sensor.

Probably we are not quiet there yet. But using D700 sensor I seldom think about ETTR, and now with D7000/D5100 it's even better.

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rondhamalam
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Re: Expose Properly is Impossible on High Dynamic Range scene
In reply to dwight3, Jun 26, 2011

dwight3 wrote:

rondhamalam wrote:

...On a High Dynamic Range scene it is Impossible to Expose Properly...

That's probably a good definition of "High Dynamic Range"

...And comparing D700 to D7000 at low iso (below 200) the chart shows:

So there's 14ev of dynamic range at best in that chart. Any more than that in the scene and bracketing will be the only way to go.

I agree. I still have to do bracketing too.

The 7 to 9 exposure bracketing create smooth gradation between pixels and an assurance there is no clipping. Now with the new sensor of 14EV there is possibility to be able to only have 3 exposures with 4EV steps to capture all tonal luminance. Unfortunately D5100 maximum steps in bracketing is only 2EV.

Personally, I do a lot of bracketing on important shots. Not only because I am trying to get around dynamic range issues, but just to nail the exposure on the medium dynamic range shots. Bracketing takes much less time than chimping and trying to examine the histogram (which is a linear display and doesn't show enough detail on my monitor to recognize blown highlights or clipped shadows when they apply to very small areas). And once you get past the capital cost, digital photos are free (not including printing).

There were times when I saw single shot quasy HDR was sharper than bracketing HDR in handheld HDR. But then it's depend on the processing to match the pictures out of shaking camera. Tripod will help but portability is less than if only camera to go.

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rondhamalam
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras...
In reply to Meuh, Jun 26, 2011

Meuh wrote:

Why do you have to wait for nikon to do this?

Most camera's jpg options are fairly customizable.

If your shooting jpg and your highlights keep getting blow, setup a -ev comp on the setting you are using till the highlights are ok. As for pulling the shadows.. use D-lighting at high and adjust the contrast and things in the jpg settings to pull the shadows.

I don't know about other nikons other than the d3 and It was fairly limiting with in camera options but you can load custom profiles? So maby you could set one of them up to boost shadows.

With the k5 I have now, I can set my camera to shoot jpg's with a crazy amount of dynamic range. I use pentaxs version of d-lighting to max, lower contrast and I also get the option to boost shadows and reduce highlights with its camera jpg settings.

Interesting the ADL level in your k5.

Does ADL affect Raw?

If ADL only affect Jpeg do we still have enough latitude to do further processing since Jpeg retain much less data than Raw?

The thing with this is that pictures can start to look flat, I remember doing a shot in my wee studio and I forgot the camera was set to the above jpg options, On doing a preview of my lighting with one light.. I had no shadows!! (I do have alot of bounce light from low cleaning and stuff) but putting it back to normal I had my shadows back and I could see where my light was hitting :). I shoot raw but jpg settings do affect the preview/histogram.

Ray Soares wrote:

the conclusion is : shoot raw and expose for the highlights!

And if Nikon decide to change their jpeg strategy with the new D4 to not blown highlights (PLZ NIKON) and change the jpeg engine to lift the shadows by itself ?
Best
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Ray Soares

See my pictures at http://www.pbase.com/raysoares

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Ray Soares
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Good point...
In reply to Meuh, Jun 26, 2011

With my D7000 I'm now :
1- Expose for highlights

2- Set ADL to normal always (in harsh conditions in sunny days I even set it to high or extra -high)
3- I still shoot raw for further pp
4- Also still use a CPL filter to cut haze

Like here (pano of 5 images with the 24mm f1.4 G) THIS IS NOT A HDR:

Best
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Robin Casady
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras... Anti ETTR
In reply to rondhamalam, Jun 26, 2011

rondhamalam wrote:

Ray Soares wrote:

the conclusion is : shoot raw and expose for the highlights!

Exactly

100% agree with you

This thought has been going inside my head for months now. I am thinking of making and article about "Anti ETTR"

In the old days people were advised to Expose To The Right (ETTR) to avoid shadow noise. It means expose to the right side of the histogram (everything looks bright), then with PP to pull down the highlights.

But since I have a play with D7000 sensor (fitted on D5100 body ) I found out that the noise in the shadows was very low that I didn't have to follow ETTR anymore. And in the contrary I can expose to the left.

You are absolutely right, expose for the highlights (expose to the LEFT) where everything will look dark, then in PP pull the shadows up.

To me, ETTR and "expose for the highlights" are the same thing. Using UniWB, I read the RGB histograms to insure that highlights are not blown, and there is little or no gap to the right.

There is more to ETTR than just shadow noise. The claim I've seen in various places is that the gradations are better handled at the higher end of the numbering system (highlights) than at the lower end. According to this theory, ETTL will give you lower IQ and the posiblility of banding in subtle gradations, such as the sky.
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rondhamalam
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Re: So with the new Nikon cameras... Anti ETTR
In reply to Robin Casady, Jun 26, 2011

Robin Casady wrote:

rondhamalam wrote:

Ray Soares wrote:

the conclusion is : shoot raw and expose for the highlights!

Exactly

100% agree with you

This thought has been going inside my head for months now. I am thinking of making and article about "Anti ETTR"

In the old days people were advised to Expose To The Right (ETTR) to avoid shadow noise. It means expose to the right side of the histogram (everything looks bright), then with PP to pull down the highlights.

But since I have a play with D7000 sensor (fitted on D5100 body ) I found out that the noise in the shadows was very low that I didn't have to follow ETTR anymore. And in the contrary I can expose to the left.

You are absolutely right, expose for the highlights (expose to the LEFT) where everything will look dark, then in PP pull the shadows up.

To me, ETTR and "expose for the highlights" are the same thing. Using UniWB, I read the RGB histograms to insure that highlights are not blown, and there is little or no gap to the right.

Hi Rob, yes maybe that's what Ray meant.

But my perception when Ray said expose for highlights was to let the camera meters the highlights, so that the picture will be ETTL. (expose to the left), AKA dark.

There is more to ETTR than just shadow noise. The claim I've seen in various places is that the gradations are better handled at the higher end of the numbering system (highlights) than at the lower end.

Is it?
How does it work? (the numbering things)

According to this theory, ETTL will give you lower IQ and the posiblility of banding in subtle gradations, such as the sky.

Is that so?

Well, I know a different kind of banding when you pull shadows up, it's a pattern noise banding hidden in shadows area at low iso.

On my 5D2 the banding at iso100-400 in shadows area will begin to show up when fill-light is only 60. I have to be careful with this camera.

But amazingly on D700 the shadow detail resolving capability is excellent, I tried to show it on this thread with fill light 100:
(The test is easy to reproduce)
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=37764276

And on D7000/D5100 sensor the shadows recovery is even better at low iso (iso 100 - 400), I tested here with fill light 100:

TEST for Fill Light:
I have D5100 pulling shadows up test result here

pull shadows up with Fill Light 100 on ACR

result (direct) low noise and no banding

after topaz denoise,
totally smooth with retained details

Th important thing is it has no banding (pattern noise). Because banding is very difficult to remove, while "random" noise is easy to remove with software.

It's from the same thread as above.

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