Shoot to the Right
The technical side of photography has never been my forte or even my primary photographic interest. But I do know that getting the best digital negative possible provides the most options in post-processing – which is where my real interests lie.
In lesson 2 of his latest e-book, The Visual Toolboxa: 50 Lessons for Stronger Photographs, David duChemin defines the best digital negative as “the one with the most data.” Which brings us to the concept of “shooting to the right” – the right of the histogram, that is.
duChemin writes: “… there is much, much more information in a histogram sitting to the right—as long as it doesn’t go off the right side of the graph—than there is in the same histogram sitting to the left.” I knew this – from previous reading and my collage photography classes.
But it was duChemin’s next point that finally made me sit up and take notice:
“Where this trips us up is because often the ideal digital negative doesn’t look great in the back-of camera preview; it looks too bright, or washed out. This is why I use my LCD only for looking at the histogram, checking focus, and being critical about my composition. I never use it to judge the exposure without the histogram.”
Aha! The light bulb finally went on. Guilty as charged. I was attempting to judge exposure using the LCD display, ignoring what the histogram was telling me. Why did I do this? Because it is so difficult to ignore that washed-out, too bright display image and trust the histogram instead.
So I’ve been practicing – believing the technical information instead of what my eyes are seeing. And it is still a struggle, each and every time. But I’m working on it.