Any suggestions for maintaining detail with darker parts of the photo and toning down brighter part?

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
Quarkcharmed Contributing Member • Posts: 657
Re: Any suggestions for maintaining detail ....

Bill Ferris wrote:

When Quarkcharmed talks about "exposing to the highlights," he's making several unstated assumptions about what that process involves. He's assuming the photographer spot meters, center-weight meters, or highlight meters on the brightest portion of a scene,

You've written a very good explanation so far, but this statement is incorrect. I'm not just assuming, I quoted a couple of messages from this very thread and a number of articles from the web that suggest this exact method.

Moreover, you can even find it in the official camera manuals:

"If you focus your camera on the action in the city square, chances are that the sky will likely be extremely bright and lose its blues. By pointing to the sky and locking the exposure, then re-composing your frame to shoot the square, you will retain those sky blues while capturing the action below."

So it's not my assumption - people actually do execute this technique in the field.

If this is what people meant when talking about exposing to protect highlights, he'd be right that this approach will often produce a photo that's darker than we'd prefer. It wouldn't necessarily be underexposed. (The camera may use ISO to control the final appearance of the image.)

If the camera controls the auto-ISO just before the shutter actuation, then the technique is applied incorrectly - it requires locking the exposure. AE button will lock ISO along with the shutter speed and aperture.

However, I agree with those who argue this is not what people mean when they talk about exposing to protect the highlights. Typically, what is meant by that phrase is that settings are chosen to capture highlights as bright as possible without losing detail within them.

Exposing for the highlights means different things to different people with varied experience - that's the issue when it comes down to practical recommendations.

I won't say this is the same approach as expose-to-the-right (ETTR), a technique that references a histogram's representation of the number of pixels in a scene that will be fully- but not over-saturated.

That was the point - they're not the same and in general exposing for the highligts produces less exposed images than ETTR. That is, it's a less optimal technique.

However, they are at the very least similar techniques.

It depends on how they're executed exactly. Many people would start with the simple metering on the sky and locking. Some of them will then realise that the shadows are too dark so they'd use magic numbers and rules to compensate and dial the exposure up a bit. That's how I was doing it myself before learning about ETTR.

It is unfortunate that in all this debating over the semantics of ETTR vs exposing for highlights, a real opportunity is being missed to help others better understand how to use the in-camera meter as a tool in the field.

Agree, however I tried to explain (twice) how to execute ETTR in the field, which just ignores the in-camera metering modes and makes life much easier.

For example, there's a lot of talk about the pitfalls of metering on the sky. It's only a pitfall if one allows the camera to choose settings based on that reading (and without dialing in any exposure compensation). I meter off the sky all the time. On a clear sunny day, if the sky meters a full stop to +1 2/3 stops above on-meter, that's a good indication the rest of the scene will look good to me. The same is true of the light straw hued tall grasses in the meadows I frequent doing bird photography. A reading of +2/3 to +1 stop from on-meter indicates settings that will render the whole scene in a pleasing lightness. If I'm metering off the local Ponderosa pines, a reading of -2/3 to -1 stop from on-meter indicates the scene will be rendered well. If I'm photographing a black sheet of paper, an in-camera reading of -2 stops from on-meter will perfectly capture that subject.

These are perfect and practical rules of thumb, especially for action/birds etc. From the beginning, my point was

- Exposing for the highlights is less optimal than ETTR (produces underexposed images compared to ETTR)

- In landscape photography, the ETTR is actually faster and easier to do than the exposure for the highlights with magic compensation numbers that you need to memorise.

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