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Old 6th June 2014
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Re: Expose to the right

Originally Posted by David Morison View Post
I don't have a systematic way of dealing with difficult lighting I just have the front dial on the E-M1 assigned to exposure compensation and use that constantly according to the subject, mainly just relying on experience sometimes coupled with the histogram but often exposing to the left.

In the end, this is the best approach. ETTR is just one technique which often works for a particular type of situation, it's not a panacea for every occasion and there are alternative methods for arriving at the same result.

I'm most likely to use ETTR when shooting landscapes, particularly when the camera is on a tripod. I'll make an exposure with no compensation then assess the histogram (yes, I chimp and I'm proud of it - it's another tool, like having an instant polaroid). Quite often it will be a satisfactory graph, with no clipping on either side but perhaps some bunching towards the left, tapering off to the right. This indicates that the majority of the pixels, including those that have captured the mid-range tones, are less than ideally exposed. In a way, the histogram is a bit like Depth of Field charts; there isn't an abrupt definition between perfect exposure and clipping at each extremity, more like a gradual fall-off of what is acceptable rather than ideal.

In this situation dialing +0.3 compensation may move the histogram a notch to the right, but still without clipping. Try it again and I might get away with +0.7, sometimes even +1. Meanwhile, the greatest mass of pixels, rising to the highest part of the histogram, have shifted more towards the centre, which is where I want the mid-tones to be.

However, be careful. In some situations, such as sunlit flowers against a dark background deep in shadow or an illuminated landscape beneath a stormy sky, you may want an exposure represented by bunching, even clipping, on the left. It's important to match the exposure technique to the subject.

"A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity." ~ Robert Doisneau
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