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Subject: Re: Exposure to the right and tone placement

Bill J said: "In an interesting post, Rags Gardner disputes the common wisdom of 2048 levels in the brightest f-stop (go to technology, tones n zones in the link below)."

Not to be snide, but after looking as his photographs, I'm not sure he's the man to turn to for this discussion. They seem a bit flat and drab.

In his book "Real World Camera RAW With Adobe Photoshop CS2," Bruce Fraser explains it pretty clearly. The vast majority of the image information is in the highlights with the kind of curve that RAW files have (linear).

So there's a lot of information that you can compress (i.e. dump with no loss in quality) to fit into the "S" curve that results from processing the file in Photoshop. This would account for the ability to recover a large amount of hightlight detail with RAW that simply is not possible with jpeg files that have already been converted by the camera to their final form. All that highlight detail has been lost once converted.

I have put his book into practice (I've been a pro photographer since '85 and a photo junkie since '78) and there has been a quantum leap in the quality of my photographs, now that I understand more clearly how to process photos. Adding to that knowledge the capabilities of RAW, and I'm looking much better to my boss these days. I took a trip to Colombia two weeks ago and came back with some of the best photos of my career, technically. And a big reason for that is now I'm shooting with the full capabilties of RAW in mind.

One of the most important things I've learned is that slight overexposure is WAY better than undersposure. (Pushing the curve to the right.) You can recover highlights with all that overhead in the linear curve of RAW files, but you can't put in detail in the shadows that was never there. In that end of the curve, there is much, much less data to start with.

Shooting 1,700 meters underground in a mineshaft, with a 1Ds Mark II and a 24mm 1.4 L series lens @ ISO 1600 and no flash (it broke in the first mine I was in) I had to keep that fact in mind. Not aethetically beautiful pictures down there in the depths of those emerald mines, but more than technically usable photos. Above ground, my photos are much better than anything I have from past trips, where I used to shoot outside with JPEG to save space. Unfortunatley, the skies in my photos suffered for it. Clouds are blasted out. Not so on this last trip since I shot everything RAW (thanks to an extra couple of 4gig cards I had 11 gigs of space to shoot every day).


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