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Occasional Contributor
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎04-03-2014

High ISO vs Underexposing

Hello everyone,

 

Just returned from the Indoor State Track meet where I took about 1500 photos.  As with most indoor venues the lighting was sub par.  I met several photographers from MileSplit Ohio who ranged from shooting in sports mode to underexposing every photo by 3 or 4 stops in Raw only to bring up in post production.  I was typically at 640 shutter speed and around 3.2-4 on aperature and my iso was set on auto ranging from 2000-10,000.  I also used all large Raw files with no JPEG at all.

 

I'm new in photography and have the Canon 70d, Tamron 24-70 F2.8 and Tamron 70-200 F2.8.  I've finally gotten out of auto modes and relatively comfortable with the camera and operating in manual mode.  I use Adobe Lightroom for organizing and editing my photos.

 

I've been trying some night photography and typically leave Long Exposure Noise Reduction off.  I have been leaving High ISO Noise Reduction on but have heard by doing so you sacrifice some definition in the photos. 

 

My question to you more experienced photographers is this.  Should I shoot indoor events underexposed by 3 or 4 stops and then bring them up in Lightroom or should I use higher ISO for the Canon 70D and let it properly expose them in camera.  Which way gets the better result?  Is it poor practice to leave the High ISO Noise Reduction off in camera?

 

Mitch

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 4,021
Registered: ‎08-13-2015

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

"My question to you more experienced photographers is this.  Should I shoot indoor events underexposed by 3 or 4 stops and then bring them up in Lightroom or should I use higher ISO for the Canon 70D and let it properly expose them in camera.  Which way gets the better result?  Is it poor practice to leave the High ISO Noise Reduction off in camera?"

 

Experiment, and see what works best.  What works for one lens, may not be best for the other.  Don't lock yourself into doing stuff only one way.  Always be ready to think outside the box.

 

Do you know why the other photographers were underexposing by a 3 stops?  When I have done that in the past, it was to maintain a higher shutter speed.  It works fairly well for shots that show more context than detail, in other words, not a closeup.

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"I don't rent software. I use Photoshop CS6, ACR 9.8 and Lightroom 6.8 ."
Occasional Contributor
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎04-03-2014

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

[ Edited ]

They where under exposing the pictures in order to avoid higher ISO.  He was shooting with a Canon 5d Mark III.  He claims the pictures are much better bringing the exposure up in post production and keeping a lower ISO as opposed to shooting higher ISO's in camera in order to get an appropriate exposure.  The lighting was dim and we needed a minimum shutter speed of 640/800 to keep the athletes from blurring.  He and I both were shooting in manual.

 

I will try to underexpose next time and add the 3 or 4 stops of exposure in post production.  Logically to me it makes sense but I'm sure there must be some drawbacks to increasing exposure in post production.

 

Mitch

Reputable Contributor
Posts: 703
Registered: ‎02-06-2013

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

[ Edited ]

mitchbooth wrote:

They where under exposing the pictures in order to avoid higher ISO.  He was shooting with a Canon 5d Mark III.  He claims the pictures are much better bringing the exposure up in post production and keeping a lower ISO as opposed to shooting higher ISO's in camera in order to get an appropriate exposure.  The lighting was dim and we needed a minimum shutter speed of 640/800 to keep the athletes from blurring.  He and I both were shooting in manual.

 

I will try to underexpose next time and add the 3 or 4 stops of exposure in post production.  Logically to me it makes sense but I'm sure there must be some drawbacks to increasing exposure in post production.

  


While I’m nowhere near the expert level required to talk about this…in my experience, what your friend is doing makes no sense to me.  Perhaps you might want to ask him the rational and some objective evidence that it is better. I’ve long learned that there is always something new one can learn so I’m not saying he’s wrong, it just seems against conventional wisdom to me.

 

I shoot a lot of Birds In Flight (BIF) which in many ways are similar to your shooting sports.  Due to the extreme shutter speeds required (e.g. 1/2000), the ISO required are normally high.  It is very hard to brighten the dark areas without excessive noise.  Most Canon cameras (barring the 80D, 5D4 and 1DX II) can only handle about 3 stops of brightening before the images are unusable.  You should do an experiment, set your ISO to 100 and underexpose the shot 4 stops then brighten it in post and see how you like it.  Even at ISO 100, the image will be hard to stomach.  On the other hand, with proper post process noise reduction, ISO 1600 (4 stops above 100) should be very usable. As a matter of fact, my ISO 12800 images are totally usable (out of the 5DIII).

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Diverhank's photos on Flickr
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 4,021
Registered: ‎08-13-2015

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

[ Edited ]

diverhank wrote:

mitchbooth wrote:

They where under exposing the pictures in order to avoid higher ISO.  He was shooting with a Canon 5d Mark III.  He claims the pictures are much better bringing the exposure up in post production and keeping a lower ISO as opposed to shooting higher ISO's in camera in order to get an appropriate exposure.  The lighting was dim and we needed a minimum shutter speed of 640/800 to keep the athletes from blurring.  He and I both were shooting in manual.

 

I will try to underexpose next time and add the 3 or 4 stops of exposure in post production.  Logically to me it makes sense but I'm sure there must be some drawbacks to increasing exposure in post production.

  


While I’m nowhere near the expert level required to talk about this…in my experience, what your friend is doing makes no sense to me.  Perhaps you might want to ask him the rational and some objective evidence that it is better. I’ve long learned that there is always something new one can learn so I’m not saying he’s wrong, it just seems against conventional wisdom to me.

 

I shoot a lot of Birds In Flight (BIF) which in many ways are similar to your shooting sports.  Due to the extreme shutter speeds required (e.g. 1/2000), the ISO required are normally high.  It is very hard to brighten the dark areas without excessive noise.  Most Canon cameras (barring the 80D, 5D4 and 1DX II) can only handle about 3 stops of brightening before the images are unusable.  You should do an experiment, set your ISO to 100 and underexpose the shot 4 stops then brighten it in post and see how you like it.  Even at ISO 100, the image will be hard to stomach.  On the other hand, with proper post process noise reduction, my ISO 12800 images are totally usable (out of the 5DIII).


I agree with your opinion of going beyond 3 stops adds too much distortion.  Sometimes those indoor high school sports venues can be fairly dim, even compared to a basketball court.  I think most cameras can produce decent images with high ISO values [ISO 6400], provided you have high shutter speeds.  The longer the shutter is open, the more noise it seems able to detect, and the less details you can resolve.  It's a trade off.

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"I don't rent software. I use Photoshop CS6, ACR 9.8 and Lightroom 6.8 ."
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 2,949
Registered: ‎06-25-2014

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing


mitchbooth wrote:

They where under exposing the pictures in order to avoid higher ISO.  He was shooting with a Canon 5d Mark III.  He claims the pictures are much better bringing the exposure up in post production and keeping a lower ISO as opposed to shooting higher ISO's in camera in order to get an appropriate exposure.  The lighting was dim and we needed a minimum shutter speed of 640/800 to keep the athletes from blurring.  He and I both were shooting in manual.

 

I will try to underexpose next time and add the 3 or 4 stops of exposure in post production.  Logically to me it makes sense but I'm sure there must be some drawbacks to increasing exposure in post production.

 

Mitch


There's something not quite right about all this. There's a legitimate reason why photographers sometimes underexpose, but it's in bright light, not dim. The idea is that you can compensate for a one or two stop underexposure, but a blown highlight is unrecoverable. Yes, it's true that if the ambient light is actually insufficient, you can often dig a reasonable semblance of the image out in post-processing. But it's not preferable to getting the exposure right in the first place, as long as the ISO setting is within the camera's capability. And the 5D3 is a very good low-light camera.

Bob
Boston, Massachusetts USA
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 4,021
Registered: ‎08-13-2015

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing


RobertTheFat wrote:

mitchbooth wrote:

They where under exposing the pictures in order to avoid higher ISO.  He was shooting with a Canon 5d Mark III.  He claims the pictures are much better bringing the exposure up in post production and keeping a lower ISO as opposed to shooting higher ISO's in camera in order to get an appropriate exposure.  The lighting was dim and we needed a minimum shutter speed of 640/800 to keep the athletes from blurring.  He and I both were shooting in manual.

 

I will try to underexpose next time and add the 3 or 4 stops of exposure in post production.  Logically to me it makes sense but I'm sure there must be some drawbacks to increasing exposure in post production.

 

Mitch


There's something not quite right about all this. There's a legitimate reason why photographers sometimes underexpose, but it's in bright light, not dim. The idea is that you can compensate for a one or two stop underexposure, but a blown highlight is unrecoverable. Yes, it's true that if the ambient light is actually insufficient, you can often dig a reasonable semblance of the image out in post-processing. But it's not preferable to getting the exposure right in the first place, as long as the ISO setting is within the camera's capability. And the 5D3 is a very good low-light camera.


Makes sense to me.  So, how would you maintain a high shutter speed in dim light?  i think the OP is using a 70D, BTW.

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"I don't rent software. I use Photoshop CS6, ACR 9.8 and Lightroom 6.8 ."
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 2,949
Registered: ‎06-25-2014

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

[ Edited ]

Waddizzle wrote:

RobertTheFat wrote:

mitchbooth wrote:

They where under exposing the pictures in order to avoid higher ISO.  He was shooting with a Canon 5d Mark III.  He claims the pictures are much better bringing the exposure up in post production and keeping a lower ISO as opposed to shooting higher ISO's in camera in order to get an appropriate exposure.  The lighting was dim and we needed a minimum shutter speed of 640/800 to keep the athletes from blurring.  He and I both were shooting in manual.

 

I will try to underexpose next time and add the 3 or 4 stops of exposure in post production.  Logically to me it makes sense but I'm sure there must be some drawbacks to increasing exposure in post production.

 

Mitch


There's something not quite right about all this. There's a legitimate reason why photographers sometimes underexpose, but it's in bright light, not dim. The idea is that you can compensate for a one or two stop underexposure, but a blown highlight is unrecoverable. Yes, it's true that if the ambient light is actually insufficient, you can often dig a reasonable semblance of the image out in post-processing. But it's not preferable to getting the exposure right in the first place, as long as the ISO setting is within the camera's capability. And the 5D3 is a very good low-light camera.


Makes sense to me.  So, how would you maintain a high shutter speed in dim light?  i think the OP is using a 70D, BTW.



Well, you do what you have to do. But if you don't have to do it, you don't.

 

My reference to the 5D3 was because the photographer who laid that yarn on the OP was reportedly using one.

Bob
Boston, Massachusetts USA
Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,562
Registered: ‎12-02-2012

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

[ Edited ]

I have read some photographers saying they will do just that; shoot fast action a couple of stops underexposed in bad lighting. Their belief is that they can lose less image quality bumping the exposure a couple of stops in post than they would have lost shooting properly exposed but at 2 stops higher ISO.  

 

Both shooting at high ISO and boosting underexposure in post degrade the image, and thus it is kind of a tradeoff either way you do it.  

 

The premise of the underexposers is (I think) shooting at high enough ISO in the first place (above a certain threshold, where it really gets noticeable) you fail to capture adequate detail; fewer lines of resolution are recorded. You can erase noise in post, at a price of softening the image, but you can never create detail that wasn't captured in the first place. 

 

I dont personally know if i if I agree or not. It may be total BS or it may be that it depends. I would certainly not underexpose to avoid shooting at ISO 400 or 800 or anything, but depending on the camera (FF? Crop?) at some point I might think boosting an underexposure in post is better than some eye-wateringly high ISO over 12,800.  Primarily from the perspective of resolution. 

Scott

Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "fer-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,712
Registered: ‎11-13-2012

Re: High ISO vs Underexposing

[ Edited ]

It appaerntly depends a lot on the particular camera (or rather sensor). See this posting:

 

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1478377

 

Maybe those photogrpahers have done the experimenting and reached a conclusion that works for them.

 

If shooting RAW, which one should be doing unless there is a very special need for in camera JPEGs, High ISO Noise Reduction doesn't do anything. It is only applied when in-camera JPEGs are produced. It is a file tag that is read by DPP but not Lightroom or any other non-Canon software. 

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X, Rebel T5i, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, MX472
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