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D800 histogram & highlights

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Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315379 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
6 May 2013 - 4:21 PM

The histograms you see on the back of camera only apply to the jpeg.

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6 May 2013 - 4:21 PM

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Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73879 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
6 May 2013 - 4:33 PM

The more you mess with the settings the more trouble you will end up in. If your not sure leave it at the factory default, learn how to read the histogram properly, set it to show all channels. Make sure you don't get a sharp peak on rhs (a sure sign of clipped highlights).

But set your meter to -1/3 then you will be OK 90% of the time. If your shooting at that big blob in the sky, you will need to underexpose more (probably with filters). If your shooting snow add exposure control, but use the histogram as a check, nothing more, the meter in the D800 is dam good. The basics are still the same irrespective of camera, make or model.

Don't worry about dark images on the back of the screen - you can pull an awful lot out of the shadows (over 3 stops). The D800 is the best in terms of dynamic range of any dSLR made to date.

yphotography
6 May 2013 - 5:45 PM

Honestly, I do know what all the buttons do. I do know that the histograms apply to JPEGs, and I know how to read a histogram. You're all answering different questions to the one I asked. I appreciate the effort, but you really don't need to teach me how to operate a camera nor convert me away from ETTR. I've been using a D300 like this for 5 years, and my methods have been working fine.

Maybe I'm coming across as a numpty. I assure you I'm not (much). Seeing as you're all so keen to respond, I'll have one more stab at asking the question, and hopefully I can explain myself a bit better. But I might go on a bit...

Every digital SLR I have owned, I have shot exclusively in Raw, and 14-bit when I've had the chance. People have commented on my photos, guessing that I have used HDR, when I haven't. I put this down to my technique of exposing to the right, and spending a bit of time processing my images properly. I guess a lot of my subjects are quite high contrast, so I like to maximise my exposure in high contrast scenes, so I can get the best tonal resolution (bit depth) in the shadows, so I can boost them later or work in some local contrast without them going grainy.

I found out early on that the blinkies and histograms on the back of the camera weren't a very good guide for maximising exposure, and although good, Nikon's Matrix Metering often got it wrong, especially in high contrast scenes. What looked like a blow-out on the camera was sometimes recoverable, and sometimes not; and it was difficult to tell which way it might go. I needed a better way to judge the photo had been exposed how I wanted.

So, a long time ago, I read about UniWB and custom picture controls. The idea was that you used a custom picture control to manipulate the image preview, thereby manipulating the histograms and highlights in the process. Shooting Raw means that no JPEG is produced, but the preview embedded in the Raw file is made with the picture control, and it is this preview which determines the histograms and highlights on the camera monitor. I tried UniWB, but I couldn't get past the colour cast, it was too distracting.

No digital cameras (that I am aware of) will actually give you a proper histogram/highlight-warning based on Raw data. They do the conversion for JPEG/preview at the time of capture, and use the conversion histogram instead of the Raw data. As ETTR relies on judging histograms and highlights, it sort of makes sense to try to get histograms which vaguely resemble the Raw histograms you can see with programs like Rawnalyze (which actually analyse the Raw data and not the preview).

So, getting back to the original technique. I learned to take a Nikon Neutral picture control, load it into the Picture Control Utility, flatten the curve, save and copy to the camera. Although it made the camera back previews a bit flat, the resulting histograms and highlights more accurately represented the Raw capture, and I knew that blinkies really were a warning and something to definitely be avoided, rather than something I may or may not be able to recover in post.

This all worked great for 5 years. Fast forward to 2013, and I've treated myself to a D800. One of the first things I did was create the flat picture control, but it doesn't seem to work the same as before. I'm not sure why it should be any different; it's not like the D300 is a Mickey Mouse camera, it uses the same 3D Matrix Metering system as the D3. Clearly, using the same method of building a flat picture control isn't going to help, as the images appear under-exposed on the camera, but aren't. I'm going to have to experiment a bit more with highlight warnings before I know how serious they actually are.

Anyway. The question was: "Does anyone use picture controls for exposing for Raw? I know some people like UniWB settings, but I'm not crazy about green previews. I just want to know if I'm going to blow the highlights and be able to see if its composed and exposed okay."

Thanks for reading. I tried to keep it short in the first place.

Gaucho
Gaucho e2 Member 122260 forum postsGaucho vcard United Kingdom2 Constructive Critique Points
6 May 2013 - 6:07 PM

Anybody seeing your photographs would realise you know what you are talking about Keith and I know exactly what you are trying to achieve. I can't help as I don't have a D800 but if I set my D7000 to neutral and make sure that the camera is not messing about with anything I can get a fair idea from the histogram how far right I can go and it is always further than a normally presented JPEG. I assume this is what you have been doing with previous cameras. Seems strange that the D800 should be different but maybe there is someone here who can help rather than teach you to suck eggs Smile

yphotography
6 May 2013 - 6:56 PM

Thanks, Gaucho. I thought I was speaking a different language. I'll be using Neutral until I come up with a better idea. I just need to keep an eye on those blinkies, until I get used to the new toy!

Last Modified By yphotography at 6 May 2013 - 6:56 PM
Paintman
Paintman e2 Member 8857 forum postsPaintman vcard United Kingdom173 Constructive Critique Points
6 May 2013 - 7:28 PM


Quote: I know some people like UniWB settings, but I'm not crazy about green previews.

Would taping a thin magenta coloured gel over the LCD screen colour correct the green colour cast, enabling the use of UniWB to be useful again?

Does the custom picture control come from exterior software or is it controlled through the camera's menu controls?

Have you tried taking photos in controlled and repeatable high contrast conditions so you can evaluate a RAW photo where the whites are just short of the point of blowing then, customize the picture control to this known RAW data? The LCD data ( the JPG Picture Control version on the camera's screen ) can be adapted so the 'blinkies' only just show or are at the point of showing. This may allow the picture on the LCD screen to more closely match the actual RAW data.

Gaucho
Gaucho e2 Member 122260 forum postsGaucho vcard United Kingdom2 Constructive Critique Points
6 May 2013 - 7:31 PM

You may find that with your new toy ETTR may not be quite so necessary!

mikehit
mikehit  56475 forum posts United Kingdom9 Constructive Critique Points
6 May 2013 - 10:27 PM

That uniwb sounds like a custom picture profile. If you took the time to prepare one for your 300, why not create one for the 800? Or am I missing something?
Or are you doing that but cant get one that works in all situations?

yphotography
7 May 2013 - 12:23 PM

The custom white balance is for hardcore ETTR. Personally, I like to make sense of the camera monitor, and the strong green tint spoils this for me.

To do UniWB properly you need a custom white balance and picture control. The WB component reduces the red and blue levels so that you can tell if the clipping is due to pixel saturation and not white balance correction. The picture control gives a totally flat tone curve, which removes the messing about that the camera does with highlights and shadows, so you can see the Raw headroom better.

yphotography
7 May 2013 - 12:31 PM


Quote: Would taping a thin magenta coloured gel over the LCD screen colour correct the green colour cast, enabling the use of UniWB to be useful again?

Does the custom picture control come from exterior software or is it controlled through the camera's menu controls?

Have you tried taking photos in controlled and repeatable high contrast conditions so you can evaluate a RAW photo where the whites are just short of the point of blowing then, customize the picture control to this known RAW data? The LCD data ( the JPG Picture Control version on the camera's screen ) can be adapted so the 'blinkies' only just show or are at the point of showing. This may allow the picture on the LCD screen to more closely match the actual RAW data.

I think the quality and usability of display would be seriously compromised by sticking on a magenta gel.

The picture control can be made very easily using Nikon's Picture Control Utility, which comes with their NX software. You start with a Neutral PC and flatten the curve, then save it to a memory card and load it into the camera using the PC menu.

I haven't got too serious with the experimentation yet. I've just got hold of some new Raw analysis software (RawDigger) and am comparing the histograms of photos I shot at the weekend.

Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73879 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
7 May 2013 - 12:53 PM

I think you are trying too hard, just get out and take pictures. You can get too technical (speaking from experience), just use the histogram to make sure your not clipping highlights. Spend too much time looking at the back of the camera you miss whats happening in front of it.

Last Modified By Nick_w at 7 May 2013 - 12:54 PM
mikehit
mikehit  56475 forum posts United Kingdom9 Constructive Critique Points
7 May 2013 - 1:09 PM

It seems that you are on your own in your need to do this...and I have to say I have never read of anyone wanting to (not even professionals in all disciplines who describe in detail what they do).



One more question, have you shot a scene with increasing levels of exposure compensation from OK to definitely blown and compared the final processed image? I would be surprised if with a camera like the D800 you can tell the difference between 'right at the limit of blowing' and '2 stops down from blowing'. If you can't tell the difference, then the jpeg with a histogram at the right hand end will be between those two and everything is hunky dory.
It may not be your perfect solution but it will do you until you work out what you need to do.

samueldilworth

Mikehit: taking ETTR to its logical conclusion by tweaking the in-camera JPEG (by whatever method) to more closely reveal the raw data is a common fixation among technically advanced photographers. I broadly understand how this stuff works but I find the pickings too slim to be worthwhile. What you gain in photons – maybe half a stop’s worth of noise in the deepest shadows, if you’re lucky – isn’t worth what you lose to errors of judgement in the field on which highlights are desirable to preserve, camera shake, subject motion, depth-of-field, and the systematic ETTR problems (only useful at base ISO, requires special workflow, skewed colours because raw-conversion software doesn’t preserve hues when ‘exposure’ is adjusted, etc.).

Basically, for me, noise is the very least of my problems with the D800 at ISO 100.


Quote: No digital cameras (that I am aware of) will actually give you a proper histogram/highlight-warning based on Raw data.

It’s not much use to you, yphotography, but the Leica M Monochrom offers a raw-data histogram. Not coincidentally, this black-and-white camera is immune to the colour problems of ETTR, so there’s less downside to encouraging users to ETTR with it – which is probably why Leica did so.

Just shout if you want more useless anecdotes and opinion!

yphotography
7 May 2013 - 2:27 PM

Nick, I'm a perfectionist, and I know from experience that this one-off effort will be rewarded many times in the future. So I'm prepared to put in the leg work now, set it and and forget it, then I'll go out taking pictures.

Mike, I know I'm unusual. It would be a boring planet where we are all the same. Today, I have found a new (to me) program called RawDigger, which is helping me with my learning curve. It's showing me exactly where, if at all, my photos are blown, or how much Raw headroom remains. Comparing this with the Nikon histograms, is giving me a good idea of how accurate my camera monitor is for future reference, and maybe which picture control gives me the best approximation of an actual Raw histogram.

Samuel, noise isn't really what it's all about for me, although it's a factor. One of the ETTR mantras is bit depth: the further you expose to the right, the greater the bit depth in any part of a scene. If you can squeeze in an extra stop, you're automatically doubling the bit depth. And the more bit depth you have (particularly in the darker areas) they more you can do with the image in post.

By the way, in case anyone is interested, I'd forgotten all about Adobe Baseline Exposure. Adobe has an exposure offset value for every camera it supports, and boosts the default render by this amount automatically. It was 0.50EV for the D300, and I just found out that it's 0.35EV for the D800. This explains why Camera Raw was displaying a brighter image than my custom picture control. If I set the D800 default exposure in ACR to -0.35 the appearance and histogram are a lot closer to the camera monitor. Not a perfect match, but getting there.

Seeing as you all think I'm mental. I'll end it there. I honestly don't think about all this stuff when I'm using my camera. ETTR is second-nature, and I don't really think about it any more. Once I've got everything set up the way I like it, I'll forget the details and just use it. It's a bit like the Nikon AF-ON button: I use it to focus and the shutter button doesn't do AF. I don't even know I'm doing it, but it confuses people who use my camera.

Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73879 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
7 May 2013 - 3:19 PM

The problem you have comparing with the D300 is they are different beasts - seperated by over 5 years of technology. The Dynamic range of the D800 compared to the D300 is immense, which is what I think you are seeing. So you can let the review image look dark without compromise, so to get all the image to fit the review you will need quite a steep inverse S curve (i.e lighten shadows / darken highlights) - but if its that important to you Nikon have thought of that with the Active D lighting settings - so no need to reinvent the wheel (which I dont use as I know what I can retrieve from the review / histogram).

I applaud your quest to know the system inside out, but dont lose sight of what you bought the camera to do in the first place, after all the finished print is infinatly more important than having the image look right on the back of the camera.

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