ETTR not always best?

I know the party line is ETTR, and then darken the too light highlights in post processing, but it is my experience from bracketing photos that you don’t always end up with the same result. I mean, suppose you ETTR and have a photo that in post you darken the highlights by 1 or 2 stops. If you compare those highlights to an actual photo exposed 1 or 2 stops darker, the highlights look different, often not as rich, or the color is off. So in the field when I examine a histogram and find room on both the light and dark ends, I don’t ETTR unless I am concerned about detail or noise in the shadows and want to open that area up. What is your experience and opinion about this?

Great point, perhaps because I feel the same and do the same. It’s just too darned easy to wash out the details in highlights with overexposure. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. No amount of darkening CPR can revive them.

Thanks for the reply. To be more clear, I’m not talking about pushing the highlights histogram past the right edge and then trying to recover, but simply pushing it to the edge or close to the edge and then darkening. Darkening, not recovering. In my experience it still results in a different result.

I also agree. ETTR to me means that there should be some pixels in the last segment of the histogram but not all the way to the right edge. Bringing highlights down too much to me creates “funky” grays without “luster” or detail. It also, sometimes, creates weird looking shadows. So, to reiterate, there are 5 bars in a Canon histogram. I try to have the highlights up to the left edge or just a bit over over the edge.

Ha. Great observation. ETTR has never done right by me.
In practice; expose the left to the right, and the right to the left. THEN, in post recover the process.

Topping off the sensor wells cleans up the signal but has no application to the highlights. A super clean signal via topped off highlight wells just doesn’t work. The emphasis of ETTR is on cleaning up the darks, and has nothing to do with the highlights.

The confusion is leftovers from the early days of digital and some over-simplifications.

I have studied this in-depth and still can’t explain why, but as you noted, the results don’t lie.

Good call

Maybe I am just old (Harley will say I am old :wink: ), but there is the maxim: Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights. It works for film, and it also works for digital capture.

If one exposes for the shadows you will have good detail, and low noise without blowing out the high values, assuming the dynamic range of the subject is not beyond the capability of the sensor. One can then adjust the high values without them blocking up.

I never subscribed to the “Expose to the Right” mantra.