Jump to content

Leica Monochrom - Correct exposure


flanoizele
 Share

Recommended Posts

Advertisement (gone after registration)

I bought my Leica Monochrom September 2013. Not only was it my first rangefinder, but also my first experience with Leica and I must admit that this has been a revelation for me. Like many of you it took me a couple of months to get used to iy but now I feel more and more confident shooting with my “Back Beauty”

 

However, I am still struggling with these blowing Highlights. I already bought a 3 stop B&W ND filter but still… Reading this forum I understand that many others have had the same issue. I tried to expose for the highlights but then I tend to have pictures with a lot of shadow dust. Often other more experience users advise not to expose for the highlights but rather to expose “correctly”.

 

Can someone please explain to me what they mean with “correctly”? Does this mean that if the DR of the scene is to important to be captured in one shot that I need to bracket my exposure or just have to decide to blow the highlights (or the shadows for that matter)?

 

I do realise that this is a probably a beginners question (I started photography only 1 year ago so I guess I have an excuse

) but I really hope you take some time to help me out of this..

 

Many thanks,

Frédéric

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Replies 41
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Posted Images

I do realise that this is a probably a beginners question (I started photography only 1 year ago so I guess I have an excuse

) but I really hope you take some time to help me out of this..

 

 

I doubt it is exposure that is your real problem but post processing the image.

 

If you can avoid clipping the highlights there is usually plenty of information left in the shadows. But the shadows may look too dark, and simple post processing skills will allow you to raise the shadow areas to look normal again. The first place to start is with Adobe Camera RAW where you normally convert your .dng file into a 16 bit .TIFF file. There are many tools in ACR that allow you to balance the overall tones within the image. But it can't do everything so Lightroom lets you to further work on the shadow areas and achieve the look you want.

 

I assume you are using an ND filter so you can use your lens wide open all the time. It might be better to leave it at home and stop the lens down more, use f/8 and f/11 more often, so you aren't working 'on the edge' with your exposures. Then read any of the millions of guides about Adobe Camera RAW and post processing in Lightroom.

 

Steve

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Steve, Jaap,

 

Thanks a lot for your reply…

 

Trying to avoid those blown out highlights by using my indicator is exactly what I try to do but the result is that most of the time I need to seriously underexpose...

 

It’s true that these MM Raw files have a lot of flexibility and that (most of the time) I can recover from underexposure in LR without losing image quality.

 

Maybe that’s the only way to go, but I did ask myself if there was no way around this without underexposing. One drawback I have with this approach is that, when I underexpose, it’s almost impossible to review the composition of the shot on the LCD at the back of the camera.

 

Best Regards,

Frédéric

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just look at it this way: You have negative film which has a long rolloff in the highlights and tends to block up aka has a sharp cutoff in the shadows, so you expose to retain the shadows. Then you used to have slidefilm, which cuts off abruptly in the highlights so you would expose to retain the light parts. Digital is like slidefilm. It may LOOK underexposed, but it is not.

Link to post
Share on other sites

it’s almost impossible to review the composition of the shot on the LCD at the back of the camera.

 

You can turn the brightness of the screen up. I have mine set on 'Standard', but you may want it brighter.

 

Remember that you may have pure white highlights in the picture, like maybe very bright reflections, and the histogram will show this as a red line, and you may have dark shadows that would take a very long exposure to get detail in. So interpret the histogram according to what you can see and how you want to interpret it as a photograph.

 

Steve

Link to post
Share on other sites

Advertisement (gone after registration)

Yes but do not try to judge general exposure on the LCD. The Histogram and clipping warning is fine. Turn off the blue shadow clipping warning. It is irrelevant.

 

In postprocessing, if the blacks get a bit crunchy when lifting the shadows there is nothing wrong with using the blacks slider to crush them a bit. Your printer will not be able to handle the full dynamic range anyway.

Edited by jaapv
Link to post
Share on other sites

In regular digital cameras the prevailing wisdom is to over expose, "pose to the right", ETTR. As the highlights can be recovered from the extra channels, and shadows will be rich.

 

Monochrom does not have the extra channels, so once blown highlights are gone. So, a quick fix is to under expose or ETTL

. Then the shadows can be adjusted while the highlights are preserved.

 

As Jaap stated, post processing is important.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I get Frederic´s point.

If you aim for a flexible file you build your exposure entirely from the highlights.

In my experience so far that means frank underexposure in many situations with a (justified) trust in shadow recovery.

 

The resulting image on the LCD often looks drowned overall and you won´t get any direct impression of your composition indeed.

 

That somehow suits at least my style of shooting: Just checking correct exposure from time to time and confidently concentrating on the next capture. I screen the frames at home on the computer. And even then the MM´s DNGs won´t show as thumbnails in LR´s preview.

 

But for other applications of photography (landscape, portrait, shallow DOF compositions….) this might spoil one of the great benefits of digital photography - properly checking composition and focus.

 

The MM is rough. It is not main stream. You really have to learn and apply advanced post processing methods - globally and selectively - to archive a natural look. At least in difficult lighting. In my short experience with the MM the learning curve of post processing seems much longer than with other cameras. The files handle so much differently. As Jaap says you will have to develop a method of shadow recovery that buffers the collateral damage in the deep shadows and in overall tonality. And within this procedure always lurks the risk of this sh***y plastic look when you overdo things.

 

Sometimes I have to step back to realise that the dynamic range of the original scene was just overkill. But the immense shadow data of the MM´s file made me try. Most of the times it works out nicely, but sometimes you find yourself with a horrible resulting tonality. Files from my other cameras would have long gone to ugly pieces in the process.

 

I strongly hope that we collect and share enough knowledge in MM file processing to make it easier for newcomers and to allow this camera a long and productive life span.

 

The files are so beautifully flexible. And you really have to judge the quality in PRINTS not on laptop screens. At least judge them on an a high quality monitor.

 

Cheers

 

Jochen

 

MindfulPhotography

Link to post
Share on other sites

I get Frederic´s point.

If you aim for a flexible file you build your exposure entirely from the highlights.

In my experience so far that means frank underexposure in many situations with a (justified) trust in shadow recovery.

 

The resulting image on the LCD often looks drowned overall and you won´t get any direct impression of your composition indeed.

 

That somehow suits at least my style of shooting: Just checking correct exposure from time to time and confidently concentrating on the next capture. I screen the frames at home on the computer. And even than the MM´s DNGs won´t show as thumbnails in LR´s preview. But for other applications of photography (landscape, portrait, shallow DOF compositions….) this might spoil one of the great benefits of digital photography - properly checking composition and focus.

 

The MM is rough. It is not main stream. You really have to learn and apply advanced post processing methods - globally and selectively - to archive a natural look. At least in difficult lighting. In my short experience with the MM the learning curve of post processing seems much longer than with other cameras. The files handle so much differently. As Jaap says you will have to develop a method of shadow recovery that buffers the collateral damage in the deep shadows and in overall tonality. And within this procedure always lurks the risk of this sh***y plastic look when you overdo things.

 

Sometimes I have to step back to realise that the dynamic range of the original scene was just overkill. But the immense shadow data of the MM´s file made me try. Most of the times it works out nicely, but sometimes you find yourself with a horrible resulting tonality. Files from my other cameras would have long gone to ugly pieces in the process.

 

I strongly hope that we collect and share enough knowledge in MM file processing to make it easier for newcomers and to allow this camera a long and productive life span.

 

The files are so beautifully flexible. And you really have to judge the quality in PRINTS not on laptop screens. At least judge them on an a high quality monitor.

 

Cheers

 

Jochen

 

MindfulPhotography

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi there,

 

I find this a simple way to manually expose with the MM. I usually do this when light levels are consistent and I am doing a little street photography:

 

1. Select the aperture I want to use

2. Select the iso i want to use [usually quite high for street photos]

3. Take a light reading from a mid/light grey surface - i.e the pavement. Set the shutter speed to match

4. Take a test shot, review any highlight clipping and adjust the shutter speed if necessary.

 

Done. If light levels change then I usually compensate by opening up or stopping down the aperture a little.

 

Regards,

Paul

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Hi there,

 

I find this a simple way to manually expose with the MM. I usually do this when light levels are consistent and I am doing a little street photography:

 

1. Select the aperture I want to use

2. Select the iso i want to use [usually quite high for street photos]

3. Take a light reading from a mid/light grey surface - i.e the pavement. Set the shutter speed to match

4. Take a test shot, review any highlight clipping and adjust the shutter speed if necessary.

 

Done. If light levels change then I usually compensate by opening up or stopping down the aperture a little.

 

Regards,

Paul

 

Paul - This is what I do as well. It works reasonably well for film and my M9. But when shooting in the streets of NYC, highlights pop up randomly and constantly in the background (at least when the sun is out). Usually it's in some peripheral aspect of the background that I didn't notice b/c I was too busy looking for subjects to shoot and mentally framing my shot.

 

What's also mildly annoying is that the camera seems to me to be at least a stop or more "exposed to the right" relative to the Sunny 16 rule (at least when you take into account the underexposure you have to provide to avoid material highlight clipping). The in-camera meter isn't that useful when shooting on the fly; and manually exposing in my head requires me to adjust the exposure value relative to what I would do with my other cameras, which can be mentally exhausting for my small brain!

 

One question that I have been pondering is whether, if I were shooting film in these relatively high contrast scenes or scenes in concrete cities like NYC where there are degrees of shadows and then sharp bright spots randomly splattered around, whether there would be a "correct" exposure that would totally avoid clipped highlights AND shadows, or whether clipping would result even with film.

 

If I were more well-versed in the "Zone" system I would know the answer this (i.e., when a scene has exposure value-zones ranging from 0 to 10, whether exposing at a zone somewhere in the middle (V, I think it is) will always ensure that highlights and/or shadows aren't clipped).

 

Anyone have any feedback on this question?

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no "correct" exposure. The "Zone System" is vital to the global outcome, but localized dodging and burning is sooo important.

Aim for as full a tonal range as possible, and avoid blocked up shadows like the plague.

cheers Dave S

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm struggling to understand the confusion here. In order to avoid blowing out the highlights, one uses an exposure that gets up to, but not across, that happening. If that means the shadows are blocked up, then you ease up, choose your poison, typically by allowing either some highlights to blowout, inn order to get more from the shadows.

 

I've had good luck getting deep shadows and still keeping highlights in bounds, so not sure what is troubling. Is the MM absolutely perfect, holding both? There's a balancing act, but it has a pretty wide gamut. Attached picture (in a print) holds the bright reflection on the ground has detail in the deep shadow above. The pure sky above the train is pretty much at the limit but not much needed from that anyway. Does this help?

 

BTW, in the print, you can read clearly the lettering on the signs to the left, and the antennas on the Hancock building in the far distance.

Edited by geoffreyg
Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no "correct" exposure. The "Zone System" is vital to the global outcome, but localized dodging and burning is sooo important.

Aim for as full a tonal range as possible, and avoid blocked up shadows like the plague.

 

The first bolded statement makes sense, while the second one contradicts it by establishing a 'rule'; sometimes it makes sense to let blacks go black. I think some MM users (and others) try to open up shadows as a matter of course…because they can. This makes about as much sense to me as always shooting a fast lens wide open…'bokeh frenzy'.

 

Artistic judgment, photo by photo.

 

Jeff

Link to post
Share on other sites

Too many people worry about blowing out highlights with their MM. Look at geoffryg's photo. What harm is there in blowing out the sky? I'd be happy if my LCD was blinking red in the sky. It's white, will always be white and it will print that way. I think blowing out highlights on some photos have distinct advantages, namely, getting better shadow detail with less noise. I've blown out large parts of images that should render white anyway without regret. And guess what? The prints look great! Blown highlights are just blown out of proportion...

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no "correct" exposure. The "Zone System" is vital to the global outcome, but localized dodging and burning is sooo important.

Aim for as full a tonal range as possible, and avoid blocked up shadows like the plague.

cheers Dave S

 

Great advice, many thanks David

 

I'm struggling to understand the confusion here. In order to avoid blowing out the highlights, one uses an exposure that gets up to, but not across, that happening. If that means the shadows are blocked up, then you ease up, choose your poison, typically by allowing either some highlights to blowout, inn order to get more from the shadows.

 

I've had good luck getting deep shadows and still keeping highlights in bounds, so not sure what is troubling. Is the MM absolutely perfect, holding both? There's a balancing act, but it has a pretty wide gamut. Attached picture (in a print) holds the bright reflection on the ground has detail in the deep shadow above. The pure sky above the train is pretty much at the limit but not much needed from that anyway. Does this help?

 

BTW, in the print, you can read clearly the lettering on the signs to the left, and the antennas on the Hancock building in the far distance.

 

Awesome, Geoffrey, thanks very much for sharing your insights. I have yet to print from the MM but think that this is in fact key to understanding the whole picture here. And your experience is valuable in this regard.

 

 

Too many people worry about blowing out highlights with their MM. Look at geoffryg's photo. What harm is there in blowing out the sky? I'd be happy if my LCD was blinking red in the sky. It's white, will always be white and it will print that way. I think blowing out highlights on some photos have distinct advantages, namely, getting better shadow detail with less noise. I've blown out large parts of images that should render white anyway without regret. And guess what? The prints look great! Blown highlights are just blown out of proportion...

 

This is very helpful. I'm happy to be the idiot in the room here as at least I'll learn something that I wouldn't by not asking!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm struggling to understand the confusion here. In order to avoid blowing out the highlights, one uses an exposure that gets up to, but not across, that happening. If that means the shadows are blocked up, then you ease up, choose your poison, typically by allowing either some highlights to blowout, inn order to get more from the shadows.

 

I've had good luck getting deep shadows and still keeping highlights in bounds, so not sure what is troubling. Is the MM absolutely perfect, holding both? There's a balancing act, but it has a pretty wide gamut. Attached picture (in a print) holds the bright reflection on the ground has detail in the deep shadow above. The pure sky above the train is pretty much at the limit but not much needed from that anyway. Does this help?

 

BTW, in the print, you can read clearly the lettering on the signs to the left, and the antennas on the Hancock building in the far distance.

 

Very nice image Geoffrey. To me this is a perfect interpretation; your shadows and highlights work well. Shadows are not blocked up...only black in the deepest shadow areas. Excellent tonal range. Highlight blowout is entirely appropriate, adding great global contrast.

Also has good geometry....as Cartier-Bresson would aim for.

cheers Dave S

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...