Exposure Question

Maybe I missed it but, I’ve not found any subject matter here on how other photographers expose their images.
Do you zero out your meter or do you subscribe to the ETTR method?
Do you use different methods depending upon the scene you are shooting?

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Hey @eric4!

I ETTR as often as possible and as much as possible. Sometimes the conditions or creative intent don’t allow for it, but I try to in every situation in order to get the cleanest file I can.

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I believe that each individual situation requires thought on how to expose for the intent you want. ETTR is fine for some situations, but clearly NOT for all. I let the subject, background and intent define what exposure I set up for any image.

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I use ETTR a lot, but not always. If the histogram shows no blown highlights, including looking at the red channel, which can be blown and not be shown if you are only looking at the luminosity histogram, I am less inclined to use ETTR. This is the reason. Let’s say you have a photo where you have pushed the highlights all the way to the right edge of the histogram. In post, the photo is overexposed by two stops and you decrease the exposure to correct it. Lets say again you have the same photo that is two stops less exposed in camera. I exposure bracket a lot and have compared photos in this situation many times. It is my experience that there is often a very noticable difference in color between the two photos, especially in the warm colors. The sunset reds, oranges and purples in the ETTR/exposure corrected in post photo often do not look the same as the the corresponding colors that do not need to be corrected in post processing. So, what I am saying is that the warm colors in a photo that was taken using ETTR and exposure corrected in post (in the one to three stop range) will not always look the same as the photo with the old fashioned (highlights not pushed to the right edge) “correct” exposure. And usually not the same in a negative sense. That is why I exposure bracket a lot, and if there is a negative difference in the sky in the corrected ETTR image I will used the sky from a correctly exposed photo, usually using a luminosity mask.

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Thank you. I use exposure bracketing more than I use ETTR so, I understand what you’ve outlined here.

I always start at 0 then bracket 1 stop either direction then pick the best one to work with. In some cases I’ll go up to 2 stops if the lighting is really tricky. My goal is to aim for single exposure images rather than have to blend. I get more satisfaction from processing properly exposed images than having to recreate it later with multiple frames.

That makes sense but, can you always get the best dynamic range from a single exposure?

Most of the time. I started off with shooting film 20 years ago before getting into digital so I look for the types of lighting where I can manage the exposure. I still use GND filters when appropriate. The times when I’ll blend is either when there are uneven transitions like mountains or too many trees.

I use the ETTR exposure technique as much as possible for landscape photography. Some situations, exists, however, where that technique is impractical, and good exposure (determined via the histogram) is adequate. Those situations are low-light, long exposure, dawn shots. Trying to use the trial and error ETTR technique on a 2 or 3 minute exposure during that beautiful yet fleeting morning light is simply impractical. During that time I strive for the best exposure possible and move on to next scene before the light changes.

The answer is no. For images with a high dynamic range (eg sky and shadowed foreground) I do what @Tony_Siciliano is talking about. I take bracketed exposures that aim to get properly exposed brackets for land in one image, and sky in another. Depending upon the scene, 3 or 4 brackets may be needed. I then use Photoshop and Luminosity masks to manually blend the image. I find this works better than using dedicated HDR software like in Lightroom, or Photomatix, etc. Doing manual blending seems more intuitive, and gives me more control over how the finished product looks. It comes at the price of spending more time processing, but the result are superior IMO.