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04-19-2010, 02:14 PM   #1
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Raw + JPEG + ETTR

Yes, boys and girls, it's time once again for Will's Annual Attempt to Shoot Raw + JPEG. Leading inevitably and fairly quickly to frustration, followed by disgust, abandonment of the experiment and finally, the Annual Commitment Never to Try This Again. Fun for the whole family. This experiment takes place every year in the spring. When I've recovered from this, I move on to Will's Annual Agonizing Over Whether He Should Abandon Pentax And Switch to Nikon [or Sony, or Fuji etc.].

Anyway, I'm talking about the Raw + JPEG event here.

Here's my question. I'm trying to figure out if I can square shooting Raw + JPEG with ETTR ("Expose to the Right") practice. If you don't know about ETTR, you can read the famous article on Luminous Landscape's web site, here. For the problem I'm trying to deal with, you should also read this article: "A Possible Problem with ETTR...." In the latter article, the author (Ray Maxwell) notes that, in order to get the best reading from your histogram, you should set your camera's contrast as low as possible. Apparently the histogram is based on the jpeg rendering of the raw data, not on the raw data directly. If you have the camera increasing the contrast in the picture, you'll be pushing data to the right of the histogram faster than it might otherwise go there, and you might think you're clipping stuff that in fact wasn't going to be clipped.

So the first issue is, if I am trying to shoot Raw + JPEG, AND I'm trying to follow the ETTR guideline, I either need to get used to JPEGs that are initially lacking in contrast, or put the in-camera contrast setting back to normal and accept the (small) effect this has on my ETTR metering, or compromise somewhere in between. Doubt I'd compromise. Suspect that I'd be trying to get the best jpegs from the camera possible, since for me the WHOLE POINT of shooting Raw + JPEG would be so that I could upload the jpegs for clients to review without (well, ideally without) any post-processing at all. Actually, if I do try this again, I won't even be shooting max quality jpegs.

But this leads to the second issue: CAN ETTR (for your Raw files) be reconciled with saving jpegs in the camera? Is it possible?

I'm really not sure how ETTR affects my exposures, on the average. I'd guess, on the average, that I end up biasing the metering half to a full stop to the right, but of course it all depends on the photo.

I GUESS what I'd do is this:
  1. Adjust camera's processing settings for jpegs so that contrast was normal, or perhaps just slightly lower than normal
  2. Expose to the right, but not quite as far to the right as I would ordinarily. Upping the contrast will already act as a check on ETTR, and I'd make a mental adjustment as well.
I'm guessing what this would give me is jpegs that are perhaps a bit bright, but (I would hope) not actually overexposed, certainly not too bright to show to clients.

The alternative is to leave the contrast dialed way down, continue to use ETTR as I have, and then apply some global presets to the jpegs upon import into Lightroom or whatever I'd use for minimal preliminary post-processing.

If you want to tell me I should just continue to shoot Raw and learn to use presets to batch process images quickly, I'm open to the idea. Unfortunately, this is what I've been trying to do for years and so far it hasn't worked. If I have to look at a photo in Lightroom at all, I can't help but start tweaking it—adjusting the black point, tweaking clarity, etc. And next thing I know, I've lost four hours. The fantasy motivating this year's Raw + JPEG experiment is that I would upload the jpegs directly to my web site AND THEN DELETE THEM, keeping only the Raw files.

Anybody tried this? Have any thoughts?

Will

04-20-2010, 04:11 AM   #2
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I don't shoot RAW +, I shoot mainly RAW, but sometimes I shoot Jpeg, but not both. I find shooting two formats difficult and unwieldy - nice in concept, but difficult to put into practice. Comparing the RAW images with Jpegs and deciding if the jpegs are good enough or, if you want to try to work on the RAW is difficult and adds a lot more time to what should be a stream lined process.

I am not a particular fan of ETTR. My goal in the camera is to get the "right exposure" not over expose and then pull back.

As far as Jpeg settings, I think you are stuck with what sharpening, saturation, etc settings that you think look best. The problem really is that sharpening has a great tendency to emphasize noise. Now, that is problematic...
04-20-2010, 04:20 AM   #3
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a long techno babble

regarding ETTR

More boring high ISO / ETTR technodiscussion for the few of us who care [Page 1]: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

bring out the popcorn
04-20-2010, 04:25 AM   #4
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Probably not much help, but I shoot RAW+. The only time I worry about ETTR is using higher ISOs (400+ w/ a K10D) where a good amount of shadows are present. No sense in trying to pull back to reduce noise when there isn't any. I tend to keep my Jpeg settings flat, but if I'm just popping snapshots with one of my lower end lenses, I may bump them to a +1 or +2 (if I remember).

04-20-2010, 05:57 AM   #5
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My 2 cents,
The final image is what the Client buys. The 'Final' is a combination of what you can do with a camera and your post processing skills. Unless you process the jpg files, you'll be presenting your client with one set of images and delivering another.
If you have to mass produce quickly, using a Preset in Post will get your jpgs closer to that Final Product than an unprocessed, ettr jpg.
04-20-2010, 06:16 AM   #6
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will,

since I shoot almost exclusively JPEG, and I do a lot of wild life (birds especially) I will try to help in terms of exposure.

For ETTR, I think simply setting contrast to minimum is a real mistake. I did some tests a long time ago looking at exposure vs histogram. I tested with my *istD at the time, the impact of selecting minimum, nominal or maximum contrast, while keeping a fixed either shutter or aperture and changing the other in 1/2 stop increments over the entire range of exposure.

What I found was that from about 25 greyscale to 225 greyscale in the histogram, the greyscale value changed almost linearly with stops. At each end in the range of 25-30 greyscale at the end of the histogram, things became non linear, with the next 15 or so being one stop, 7-10 being a second stop, and if there was any room left about 1/2 stop to the end (0 or 255)

The middle range of 200 was as I said divided evenly with 4 stops at max contrast, and 5 stops at minimum contrast.

My approach, and this is to get good JPEG shots, is to set my contrast as a function of the lighting conditions. I set contrast low, when the scene is high contrast, and set the contrast high, when the lighting or scene has low contrast. Since I principally work with JPEGs, I am to get the contrast setting of the camera to as close to where I want the final image to be. You may recall, when I described this process of setting my jpeg settings in another post, (contrast, WB, and saturation specifically) to match the lighting in advance, I was accused of Pre-Post Processing.

If you adjust the settings to match the lighting in advance, then you get 2 things, JPEG quick proofs that are very close to what you really are aiming for, and probably better overall exposure of the RAW image if you feel the urge to tweek settings
04-20-2010, 06:42 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I don't shoot RAW +, I shoot mainly RAW, but sometimes I shoot Jpeg, but not both. I find shooting two formats difficult and unwieldy - nice in concept, but difficult to put into practice.
That's been my experience, too.
QuoteQuote:
Comparing the RAW images with Jpegs and deciding if the jpegs are good enough or, if you want to try to work on the RAW is difficult and adds a lot more time to what should be a stream lined process.
Well, it's very important to the understanding of my question, to understand that "good enough" for the jpeg simply means, "good enough to put online as a low-res proof." That's what I do.
QuoteQuote:
I am not a particular fan of ETTR. My goal in the camera is to get the "right exposure" not over expose and then pull back.
ETTR isn't something one is a fan of. It's simply a fact about how your camera works, when it's storing raw data. WHEN RECORDING RAW DATA, your camera stores more tonal distinctions at the bright end of your photo (the right side of the histogram) than it does in the middle, and more in the middle than in the dark end (left side of histogram). If you don't push the histogram as far to the right as you can without blowing significant highlights, then you're losing tonal distinctions. I'm not under the impression that this is controversial.
The problem—well, the main part of the problem—is that ETTR ONLY APPLIES TO THE RAW CAPTURE. It doesn't apply to your jpeg. So while you may frequently want to "overexpose" to maximize the raw file, you do NOT want to overexpose if you want to use the jpeg right out of the camera. Then add in the fact that, in order to get the most info into the histogram, you should decrease the contrast setting in the camera to its lowest option. (Reasons for this are explained in the second article I linked to.)
In short, it seems to me that shooting raw + jpeg is, well, just about impossible, at least if you care about getting the most out of the raw file. If you do what you need to do to get the most info into those raw files, you end up with overexposed, low-contrast jpegs. And there's nothing you can do about it.
Will
04-20-2010, 08:17 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by thazooo Quote
The final image is what the Client buys. The 'Final' is a combination of what you can do with a camera and your post processing skills. Unless you process the jpg files, you'll be presenting your client with one set of images and delivering another.
Well, yes. That's the whole bleepin' point. The first set are called proofs. The client only sees them as small on-screen images and it's understood that they haven't been post-processed (at least not much). Client understands that the print they order will be made from a processed and improved high-res master file.
QuoteQuote:
If you have to mass produce quickly, using a Preset in Post will get your jpgs closer to that Final Product than an unprocessed, ettr jpg.
Yes, that's quite possible and what I'm still thinking about. Problem here, however, is that I've never had a lot of success applying presets to all the images from a shoot.
If you use ETTR, you will want to move the histogram to the right when you can—but sometimes you can't, because to do so would clip significant highlights. In other words, sometimes the nominally correct exposure already has the histogram as far right as it can go. So I end up with jpegs some of which are overexposed—some perhaps just a little, others perhaps more than a little—and other jpegs that aren't overexposed at all. Applying a single "pull back to the left a half stop" type of preset would improve some jpegs and worsen others.
And it's worse than that, really, because there are really three exposure options, not just two:
  1. Nominally overexposed for ETTR
  2. Nominally correct exposure at time of capture
  3. Nominally UNDEREXPOSED because, oh, I was shooting in a dark church, could not open aperture any wider, didn't want to slow down shutter any further, and didn't feeling like shooting at ISO 3200
What I wish is that my processing software (Lightroom) had an auto-fix function that I could trust. It doesn't. (It has one, I just can't trust it.)
Ah, heck, there just may be no way to do this well.
Will

04-20-2010, 08:23 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
will,
since I shoot almost exclusively JPEG, and I do a lot of wild life (birds especially) I will try to help in terms of exposure.
For ETTR, I think simply setting contrast to minimum is a real mistake. ....
Lowell,
If you only shoot jpeg, then you don't have the problem I'm trying to describe at all. And if you only shoot jpeg, then yes, turning the contrast down to a minimum in the camera would be a big, dumb mistake.
But if you shoot raw, and you're trying to expose to the right of the histogram, then reducing the in-camera contrast is a good idea, because the histogram is based on the jpeg, not directly on the raw data; and the only way for the jpeg to represent all or nearly all the dynamic range the sensor is capable of, is to decrease the jpeg contrast.
What I am NOT sure about, is how big a difference it makes. For no particular reason, my guess is that it probably varies with different pictures, but I bet that it doesn't usually make a huge difference. If I ever find myself getting paid $20K to shoot an automobile commercial where I really don't want to blow those specular highlights, I'll use a different camera. :-)
Will
04-20-2010, 08:31 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
.
If you want to tell me I should just continue to shoot Raw and learn to use presets to batch process images quickly, I'm open to the idea.
Yeah, that.

Regardless of the rest of the Pentax software issues, it does "extract a JPG" from the RAW file pretty dang fast. Just do that without looking at them, and don't waste 4 hours tweeking yet.
04-20-2010, 08:35 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Yeah, that.
Regardless of the rest of the Pentax software issues, it does "extract a JPG" from the RAW file pretty dang fast. Just do that without looking at them, and don't waste 4 hours tweeking yet.
Are you suggesting that I use the Pentax Photo Lab or whatever it's called to do this? Does it even HAVE presets? I don't have it installed now and have never used it much.

At the moment, if I were to extract low-res jpegs from my raw files for the purpose of online proofing and ordering, I'd do it in Lightroom 3 or possibly in ACDSee Pro 3. (There are actually a couple things I like better about ACDSee Pro but unfortunately, batch saving jpegs isn't one of them....)

Will
04-20-2010, 08:38 AM   #12
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Will

I think i am approaching the issue from a different perspective (no pun intended since this is a photography forum)

My perspective is that I look at the whole dynamic range. if the dynamic range for the JPEG is perfect, then you have probably the perfect exposure also for RAW.

I don;t go by the expose to the right as a rule, but make sure the dynamic range for my subject is where I need it, especially for an entire scene if the dynamic range pushes to the top of the histogram, but not off the end, the highlights are protected, and if the histogram is all within the the range, then shadows are also protected.
04-20-2010, 09:27 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Are you suggesting that I use the Pentax Photo Lab or whatever it's called to do this? Does it even HAVE presets? I don't have it installed now and have never used it much.
At the moment, if I were to extract low-res jpegs from my raw files for the purpose of online proofing and ordering, I'd do it in Lightroom 3 or possibly in ACDSee Pro 3. (There are actually a couple things I like better about ACDSee Pro but unfortunately, batch saving jpegs isn't one of them....)
Will
Well, if Lightroom can do it, no need to bother with Pentax. The "extract a jpg" pulls the embedded jpg out of the RAW file (with, I guess, camera settings). It will do a whole batch in 60 seconds. You can batch "convert" with whatever setting you choose, at a few seconds each per shot...

The "extract" function is one of the few uses I have for Pentax software (the other is making an EXIF database). I can then weed them out more conveniently in other software.
04-20-2010, 09:54 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Well, yes. That's the whole bleepin' point. The first set are called proofs. The client only sees them as small on-screen images and it's understood that they haven't been post-processed (at least not much). Client understands that the print they order will be made from a processed and improved high-res master file.

Yes, that's quite possible and what I'm still thinking about. Problem here, however, is that I've never had a lot of success applying presets to all the images from a shoot.
If you use ETTR, you will want to move the histogram to the right when you can—but sometimes you can't, because to do so would clip significant highlights. In other words, sometimes the nominally correct exposure already has the histogram as far right as it can go. So I end up with jpegs some of which are overexposed—some perhaps just a little, others perhaps more than a little—and other jpegs that aren't overexposed at all. Applying a single "pull back to the left a half stop" type of preset would improve some jpegs and worsen others.
And it's worse than that, really, because there are really three exposure options, not just two:
  1. Nominally overexposed for ETTR
  2. Nominally correct exposure at time of capture
  3. Nominally UNDEREXPOSED because, oh, I was shooting in a dark church, could not open aperture any wider, didn't want to slow down shutter any further, and didn't feeling like shooting at ISO 3200
What I wish is that my processing software (Lightroom) had an auto-fix function that I could trust. It doesn't. (It has one, I just can't trust it.)
Ah, heck, there just may be no way to do this well.
Will

"Bleepin' Point"

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