Why you should “Shoot to the Right”

Shoot to the right… what’s that then?

It’s a technique to get better image quality… simple as that really.

Why does the “shoot to the right” technique give you better image quality?

Well the science is pretty complicated and all to do with how a sensor captures light. Digital cameras sensors are more efficient at capturing the light in the “highlights”, and less efficient at capturing “shadows”, so by getting the exposure more to the highlight end, we are getting the best out of the sensor.

Obviously you need to shoot RAW files for this to work, as you will need to correct (usually lower) the exposure later in a RAW convertor. Shooting jpeg means you thrown the baby out with the bathwater and lost all that great exposure info.

How do you do it?

The main thing is to get the exposure “to the right” not “totally blown out.

You need to get good with histograms – which are really simple, honest. It’s just a graph which shows you how your photo is made up – in terms the brightness of your photos. The left end is the shadows and black, middle is mid tones, right is highlights and white.

Here is one way to do it:-

  1. First, as normal you need to compose your image and meter the exposure.
  2. Take the shot at the metered exposure and check the histogram – what you are aiming for is to most of the exposure on the right side of the histogram, but none of it clipping off the right side – blowing the highlights.
  3. If most of your histogram is to the middle or left of the graph, then you just increase the exposure – doubling your shutter speed will move the graph along to the right a fair way.
  4. If the histogram is already off the right side, clipping the highlights and need to reduce the exposure to bring it back. You are aiming to have the highlights just inside the right side of the histogram.

Just keep taking photos and tweaking till you get it right – on a day with pretty consistent light, you probably only have to change the exposure when the sun goes behind a cloud.

A modern way…

If you have a camera with “live view” there is a good chance that it has a “live histogram” too. On a canon 5D mark 2, this is accessed by switching live view on – then pressing the “INFO” button over and over to cycle through the display settings. Eventually, you get to the little live graph.

All you need to do now is :-

  1. set your shot up as usual –
  2. maybe ISO100, F16 for a landscape –
  3. get the filters in place –
  4. Now just look at the graph and adjust the shutter speed till the right side of the graph touches the right end of the histogram.

It really is that simple

Why Bother?

Here’s a little video of 2 shots of the Humber Bridge – one is “over exposed”, the other “under exposed”

Both are not “correctly exposed” – but when you recover them  – the results are quite different… as you will see!

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