I always try to expose to the right, but it's not always possible to exploit the brightest stop as much as I'd like. Nonetheless, I'm always THINKING about exposing to the right, which means I'm always analyzing the histogram to see how I can maximize the potential of each image, data-wise. The histogram is a critical tool for me to get the best shot I can in camera, thus the best image to work with in post. For me the two are inextricably intertwined. My version of "nailing it in the camera" means gathering the most possible RAW data available about my shot, which results in the richest possible file and the best final image. I'm likely to spend a lot less time in post with a nice juicy ETTR file.
An ETTR file often looks flat and overly hot on the back of the camera, but here's the thing - the LCD preview and histogram don't accurately represent the way your RAW capture will look. They're based on an sRGB (smaller color space) preview, so the histogram may be as much as a stop off. A "properly" exposed shot, with the lion's share of the image creating a "mountain in the middle" is a shot in which you may have thrown away fully half of the available image data. I usually shoot until I see just the teensiest highlight warning blinkies and call it good.
Managing the dance between shutter speed, f-stop and ISO can be complex. I used to do everything possible to avoid raising the native ISO, but I've changed my ways. Though most newer cameras are built to handle high ISO magnificently, the sensor still collects data in the same linear fashion, with 2048 of a possible 4096 (12-bit RAW) tones collected in the brightest stop. That means that underexposing (no ETTR) can result in a hefty potential data loss. I'm not advocating blown highlights here. Lightroom can restore almost 2 stops of highlight data, but nothing kills a shot faster than a blasted sunball or badly clipped highlights.
For many, "nailing it the camera" is code for not having to edit in post, so it follows that ETTR isn't at all enticing to those with an aversion to editing. I think there's a misconception held by many that all editing takes forever, and is only needed to rescue sub-par images. Not so. Finessing an ETTR exposure can take just moments in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Fluency in editing can be as much the hallmark of an accomplished shooter as their photos are. Shooting and editing inform each other, and post-production provides a set of tools like the darkroom used to, that gives the artist an extra level of control over the finished photo.
- Aquapaul likes this