To ETTR or not to ETTR...?

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Jeepit Regular Member • Posts: 168
To ETTR or not to ETTR...?

Never had to do this back in the film days; so how important is it now?  Do you or don't you ETTR (expose to the right)?

Thanks...

Rick

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Adielle
Adielle Senior Member • Posts: 1,723
Better ETTL
6

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

TomFid Veteran Member • Posts: 3,187
Re: Better ETTL
11

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

Clipping is certainly worse than underexposure, because you can't get it back.

However, when shooting raw, I find that I rarely if ever clip, but relatively often wish I'd given something a little more exposure. When you bang the histogram to the right, there's still some headroom in the raw file. So I do try to ETTR.

TN Args
TN Args Veteran Member • Posts: 8,434
ETTR rules
13

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

ETTR is the art of NOT clipping or squeezing desired highlights. Once you understand it, that's obvious.

Level 1 ETTR: JPEG histogram.

Level 2 ETTR: raw histogram. Once you learn to do this, best IQ in terms of noise and colour is attained.

Cheers

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Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 32,478
Re: Better ETTL

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

Using the Olympus blinkies set to 255,0 and if the screen shows a few insignificant over-exposed spots then the raw file just about always turns out with no saturated pixels. The jpeg highlight warning appears to be quite conservative.

If in doubt then setting a "permanent" minus 0.3EV is a safe bet for more reliable jpegs. Up to the E-PL5 and E-P5 I always needed any camera to have that minus 0.3EV, but the Oly pair have been good at 0 correction, with only occasional need to play with exposure compensation.

Regards..... Guy

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Adielle
Adielle Senior Member • Posts: 1,723
Re: Better ETTL

TomFid wrote:

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

Clipping is certainly worse than underexposure, because you can't get it back.

However, when shooting raw, I find that I rarely if ever clip, but relatively often wish I'd given something a little more exposure. When you bang the histogram to the right, there's still some headroom in the raw file. So I do try to ETTR.

Some headroom, yes, often far too little to give a decent result. When highlights are not squeezed, much better results.

Adielle
Adielle Senior Member • Posts: 1,723
Re: ETTR rules

TN Args wrote:

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

ETTR is the art of NOT clipping or squeezing desired highlights. Once you understand it, that's obvious.

Level 1 ETTR: JPEG histogram.

Level 2 ETTR: raw histogram. Once you learn to do this, best IQ in terms of noise and colour is attained.

Cheers

When people say "expose to the right" I understand it as having a bias towards possibility of overexposing than towards underexposing, and I believe that's what is actually meant. I don't support this bias at all, and I'm saying that it's far better to have a bias towards underexposing, because any obvious loss of quality is much less likely in that situation.

XRF Forum Member • Posts: 79
Re: ETTR rules
6

Adielle wrote:

TN Args wrote:

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

ETTR is the art of NOT clipping or squeezing desired highlights. Once you understand it, that's obvious.

Level 1 ETTR: JPEG histogram.

Level 2 ETTR: raw histogram. Once you learn to do this, best IQ in terms of noise and colour is attained.

Cheers

When people say "expose to the right" I understand it as having a bias towards possibility of overexposing than towards underexposing, and I believe that's what is actually meant. I don't support this bias at all, and I'm saying that it's far better to have a bias towards underexposing, because any obvious loss of quality is much less likely in that situation.

ETTR is maximizing the exposure without clipping any highlights, and setting brightness in post. Technically, reducing exposure to avoid clipping can be considered ETTR if you intend to bring brightness back up in post.

Paul Amyes
Paul Amyes Senior Member • Posts: 1,834
Re: To ETTR or not to ETTR...?
2

Jeepit wrote:

Never had to do this back in the film days; so how important is it now? Do you or don't you ETTR (expose to the right)?

Thanks...

Rick

This is just a means of deciding where your highlights and shadows fall and how much detail you want to keep in them. It's no different to what we did when shooting film. With print film it was expose for the shadow and print for the highlights, but with transparency it was the opposite and digital behaves like slide film (particularly when shooting jpgs). I expose as far to the right as possible without loosing highlight detail. When processing the resultant RAW files I can then decide where my shadows fall.

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Adielle
Adielle Senior Member • Posts: 1,723
Re: ETTR rules
1

XRF wrote:

Adielle wrote:

TN Args wrote:

Adielle wrote:

Clipping / squeezing highlights is the worst thing to do in MFT as far as I've seen. True for GX8, E-M1 and G6, so I'd expect it to be similar in other models. Far better to be careful and slightly underexpose than to overexpose.

ETTR is the art of NOT clipping or squeezing desired highlights. Once you understand it, that's obvious.

Level 1 ETTR: JPEG histogram.

Level 2 ETTR: raw histogram. Once you learn to do this, best IQ in terms of noise and colour is attained.

Cheers

When people say "expose to the right" I understand it as having a bias towards possibility of overexposing than towards underexposing, and I believe that's what is actually meant. I don't support this bias at all, and I'm saying that it's far better to have a bias towards underexposing, because any obvious loss of quality is much less likely in that situation.

ETTR is maximizing the exposure without clipping any highlights, and setting brightness in post. Technically, reducing exposure to avoid clipping can be considered ETTR if you intend to bring brightness back up in post.

Any mirrorless camera (I don't know about all DSLRs) already aims to do exactly that, by default, when the exposure knob is centered: maximize the exposure without clipping highlights. That's obviously not always the desired setting, because sometimes some highlights lower the average exposure too much, and sometimes you actually want to lower the average exposure and retain highlights better, and sometimes it's actually not enough exposure for whatever reason, so the exposure compensation option is provided (as well as various auto exposure settings). I don't see "ETTR" as having anything to do with "maximizing exposure without clipping" but as having a personal bias towards maximizing the average amount of highlights (getting a histogram with lots of highlight content) in any situation (manually).

ToxicTabasco
ToxicTabasco Senior Member • Posts: 2,454
Re: To ETTR or not to ETTR...?

Jeepit wrote:

Never had to do this back in the film days; so how important is it now? Do you or don't you ETTR (expose to the right)?

Thanks...

Rick

ETTR is a good tool for some situations. But not all. In cases of extreme dynamic range like sunsets, sunrise, or where exposure is long like twilight and night photography, ETTR can work, but experience and a good eye to know what the outcome will be for editing is the key.

Not every scene or shot should use the perfect exposure. In some cases ETTR  can lose a lot of color detail like at sunsets and sunrise. Exposing by eyeball works for me in that situation.  Also, at night I use simple base exposure settings to get within the range I'm seeking for editing.  Doing landscapes is where exposure can vary depending on the mood you want to create, and how artsy it can be.  Thus, it depends on the vision or vision for the outcome.

Come to think of it, since using a mirrorless system, I've turned off the historgam on my cameras. The live view and EVF show what the exposure will look like.

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Pixnat2
Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,767
All depends on your expected output
7

You shoot landscapes in difficult light and are adept of squeezing out all the DR and shadow details you can in post processing?

You can't stand a bit of noise in your shadows?

In those cases, mastering ETTR could be helpful.

But for casual shooting, I wouldn't worry about it. Our modern cameras have excellent metering system and enough DR to cope with nearly all situations.

That said, it's a nice technique to learn and use in some cases.

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Tom Axford Veteran Member • Posts: 6,363
Definition of ETTR
14

There seems to be some uncertainty/disagreement on the meaning of ETTR.

I find this article to be useful.

The relevant quote from that article is:

... ETTR sets exposure so that the brightest significant values just reach to the right-hand edge of the histogram (sensor saturation), and this frequently results in an image that initially appears too bright or too dark – it being assumed that the desired image brightness will be obtained later on either through processing the raw file in a raw converter or post-processing the JPEG in an image editor....

I have emphasised the word "significant" because it is important.  ETTR doesn't necessarily mean than nothing in the image is clipped.  What it does mean is that, in the photographer's judgement, anything that has been clipped (i.e. blown out or overexposed) is not important to the image and can be sacrificed to obtain a better quality image of the things that matter.

tomhongkong Veteran Member • Posts: 3,798
Re: To ETTR or not to ETTR...?
4

Some facts

Most people use an average auto exposure setting which is based on averaging the light measured and having an 18% greyscale exposure correct.  That means that bright portion of a bright image is going to be underexposed (of course if you are using spot or centre weighted exposure that may not apply). A predominately dark image might similarly be underexposed

With most digital sensors there is around one stop of 'headroom' for highlights, when the auto exposure is used.  Even blinkies typically start flashing at a maximum setting of 125% so there is plenty of headroom left when they are blinking.

If you don't believe this, try taking a photo in RAW with 'blown' highlights and reducing the exposure in PP.  You will be surprised at how much latitude is built in to your camera, which is not used when taking JPEG. Having a feeling for how much you can overexpose is a good thing.

So there is a lot of scope for 'overexposing' based on what the camera meter believes.

Getting the right exposure (and I don't mean correcting a dark image by winding up brightness with a higher iso, which does nothing for exposure) is important to improve the SNR and reduce noise, and to capture more detail in the whole image,  in particular in the shadows.  To be safe, and underexpose "to protect the highlights' does the reverse.

Of course if you only use JPEGs, and I accept the convenience of this strategy, you pay the price in reducing potential DR.

Just try it

Tom

Adielle
Adielle Senior Member • Posts: 1,723
Re: Definition of ETTR

Tom Axford wrote:

There seems to be some uncertainty/disagreement on the meaning of ETTR.

I find this article to be useful.

The relevant quote from that article is:

... ETTR sets exposure so that the brightest significant values just reach to the right-hand edge of the histogram (sensor saturation), and this frequently results in an image that initially appears too bright or too dark – it being assumed that the desired image brightness will be obtained later on either through processing the raw file in a raw converter or post-processing the JPEG in an image editor....

I have emphasised the word "significant" because it is important. ETTR doesn't necessarily mean than nothing in the image is clipped. What it does mean is that, in the photographer's judgement, anything that has been clipped (i.e. blown out or overexposed) is not important to the image and can be sacrificed to obtain a better quality image of the things that matter.

It is indeed the most important word, and what you wrote is accurate. "ETTR" is just a bias towards maximizing highlight and high mid-tone content, and more willingness to sacrifice details in the high frequency spectrum rather than the low frequency spectrum. In MFT cameras, highlight clipping and "squeezing" is a much more severe problem than lack of detail in dark / shadow content, even when there is no post pushing and pulling done, but especially when there is. Shadow detail retention is especially good in MFT cameras, and It's much better to err "to the left" than "to the right". I would follow that regardless of format,

XRF Forum Member • Posts: 79
Re: ETTR rules
5

Adielle wrote:

Any mirrorless camera (I don't know about all DSLRs) already aims to do exactly that, by default, when the exposure knob is centered: maximize the exposure without clipping highlights. That's obviously not always the desired setting, because sometimes some highlights lower the average exposure too much, and sometimes you actually want to lower the average exposure and retain highlights better, and sometimes it's actually not enough exposure for whatever reason, so the exposure compensation option is provided (as well as various auto exposure settings). I don't see "ETTR" as having anything to do with "maximizing exposure without clipping" but as having a personal bias towards maximizing the average amount of highlights (getting a histogram with lots of highlight content) in any situation (manually).

No, this is not how autoexposure works. Read tomhongkong’s post for a good description. Autoexposure simply seeks to have an average light intensity level in the frame based on the idea that everything in the frame should reflect an average of 15-18% of incident light, with half a stop added for specular reflections. If everything in the frame is evenly lit, you can have a lot of room to increase exposure without hitting saturation. This is what ETTR is about.

gary0319
gary0319 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,349
Re: Definition of ETTR
4

Adielle wrote:

Tom Axford wrote:

There seems to be some uncertainty/disagreement on the meaning of ETTR.

I find this article to be useful.

The relevant quote from that article is:

... ETTR sets exposure so that the brightest significant values just reach to the right-hand edge of the histogram (sensor saturation), and this frequently results in an image that initially appears too bright or too dark – it being assumed that the desired image brightness will be obtained later on either through processing the raw file in a raw converter or post-processing the JPEG in an image editor....

I have emphasised the word "significant" because it is important. ETTR doesn't necessarily mean than nothing in the image is clipped. What it does mean is that, in the photographer's judgement, anything that has been clipped (i.e. blown out or overexposed) is not important to the image and can be sacrificed to obtain a better quality image of the things that matter.

It is indeed the most important word, and what you wrote is accurate. "ETTR" is just a bias towards maximizing highlight and high mid-tone content, and more willingness to sacrifice details in the high frequency spectrum rather than the low frequency spectrum. In MFT cameras, highlight clipping and "squeezing" is a much more severe problem than lack of detail in dark / shadow content, even when there is no post pushing and pulling done, but especially when there is. Shadow detail retention is especially good in MFT cameras, and It's much better to err "to the left" than "to the right". I would follow that regardless of format,

Not sure which MFT cameras you are speaking of, but with my Olympus Sony sensor based cameras I find just the opposite. I have no problem often exposing to the right until that first red bar appears on the histogram.  Not for the normal scene, but in situations with extreme light differences, like sunlight streaming through a canopy in a forest, it works well for me. I think the Olympus histogram may be just a tad biased to prevent blow outs.

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Tom Axford Veteran Member • Posts: 6,363
Re: Definition of ETTR

gary0319 wrote:

Adielle wrote:

Tom Axford wrote:

There seems to be some uncertainty/disagreement on the meaning of ETTR.

I find this article to be useful.

The relevant quote from that article is:

... ETTR sets exposure so that the brightest significant values just reach to the right-hand edge of the histogram (sensor saturation), and this frequently results in an image that initially appears too bright or too dark – it being assumed that the desired image brightness will be obtained later on either through processing the raw file in a raw converter or post-processing the JPEG in an image editor....

I have emphasised the word "significant" because it is important. ETTR doesn't necessarily mean than nothing in the image is clipped. What it does mean is that, in the photographer's judgement, anything that has been clipped (i.e. blown out or overexposed) is not important to the image and can be sacrificed to obtain a better quality image of the things that matter.

It is indeed the most important word, and what you wrote is accurate. "ETTR" is just a bias towards maximizing highlight and high mid-tone content, and more willingness to sacrifice details in the high frequency spectrum rather than the low frequency spectrum. In MFT cameras, highlight clipping and "squeezing" is a much more severe problem than lack of detail in dark / shadow content, even when there is no post pushing and pulling done, but especially when there is. Shadow detail retention is especially good in MFT cameras, and It's much better to err "to the left" than "to the right". I would follow that regardless of format,

Not sure which MFT cameras you are speaking of, but with my Olympus Sony sensor based cameras I find just the opposite. I have no problem often exposing to the right until that first red bar appears on the histogram. Not for the normal scene, but in situations with extreme light differences, like sunlight streaming through a canopy in a forest, it works well for me. I think the Olympus histogram may be just a tad biased to prevent blow outs.

I think a great deal depends on the processing also.

I use Lightroom and, by default, it concentrates on presenting a good image of the midtones.  The top three stops of the highlights are heavily compressed (in the default processing) and most of the detail lost in that area.  They are not overexposed or clipped in the raw image, it is just the default processing that makes them look washed out and overexposed.  They can be "retrieved" by appropriate use of the sliders in LR, mainly Whites, Highlights and Exposure.

Mark9473 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,925
Re: Definition of ETTR
3

Adielle wrote:

"ETTR" is just a bias towards maximizing highlight and high mid-tone content, and more willingness to sacrifice details in the high frequency spectrum rather than the low frequency spectrum.

I accept that's how you think about it, since you keep repeating it, but most people who do ETTR don't. You only sacrifice highlight detail if you go too far, i.e. you overexpose, and that's not what ETTR is about.

In MFT cameras, highlight clipping and "squeezing" is a much more severe problem than lack of detail in dark / shadow content, even when there is no post pushing and pulling done, but especially when there is. Shadow detail retention is especially good in MFT cameras, and It's much better to err "to the left" than "to the right". I would follow that regardless of format,

You're certainly not speaking for m43 cameras in general, so you should really clarify on which camera bodies you have that experience.

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Mark

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gary0319
gary0319 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,349
Re: Definition of ETTR

Tom Axford wrote:

gary0319 wrote:

Adielle wrote:

Tom Axford wrote:

There seems to be some uncertainty/disagreement on the meaning of ETTR.

I find this article to be useful.

The relevant quote from that article is:

... ETTR sets exposure so that the brightest significant values just reach to the right-hand edge of the histogram (sensor saturation), and this frequently results in an image that initially appears too bright or too dark – it being assumed that the desired image brightness will be obtained later on either through processing the raw file in a raw converter or post-processing the JPEG in an image editor....

I have emphasised the word "significant" because it is important. ETTR doesn't necessarily mean than nothing in the image is clipped. What it does mean is that, in the photographer's judgement, anything that has been clipped (i.e. blown out or overexposed) is not important to the image and can be sacrificed to obtain a better quality image of the things that matter.

It is indeed the most important word, and what you wrote is accurate. "ETTR" is just a bias towards maximizing highlight and high mid-tone content, and more willingness to sacrifice details in the high frequency spectrum rather than the low frequency spectrum. In MFT cameras, highlight clipping and "squeezing" is a much more severe problem than lack of detail in dark / shadow content, even when there is no post pushing and pulling done, but especially when there is. Shadow detail retention is especially good in MFT cameras, and It's much better to err "to the left" than "to the right". I would follow that regardless of format,

Not sure which MFT cameras you are speaking of, but with my Olympus Sony sensor based cameras I find just the opposite. I have no problem often exposing to the right until that first red bar appears on the histogram. Not for the normal scene, but in situations with extreme light differences, like sunlight streaming through a canopy in a forest, it works well for me. I think the Olympus histogram may be just a tad biased to prevent blow outs.

I think a great deal depends on the processing also.

I use Lightroom and, by default, it concentrates on presenting a good image of the midtones. The top three stops of the highlights are heavily compressed (in the default processing) and most of the detail lost in that area. They are not overexposed or clipped in the raw image, it is just the default processing that makes them look washed out and overexposed. They can be "retrieved" by appropriate use of the sliders in LR, mainly Whites, Highlights and Exposure.

I use Lightroom also....I’ll have to take your comments into consideration. However, I do all my Olympus Raw conversions to tif in Workspace before importing into Lightroom, that might make a difference in the compressed highlights.

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