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D800 histogram & highlights

6 May 2013 9:15AM
When I shot with a D300 for 5 years, I used a custom flat picture control because it gave me a good idea of how I had exposed for Raw and exposing to the right.

I now have a D800, and I have done the same, but it's not working out so well. I can't work out why. So, I'm going back to using one of the preloaded picture controls for now.

I took a photo yesterday which appeared to be underexposed, and yet, when I got it home, some of the highlights were blown. So, clearly, I need a better histogram.

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.

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mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
6 May 2013 10:13AM
Why not try the in-camera picture styles and see which gives you the most reliable interpretation?
6 May 2013 10:28AM
I've tried Standard and Neutral, and Neutral seems to give the best readings, but it's still not giving me much highlight warning.
6 May 2013 12:06PM
Exposing to the right is a contentious practice these days, especially with a camera like the D800. It’s useful in far fewer situations than many ETTR proponents realise, and often downright harmful. Here’s a series of four well-informed articles arguing against it or its common application:

• one
• two
• three
• four

And another take by Ctein .

Hmm, it seems I can’t actually help you with your question, though – sorry!
Nick_w Plus
11 4.3k 99 England
6 May 2013 12:59PM
There's nothing wrong with shooting to the right - if you know what your doing.
It doesn't mean overexposing! It means shooting at a point just before the highlights go. Which means constant evaluating (chimping). Don't just go by the luminosity graph but use all the channels, you will be surprised how often say the red channel goes (and loses detail) but blue and green are OK ( with this it helps getting the white balance somewhere close).

Don't worry about the UniWB it's not necessary use auto, and adjust later if necessary. The thing with the D800 it has an enormous dynamic range, which is well outside the jpeg range used on the back of the camera. So set so highlights are as far to the right as you dare (even here you can reclaim about a stop), the shadows you can pull at least 3 stops in RAW with no noise.

So to answer your question, I use the standard profile in camera, and don't worry about it till I get home and convert in RAW.

Tho I can't see how an image can have all the highlight details on the back of the camera, but is blown when you get home, it's not possible, as there's more detain in RAW than the image projected onto the review screen. With RAW (I use Lightroom) and always use Camera neutral, then I adjust from there - I suspect you have a profile with an upward curve set in the RAW converter (or highish contrast setting).
peterjones Plus
16 4.7k 1 United Kingdom
6 May 2013 1:58PM
Huge fun these articles and very interesting, many thanks for the links, however as a D800 user (I shoot RAW) to avoid noise I avoid underexposing just like I would avoid a Cypriot bank as is I find underexposure increases noise exponentially especially in the shadows; therefore in the case of the D800 I expose to the right or rather have it set permanently on +1/3 stop and will increase according to the conditions; of course highlights have to be watched in high contrast scenarios however I agree that the D800 has an excellent dynamic range.

6 May 2013 1:58PM
Nick: the two authors I linked to know exactly what ETTR means. Sandy McGuffog wrote the widely used CornerFix and PhotoRaw apps, and Ctein is a physics expert and dye-transfer printmaker (and shameless self-promotor – bit of culture-shock there).

ETTR has may pitfalls, including the now-notorious ‘Adobe hue twist’ that messes with colours if you attempt large brightness corrections in Adobe software. ETTR is also entirely useless at reducing noise (it’s purported purpose) at anything other than ISO 100 with a Nikon D800 – you should just increase the exposure at a lower ISO setting instead – and a D800 has so little noise in a normal exposure at ISO 100 that improvement there is rarely needed. There are other problems and limitations too, as noted in the articles.
Nick_w Plus
11 4.3k 99 England
6 May 2013 3:02PM
The problem with a lot of the reviews they are setup in perfect lighting conditions just shooting a colour card. I just wish some of them would show us their photographic work, so we can judge if they are to be listened to, or they are just theorists who haven't a clue how to take a proper photo. I'm not an exponent of ettr as such just use common sense, keep the histogram on the graph, just don't blow the highlights (unless I intentionally blow the highlight)..

It's fine saying do this or that, but in the real world, we have to think on our feet it's quicker to change exposure than alter ISO. What is overlooked in the article, is a higher ISO allows you to handhold at shorter shutter speeds (also negates subject movement)

The notorious Adobe hue shift (which I've never heard of before !) I guess is when one channel blows but at least one of the others doesn't, so when you retrieve detail (or try to) you can in one or more but not the other. So when you pull details back, when say only the red channel blows is the blue and green increase in saturation, but the red can't as no detail is there. It's a similar principal why curves adjustments are generally preferable done in luminosity mode.
6 May 2013 3:05PM
I didn't post here to discuss the merits or pitfalls of ETTR, so excuse me if I don't get into a debate. Suffice it to say that I do use ETTR, and I don't like to get too close to the right. My main motivation is preservation of highlights, and maximising ADC values for post-processing. Obviously noise is a factor too, but it's only part of the ETTR equation for me, and less so now that I've bought a D800.

Anyway, getting back to the point, I have always relied on the camera monitor histogram and highlight warnings to make sure I'm not too close to the right, whilst maximising the exposure (and I think we all agree that more photon are better, as long as it's not "too many"). The problem with the histogram/highlight is that it is "contrived" by the Picture Control in use at the time of capture, and is not actually a representation of the Raw capture. It's what the image would have been, if we were shooting JPEG.

So, I have been using a "workaround" picture control, to emulate as closely as possible the overall exposure, shadows and highlights in relation to my Raw converter, which is Adobe Camera Raw with an Adobe Standard profile. It worked fine with my D300. Occasionally, I blew a highlight or underexposed by more than I would have liked (and produced a bit of noise), but 99% of the time it worked a treat.

It turns out that the example I gave appeared to be blown in the red channel (daffodils), but I could recover this by either working in ProPhoto, or lowering the exposure in conjunction with highlight recovery. So it was an extreme example, and it actually wasn't clipped, it just went well off the scale in ACR with the default settings, which was what alarmed me. ACR7 is supposedly tough on highlights, and the camera monitor suggested there wasn't even a hint of a problem. Incidentally, I hadn't used any exposure compensation on the shot, so the camera had done a good job of the metering, if a little close to the bone.

So, I'll persist with the canned picture controls for now, and if I'm still missing the mark, I may have to play with the Picture Control Utility, try a bit of trial and error and contrive another one.
Nick_w Plus
11 4.3k 99 England
6 May 2013 3:20PM
If you convert in RAW why are you so worried about the picture control settings in camera? it has no bearing on the finished image.
6 May 2013 4:12PM
Because the picture control setting has a direct effect on the histogram and highlight warning on the camera monitor.
cameracat 14 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
6 May 2013 4:13PM

Quote:it has no bearing on the finished image

Makes 2 of us, I was wondering the same thing, Raw is Raw end of, Your software extracts the information according to your use of the programme.

If you want to maximise Raw data with a Nikon use a Nikon software, ACR is all very well but it can not translate the Nikon specifics, It is just another jumble of pre-sets produced by Adobe similar to that of Nikon Picture Controls, If either are not doing it for you, Create a custom " User " one, Or maybe several to cover various shooting conditions.

Or just set everything to Zero and process raw in software on a computer using custom or random settings that please.

As for ETTR its ok but you still need to pay attention at all times, Same as anything else really, Not a one size fits all ...Wink
Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
6 May 2013 4:16PM

Quote:I took a photo yesterday which appeared to be underexposed, and yet, when I got it home, some of the highlights were blown. So, clearly, I need a better histogram

Stop using the histogram as if it was an exposer meter then.
6 May 2013 4:16PM
I should add that when I say "histogram" I mean "histograms", because I mostly use the RGB histogram/highlight page to check my exposures.
6 May 2013 4:20PM
Okay. Please disregard this question any further. Thanks for your helpful comments.

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