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A Night & Day Lesson In Exposure Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

12 June 2017

We'd been taking some product shots in the bunker for an upcoming review when we decided to shoot a close-up. We don't have a macro lens for that particular camera but when did a detail like that ever stop us?

We cobbled together a stack of optical oddities and got the shot. But we spent so much time cobbling that we forgot we'd made an adjustment to the Exposure Value.

And it was a big one. We went down to -3.0 EV to avoid walking over to the studio strobe and adjusting its output.

We quickly broke everything down, copied the photos off the card, backed them up (of course) and, naturally, forgot all about -3.0 EV.


The next day we went on a neighborhood photo safari, saw a few interesting things and switched the little camera back to Aperture priority for the kit lens we'd put back on.

Forgot all about -3.0 EV.

When we got back to the bunker, we copied the images from the card to our hard drive and saw, to our horror, dark blotches where we had expected to see lovely preview thumbnails.

That's when we looked at our exposure settings on the camera and realized we'd, uh, forgotten all about -3.0 EV.

It was as if we were shooting Day For Night, the old underexposure technique used (with a few other tricks) in the movies to simulate night scenes during daylight shoots.


But we'd shot in Raw mode, not JPEG. And you can recover over three stops of exposure in Raw mode. So while we might be stuck with some sad looking thumbnails (although you can update the thumbnail), we could still save our images.

Oddly enough, our exposure correction in two Raw editors we tried (Adobe Camera Raw and Capture One 10) worked out to about a 2.4 EV correction (or a bit less), not the full 3.0. Both the uncorrected and corrected images seen here were exported from a session in Capture One 10, by the way.

On a correctly exposed image, moving the Exposure slider a bit in post production often throws off the whole thing, spinning it away from reality into something obviously wrong.

But moving the Exposure slider right in this case was like looking at the image as it came up in a developing tray. Gradually the colors came vibrantly alive and real.


We can't recommend severely underexposing as a technique, but we liked the final images quite a bit.

We can however recommend shooting in Raw. Even if you're a dedicated JPEG shooter because who has time to edit images, having the Raws as an insurance plan won't hurt. You can always delete them if you don't need them.

Although we wouldn't recommend it.

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