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Overexpose RAW or use higher ISO

A few days ago I had a thought. What results in a cleaner photo? Should one overexpose a darker RAW file or use a higher ISO instead. Which one will have less noise? So I decided to try it out and see.

Let’s compare

Let’s look at this photo. This is a crop from 100% zoom. Both versions are the same except for the ISO settings. The first one is ISO 100 and overexposed by two stops, second on ISO 400.

It’s really hard to see any difference, except the High ISO one, is a tiny bit brighter. I noticed this on every single photo I tried. Two stops of exposure were never the same in Lightroom as in the camera. Let’s zoom in to 200% to see better how it looks.

Still, hard to see much difference, except the brightness. Maybe the overexposed has a tiny bit more noise, but hard to say for sure.

Let’s look at a different image. This one with more even areas, that will show the noise better. Again, both taken at the same settings except the ISO. First one at ISO 100 and overexposed by 2 stops, the second one at ISO400

Really hard to see any difference at 100%. It looks almost the same. Let’s zoom in to 200% to a single color area.

Here you already can see a bit of difference, the noise is a tiny bit stronger in the overexposed image.

How is it?

I tried more comparisons, and every time I got to the same result. The overexposed shot is a bit darker and has a bit more noise. But in most cases, I was not able to even see a difference. Even when going up by 3 exposures, it was the same. Not sure if this would be same on all the cameras, but it worked like this on the 5D Mark IV. So it looks like it does not really matter and both work fine.

The biggest difference was actually the overexposed areas. When you overexpose a shot, you get better exposure in those areas. But of course the underexposed will be darker, so you get less detail there.

I tried the same comparison where instead of changing the ISO I changed the exposure time, but in that case, the overexposed one was much noisier in every case. This is, of course, to be expected.

In front of the Bratislava Castle

While I hoped to get some photos while in Zagrab in Croatia yesterday, I had no luck. It rained most of the day, and not just a drizzle. So time to go back to my photo archive for a another photo.

This one was taken from the area right in front of the Bratislava castle. It’s actually not a single photo, but a panorama from 4 taken with the tilt-shift lens. I took a photo of the middle part, then shifted the lens left and right to get the sides. To finish up, I shifted the lens up to get the top of the castle into the shot. That left empty corners, but since that area is just the sky, it was easy to fix in Photoshop.

In front of the Bratislava Castle, Slovakia

Morning reflection at the Eiffel tower

Do you like to take portrait-oriented photos? I don’t. Which is funny, as I quite like vertoramas. But those are a combination of landscape photos anyway. Strange. This is one I took in 2015 in Paris. If I did the same photo today, I would probably make a vertorama, to get more of the bridge on the side. Funny how ones taste in composition changes over time.

This is a three exposure blend, done in Photoshop.

Morning reflection at the Eiffel tower

Circled view in Antwerp

I have not been to Belgium that much yet, only for a 1-2 days few years back. But I never posted a photo from there, that is until today.

This photo was taken from the top of the Museum aan de Stroom there. It was freely accessible, so I tried to get a photo from it. But as you can see, the top is completely surrounded by a glass wall. And towards every side, there was only one hole you could put a lens through. And it was not even that big. The weather and sunset were not that spectacular, so instead of taking a photo through it, here I did a photo with it. It does add something different to the composition. Normally when I do photos like this, I like to create an out of focus version for the border, so that just the middle part is focused. But looks like I forgot to do that.

If you wonder why I did not do a photo of the beautiful main square instead, it was because of bad luck. The only day I was there, they were preparing for a marathon or a bike race, or something like that, and there was a huge ugly tribune right in the middle of the square, hiding everything. So no luck there.

This is a three exposure blend, done in Photoshop.

Circled view in Antwerp, Belgium

Raya Pro Sale

Raya Pro is currently my most used photoshop panel, that I use in all my photo blending. You could see it in a lot of my recent screenshots. And right now, Jimmy McIntyre, the author of it, is having a summer sale, where it and his video tutorials, are all 50% off in price. Really a good time to get it and I also can easily recommend the videos. The Raya Pro is currently only 22.50USD instead of the regular 44.99USD.

Check out more about it on Jimmy’s website here.

Crypt of the Saint Sava church in Belgrade

I have not posted an interior shot in a really long time, so I went back through my photo library to find one. And the one I have chosen is from the Crypt of the Saint Sava church in Belgrade in Serbia. I took this one two years ago, during a very quick stop in the city. The church on its own was closed due to reconstruction, but the crypt was still accessible.

And I even managed to get this photo with a tripod before a guard asked me to not use one. This was pure luck, as when I entered, a big group just left. So there were only a few people and nobody in my shot. Does not happen often. Funny that the only other photo I posted from Belgrade is also an interior one. But with how hot it was that day, it’s not surprising.

This is a two shot vertorama, each shot blended from three exposures. At first, I tried to darken the very bright lights on the pillars, but as it started looking very grey I decided to leave them bright. Actually, even in a -3 EV exposure, there were still very bright anyway. So this is more realistic like this now.

Crypt of the Saint Sava church in Belgrade
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