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Auto-ETTR Would Sure Be Nice — 2 Stops Below the Blow-out Was the Camera’s Advice

I’ve written extensively on ETTR, including my essays ETTR (Expose to the Right) — An Essential Skill to Master for Image Quality and A CALL TO ACTION: Build Intelligent ETTR Into Digital Cameras.

The histogram for this image was grossly misleading (quite common); it shows the image as starting to blow-out, even with the camera set to the lowest contrast setting. Yet RawDigger shows that the D800E could have tolerated nearly twotops more exposure!

This image is presented as an aperture series in my review of the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR.

Shooting at dusk
Nikon D800E + 70-200/4G VR @ 200mm @ f/8, 5 seconds

The RawDigger histogram below proves that adding two stops more exposure would have been possible. While the D800E performed admirably as shot, two more stops exposure would cut the noise in half, and would have provided clean detail even in the darkest shadows, some of which are pinned to pure black in the exposure as shot.

Histogram for actual raw data showing 2-stop underexposure (Nikon D800E)

James A writes:

That shooting at dusk picture is stunning.

I don't know the technical issues that make it appealing but it really pops.

DIGLLOYD: the juxtaposition of color is very appealing at this time of day, a combination of dusk skylight and artificial light. Even though I white balanced, I left it a little warm and indeed it does pop.

The eye sees complementary colors especially vividly, so it has an added effect from the way the human visual system works, an effect explained in Perception and Imaging (recommended book).


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