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Subject: Re: Exposure to the right and tone placement


Since you asked. I have looked at the Norman Koren articles. He has excellent and useful information. I have also seen the Luminous Landscape articles. I do not agree with those conclusions. A major problem is that they are based on images with little or no shadows and sometimes very few mid tones as well. Thus the conclusions are misleading.

This Koren article is primarily based on display and printing. I see only a cursory discussion of proper exposure here. But the rest of his information is accurate.

My only disagreement with this is the chart that equates digital bits to exposure zones. His chart showing 11 normalized exposure zones is excellent if you could only remove the columns that equate bits to levels and zones. This is the misleading part.

Levels are not lost when converting from 16-bit to 8-bit. You still have these same 11 zones. These are still min and max values (0 and 1 normalized). Most important, they are still scaler integer values, not bits. What is lost is granularity within the zones. Thus, an 8-bit image has less detail. I think most everyone would agree with that, though few can claim to actually see the difference. I am not saying that 8-bit and 16-bit images are equal. I am saying that literally equating the bits to levels is misleading.

Some scenes contain more that 11 zones of dynamic range. Many if not most, contain less. Proper exposure depends on what details you want the viewer to focus on. Metering is based on the mid point. That is all.

On a starlit night you see almost no color and a lack of image detail. If you look directly at the sun, you will see nothing else and you will certainly not see details on the surface. Look long enough and you can become permanently blind. Your camera behaves the same way.

If you want highlight details in a very bright scene, expose to the right is a very good paradigm. If thatís the only tool you rely on, you will miss some important shots.

If your exposure setting didnít match your image objectives, raw processing and higher bit depths provide some very welcome latitude. But even this has its limits. All these digital tools are wonderful, but they do not make photographic fundamentals and common sense obsolete.


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