Shooting right!

I’ve been reading more and more about the advantages of shooting right… well.. that is on the histogram anyway!  Shooting over exposed has an advantage and I’ve put it to the test to see what all the hype is about.  Here are my results.

According to the literature the white data have a lot more detail than the black data end of the histogram so a lot more photographers are starting to shoot slightly over exposed to gain more information in their images, but not so high that they burn the highlights out.  The trick is to keep an eye on the histogram whilst photographing and shoot as far right as possible without the histogram highlights going off the chart.  You can then bring the exposure down in post processing, bringing the details back with it.  The result is you will have a much cleaner image and far more detail than shooting correctly exposed.

I found a Herring Gull sitting on a post in front of me so decided to try this shoot right technique.

The first image I overexposed giving me the ‘shoot right’ exposure.  Details of this exposure were 1/1600sec at f/6.3 with +1 exposure compensation at ISO800. 

I checked the histogram (below) to see if the whites were blown and they were just under so I kept this image.Here is the image (Image A).  Looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera I would have deleted this as I would have expected the whites to be blown out but the histogram was showing otherwise. 

Here is a 100% crop and the histogram of the image shown above.  This will be important later.
The second image (image B) I correctly exposed as I would normally.  Details of this exposure were 1/3200sec at f/6.3 with no exposure compensation at ISO800.  As you would expect, this fell within the histogram nicely so the image was used.

and the 100% crop….

The above  images (A and B) are straight out of the camera and have not been processed at all apart from converting them from RAW to JPG using Lightroom 3. 
If I then edit the over exposed image (image A) to bring the exposure by -1, down to the correct exposure, this is the image (image C) 
 

with the histogram now being…

…which is almost identical to Image B’s correctly exposed histogram.

I used Lightroom 3 for the post processing.  The exposure is exactly the same now as the correctly exposed image (B).  The only difference is because I have now darkened the image, the noise in the image has reduced aswell which is a huge advantage. See image below.
 

Here are the two 100% crops merged together.  The image on the left is the original over exposed image (image C) that has been darkened and the image on the right is the original correctly exposed image (image B).  The reduction in noise is incredible.

Overall, this is a big advantage to getting cleaner images.  The only disadvantage to this technique is because you are overexposing the image slightly you get a slower shutter speed.  For static or slow moving subjects such as this gull it is fine, but if you are photographing faster subjects and need the higher shutter speed then stick to your usual method.  
When I used this technique I thought and read that because the image has more detail you will find the file sizes bigger aswell.  This wasnt the case with this image and I dont know why (they were all converted to JPG in the same way).
File sizes in JPG were:
Image A was 7.88mb
Image B was 8.84mb
Image C was 6.67mb

I hope you have found this useful.  When this technique is used properly, the images will contain so much more data and give you cleaner crisper images aswell and can be transferred right across any genre of photography. I’ll be paying closer attention to my histogram in the future.

If you already use this method or would like to add anything to this technique then please get in touch. It would be great to hear from you.

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4 thoughts on “Shooting right!

  1. Ian,
    Thank you so much for this example. I had not heard of this technique, although was vaguely aware that the white side of the histogram held more information.
    You have documented the process brilliantly here, I shall be setting myself some test shots to play with the technique.
    It is great to see photographers helping each other out with such clearly defined examples.. well done indeed!

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