Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Expose to the right" revisited

I wrote about "expose to the right" (ETTR) last September in this post, showing that while ETTR is useful in some narrow circumstances, in most situations the practical workflow complications vastly outweigh the benefits. Predictably, there have been a wide variety of reactions to the post, ranging from very positive to highly negative.

What has been interesting about all the responses is two things:
  • Firstly,  almost a year later the post still gets attention. 
  • But secondly, not one of the "ETTR is great - you just don't understand it" type forum posts/blog entries/etc that I've seen or had pointed out to me have ever shown (or linked to) a single actual practical example of ETTR showing any visible benefit beyond what I identified in my original post. Which rather proves my point....

1 comment:

wentbackward said...

Hi Sandy, Interesting article on ETTR, I hadn't paid attention to it (or cared) but an observation that supports your argument - totally unscientific - is that there are far fewer tones in the highlights than in the mid tones. I found with digital, pushing your image to the right lowers contrast and throws away rich detail, especially in colour. Mapping a logarithmic phenomenon over a digital device seems to support this to my mind. Anyhow I stopped shooting digital a few years back and went to film to find myself, now I whether film or digital, I expose for the scene and the results are evident in prints that ETTR is wrong and also, as is all that rubbish about noise. On low ISO digital shots, I have to add noise to give it some bite in the print. It's not just in images, adding white noise to CD tracks makes them sound better too!

I hate posterisation in skies. Trying to avoid blowing highlights by chimping, is a silly way to work. It's almost impossible to tell in camera whether you've rightly hit some specular highlights or you've just trashed the blue or red channels. Most people don't even realise they done it (especially in tungsten lighting).

Good advice you give, understand your camera, expose for the scene.