August 29, 2009

Expose to the Right

ExposeToTheRight

Guest post by Juan A. Pons

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“Expose to the right” is an expression that you may have heard before, but my experience has been that most folks don’t understand what it means or how how to do it.

In simple terms what this means is that in order for you get the absolute best image quality your digital camera sensor can produce you should be slightly over-exposing your images. I know this does not sound like good advice, but bear with me for a minute, there is a very good technical reason for this.

The imaging sensor in your digital camera is composed of millions of little light sensors (as many as your camera has Mega pixels), and each of these sensors measures the intensity of the light that falls upon it, the camera then takes these millions of measuring points to create an image. However these sensors are not equally as good as measuring light at all levels, actually they are magnitudes more sensitive near the highlights than they are near the dark areas.

What this means is that your camera can record much more detail in the brighter parts of your image than the darker parts. Therefore to get the best image quality from your camera you need to slightly over-expose your images or “shoot to the right” in order to fully take advantage of your sensors capabilities.

The tricky part here is not to over-expose too much so as to “blow out” your highlights, because if you go too far you will lose all the detail in those blown out areas. How do you know how much to over-expose? This is where your camera histogram comes in handy. Your cameras histogram simply displays to you how much information has been recorded at each light level, from dark (left) to light (right). A normally exposed image will have a histogram that shows most of the information bunched up in the middle.

Exposing to the right means just that, to expose your image such that the histogram shows the majority of the data bunched up on the right side of the histogram as opposed to right smack in the middle. HOWEVER, you need to take care not to let that data “bump” up against the right edge, because that data will be lost; this is where those over exposed flashing alerts that are part of most cameras preview screens come in handy. Yes, sometimes you will want pure white, blown out areas in your image, and that is ok, just use your judgement here.

When you look at these RAW files (this will only work when shooting RAW ) in your favorite image processing software, the images will most likely appear a bit over exposed, but that is ok, as you can easily adjust the exposure to make the image look “right”.

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This post sponsored by HONL Photo

Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. [...] “Expose to the right” ist ein Begriff, den man in den Staaten benutzt, um zu beschreiben, stets ein kleines [...]

  2. [...] recently read this article “Exposing or Shooting to the Right” which explains this concept very well. Share and [...]

  3. [...] (A word about exposure. In film days we exposed for the shadows, and developed for the highlights. These days I do something we call “Shoot to the right”. It means I like to shoot a bit brighter with the histogram, not going to the darker. I can pull more from the lighter capture than I can from the darker, muddier version. There is a lot more on this here, and here.) [...]

  4. [...] (A word about exposure. In film days we exposed for the shadows, and developed for the highlights. These days I do something we call “Shoot to the right”. It means I like to shoot a bit brighter with the histogram, not going to the darker. I can pull more from the lighter capture than I can from the darker, muddier version. There is a lot more on this here, and here.) [...]

  5. [...] (A word about exposure. In film days we exposed for the shadows, and developed for the highlights. These days I do something we call “Shoot to the right”. It means I like to shoot a bit brighter with the histogram, not going to the darker. I can pull more from the lighter capture than I can from the darker, muddier version. There is a lot more on this here, and here.) [...]

  6. [...] Even though you typically end up exporting to this 8-bit JPEG format, this allows the photographer before hand to adjust exposure, fill light and recover blown highlights far more accurately than if it was attempted with the final JPEG image. Not only can this allow you to “save” photos from the bin, it can also vastly improve the result you get out of well captured photos. One technique exploiting this is Expose to the Right. [...]

  7. [...] (A word about exposure. In film days we exposed for the shadows, and developed for the highlights. These days I do something we call “Shoot to the right”. It means I like to shoot a bit brighter with the histogram, not going to the darker. I can pull more from the lighter capture than I can from the darker, muddier version. There is a lot more on this here, and here.) [...]

  8. […] negative as “the one with the most data.” Which brings us to the concept of “shooting to the right” – the right of the histogram, that […]

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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