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Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Scott J. Chalmers

Is this underexposed?

  Megan Thomas
Megan Thomas
2.8, 1:60 second, iso 800
© Scott J. Chalmers
Nikon D80 Digital ...
Hi is this underexposed? - I would value the opinion of others esp those with a pro pc/mac setup.

On the camera it looks fine, when imported into adobe lightroom it look under exposed but then this was adjusted. It looks fine on my Macbook and TFT.

At work in was looked very dark on CRT monitors on a pc (look at from the web), but on a colleagues TFT it looked fine, and it was mediocre printed on the office laser jet/photocopier.

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4/30/2008 11:36:55 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

Not an easy question; here's why.

"Proper" exposure is image and/or scene dependent, meaning you may have to sacrifice hi- lites to capture darker areas and vice versa.
Looking at your example, I would vote no. What was your point of interest in this photo? If it was the performers face, then you are ok. Theatrical lighting is quite "contrasty" making a great exposure difficult, not to mention color balance problems.
Your image contains pure black and pure white, so it is impossible to capture this range with one shot.

My personal definition of under or over exposure would be this.."NOT realizing the full dynamic range of the camera/sensor."

Example: A photo that does not show shadow transition or detail, yet it should without blowing out the hi-lites.

Over and under exposure is not only image and scene dependent, but also creative. You may WANT to shoot this or that in high contrast or with harsh black shadows.

Today with digital cameras, many of us rely on the histogram. This may or may not be a great idea as it depends fully on one's ability to interpret the histogram AND the camera's ability to render an accurate histogram. Reading a histogram can be a course in itself.

Concerning your issue on how the image looks on this monitor or that printer has little to do with exposure and more to do with the quality of the monitor/printer and calibration.

all the best,


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5/1/2008 5:54:47 AM

Scott J. Chalmers   thanks Pete, thats reasurring and informative, I know its dark bu thats the nature of live music stuff so...

No thanks to Gregory for throwing insults - no need - I've passed it on

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5/1/2008 7:26:04 AM

  Though underexposed, I feel that the lighting adds a bit of drama to the photograph. I guess that one persons trash...

Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark H.

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5/1/2008 7:42:34 AM

Scott J. Chalmers   As you can see from the camera settings - it was pushed to the limit without going to silly shutter speeds or higher iso, which would be too grainy.....I did not use any exposure compensation...if that was pushed up by a stop or two would that help at all?

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5/1/2008 9:19:59 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Anissa of Sky Cries Mary
Anissa of Sky Cries Mary
50mm f/1.4 lens
© Carlton Ward
Canon EOS 40D Digi...
Hi Scott, I use a 50mm f/1.4 lens for these type of shots. It really helps with low light and it is the least expensive lens in my bag.

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5/1/2008 9:52:27 AM

Scott J. Chalmers   I'm a dingbat! I got a 50mm 1.8 lens.....I shall try that one tomorrow night - same venue and lights....



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5/1/2008 10:50:23 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

If you are shooting jpg, you might want to try a manual WB.
Best to shoot this type of lighting in RAW format.


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5/1/2008 6:42:16 PM

James Scott Stone   Scott S. I have a sigma 28-80 lens 2.8 when shoot in lowlight. just go out and have fun.

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5/2/2008 9:08:43 PM

Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
I think you can really tell a lot from the histogram. You are really getting about half (ok, 60%) the dynamic range here that you would get with better exposure. A good correction would bring out some of the highlight without blowing out the details and enhance the image and color even more.

Take a look at the images I am uploading...the levels shows you have a lot of head room in the highlights and this can be adjusted successfully. The result should appear a bit brighter, but true to the original. I chose to lighten it a little -- which you don't need to do if you feel the darkness is a mood thing.

I hope that helps. These corrections and techniques are derived from stuff I teach in my courses at betterphoto. I made the corrections using Elements here, and Photoshop works about the same way.

Richard Lynch

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5/3/2008 7:37:03 AM

Scott J. Chalmers   Thats excellent advise - I'll take it into photoshop a play around with levels etc. This is something I need to get a handle on

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5/3/2008 8:39:52 AM

Russell E. Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/12/2004
  I have to agree with Pete's comments - you can see detail in what I believe are the strap and the microphone. Plus the details in the face (eyelashes, lips, etc.) are great. I think it is a great shot, very "moody" and realistic.

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5/3/2008 9:57:42 AM

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