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This short webpage provides an illustration of how “blown highlights” can be recovered by using a modern Raw processor such as DxO PhotoLab. While “exposing to the right” or “pushing highlights” does gather more Raw data, there is a limit to all such techniques. The below images show the transition from, top, the overexposed original unprocessed image to, bottom, the advantages of Raw capture and Raw processing. Ed Ruth teaches photography in Bakersfield California…

Nikon Z II & Z 24-70 f/2.8 S: 70mm, 1/40s, f/22, ISO 200. Highlights (flowers) in Raw file clearly appearing to have unrecoverable tonal detail.

Nikon Z II & Z 24-70 f/2.8 S: 70mm, 1/40s, f/22, ISO 200. Highlights recovered using DxO PhotoLab. Exposing to the right is effective when managed correctly. Half of a digital camera’s Raw data is captured from Midtones (50% brightness) to White Point. So exposing to the right gathers more data…to a point. An image’s tonal “White Point” is a somewhat variable tonal point at which no data (except white) exists. “Variable” because, when shooting Raw, the actual white point may be extended to the right a bit. Photographed in Bakersfield, California by Ed Ruth.

Luminosity histogram of the first image having blown highlights. Note Highlights extend “off” the histogram to the right.

This is a luminosity histogram of the image with recovered highlights. A luminosity histogram shows brightness as we humans perceive brightness rather than individual red, green, and blue color channels.The highlight recovery process largely involves moving Highlight, Midtone, Shadow, and Black sliders in almost any Raw processing post-production software. Contrast, Curves tool, and Layers tools also aid the process. Everything is a process after all.

A histogram, as used in photography, reveals tonal distribution within an image from Black Point to White Point. A histogram cannot be used to judge the merits of a composition but as a guide to exposure in a camera’s viewfinder or in post-production software, it is very useful.

Photography can be fun, profitable, creative, and technically superior at the same time. Contact me for a custom one-to-one camera class in Bakersfield, California using:

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