LR Tips Do you tend to under or over expose your photos?


RSSNewsRobot

Senior Member
Sep 27, 2006
7,612
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#1
OK, weird question – I know. But do you find you typically underexpose or overexpose your photos. Here’s why I ask. Believe it or not, It makes a difference when it comes to your Lightroom edits. Years ago, I read a white paper from the late Bruce Fraser. Bruce was a pioneer in many aspects of digital imaging and I encourage you to give this white paper a read (it’s actually a pretty quick read too). Now, knowing that many of you won’t read it and the fact that white papers can get REALLY technical, I’ll paraphrase.

Bruce basically writes that our cameras capture a lot of information in the highlights. Way more than we think. He points out that it’s typically best to try to capture as much of the highlight information as possible without actually blowing out the highlights. Why? Because programs like Lightroom and Camera Raw are so good at bringing back highlight detail, while trying to bring back detail in the shadows and dark areas can often have negative effects on your photos (there’s lots of noise in the shadows).

I read this about 4 or 5 years ago and I instantly became happier with my photography and post processing. It was great to finally bring the Exposure slider toward the left a little instead of always increasing Exposure or Fill Light (I used to underexpose because I was always afraid of coming anywhere close to that histogram touching the right side). When I’m outdoors my Exposure Compensation on my camera is always set to at least +1/3 or +2/3 and I’ll push the exposure as far toward clipping as I can get if I know there’s some shadowy areas in the photo.

Now before you answer the question keep this in mind. First, the question is just for fun. I’m simply curious so please don’t read too much into it and write a long comment telling me all about gamma and compressive nonlinearity (I hate the word gamma by the way). Also, if you’re shooting in the studio a lot this doesn’t apply to you as much. For me, I find I don’t have to modify many settings on my studio portraits. I’d get that done with the lighting in the studio. I’m talking about things like outdoor portraits, sports, travel, and landscape photography where we don’t always have the ability to balance light in all areas of the photo to get the exact proper exposure. So we have to make a choice – underexpose to make sure you capture all of the highlight detail or overexpose to make sure you capture the shadow detail?




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Feb 13, 2010
561
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Singapore
www.flickr.com
#2
interesting.. u have to consider that sometimes, it is not that we underexpose the picture, but rather we have no choice due to the poor lighting conditions and we have to get a hand-holdable shutterspeed. Of course when i m outside shooting, i tend to overexpose the picture by pushing up the exposure compensation cos the metering of the camera will try to expose the picture equally, making the faces too dark
 

ed9119

Moderator
Staff member
Mar 11, 2002
11,012
35
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Singapore
www.walkeast.com
#3
with the older cheaper dslrs (eg 350D) with tight DR limits and without live histogram or spot metering then.... I always dialed down 1/2 stop...... nowadays i leave EV at '0' and lock AE when I like what the histogram shows

just me
 

Last edited:
Aug 7, 2010
88
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Singapore
#4
depends on the type of shot.

For indoor shots, I tend to underexpose very slightly as I know I can get back the detail using software.

For outdoor shots during the day, I tend to overexpose very slightly to ensure I get enough detail in the background (and usually end up with an overexposed sky).

For night shots outdoors, I settle for as close as I can get to +/-0 while still handheld.

For fireworks, I use bulb mode and a timer and hope for the best :sweat::sweat:

RAW and software has brought back a number of shot I thought were garbage when looking at them on camera. Peace and love to the brightness slider:heart:
 

wkteoh

New Member
Sep 23, 2009
283
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#5
I am by no means an experienced DSLR user. But as someone shooting JPEG and not raw, I either underexpose a little or bracket. While it is possible to recover details from highlights, they do not have a pleasing colour and usually turn out greyish (or maybe my PP skill is below par). And equivalent amount of underexposure while giving out noise, does appear to be more natural and noise, being inherent in ISO400 and above, can be easily removed without noticeable loss in detail (using NeatImage and equiv. Not sure about PS though)
 

ovaltinemilo

Senior Member
Sep 12, 2009
2,819
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Sin jia Po lah
#6
whenever possible, tend to overexpose slightly. if DR too large, no choice..just make sure no blinkies...
 

zac08

Senior Member
Feb 21, 2005
11,755
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East
#8
I tend to underexpose for most of my shots..
 

Jul 16, 2010
725
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#9
Is this even supposed to be in the newbie section? Haha. Just saying...

Edited : sorry got into the wrong section of the forum! :/
 

Last edited:

albertri

Senior Member
Jun 6, 2010
6,304
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Singapore
#10
Tend to overexpose for portraiture... And underexpose for general/landscape photography...
Im new at phtography I also do the same overexpose portraits shots and undrexpose a landscapes specially bright day.
 

gymak90

New Member
Jan 5, 2008
1,448
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The Far North
#11
I tend to underexpose my shots by 0.3 stop. I was told this helps in getting saturated colours. Maybe this works only for film??

I actually thought highlights were harder to recover.
 

wildcat

Senior Member
Sep 8, 2004
3,268
1
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Bedok
#13
I find it easier to recover from shadows than overblown highlights. Thus if I only have a choice of one, I will choose to under-expose.

With choice, I will bracket and HDR+exposure blend also, but that is not always possible. Plus under-exposing normally gives me more pre-PP pleasing pictures with my camera.
 

Numnumball

Senior Member
Mar 6, 2009
13,899
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Central
#14
I do both as well.. merely for digital blending purposes..
Personally felt that nikon cams has a tendency to under expose the midtone gray by a mere bit.. so will dial in +0.3 for most of my workflow..
Blown highlights are tougher to recover compared to shadows details. so at times will underexpose to get the results i want
 

daredevil123

Moderator
Staff member
Oct 25, 2005
21,644
63
48
lil red dot
#15
If I am not blending, and aiming for a 1 shot picture, I will over-expose, aka Exposing to the right. While making sure no highlights are clipped. Then I reduce the exposure in PP. Yes, you really do get a lot more details that way. The key is not to blow the highlights.
 

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