What setting for exposure?
Hi there..

I was just wondering. Is it better to:.

1. Under expose one stop?2. Over expose one stop?3. Shoot with exposure on 0?.

I shoot in RAW..

Thank you so long.Deon..

Comments (11)

Deonholt wrote:.

Hi there..

I was just wondering. Is it better to:.

1. Under expose one stop?2. Over expose one stop?3. Shoot with exposure on 0?.

I shoot in RAW..

Thank you so long.Deon.

It is generally more acceptable to have clipping in the shadow areas rather than highlights, but this is a loaded question that requires more information. If your camera meters properly (using the correct metering type for the scene) and scene is not too high contrast, 0 should be good. Your camera may support exposure bracketing in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments. If the reason for your question is that your highlights are clipped, check your camera's manual for bracketing and try starting at -2/3. If you camera only offers full stop EV increments, -1 would be the quick answer. Might be good to get more familiar with the metering types: spot, center-weighted, matrix..

What camera are you using and is there a type of photo that is giving you trouble?..

Comment #1

That is a loaded question. The short answer is it is better to expose accurately. What is an accurate exposure must in turn depend upon the subject(s) of your photograph. If your subject has a wider dymanic range than the camera has then a choice has to be made between blowing the highlights or underexposing the shadows (You can maybe reduce contrast to minimise the impact)..

Some cameras expose for the shadows (Nikon D50/D80). Others expose to preserve highlights (Nikon D70). You have to use exposure compensation to balance your ambitions against the bias of the cam..

But where I think your question is directed concerns whether you should "expose to the right". Each stop of light represents a halving of brightness. On a linear 8 bit system such as jpeg the stop or so containing highlights is to be found in the numbers from 255-127 and the remaining stops (typically 7-8 stops) have to fit in the other half 126 down to 1. Thus exposing so that your brightest highlight exactly matches 255 even if true lighting conditions would expose it at say 180 (i.e half a stop less) allows for more tonal ramps further down the tonal scale in the directions of darker colours and shadows. Then in post processing you can reduce exposure compensation back one half stop but keep the more subtle tonal ramps..

All this gets rather complicated if all you are taking is holiday snaps but I can propose a general rule. For most well lit scenes try to expose so that your histogram almost/just touches the righmost edge but do check to see that you have not gone too far and blown the highlights..

Of course the above does not works if you have a dark scene that you want to porray accurately. In that case you will have to bring the exposure back down in PP or not use the full DR of trhe camera (A low contrast photo)..

A yet further problem occurs where you want to stop action when shooting low available light e.g indoor sports or theatre. There you may have to underexpose to keep shutter speed up. I often underexpose at ISO 1600 to keep shutter speed up to 1/60th or more thus effectively exposing at ISO 3200 shooting RAW..

Chris Elliott.

*Nikon* D Eighty + Fifty - Other equipment in Profile.


Comment #2

FOr what circumstances? Exposing to 0 gives the shot that the camera thinks is the correct exposure. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Auto exposure is pretty smart, but it doesn't actually know what it is looking at. I wouldn't routinely under/over expose. Rule of thumb- if you are shooting a light subject (e.g. snow) over expose so white is white, a dark subject (back cat fighting a gorilla in a coal mine) under expose so blacks are black.

I would never routinely underexpose, as there isn't a ton of lattitude for recovering highlights once they blow..

A small but growing collection of my photos can be seen at

Comment #3

Hi again..

I shoot with a 350D..

I'm asking because I have read somewhere that a general rule of thumb is to set Ev one stop up..

Thanx for all your help and info..


Comment #4

Chris Elliott wrote:.

Some cameras expose for the shadows (Nikon D50/D80). Others expose topreserve highlights (Nikon D70). You have to use exposurecompensation to balance your ambitions against the bias of the cam..

True, the D70 is happiest at +.3, which is closer to how I see 0..

Comment #5

Deonholt wrote:.

Hi again..

I shoot with a 350D..

I'm asking because I have read somewhere that a general rule of thumbis to set Ev one stop up..


I've not heard that, and would be surprised if it were necessary. Canon metering is generally pretty accurate. Granted, I haven't shot a tone with the various rebels...

Comment #6

Deonholt wrote:.

I'm asking because I have read somewhere that a general rule of thumbis to set Ev one stop up..

Personally, I feel it's just bad advice and overly general. I'd start at 0 with center-weighted metering for portraits and matrix for landscapes and check the results. If you begin to see certain shots over/under exposed while others look correct, try to figure out why. Post them here if you're stumped..

It took me a long time to figure out my first DSLR's metering decisions and bias, how to change AF points, and how to and lock exposure/AF. Once it started making sense, I was able to 'trick' the camera into getting the shot I wanted, er at least sometimes. This is when things started to get really exciting!.

Take lots and lots of pictures. See how fast you can wear out the shutter...

Comment #7

Over expose with a digital camera? Ouch you are going to lose a lot of detail in the blown highlights..

Some cameras overexpose too easy and need to be set to EV -1/3 or -2/3 to prevent the highlights from all being lost..

Otherwise use the meter as it is intended. It assumes the image will average out to be gray. If you have mostly whites they will end up gray, or if a scene is mostly black it'll be gray unless you override the meter, this is where digital is great because you can use trial and error and check your shots until you get your correct exposure..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #8

Is the question, what is the correct exposure? this depends upon your preference. the only person to know this is, eventually, you. a well exposed snow capped mountain is meaningless if what you're after is the lake in the foreground. another example is a an overcast, rainy day parade would it be better off as bright and contrasty when what you want to show is the ambient/mood on that day that you took the pictures ( the photojournalists are very good at thisgetting the pictures as they appear in real life. but we as hobbyists (i think) go for sharp, bright and contrasty (more pop) shots to impress. imho, this is not bad as a start becasue we want to aim to please ourselves first (and our subjectsfriends, ralatives).

And just as the other poster mentioned before, this will entail a lot of time and effort (actually a lot of fun, too) to discover yourself. thanks...

Comment #9

A general question gets only a general answer: meter properly and use the metered exposure for the best possible image quality. If its a scene with a dynamic range wider than what your camera can capture, youll have to choose between exposing for the shadows or exposing for the highlights; most err on exposing for the shadows as it is far easier to recover shadow detail than highlight detail during post-processing if you use image editing software. The price you pay under or over exposure is degraded image quality (noise and loss of detail being the main culprits)..


Polaroid Swinger; Kodak Instamatic 126 Ricoh 500; Canon FTb; Nikon F3; Hassleblad 501CM; Pentax 67II, Nikon 990; Nikon D1x; Nikon D300; HD39 II (ok, it's next)..

Comment #10

Deonholt wrote:.

Hi there.I was just wondering. Is it better to:.

1. Under expose one stop?2. Over expose one stop?3. Shoot with exposure on 0?.

Hi Deon,.

It all depends on the scene you are photographing..

The cameras meter tries to expose every scene the same way, it assumes that the scene is 18% grey on average across the scene..

A grass lawn is about 18% grey..

If you are taking a picture of a grass lawn then letting the camera expose it as 18% grey will probably result in an ok photograph..

However if you are taking a photo of a group of white businessmen in black suits against a dark background and you leave the exposure at normal, the photo will come out as the camera had metered it, 18% grey. What happens is the camera lets enough light in to make the scene 18% grey. That means that their black business suits will be over exposed to come out grey, it also means that their white faces will be over exposed and lose detail..

So, using matrix, to expose the photo of the black suited business people, against the dark background, you have to compensate for what the scene actually is. It is not 18% grey, it is actually very dark, so you want less light than the meter at it's mid point would give you, you want a - (negative) compensation, perhaps -1.

This will mean that less light is let into the camera than that which would be required to create a photo of 18% grey. And that is what you want..

The opposite scenario is perhaps taking a photo of a white snow with a snow man in it. Left to the normal 18% grey of the meter the camera will produce a photo in which the snow appears 18% grey. But the snow is actually white, you want the snow to come out white in the photo, not grey!.

So for snow you have to positively compensate so that rather than coming out grey, (underexposed) the snow comes out white (correctly exposed). So you need to positively compensate. You could experiment and you might end up with +2 compensation to make the snow scene come out white (rather than grey)..

Hope this helps..


Comment #11

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