ETTR – Expose To The Right

ETTR – Expose To The Right

If you’re concerned about maximum image quality and/or worried about digital “noise,” then you should consider exposing to the right (ETTR.) This means you set your camera to record in RAW (you can add RAW + JPG if you want quick access to a jpg but still want the RAW file to edit) then look at your histogram. Make sure that you have set an exposure that goes as far to the bright side (on the right side of the histogram) without clipping. This gives your post processing software more data to work with. While the photo might look slightly overexposed in your viewfinder or on your LCD, that’s okay, because in post you will edit it so that it looks fine, but you’ll reduce the chances that you’ll have digital noise.

There is exponentially more data in each quadrant of the histogram as you move from left to right. All that data in the far right quadrant is your friend.


Here are a couple of things to remember…

If you are shooting at your camera’s base ISO, ETTR is much less valuable and not really necessary – as you crank up the ISO, ETTR becomes more important.

For people new to this concept, start by bracketing your shots so you can better see how this works in practice. Even though you are shooting RAW – go ahead and bracket and make one exposure about a half stop lower than the “perfect” exposure – then make two more, full-stop up exposures (to the right) to make sure you go as far as you can without clipping (blowing out the highlights.) Then adjust the image in your favorite RAW converter. (NOTE: Olympus Workspace typically offers the best RAW conversions available for Olympus files but you can also use something like Lightroom if you prefer.)

ETTR is just a tool – it’s not a religion or a mantra. It’s not necessarily a best practice for all photographers in all situations. For those of us who use Micro Four Thirds sensors, it’s just another way to improve overall image quality when working with higher ISOs.


With proper ETTR technique, your images have as much detail in the shadows as they possibly can, without any of the highlights losing information along the way. It also helps to reduce noise and gives photographers the best image quality they can coax out of their camera sensor.

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8 Responses

  1. hi Scott.
    From above – “If you aren’t shooting at your camera’s base ISO, ETTR is much less valuable and not really necessary – as you crank the ISO, ETTR becomes more important.”
    Do you mean ‘are’ shooting at base ISO here?

    1. Yes thanks for the catch Richard – fixed. I really, really, really, hate autocorrect. I am thinking that I will write a new series of terminator movies … only this time – the android will go back in time and kill the person who invented autocorrect – and texting too 🙂

  2. I also find that I can push the histogram just into the clipped area (especially with my OMD) as there usually a little more information than shows. I think this is because the histogram is based on a JPEG.

  3. Hi Scott. I shoot m4/3 too and I know that ETTR can help my overall photo quality. But I have always wondered: say I’m in low light using ISO 1600. I use a +2 exposure compensation to move the histogram over to the right to get more shadow details. But how does that compare to just using ISO 400 and no exposure compensation to begin with? To me, this looks like 6 of one and half dozen of another.

  4. I shoot with Olympus em1 Mark II and em1x. I find many times that the actual picture on my computer shows that highlights are blown out when on the histogram while taking the picture it doesn’t look like it is overexposed. ??? How do I avoid this from happening?

    1. Hi you can calibrate your monitor to make sure it is accurate – also you can set the parameters for the histogram on your camera – I set mine to 5 on the dark end and 250 on the bright end – see page 116 or 117 as I remember it in the MK II manual – same control works on the X.

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