Creative underexposure with Nikon DSLR camera

European Wedding Photographers
Creative underexposure with a Nikon DSLR camera is written by Deci Gallen (Website | Facebook | Instagram):

With the release of the D750, much has been made of its ability to recover shadow detail. Given the range of talents that the D750 has it is strange that this has been singled out given that the D800 and D4, released in 2012, outperform it in this regard, and the cheaper D600 (also from 2012) is able to match it at base ISO. And the old guard, the D700, D3 and D3s, weren’t too shabby at recovery either!

With news of incredible shadow recovery typically there comes two responses: the hyperbolic “That’s amazing! I want one NOW!” and the cynical “you wouldn’t need shadow recovery if you exposed right.” There is, of course that third response: ‘I wish the 5D mkIII could do that’ but I won’t get into that here…

The first obvious advantage of this is to ‘save’ badly exposed shots and camera reviews regularly point to this. In the frantic world of wedding photography, I’ll readily admit to having been thankful of this ability on more than one occasion. But if this is all you use it for then you’re perhaps missing out on the creative avenues that this sensor technology affords you.

As photographers, we strive for correct exposure but the ability of modern Nikon cameras to find details in shadows opens up a debate as to what correct exposure actually is. More and more, I find myself technically exposing wrong with post processing in mind.

As a wedding photographer, my wife and I often find ourselves shooting portraits when the sun is highest in the sky: conditions generally considered to be unfavorable in portraiture. In the past these situations were addressed with fill flash, reflectors or frantically searching for open shade. The current range of Nikons gives us another option – creative underexposure.

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This image, shot on the enthusiast level D610 was taken in 2pm bright summer light. Knowing the limits of the D610 sensor I was able to deliberately underexpose by around 2 stops to retain sky detail, knowing that I could later recover the shadows.

Straight out of camera (SOOC) the image isn’t pretty…

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Had I exposed for skin, the SOOC shot would have looked more like this:

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The clouds and the bride’s veil would’ve been completely blown out, and the sky would’ve lost much of its color. The resultant image wouldn’t have been as evocative of the scene as we remembered it, while the deliberately underexposed image has given us something much better looking.

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In the image above, from the same wedding, we fully exploited the abilities of the Nikon D800 to produce an image that again gave us something approaching what the scene looked like to our eyes. It’s essentially a HDR picture but created with just one shot. The SOOC image shows just how much shadow detail it’s possible to recover with the D800.

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Of course, in open shade the other option is to expose for skin and blow the highlights (as in the image below). This is a softer, more ethereal style of shooting that we frequently use – and I’m sure many will prefer it. We just love having the option to take both kinds of photograph.

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Retaining highlights is always our motivation for creative underexposing, be it cloud detail in this very extreme daylight shadow recovery:

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Trying to retain the colors of a sunset:

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Or this less extreme example in capturing the last light of the day:

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In all of these photographs, time was limited. The shadow recovery ability of the cameras, a D610 and D4, meant we didn’t have to set up any lighting or have assistants holding reflectors in order to capture the scene as we saw it. Here’s how they look SOOC.

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European Wedding Photographers
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The important thing to point out here is that the wildly ‘incorrect’ exposure was the right exposure for what we wanted to achieve. In all these examples we took as much time and deliberation to get the under-exposure, as we would’ve done if exposing ‘properly’ for skin. The key is to know the limits of your camera and how to process the RAW image afterwards.

We shoot all kinds of Nikons – D4, D800, D750 and D610 bodies. Each of them has different shadow recovery abilities and you really need to get to know how far you can push the camera you are holding. In our experience the D800 (and by extension the D810) is by far the best. The D4 (D4s/Df) sensor performs slightly better than the D750 and D610, both of which seem to have virtually the same ability. We always shoot 14bit lossless compressed RAW at ISO 100 or as close to it as possible. At base ISO the camera’s ability to retain shadow detail is at it’s best – it’s noticeably worse (but actually still impressive) from around ISO800 on all Nikons we’ve used.

The following picture was shot on a Nikon D750 as the November sun was setting. We quickly put the couple into position, exposed for the highlights, composed and shot. In a matter of minutes the light was gone and we were left with this intentionally underexposed shot. Had we exposed for skin by bumping ISO, we would’ve lost highlights and the colors of the sky. Had we taken time to set up lights we’d have likely missed the opportunity.

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Editing was straightforward, involving little more than some basic tweaks and brush work. Here’s how we did it.

In lightroom, start by importing and adding any filter you might normally use. In this case we used a modified VSCO film preset.

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The first thing we do when recovering shadows is obviously to bump up the shadow slider. We’ll push it up to +100 if the image needs it. You may find that you need to bring down the black levels to add a bit of contrast to the image. After that it’s a matter of balancing out the highlights, whites and exposure until it looks right – for experienced Lightroom users, this will take seconds. For this particular photo we added some vibrancy to help the sunset ‘pop.’

The next stage for us is to do a little brushwork if it’s needed. With a Wacom tablet this also should take little more than a few seconds.

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A little localized exposure increase and a further shadow lift with the brush tool improves things. We often add a little clarity and/or contrast to counteract the shadow lift. And finally some noise reduction and sharpness can clean up any grain that you might get from extreme shadow recovery. It has to be said that you can push these cameras a lot and often not need any noise reduction.

The end result is a balanced picture where both the colors and highlights of the sunset are retained and the couple don’t appear as removed from the scene as sometimes can happen when using off-camera flash.

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Having the ability to draw details from shadows so cleanly has changed not only how we shoot and post-process, but also the equipment we need to take certain kinds of shots. Our flash triggers have been mostly redundant for 2 years now and our flashguns only really come out on the dance floor. We don’t use reflectors at all. The extra couple of minutes spent in post is negated by the time saved setting up equipment while shooting – allowing us to spot and shoot scenes quickly, taking advantage of beautiful but often fleeting lighting conditions.

More than ever, Nikon cameras are allowing us to deliver a processed picture that looks much closer to how our eyes perceive a scene. In many ways this perhaps signifies digital imaging coming of age – allowing us to do things that are difficult or even impossible to do with film.

While the results might not be to every photographer’s (or client’s) tastes, we love the versatility of being able to shoot this way. Perhaps 95% of the time there is no substitute or need for anything other than ‘proper’ exposure, but when the situation demands it, this is an invaluable weapon to call upon.

All photos were taken on Nikon cameras, edited with Lightroom 5 and VSCO film, grain and sharpening added in Photoshop.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • Ricardo Vaz

    The DR of these nikon sensor are just amazing. I dont like to push shadows too high because of the introduction of noise, but in some cases it is needed.

    In this photo the shadows were all black in the raw file:

    • burnitwithacid

      This is a Sony sensor. The kicker here is that with the release of the a7m2, you can now have IBIS with those sensors, and eliminate the clunky mirror box:)

  • Guest

    When I looked at the back of my camera after this shot, all I saw was a thin strip of yellow along the horizon. Everything else was black. Yay for shadow recovery!

  • Photobug

    Excellent article. It’s good to know that you can pull all that detail out of the shadows.

  • Rick Battle

    When I looked at the back of my camera, all I saw was a thin strip of yellow along the horizon. Everything else was black. Yay for shadow recovery!

  • CasualObserver

    I often intentionally under expose shots on my D800 as I it’s easier to get detail out of shadows than overexposed/highlights.

    • E-Nonymouse A

      I have also seen much more interesting shots come out of under-exposing by 1-2 stops with my d800E, using post to recover shadow and color detail.

  • Louis-Félix Grondin

    Nice answer to fanboys acting like DR isn’t important “when you know how to use a camera”…

    • ShaoLynx

      Of course it is! Why else would one use HDR?
      As long as the DR of a camera(sensor) is worse than that of the human eye, we’re gonna want more.
      At present DR is more of a limiting factor than ISO is.

  • pegdrgr

    I was finally processing some RAW files last week when LR released 5.8, and I kept thinking man, the D750 shots just don’t feel like they can match the D800 for shadow/highlight recovery, good to know I am not losing my mind!

  • reader2

    I believe this following quote can sum it up:

    “When everything is easy one quickly gets stupid.”

    ― Maxim Gorky

    • Didiergm

      Really nice summary !

      or as some would say “it is not because you can that you should”; The shots above all look like they are : recovered shots with a fairly unatural (as in difficult to believe) ligthning.

      And before I get flamed as an ex-Nikon shooter : my remark is general and and is genuinely brand-agnostic Nikon, Canon, Fuji … pick your poison.

      It is good to know that with the current crop of cameras you can salvage a shot, but I believe that one should be aware that it does not/should not replace proper lightning.

      Just my 0.02 €

      • Louis-Félix Grondin

        Proper lighting would either be a pain in the ass (carriable Alienbees for instance) on some of theses shots, or it would be too harsh and look unatural anyway (Speedlights).

        Don’t get me wront, I think you’re mostly right, a portable Alien Bee would give better results. But carrying a powerfull external flash with something to diffuse it, setting it up, etc., can end up ruining the mood and it makes you less mobile (you can’t move around as much and try as many things quite easily). Not having to deal with artificial lighting can feel liberating sometimes and frankly some clients love the “surreal” look in some shots…

        • Didiergm

          I freely admit that I am very far from being good at lighting a shot (I know what I’d like to do and measure the distance to get there 🙂 and I hear what you say about ruining the mood; Being an amateur I haven’t got the budget for an Alien bee and work(ed) with Nikon off camera flashes usually hand held. Not exactly a carefully constructed lighting plan I admit but it gave me an intermediate result – a touch more light, with some control on direction – and less need to push in PP.

          What made me cringe was that phrase “More and more, I find myself technically exposing wrong with post processing in mind”. If he can manage that then fine, but this “advice” will be taken litterally by too many.

          • E-Nonymouse A

            I am in the same shoes as you Didi, I have had more success if you can call it that by experimenting with under-exposing for post with ambient than using flash. I am not sure I will ever find proper mastery of light with off-camera flash but I aim to give it a try.

      • Eric Calabros

        “Should not replace proper lightning” .. You critisize the genealization made by this post, but yourself introduce another one. Sometimes shadow recovery DOES replace proper lightning, and sometimes it DOESNT. Recovering dark areas in one ISO 100 image by 4 stops is like shooting that areas with ISO 1600, not much noise there for a full frame sensor but color accuracy will be degraded. play too much with that not accurate colors and you end up with something that may made you feel it “fairly unnatural”. However, proper artificial lightning doesnt give you ” feels natural” either, it just lets you keep the whole image at base ISO.

        • Didiergm

          Eric, point taken about my own generalisation; You are absolutely right carefully used it can be another tool in the toolbox; I am just wary that this type of post will generate a raft of “shadow recovered images” in a “oh look what I can do Ma’ ” way.

          But I stand by “proper lightning” as I did not mean in a “enough light” way, but in a ‘carefully balanced and directed” way. (That’s the limits of my non-native English 🙂 which would look more natural (or at least closer to what your brain sees it in the wild.

      • Declan Gallen

        I knew when I wrote this that it would be divisive so I did offer the caveat that it isn’t to everyone’s tastes, and I did iterate that most of the time traditional ‘proper’ exposure is the key to good photography.

        I do agree with the inference of reader2’s quote in some senses: as technology improves in such a way, it makes it easier for poor photographers to get a good photo. But it also makes it possible for good photographers to push creative boundaries further (as seen in some of the lovely examples posted here in the comment section). In my opinion, better technology only serves to push the bar of creative and technical ability upwards.

        My goal with ‘creative underexposure’ has less to do with believable camera lighting and more to do with having an artistic or stylised take on what I seen with my eyes at the time. I’ve found in the past that OCF or lights can be distracting for the subject and also time consuming to set-up, with a result that is also not entirely believable. That being said, I’m a massive fan of many ‘strobists’ and studio photographers who use lighting to extraordinary effect.

        When I talk about exposing ‘wrong’ I was referring to what is technically wrong for the subject matter but absolutely right for what I wanted to achieve. If you know the limits and abilities of your sensor, you shouldn’t have a problem. It’s really no different in principle to exposing for highlights and adding OCF to light a subject – except one requires pre-shot work and the other requires post-shot work. I’m more comfortable doing it in post than risking missing a moment or disturbing an intimate moment.

        Eric and Louis-Felix have echoed what I tried to get across in the piece – sometimes it’s right to use this technique and sometimes it’s not. I use caution in the article and would like to think people won’t employ a gung-ho ‘look what I can do, ma!’ attitude while completely paid, professional work without having gotten to know their sensor’s limits in their own time.

        Hope that clears up a few things.

  • This is the best guest post I’ve read in my four years of coming here. Bravo Admin, and thank you Deci for taking the time required to enlighten us all and write this. As my wife and I have made a concerted effort to light things ‘properly’ over the past couple of years, I can’t help but notice that the number and variety of shots from our post-wedding, pre-reception portrait sessions has suffered–after all, there is only so much time, and if you’re spending a chunk of it screwing around with umbrellas and flash triggers, there’s less time to actually think about the photo.

    I immediately feel better about the $5k we’re dropping on D750s (two for me, she shoots Fuji) to upgrade my D700s, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to return to being a bit less reliant on flash.

    • Declan Gallen

      Thank you! As much as I loved my D700s, you’ll not regret retiring them. It’s a worthy successor.

    • YRaj

      just got the D750..I already have the D800 and I love the DR and the recovery ability. I must say the D750 beats the D800 handily on noise control and autofocusing! I have not pushed the shadows yet.

  • reader2

    A better tool can make your life easier but it won’t make you a better craftsman. And a craftsman is light years away from an artist whose talent comes from nothing other than successfully sublimated rage as articulated by Theodor W. Adorno.

    • Not sure how rage, controlled or unbridled, plays into well-crafted wedding images. Or artistic wedding images, for that matter. No tools make a craftsman. No emotion can provide talent.

      • reader2

        Wedding photographers hired to capture and document the event and the use value of their service is to create pleasure and memory for their clients, which is no different from that of sex workers. Sure, everyone is an artist in that sense.

        • Patrick O’Connor

          You have issues.

          • reader2

            One can refuse to accept the reality but that doesn’t mean the reslists who acknowledge the truth are insane.

            • Patrick O’Connor

              Actually, I’m pretty sure he was talking about you, regarding cynicism. Not people LIKE you…specifically you! 😉

            • Jane

              he also said: “Beware of false knowledge: It’s worse than ignorance.”

        • Critical theory is a suffocating trap for any artist. Take that path and you will end up just illustrating those theories rather than making art.

          • reader2

            There is great art and pathetic art. Which are you talking about? You don’t need any understanding of where you are to produce low art appreciated by the masses. By the way, photography to me is a political technology of the Gaze.

  • mikeswitz

    Great post! Just one question. How are you metering the highlights? Spot or center weighted? Topaz Denoise 5 can work wonders as well.

    • Declan Gallen

      Generally I shoot manually and spot meter. Although I have started to use the highlight weighted metering on the D750. I reference both the skin and highlights so I know I’m not going so dark that I can’t recover the skin properly.

      • mikeswitz


    • ShaoLynx

      Try using matrix metering combined with ADL set to a high to very high setting.

      • Michael Steinbach

        That is ONLY good if you shoot jpg or use nx.

        • ShaoLynx

          No, it’s NOT. Read Thom Hogan’s book on the D800, for instance, to know why.
          BTW: I actually use that setting, so I can confirm from experience.

          • Michael Steinbach

            ShaoLynx, I believe you mis read what Thom wrote in his book. The examples I’m showing say that you are incorrect. Adobe does NOT recognize ADL in the raw image. The images show you the imbedded jpg extracted from the raw and then the same images output straight up with nothing but resizing and text added to show which is which. Images were taken on manual with a D750. As you can see the last two images are, except for framing, exactly the same. ADL makes no difference when using LR.

            • ShaoLynx

              Dang, I replied extensively via disqus but I don’t see it here :-(.
              In short: read Thom’s book on the D800 starting from page 332 “Active D-Lighting”. There’s no 2 ways to interprete the logic correctly. Thom is very complete in his explanations.
              I leave it to Thom to chime in, or not.
              I will ‘repeate’ that I use this to my advantage.

            • ShaoLynx

              OK, as a hint I will repeat that I did say: “…with ADL set to a high to very high setting.”.

            • Guest

              PS: admin: why can’t we edit ou own posts?

            • must be a temporary Disqus issue

            • ShaoLynx

              Hey, Michael, shoot that piano scene again in NEF with ADL set to the MAX. See the difference?
              Mind you: *no* auto setting in LR, OK?

            • Michael Steinbach

              Hey ShaoLynx, they are NEFs and the ADL was set to the highest setting on the first image, off on the second. I used Photo Mechanic to extract the embedded jpgs in the first two images. Then I brought the two NEFs into LR and exported them, I don’t use auto corrections in LR.

            • ShaoLynx

              So, you mean to say that on the D750 putting ADL to the max does not cause it to tone-down the overall exposure (effectively affecting the camera settings, thus including the RAW)?
              On the D800 the highest ADL mode causes more than 1,5 stops of negative exposure compensation. On my D700 and Df, too. On my Df I noticed that ‘the camera knows better’ – reducing the ADL-value on the fly.
              So, did Nikon split that off to that new “star metering” mode, then?
              Could be, eh? I wondered already what the difference was between: max ADL and that star*-metering mode…
              Not that it matters for me (yet); not having a camera with that function (yet).
              Anyway: I usually shoot with the max ADL setting, thereby (in my cameras at least) exposing for the highlights in an automated fashion. But hey: sssst, don’t tell anyone. It’s my secret! 😉

            • Michael Steinbach

              I don’t know if it would affect my 800 or my 810 the same way and remember that I was set to manual. I’ll have to try it some other time. The only affect I see is the lift in the dark tones lowering of the overall contrast (on the jpgs).

            • ShaoLynx

              So you got both the D800 and the D810?
              Yes, you’re in a good position to find out the difference in ADL-behaviour between a camera that has the Star-metering mode (expose for the high-lights) and one that doesn’t. Let us know, alright?

  • This is the real gift of digital image making. Being able to shape a tone curve to match your original vision with such freedom is liberating and stimulating.

  • AJ

    While I generally agree with this post, it also exposes the price Nikon users pay for all of this wizardry: a terrible red bias in recovered shadows. This is a pain on the human skin. It can be corrected in post but that’s extremely time-consuming. In an environment with mixed light sources (even different types of light bulbs, as event and wedding photographers always run into) it is near-impossible. And before you start flaming: I shoot Nikon. (Otherwise, how would I know it. 😀 )

    • nhaler

      It’s not always red, though — I noticed this especially on the D90 and D700. I find the newer ones, at high ISOs, tend to acquire a nasty blue tone.

  • Eno

    Very nice and true article, thank you admin.

  • unpluggged

    There hardly is anything more disgusting than two bearded men embracing each other.

    • Jane

      I dunno dude, your myopic, homophobic comment ranks higher for me in the disgusting stakes…

      • unpluggged

        Well, if you like bearded men embracing and kissing, it’s your personal problem. Most normal people aren’t so keen about seeing such things.

        Of me being “homophobic” (actually, homophobia in Greek means “fear of the same”, so it’s a wrong term), I can say that I don’t care what these people do in private. But I have every right to be disgusted by this new fashion over there in Gayrope and Agayrica of doing such things in public, and to express my opinion. Whoever decided to upload here these pictures clearly was meaning to provoke a reaction. This is a cheap trick.

        And don’t call me dude.

        • Michiel953

          Unplugged, maybe you should read up on human rights, the Constitution and the meaning of homophobia.

          I never thought I would see such bigotry on a mere photography forum.

          • unpluggged

            What human rights exactly I am violating? And to the constitution of what state do you refer?

            Homosexualists have the right to do whatever they want, and I have the right to disapprove such behavior. This is what democracy means.

            • Michiel953

              I know it is a complicated subject, but put some effort into it. The country you live in probably has a Constitution, listing constitutional rights. They apply to everyone, you included.

              Being disgusted by hamburgers or seeing gay people in public is your privilige. Enjoy it.

            • Thiom

              Your terminology, your assumed moral (“normal”) superiority and hardly restrained aggressiveness along with that particular whiny tone of self-pity give you away as what you are…

            • eggzz

              I am now convinced that you, yourself, is a homoseksualist. And hey dude. Its ok.

        • Declan Gallen

          I did use the photo to provoke a reaction: to provoke people to engage in a discussion about shadow recovery and deliberate underexposure in photography, which it has done.

          Discussion of the merits of the D750’s shadow recovery ability was what prompted me to write the article. This image was the first time I’d used the technique with the D750 so it felt prudent to share it.

          The sexual orientation of the couple is of no consequence to the discussion and it’s churlish of you to suggest it was a motivation for using it.

          I find your generalisation regarding the tastes of ‘most normal people’ to be utterly insulting.

        • Gennady Yunkin

          Totally agree with you

        • Jane

          My dearest lil dude, homophobia comes from the latin-derived morpheme ‘Homosexual’ and the greek derived ‘phobia.’ How do you get a greek translation for a word created in 1960s that isn’t greek?

          And, my ill-tempered dude, you can’t say what you like – freedom of speech and expression comes with the condition that you cannot impinge on the freedoms and rights of others. To do so is tantamount to hate speech, dude.

          • John


        • asass

          Cheap trick and a good reason to stop visiting nikonrumors.

    • BFS

      Ah, you prefer your men to be embracing whilst clean-shaven…?

  • Thiom

    Also thank you for this informative article. In the past I have used the approach of lifting the shadows on architectural and cityscape on my D700 but was quite often running into the problem of pointed bright light sources bleeding into bright horizontal lines across the entire frame. This was one not so nice property of the D700’s otherwise excellent sensor and there were numerous articles around describing it.

    Having experienced this I always cautiously exposed to the low side in dusk or night shots so that I didn’t have to apply too much shadow lifting which inevitably brought out those bright lines. But I might have a go at it again with the 800E.

  • Percy Blakeney

    To all the naysayers – This technique is decades, if not centuries, old. It is simply a new version of “expose for the highlights, print for the shadows.
    I have been using this technique sine I got my D200. The results are better with a D600 but it is still an old technique.

    • Thiom

      I did it with my D70 and later the D300 to some good success until I hit the D700’s nasty propensity of generating these bright bleeding lines (see my other post). After that I tried different approaches; in particular HDR (without the overcooked look) when shooting from a tripod.

      • Percy Blakeney

        The not-so-secret secret is not to overdo it.
        As with anything in life.

    • Terry Firma

      Yes, “centuries.” Because we’ve had photography for “centuries.”

      • Percy Blakeney

        Yup centuries! Darkrooms have been created and used since the inception of photography in the early 19th century and this is the 21st century. Not sure of the significance of the quotation marks.

    • The technique has traditionally been the opposite: expose for the shadows, develop/print for the highlights. Now it’s expose for the highlights, “develop” for the shadows.

      • Percy Blakeney

        Not necessarily.
        You are correct for print film.
        I was going back to my slide film days when expose for the highlights, print for the shadows was the technique. Possibly hence the term – reversal film?
        As slide film has been around since 1907, I stand by my original statement. Treat your digital body as you would a film body with slide film loaded.

        • I was specifically referring to print film which is the most common type of color film. B&W film is similar. While those have around 5 stops of highlight exposure lattitude, slide film does indeed have AT MOST 2/3rd of a stop in either direction.

          I agree that with slide film it is essential that you nail your exposure. I’m aware and I agree. BUT we are talking about exposure latitude and not dynamic range. Modern Nikon digital sensors have similar exposure latitude as print and B&W film, but it’s in the shadows instead of highlights. AND highlights have a little wiggle room too.

  • Reilly Diefenbach

    Excellent post. Why we shoot Nikon!

  • stormwatch

    Show this to a pro guy who switched from Nikon to Canon because Canon is flat like his Macbook….too bad Canon’s DR is also flat…if there is any.

  • TheInfinityPoint

    I agree with this post 100%. I slowly realized how much shadow I can pull over the years and it is amazing. Now I use this technique (when needed) subconsciously. On the other hand I edited a friend’s Canon 5D3 shots using the same technique and … it failed miserably. Long live Nikon sensor tech!

  • Francisco Suarez

    Why on earth is the damned gay couple in this post? Shameful behavior!

    • Rick

      Why is that so shameful? Does it decrease the ability to perform shadow recovery?
      Seriously, just let people be, we will all be happier. It doesn’t affect you, does it? Oh wait, maybe it does…

    • Harry

      Our personal preferences on the social aspect is not important here. Just view them as subjects of photographic interest and try to get the bigger point of using the capabilities of the camera, not whether it endorses gay marriage or not.

      So nothing shameful here. Grow up and learn to be tolerant in general anyway.

  • Harry

    I do agree with most of this article too except that I still think that the D750 outperforms the D610 slightly because I have used them both 🙂 I rarely have a use for shadow-pulling since I depend on off-camera HDR. I agree though that it doesn’t work great with people in the scene. Mostly, I attribute it to 14-bit RAW because I tried out both 12-bit and 14-bit RAW and it makes for dramatic difference (I work on signal processing algorithms and I know how sometimes we care for the last dying bit in order to improve performance)

  • Every comment that is not photography related will be deleted. Don’t waste your time.

  • asass

    3 hours ago there was a similar post I replied to saying: Cheap trick and a good reason to stop visiting nikonrumors. Admin deletes posts that do not support his message. Admin: Where is the freedom of opinion people keep posting here and the right to have a view. You have the right to your personal views as long as they are similar with your views. It is called fascism or communism/

  • Horshack

    Nice article. Your model ratings for shadow recovery doesn’t match my experience though (nor the DxO numbers). You indicated “In our experience the D800 (and by extension the D810) is by far the best. The D4 (D4s/Df) sensor performs slightly better than the D750 and D610, both of which seem to have virtually the same ability.”. In my experience the D750/D800/D810 are about the same, followed closely by the D600/D610, but with the D4/D4s/Df significantly behind all the others. For example here’s a Df vs D800 +5EV comparison I did; the D600 is not far behind the D800 so use it as a proxy for the D600/D610 in this comparison. Notice the banding and shadow color hue distortion in the Df image

    • Declan Gallen

      A really interesting point Horshack. I was surprised too at my personal findings, as I expected different results from my cameras based on DXO. I still find the results as in the article. Perhaps it’s because of the light I’m shooting in? I really have no idea. I should point out i’m generalising on the Df/D4s and the D810 based on their sensors, as I don’t own them (but have used them).

      I never loved the D800 generally, despite its great image quality – it’s not the perfect balance for a wedding camera, at least not for how I shoot. After using a D4 and D610 combo for a year, I shoot with two D750 bodies now – mainly because of the balance of specs and especially because of the weight.

      My wife shoots with D4 bodies and loves them – I absolutely loved my D4 too, bar the weight. In an ideal world, my D750 bodies would have the D4 sensor and buffer… and they’d also dispense high-carb snacks throughout the wedding day;)

  • Zach Ashcraft

    I’ll say it. I sold my 5d3 after 2 years of use, bought a D750 a week ago, and couldn’t be happier. Long live Nikon 🙂

  • Phil

    Great article and another technique that will come in handy for many I’m sure. I’m surprised no one has mentioned bracketing yet (unless I’ve missed it), another method to achieve similar results. Although a little more time consuming in PS and a little trickier to capture I would suggest the IQ of the ‘recovered’ areas would be better. It is also worth considering the the ability to recover shadows drops dramatically as the ISO increases, so light levels have to be pretty decent in the first place. I’d be very interested to see some close in crops of the faces after the recovery has taken place, and to hear how these look in print at decent sizes – couples are bound to what to make large canvases/prints of such amazing shots.

    • Percy Blakeney

      If you are deliberately under exposing to preserve highlights and use Auto-ISO then the ISO drops further the lower you under expose. Win-win.

  • Funduro

    With the release of the D750, much has been made of its ability to recover shadow detail. Given the range of talents that the D750 has it is strange that this has been singled out given that the D800 and D4, released in 2012, outperform it in this regard, and the cheaper D600 (also from 2012) is able to match it at base ISO. And the old guard, the D700, D3 and D3s, weren’t too shabby at recovery either!
    Good to know since I have an older D700 and newer D800, which both happen to have 1/8000 shutter speed, 51 points AF and AF-ON button. Yup, those three items where crucial in my purchases over the newer ones. And yes I accept the pro’s and cons of the AA filter in the D800.

  • PAPFoto

    i recently wanted to darken out the background, so I was shooting with my D800 and a manual flash. I put it to ISO50 (I know thats a real ISO100..) and fired my flash with way to little power. So the entire image turned out to be dark (left side). I decided not to delete it, because I knew I can push it Lightroom and wanted to find out how much. I put it to +5 in Lightroom and another +.3 in the face. Pretty amazing.

    • Justin Walker

      Cool example. Our modern sensors are really amazing.

  • Manuel Wenaud

    What would great photographers of the past would have done with all that ? I wish photography was less technology and more decisive instants…

    • Percy Blakeney

      My earlier posts alluded to this. The greats of the past simply did the same thing in the darkroom.

  • Dustin Francis

    I love how wonderful the Sony sensors coupled with Nikon’s processors are, it’s one of the biggest things I miss about Nikon, but I’m happy the “work around” for Canon camera’s gives visually the same results 🙂

  • dbltax

    I’ve pushed D800 files 4 whole stops before with no problems, still bags of detail in the shadows!

  • dbltax

    I’ve pushed D800 files 4 whole stops before with no problems, still bags of detail in the shadows!

  • YRaj

    great article..have witnessed the amazing shadow recovery on my D800…but still developing confidence for weddings, no second takes…:) Your article motivates me to practice more underexposing so that I can be more confident and aware of the shadow recovery ability.

  • I wish my 5d mark iii could do this 🙁

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