INDIEGOGO PAGE TEMPORARILY HERE!:
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PERFECT (Grain-Reduced Blown-Highlights-Recovered) EXPOSURE Through Sensor Optimization:
E-Book 1 of 2 - ETTR and "OTTR" Techniques
E-Book 2 of 2 - HDR and "HHDR" Techniques
- Exploiting the Little-Known Benefits of Intentional Overexposure of Non-Highlight Areas
Combined with Post-Capture Exposure Correction Using Either One or More Exposures,
and Replacing the Need for a Digital Zone System at the Image Acquisition Phase
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[graphically show common examples like blue skies in pictures BEFORE with highlights blown out and AFTER with highlights recovered].
Many digital cameras ranging from large DSLRs to small portable cameras including some cell phone cameras record in a so-called "RAW" image file format (and in some cameras a RAW video format or similarly high latitude format as well), which provides more latitude than the older "JPEG" format towards avoiding one of the most obvious problems in photos, and that is bad exposure.
(Feel free to see the video above for more on exposure-related problems, and an animated illustration of "sensor optimization", if you have not already).
In fact, the RAW image format can help you to not only obtain a so-called "normal" exposure that accomplishes an all-important proper exposure of your mid-tones (where your scene has those), but it can also help you to get perfect exposure in ALL parts of your image and a proper amount of contrast, while avoiding the loss of detail that typically occurs in high contrast scenes with blocked up shadows and/or overly blown out highlights, as well as avoiding too much grain, posterization, colour degradation and banding. What's more, with the extra latitude you don't even have to resort to the extra trouble of so-called "HDR imaging" to accomplish such good quality with scenes that might have otherwise had too challengingly high contrast - although you should not shy away from that technique either when the level of contrast you wish to capture, or in other words the difference between the darkest and lightest/brightest tones which is also called the "dynamic range", truly does go beyond what your camera can with only one exposure.
But, how do you know whether your camera has reached its limit in capturing dynamic range? And how do you optimize that limit - especially when even the best cameras still show you only a JPEG version of the captured image on the camera's monitor that often betrays the image quality that is actually possible to record? Such a betrayal is made worse if you rely on the camera's default settings and automatic exposure settings. So you might also ask what are the proper settings then?
All the answers lie in my e-books which will show you traditional digital photography methods including "ETTR" (Expose to the Right) in e-book #1 and "HDR" (High Dynamic Range) in e-book #2, as well as offshoots of these methods that I have developed called "OTTR" (Overexpose to the Right) and "HHDR" (Highlights High Dynamic Range) that show you how to maximize the use of your sensor towards greater so-called "tonal" and "dynamic" ranges in ways that are not always known or well-understood even by professional photographers.
If you are a keener, you might want to look at the diagram that follows now, but if not, you can leave it until later - for the e-books!
The methods I teach dispense with the complication of using a digital zone system at least at the image acquisition phase. Through my prior work in developing new take on such a system in order to address problems with other such systems, I demonstrate in my FREEly accessible public website that NO such systems are really needed for proper digital image capture - unlike the way that FILM benefits from the traditional Zone System. However, for post-capture image editing, we can reap benefits from a digital zone system, although even here it is often not necessary - especially if your goal is simply to get a realistic-looking recreation of the scene you shot. A zone system would be more appropriate for assisting with exposure-based enhancements.
In many cases the techniques I describe will encourage you to do something that might seem counter-intuitive, and that is to intentionally expose an image in a way that is not considered a normal exposure. This means that on your camera's monitor, any mid-tones present in the scene do NOT look properly exposed, or dark areas might look too light, or highlights might look too blown out, or light areas look too dark. However, with simple exposure correction post-capture especially where we are correcting intentional overexposure, your image quality will be improved over what it would be if it had been taken at a normal exposure - with less of the problems I've mentioned.
This means that for many scenes you encounter, you can make a camera that is less expensive, smaller, and more portable than a more capable camera with a larger sensor take an image closer in quality to what that camera would take as a normal exposure. For instance, if the scene is not of super high contrast, you might improve quality using intentional overexposure, and without the need for to take additional exposures to blend together. Even with fairly high contrast scenes you should be able to avoid using more than one exposure. My first e-book in my series will show you exactly how do to this before even considering HDR imaging - requiring some special camera settings if you have them (like a flat picture profile and a colour histogram), or some work-arounds if you don't. IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT YOU DO HAVE A CAMERA WITH THESE FEATURES HOWEVER, AND AT THE VERY LEAST YOUR CAMERA MUST SUPPOR THE RAW IMAGE FILE FORMAT!
As far as required software goes for post-capture exposure and contrast correction, and optional HDR-based blending of multiple exposures, it need not be expensive. Adobe Photoshop Elements for instance, which comes packaged with "ACR" (Adobe Camera Raw), does well. This is fine for my first e-book and fine enough to start with my second e-book.
As a bonus, both e-books look into using the video features of your camera - again with an eye towards proper exposure, as well as exposure correction where you might be using a high latitude video format.
E-book #1 is available for sale right now, while e-book #2 is currently a work-in-progress seeking crowd-funding - with e-book #1 being included as an investment perk. Of the two e-books, I would say that the first one is the most important as both a pre-requisite to this second e-book and a base of fundamentals that you will likely use more often than the techniques in the more optional second e-book. However, the second e-book is a greater labour than the first.
You can purchase the first e-book on this page, and please consider supporting the second e-book by buying both e-books as a package (with the second as a pre-order) also on this page. If you would prefer to purchase e-book #1 by itself you can certainly come back to pre-order e-book #2 later on it's own as well or purchase it outright when it is available. However the package pre-order does allow you some savings.
For a breakdown of the chapter names of both e-books as they currently are, and further technical details, here is a link to my own website (where you can simply skip the introductory material and scroll down to the chapter descriptions if you like) …
For those who are concerned about debates they may have heard regarding the "ETTR" method, I conclude with this section:
Addressing the Controversy Over ETTR:
You might have read about ETTR on the Internet, and found that it has its detractors, or at least had. The problem is that with digital cameras there has been a concern that one could all too easily clip the highlights - especially with digital cameras that are older or have very small sensors and with that, more limited dynamic range that could be captured in the highlights than better cameras. One could argue even with the newer cameras that after properly setting up your camera for ETTR, a change in lighting conditions or a change in camera angle could render those settings improper and cause highlight clipping. My e-book discusses ways to implement a "safety margin" of sorts for this, but it also encourages boldness to take at least one exposure where there is little such safety margin - even at the expense of accidentally clipping highlights in one exposure when at least one other in, say, a bracket of three exposures, is perfectly fine. That's only one of a number of possible safety margins.
Some have argued that they have debunked ETTR, while others have argued that they have debunked the debunkers. The attitude I take in my e-book is that ETTR is perfectly fine to implement - some would even say necessary - but with care.
Thank you for your consideration!
- Stacy Muller (camera guy).