Which is better; too light or too dark?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Peter Jason, Mar 6, 2007.

  1. Peter Jason

    Peter Jason Guest

    Is it better for a photo to be too light or
    too dark for subsequent retouching in
    Peter Jason, Mar 6, 2007
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  2. Peter Jason

    John Loomis Guest

    I like it a bit darker....It seems you can pull out the color or whatever
    than if it is too light.
    I am just an amateur and have been able to get great quality images from
    darker shots than lighter....
    John Loomis
    John Loomis, Mar 6, 2007
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  3. Peter Jason

    ray Guest

    ray, Mar 6, 2007
  4. Peter Jason

    Mark² Guest

    If highlights are blown, there's little you can do.
    Shadows can be pushed.

    An acknowledgement of this fact is evident in the design of the new 1Dmk3
    has a new highlight priority mode...which exposes to ensure highlights are
    not blown out. They do this operating on the assumption (and in this case,
    a good one) that there is plenty of shadow detail for recovery.

    You're always going to benefit from getting it right in-camera, but in high
    contrast scenes, you're usually smart to expose for the highlights, and to
    shoot in RAW.


    Images (Plus Snaps & Grabs) by Mark² at:
    Mark², Mar 6, 2007
  5. Peter Jason

    Peter Jason Guest

    "Mark²" <mjmorgan(lowest even number
    here)@cox..net> wrote in message

    Thanks for the replies. I photograph
    buildings and alleyways and there is always
    great contrast between the towers and the
    back alleys. I thought the darker pictures
    were more flexible, just from my tests.
    Peter Jason, Mar 6, 2007
  6. In digital, as with slides, the rule-of-thumb answer is "too dark".

    If the highlights are "blown", i.e. at least one channel is clipped,
    there's unrecoverable data loss, and the highlights are visually very
    important, they draw the eye.

    Of course, if you clip the shadows, there's *also* unrecoverable data
    loss; but it's rarely as visually obvious (takes a bigger exposure error
    to be equally obvious).

    On the other hand, all other things being equal, on digital you
    generally want to "expose to the right" (meaning the histogram is moved
    towards the high end as far as possible without clipping a channel) to
    minimize noise. Note the absolutely key phrase "all other things being
    equal", which happens amazingly rarely in the real world.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Mar 6, 2007
  7. He said "better"; do you really think that neither is better than the

    He didn't say "best"; I think we would *all* agree that a "perfectly
    exposed" photo was the *best* starting point. But that's not what he
    asked. If I may guess at his thought process, he didn't ask that
    because he, and everybody else, already knows that; it's not interesting.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Mar 6, 2007
  8. Look into HDR photography; there are various ways to combine multiple
    images at various exposure levels to produce a composite result
    rendering a wider density range than any single exposure can capture.
    This does require static subjects (which it sounds like you have) and a
    tripod-supported camera (which may or may not be feasible in your work).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Mar 6, 2007
  9. It depends on your camera's lightness curves and the subject. Clipping
    on either end can ruin a photo. If possible, shoot in raw mode so you
    have the greatest range. Better yet, shoot when the sun is low and then
    fix the white balance. White balance is a minor adjustment compared to
    fixing highlights and shadows in overhead sunlight.
    Kevin McMurtrie, Mar 6, 2007
  10. Peter Jason

    King Sardon Guest

    There's your answer. Your own experience says darker is best.

    It all depends on how/what you shoot and how you view the pictures.
    Styles and approaches differ so much. Some people do bizarre things
    and violate all the best advice but the results are great.

    Just be aware that underexposed shadow areas can posterize. That's
    because the areas with less exposure carry less data per pixel. It's
    because sensor elements are linear devices but visual perception is
    logarithmic. To get the most data, you need to maximize the amount of
    light without clipping the highlights.

    If you are shooting high contrast subjects like buildings and shadows,
    you are probably blowing highlights all the time unless you reduce the

    That gives less data in the shadows, but that probably makes no
    perceptible difference if you are shooting high contrast subjects and
    showing them as high contrast images. But for low contrast subjects it
    can make a difference.


    King Sardon, Mar 6, 2007
  11. Peter Jason

    Ron Hunter Guest

    As long at the whites aren't 'burnt out', either will be workable, but
    isn't it better to have the setting right in the camera? Too dark
    pictures can be made lighter, but at the expense of introducing noise.
    Ron Hunter, Mar 6, 2007
  12. Peter Jason

    Rutger Guest

    Rutger, Mar 6, 2007
  13. HDR is something you really like or really hate. The problem with HDR not
    done properly and overdone it looks god awful fake. Done right, it does
    lend to some interesting shots, but still a bit unnatural.

    =?iso-8859-1?Q?Rita_=C4_Berkowitz?=, Mar 6, 2007
  14. I don't know what ray was thinking when he wrote his response, but I
    like it. It is best to be right on. Going either way makes it more
    difficult so why not just aim for doing it right?

    "Best" is like asking if cherry pie or apple pie is best. I can tell
    you what I like best, but I have no idea what you like. The question seems
    to suggest that photography is a science when in reality it is an art
    employing science to express the art.
    Joseph Meehan, Mar 6, 2007
  15. Peter Jason wrote:
    That is your answer. Photography is an air, not a science. It is all
    about using the science to create your art. You already know what works for
    Joseph Meehan, Mar 6, 2007
  16. That's not been my experience with the Canon 30D. Admittedly I
    have not used it a lot a ISO 100, usually I used 200 or more.
    All the pictures I took had enough noise at the low end that
    they would never, ever, posterize. Have other people had
    actual posterization happen with this camera? I saved as raw.

    Doug McDonald
    Doug McDonald, Mar 6, 2007
  17. Peter Jason

    acl Guest

    Hi. I looked through the mk3's brochure, and this highlight priority
    thing is not really clearly described. What does it do, does it
    actually underexpose (relative to the reading when it is not on), or
    is it just a different curve applied to the jpeg?
    acl, Mar 6, 2007
  18. Peter Jason

    frederick Guest

    No. The ability to recover shadow detail from slightly underexposed raw
    shots by adjusting overall exposure or "d-light" / gamma and
    simultaneously (using the same raw converter software) reduce visible
    noise and check for clipping leads me to believe that photographers have
    never had it so good.
    frederick, Mar 6, 2007
  19. Peter Jason

    Peter Jason Guest

    Thanks, I do have a cheap tripod which I
    always use (it's very light to carry about),
    and I am experimenting with panoramas.

    I have just got the PTGui software for
    combining the photos, but I will need a
    special tripod/head-mount to make this all
    work well.

    I have been taking two shots at different
    exposures of contrasty scenes for future
    manipulations. Sadly I must work very early
    on a Sunday morning to avoid traffic & parked
    cars, and the rising sun enhances contrast
    Peter Jason, Mar 6, 2007
  20. Peter Jason

    ray Guest

    I don't think either is 'better' - they are both way suboptimal - both
    will give you a real PITA.
    ray, Mar 7, 2007
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