Getting it “Right” In-Camera

Full moon over Face Rock, Bandon, Oregon. © 2019 Jason P. Odell

Digital exposure is about data, not the final image

Photographic capture is not about “getting the image right” in-camera. It’s about recording the *best possible data* to further work on in post. In other words, we try to make sure that the original exposure preserves the elements of the image that are important to us, so that we can then execute the final image (in the darkroom or on the computer).

Take for instance, the above image I captured last week in Oregon with my workshop clients. The full moon was at least 3EV brighter than the rest of the scene. If I exposed for the overall scene, I’d blow out the moon without any chance of recovering details. This scene is also a poor choice for HDR capture, as the moon is moving and so are the waves.

Instead, I made the decision to capture the image to preserve the highlight details in the moon. Here’s the “as-shot” image.

The as-shot histogram looked something like this:

Fortunately, my Nikon Z7 (as well as Nikon D8xx DSLRs) have ridiculous dynamic range, even in the shadows. By carefully working with the image in Lightroom Classic, I was able to recover the shadow details and then use local adjustment tools to bring the highlights back down in the full moon. I further enhanced the local contrast using Color Efex Pro 4 and Adobe Photoshop.

2 thoughts on “Getting it “Right” In-Camera”

  1. I love this post!! I tell my workshop students all the time that “getting it right in camera” doesn’t mean you spit out an image ready for the wall. It means you capture just what you need to create your finished image in post processing! And you explained what I mean perfectly here! Thanks for saying it so clearly, I couldn’t agree more!

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