Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!

Started Mar 30, 2013 | Discussions
Tan68
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Re: Not Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD
In reply to wchutt, Mar 31, 2013

wchutt wrote:

... This is difficult because practically all in-camera histograms are only estimate the real, but unknown, exposure since the histograms are computed from from JPEGs.

research 'uni-whitebalance'.  you end up with a truly pants photo, but using uni-WB very much decreases the chances of clipping a channel.

the photo is pants because it will be green.  proper WB is restored later.  obviously, this is a RAW-required technique.

if getting the most out of ETTR is important, the Uni-WB setting could be saved as a preset and used when necessary. you will likely want a gray card or something to set WB, too.

Personally, I have become happy with expose 'toward' the right with newer cameras as there are fewer times when i feel like i need to put a histogram against the right stops either for DR or noise control.  so, i have only experimented with Uni-WB.  once.  it didn't mean anything.  honest.  we were both just drunk..

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Ysarex
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Re: (ETTR) is BAD! But saying so is going to get you a lot of flack
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

Sovern wrote:

I agree, I gave ETTR a try but honestly beginners are better off nailing the exposure in their camer as much as possible and learning how the histogram should look in camera for a specific scene vs worrying about keeping everything on the right.

Nailing an exposure means getting the exposure that produces the very best final result. In digital photography the best final result comes from as much exposure as possible without clipping the highlights. That's a well established fact based on hard science.

If you're a beginner and don't have the skill to control your equipment with precision then you can be more conservative and not worry. You won't get the very best result but you'll still have very usable photos. So you honestly gave ETTR a try and backed down. You're entitled to do that just as we're entitled to master it and get that best possible final result if that's what we want to do.

This also keeps you safer from over exposing your photos which is the main thing that I mention that is a con from ETTR (You're more prone to losing your highlights).

Producing the best possible photo isn't about being safe it's about applying the effort and developing the skill to be accurate.

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Tan68
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Re: Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!
In reply to MarkInSF, Mar 31, 2013

MarkInSF wrote:

It's a fairly minor cult.

a cult of reciprocity eccentricity.

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tko
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explain please
In reply to drh681, Mar 31, 2013

You haven't said why it is bad. You haven't explained what would replace it.

It seems to what you are saying is that since cameras are better, we can afford to be more sloppy.

drh681 wrote:

As you have found.

ETTR was a good Idea back in the early days of digital imaging.

I was there. It was a fair solution.

But that was then, this is now.

And imaging sensors and the accompanying Processing Engines are many, many times better. There has also been an equal improvement in noise reduction capability in our editing programs.

All that adds up to ETTR being a technique that has outlived its practical life.

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Ysarex
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Re: (ETTR) is BAD! But saying so is going to get you a lot of flack
In reply to drh681, Mar 31, 2013

drh681 wrote:

As you have found.

ETTR was a good Idea back in the early days of digital imaging.

I was there. It was a fair solution.

But that was then, this is now.

And imaging sensors and the accompanying Processing Engines are many, many times better. There has also been an equal improvement in noise reduction capability in our editing programs.

All that adds up to ETTR being a technique that has outlived its practical life.

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The principle behind ETTR is just as valid now as it has always been. Yes, the camera JPEG engines have improved and now deliver much more consistent mediocrity. The very best is still exactly that: the best. This sounds like willingness to settles for good enough. Striving for excellence never gets outlived.

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Guidenet
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Why? There's no point.
In reply to tko, Mar 31, 2013

tko wrote:

You haven't said why it is bad. You haven't explained what would replace it.

It seems to what you are saying is that since cameras are better, we can afford to be more sloppy.

drh681 wrote:

As you have found.

ETTR was a good Idea back in the early days of digital imaging.

I was there. It was a fair solution.

But that was then, this is now.

And imaging sensors and the accompanying Processing Engines are many, many times better. There has also been an equal improvement in noise reduction capability in our editing programs.

All that adds up to ETTR being a technique that has outlived its practical life.

Nobody seems to say whether it is good or bad and I think that is important. It's simply a technique not a religion. In the early days of digital we had a real problem with noise and dynamic range. Much of that problem has been solved at the hardware and software level. If we choose we can ease down on the many techniques we developed as work-arounds in those days. It doesn't mean we're getting sloppy. That's a negative term you're using to avoid what he said. It's not appropriate either.

Moreover, I'm not siding with either as I chose other ways to overcome the noise and dynamic range barriers in the past. I learned various blending, tone mapping and compression techniques I prefer to this day. Nobody is right or wrong here. With today's better cameras and software, I don't need to do as many of these techniques I've learned in order to gain the dynamic range I wanted. Today, I can use those techniques more as an option and for a certain look I may desire.

The same is true of ETTR techniques. The need is not as strong as it was in the past. Some have chosen not to use it much or to use it less. That doesn't mean they're sloppy. It just means they've decided to expend their energies in some other way.

Does that mean there's no reason to use ETTR anymore or HDR techniques? No, of course not. It means we have more tools in our toolkits. It means we aren't forced to use these as often as we did. It means that in many images, we don't need to eke out anymore dynamic range. We have plenty. It means many of us can concentrate on other aspects of exposure and image development.

This petty bickering between two or more ways to handle DR and noise is a bit ridiculous and also both sides pretty much agree the OP and his blog were wrong. So, let's not get into name calling and using phrases like "we can afford to be more sloppy." There's no reason to insult our fellow photographers, especially on personal opinions and techniques that are not fact.

Take care.

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Barrie Davis
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I agree that ETTR is a strategy of failure...
In reply to JulesJ, Mar 31, 2013

... but NOT for the reasons given in the blog, which do not concern themselves with actual ETTR...

.... but with overexposure...(which is different).

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Tan68
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Re: Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

Sovern wrote:

I didn't read any name calling.

There was an 'idiot' tossed in along the way.  A moderator removed that.  I would like to thank the mod for taking the extra time to review the thread rather than close it.  I think there are some good comments in here...  I don't even know what forum I am in.  I joined, uninvited, from the list of most active threads.

...This also makes your workflow easier as you don;t need to fiddle around and figure out what the correct exposure is since you overexposed using ETTR.

I read this to mean that with ETTR  you must later determine the correct exposure and make adjustments.  I agree with that; fiddling required.  I also read it to imply that not using ETTR relieves you of having to figure out the correct exposure later.  I am not sure I agree with that.  Not 100%.

Not using ETTR can relieve you of later having to make gross adjustments to exposure.  But relying on the camera meter doesn't always get you the best or correct exposure.  Metering systems have gotten really good, but there are times they will make the wrong choice for your scene.

Occasionally, you might read someone complaing that their camera always clips highlights or this brand is really good at protecting highlights.  Or, whatever.  It is all based on how the meter is set up in the camera.  They are all mostly the same, I think, but not exactly the same...

I mention this because you believe it is wrong to ETTR blindly, always, and without reason.  I agree.  But it is also wrong to blindly, always, and without reason believe the meter.  As a beginning point, the meter is great, but I wouldn't want a beginner to advance believing the meter is always right.  Part of the education is knowing when to walk away from the meter.

The light in your scene is represented by the histogram.  You can slide that histogram right or left depending upon the effect you want.  High key, low key, worried about noise, fitting in all the DR, whatever.  You control where you put the light on that histogram graph.  Where you put the light dictates what you do in post processing. Digital is so great.

It used to be expose for the shadows and then develop for the highlights.  Digital is a bit backwards in that it is expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows.  Either method may be more bother than a casual photographer cares to undertake.  Both are valid methods for the photo technician.  Some people drive a car and are happy with the shift points an automatic selects.  Others shift to keep the engine in the power band.  :^)   Both are driving a car and neither are 'wrong'.

I shot a paid event in NY on New Years where we had to print JPEG on location and we had to get it right in the camera....which I did succeed in.

Then ETTR would have been the wrong tool to use.

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antoineb
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Where do they teach this? Just shoot raw and be done with it...
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

Sovern wrote:

I see a lot of new photographers learning about exposure and then quickly being told that they should use a method of exposure called Exposing to the Right (or rather, ETTL). I went into depth as to why in my opinion, ETTR is bad, and especially bad for new photographers that want to develop a consistent base for their ability to get correct exposure correctly the first time around with worrying about losing highlights.

Me personally, I believe in getting the exposure/shot correct the first time in the camera and exposing properly versus to the right as many benefits as shown in the article presented below.

http://warrenjrphotography.com/blogs/

This is also the beginning of articles that are aimed at enthusiast/beginning photographers that want to learn more and discuss various techniques, philosophies regarding what gear you need, lighting, and so on.

Thanks for viewing all the best.

Not sure I understand why the anguish about this.

Where to they teach to expose to the right?  And why use such old language and not just say, "overexpose"?

And why should it matter at all?  Just shoot raw and be done with it.

To me, possibly ignorant but still taking perhaps 15'000 shots a year, you sound like you're over-anguishing over a non-issue?

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tko
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you ARE the beginneer
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

You been around for a whole year and now your writing articles blasting decades of knowledge, and posting them in multiple forums?

You're blowing the highlights because of a lack of experience. An experienced user can ETTR and keep the highlights. Same with your flash exposure problem. It's really not that hard. Those are learning issues on your side.

What you are doing is shooting under benign conditions (studio, portrait, product), probably with a low ISO, and exposing conservatively to make sure you are save the highlights. Nothing really wrong with that, it's a good all around, 1st step approach.

However, that doesn't mean ETTR is wrong. It's more of an advanced skill after you master the basics. It allows you to shoot in more difficult circumstances. Shooting at high ISO for example, and keeping the noise done. Shooting wide dynamic range. Getting the post image quality for post processing.

First step is to get rid of the "get in right in the camera" mentality. That's a meaningless phrase. The camera doesn't know what you want.

Listen. I'm sure you mean well. You tried ETTR, didn't work for you, you got frustrated and wrote an article. But the article only applies to your learning experience at your point in your career.

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!
In reply to JulesJ, Mar 31, 2013

JulesJ wrote:

Sovern wrote:

I see a lot of new photographers learning about exposure and then quickly being told that they should use a method of exposure called Exposing to the Right (or rather, ETTL). I went into depth as to why in my opinion, ETTR is bad, and especially bad for new photographers that want to develop a consistent base for their ability to get correct exposure correctly the first time around with worrying about losing highlights.

Me personally, I believe in getting the exposure/shot correct the first time in the camera and exposing properly versus to the right as many benefits as shown in the article presented below.

http://warrenjrphotography.com/blogs/

This is also the beginning of articles that are aimed at enthusiast/beginning photographers that want to learn more and discuss various techniques, philosophies regarding what gear you need, lighting, and so on.

Thanks for viewing all the best.

That's a stupid article. His whole premise us based on your image being over exposed and he keeps using those two words. I was taught about shooting to the right by landscape photographer David Ward, and it made sense to me. One does not over expose. The type of image that you can use this method is any exposure whos histogram does not use up the whole width of your histogram space. IF it suits to the left of your graph with a space to tight right, then and only then should you re expose to move it to the right so that it dips down and to the right and exits as near as poss to th bottom right hand corner. Every band to the right on the histogram holds twice as much information as the le to the left. So it makes sense, if you have the choice and your histogram isn't initially using up the whole width, to move it to the right.

Jules,

1) If there is NO free space to the right of the histogram into which ETTR can take place, it is still perfectly possible to increase the signal to noise ratio. It is done by simply exposing at a lower ISO....

-(and, incidentally, doesn't need any messing about afterwards in post processing)-

2) Indeed, the process of ETTR is, itself, only ever "exposing at a lower ISO," even when there IS free space to the right into which the histogram silhouette can be shifted, since the ONLY way to shift that histogram is to use a longer shutter speed or wider aperture...(lower effective ISO)

3) Because of this, photography might as well ALWAYS be done at the lowest (practical) ISO, and this be used as a routine mechanism for reducing image noise....(the stated aim of ETTR)...

-(BTW, it IS what I do, as a matter of course and without having to think about it)-

4)... and nobody need bother themselves with this "Exposing to the Right" nonsense ever again!

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jwkphoto
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Re: (ETTR) is BAD! How Tim Grey does it!
In reply to Ysarex, Mar 31, 2013

I know this may sound very old fashioned but when I make a portrait for a customer I photograph in manual mode and I use a flash meter to measure the background light and a separate reading for the flash. This way I get a perfect exposure every time.

As for ETTR, this is a reply from Tim Grey a few days ago on this subject. If you haven't already, I suggest all photographers here sign up for his daily newsletter at http://www.timgrey.com/asktimgrey/

Today's Question: In a recent Ask Tim Grey question about exposing to the right, I have a question. When you are shooting this way are you using aperture preferred and evaluative/matrix metering or manual and spot metering to the brightest part?

Tim's Answer: It actually doesn't matter how you establish your exposure settings, only what those settings end up being.
Exposing to the right simply means you are exposing an image as brightly as possible without losing highlight detail. In other words, the histogram display will be shifted to the right, but without clipping and without any "blinkies" indicating lost highlight detail in the preview image on your camera's LCD.
Exposure is the product of three settings: lens aperture, shutter speed, and ISO setting. Metering modes and exposure modes are simply a method of establishing those settings. In manual mode you take full control over all three settings, and thus bear the responsibility for evaluating the scene, the metering, and other factors to determine the optimal settings.
With aperture priority mode, you specify the aperture and the ISO, and the camera establishes the shutter speed based on the metering, which of course depends upon the metering mode you've selected.
Which metering mode and exposure mode you choose only changes how you go about establishing your exposure settings. If you assume a fixed ISO and aperture, there is only one right shutter speed if we assume an "expose to the right" goal for the exposure. The question then becomes, what is the fastest or more efficient or most dependable method of achieving that proper exposure. There is no one right answer about which approach you should take (despite what some photographers might suggest).
I personally use aperture priority mode and evaluative metering mode the vast majority of the time, utilizing exposure compensation to shift the exposure as needed based on how the meter handles the scene. Over my many years of photography I've gotten to be pretty good at anticipating what exposure compensation I need for a given situation, so this approach works very well for me.
In situations where I am photographing a specific subject against a changing background (for example, a bird in flight) then I'll utilize manual exposure mode, because it is much more likely that I'll want to ignore the camera's metering as the background (and thus overall tonality of the scene) changes. As long as the light remains consistent, the exposure for the subject doesn't change (or doesn't change much), and thus the exposure settings will tend to remain more fixed. Manual exposure mode is obviously helpful in this type of situation.
But these approaches under various circumstances simply make sense to me. Other photographers prefer a different approach. And that's perfectly fine. Whatever approach enables you to quickly establish optimal exposure settings with confidence is a good method. I think the most important thing is to maintain an understanding of the behavior of your camera and the various modes available. For example, you want to understand how the evaluative metering mode behaves compared to the spot metering mode, so you can anticipate when you need to override the camera's opinion about exposure. In other words, as always, knowing your equipment can make all the difference in the world.

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Tan68
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Re: Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

Sovern wrote:

sometimes shutter speed is increased to then decrease the brightness of the background relative to the flash-lit subject.  if you want to maintain the same intensity on the subject, you may need to increase flash intensity on the subject.  no flash doesn't care about shutter, but if you noticeably reduce the contribution of ambient light... this can make flash setting more complicated, maybe.

exposing to (or toward) the right will increase the brightness of not-flash-lit elements.  of course.  i haven't read much about this technique; most people want to dim the background, it seems.  or just leave it alone.  manipulating things to have a slower shutter is dragging.  i figure you know this.

if you drag the shutter enough to noticeably increase the contribution of ambient, you may need to decrease flash on your subject.  as with arranging things to de-emphasize, it might require a little more work.

i believe more people try to de-emphasize the background by increasing the shutter.  the best reason i can think of to expose right (or dragging) is to capture different elements of your composition.  with your lady in the field, exposing right would help retain detail in the jacket.  however, i think most flash users would just use another flash on the jacket...

Still, exposing toward the right (maybe not strict ETTR) can still be a tool for flash users.  maybe the picture is being taken in the evening and you would like to artificially 'light' your background a bit.  you would do this by exposing.. toward the right.  it might be called dragging the shutter but you are exposing the background 'to the right' relative to what the meter recommends to lighten up your evening background.

of course, you can drag and still have a 'proper' metered exposure.

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MrMojo
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You're Preaching To The Choir As Far As I Am Concerned...
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

... but you are wasting your time putting forth your heretical viewpoint on the DP Review forum.

I suggest that if you insist on playing Don Quixote tilting at windmills to the myriad theoretical photographers who populate this forum that you spend the extra time required to clean-up your spelling and grammar errors.

You are providing your critics with an easy way to attack your argument. It is much easier to criticize incorrect spelling and parse posts ad nauseum than to spend the time to offer a thoughtful and insightful rebuttal. Even the best-written posts are carefully examined for possible minor inconsistencies because it's the easiest recourse for the intellectually lazy among us.

If you have a problem with spelling and grammar take advantage of the computer tools available to improve your writing and check your spelling. I've been working at improving my writing skills for over 50 years and I still use a dictionary and Internet-based tools to confirm my spelling and grammar every day.

Keep in mind that many of your readers come from one of two camps: there are those who cannot be bothered to focus on any subject for longer than a minute and who respond to posts with attempts at being clever that take maybe 30 seconds to compose. (A subset of this group rely on ad hominem responses.)  Then there are the forum regulars who seemingly have an abundant amount of free time to endlessly argue their points. Their responses are considerably longer and they are experts at the parsing I mentioned earlier. You will never, ever convince them that your viewpoint is a valid one. But you can wind up wasting an incredible amount of precious time attempting to do so...

You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by simply ignoring those respondents who fall into either camp. This forum has a neat tool that makes it one-click easy so you never again have to wade through the dross. Don't fall into the trap of false equivalency; just because someone can type a response doesn't mean that their viewpoint is worthy of consideration. You are not obligated to regard as valid rude, argumentative and poorly thought-out posts. You'll know them when you read them; follow your instincts and don't validate the authors by responding. They are desperate for attention; let someone else do it.

That leaves a tiny fraction of forum participants who will take the time to compose a genuine response to what you have written. They may not agree with you but they will demonstrate that they actually read and thought carefully about what you wrote. They don't rely on the tricks of the Internet forum trade and they may give you something to think about that you hadn't previously considered.

I've been taking pictures professionally for over thirty years, have taken some excellent pro-level courses and I've read a lot books and articles to learn all I can about our craft. And yet there are certain people on this forum that I enjoy reading because there is a good chance that I will learn something new from them. Photography will always be evolving and I am in it for the long haul. (Read about Ansel Adams to learn how a master photographer continued to learn and grow in his craft until he died in his 80s.)

Be sure to take a look at alternative photo forums where the quality of the discourse is more consistent. Forums associated with professional photographer groups are generally a good bet particularly if they do not allow anonymous posts. People tend to put more time into their writing and exhibit better online manners when their name is attached to what they post.

Frankly, I think that your time would be better spent creating images than defending yourself on a photography forum. But if you are compelled to share your insights on an Internet forum I hope that you will think about what I have written. There are ways to make the forum experience more meaningful and pleasant for yourself and your readers. Avail yourself of the readily available tools so you can get the most out of it.

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alexisgreat
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Re: why exposing to the right may be bad
In reply to MrMojo, Mar 31, 2013

I've found that although highlights may not be blown, colors might be washed out- perhaps individual color channels get clipped? Regardless, I've always found that any amount of over-exposure washes out colors- like taking pics in bright sunlight.  I favor a slight underexposure. I dont give a damn about shadows, for all I care let them clip to black- the picture looks better that way anyway (less noise.)  I favor a slight underexposure, because colors seem richer.

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alexisgreat
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Re: (ETTR) is BAD! But saying so is going to get you a lot of flack
In reply to apaflo, Mar 31, 2013

No one cares about noise- just clip the shadows to black and you've fixed your noise problem.  If you insist on maintaining shadow detail than do HDR. I for one do not care at all what happens in the shadows.

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alexisgreat
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Re: why the cult of ETTR needs to END
In reply to apaflo, Mar 31, 2013

even if you arent clipping highlights you are still washing out your colors- ETTR is now nothing more than a cult and well outlived its usefulness- anyone that hangs on to it has outlived THEIR usefulness.

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Re: Where do they teach this? Just shoot raw and be done with it...
In reply to antoineb, Mar 31, 2013

Exactly- always shoot in RAW and all this is moot anyway.  And then you can adjust the exposure however it pleases you in PP, not what some internet cultist tells you to do.  Use your own brain, not theirs.

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iJoost
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Re: Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is BAD!
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

You seem to be confusing "over exposing" in the sense of "a positive exposure compensation" (which is what may happen when you ETTR) with "over exposing" in the sense of "blown out highlights" (which is what should never happen if you ETTR properly).

They are not the same. The second one is indeed bad news. But the first just helps in bringing home aa much information/detail as possible in your pixels.

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WalterSrChat
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Re: Why Exposing to the Right (ETTR) Tutorials!
In reply to Sovern, Mar 31, 2013

Expose to the right

http://laurencekim.com/2008/06/22/tutorial-expose-to-the-right/

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/expose-right.shtml

Read and Learn

Walter Sr

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