What Lurks in the Shadows: The Case of the Black Cat, or Why You Should Expose to the Right

I wrote this post in early 2009, so I am sure that many of my readers haven’t seen it.  I decided to repost it because it is an important concept for digital photographers to understand. As you may have heard, with digital, unlike film, your goal should be to expose your image as brightly as possible, without blowing out important highlights.  In other words, your histogram should be as far to the right as possible without going over the edge.  This method is now called ETTR — Expose To The Right. What is the histogram?  It is a graph of the tones in your images, from pure black (blocked up, no detail) at the left edge, to pure white (blown […more]


8 bit, 12 bit, 14 bit, 16 bit — What Does It Really Mean to Digital Photographers?

You may be photographing  in raw rather than jpeg because you know that raw files contain more information and because they are unprocessed, giving you more flexibility.  But how do they contain more information?  Among other things, digital photography raw files are captured at a higher bit depth — depending on the camera, 12, 14 or 16 bit, compared to 8 bit for jpegs.   Whether 12, 14 or 16, these higher bit-depth files potentially contain much more information than 8 bit files. So what is bit depth? For each pixel in your image, the tonal value or brightness of the scene you are photographing  is stored in the image file on your memory card, along with the color.   Computer […more]


What You See Is Not What You Get? Time to Learn to Calibrate Your Monitor

When you print images  yourself or send them out to a printing service, do your prints look like what you see on your monitor?  If not, there may be many reasons for this, but the first to consider is that your monitor is very possibly  off in terms of color, brightness and contrast.   If, for example, your monitor is too bright, then your prints will come out darker than you expect.  If your monitor is too blue, your prints will look too yellow (the opposite of blue).    The solution is to calibrate and profile your monitor on a regular basis, using what is called a colorimeter.  I recommend the Eye One Display 2, though I am sure there are other […more]


The Perfect Exposure, or When Good Things Don’t Look So Good, or Why You Should Expose to the Right

I wrote about the importance of exposing as brightly as possible, short of blowing out important highlights in my post “What Lurks in the Shadows: The Case of the Black Cat“.    I encourage you to read it if you haven’t. I thought I would show you an example of a perfect exposure that in fact looks terrible in-camera. Here is a photograph I took on the Oregon Coast: And here is the histogram:


I have Lightroom. Do I need Photoshop?

I have been meaning to write a post on this topic.  However, I noticed today that my colleague Gene McCullagh has just written about this over on his blog, Lightroom Secrets.   I agree with Gene that Lightroom will serve most photographers needs most  of the time (and some photographers, all the time).   My advice to serious amateurs and pro’s is to learn Lightroom very well, and only then,  if you find you need more sophisticated pixel-editing tools, consider Photoshop (or even PS Elements) for just those advanced needs. I believe that today, with Lightroom so well established and powerful, educational programs that start photographers out in Photoshop rather than Lightroom are doing them a real disservice.  I hope that programs […more]


Understanding Resolution

Two factors determine how big your image will be when displayed — the size of your image in pixels, and how many pixels are displayed per inch, which is referred to as resolution. Both of the example images below have 6 pixels (3×2):  the first is displayed at  1 pixel per inch, and the second is displayed at 2 pixels per inch. 3 pixels x 2 pixels at 1 pixel per inch When you prepare your images for print, you specify  what resolution your images will print at.   If you have a 6 megapixel camera (i.e. 6 million pixel camera), your image is approximately 3,000 pixels wide by 2,000 pixels high  (3,000 x 2,000 = 6 million).      If you […more]

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