Here's another episode in the ongoing saga of shooting in "Medium" -- working in JPEG, while getting most of the benefits of Raw format.
Many photographers believe that working in Raw format gives you the ultimate in flexibility, allowing you to make all sorts of adjustments to their pictures, while saving files in JPEG format dooms you to what comes out of the camera.
This is another example of how a picture, saved as a JPEG, can be post processed to fix a really bad exposure.
It's long after sundown, on the dirt road leading down to Bull Run. So dark that at ISO 400, I have to shoot at 1/5 sec with the lens wide open. Is it even worth taking a picture here?
It's amazing how much detail is hiding the dark areas of these FZ18 JPEGs (and probably in the JPEGs of other cameras as well).
What you're actually doing when you boost the "exposure" in post processing to bring out these details is equivalent to boosting the ISO when you take the original picture. This can result in "equivalent ISOs" of 3200, 6400, or even higher, depending on how far you push things. It also explains why these boosted areas have proportionately more noise and less detail than the rest of the image.
By using masking and selection, you can selectively "boost the ISO" in some areas of the picture, while leaving the better-exposed areas at their original ISO.
This technique can take you further than the camera, with its limited ISO range, is capable of, while still maintaining the full 8 mp image size.
What's interesting is this. Ever since camera manufacturers made Raw format files available, there has been a lot of buzz about this facility in the photographic community. There is much discussion about the best program to "develop" Raw files, and there has been much discussion about techniques for correcting exposure, color balance, contrast, saturation, noise removal, etc. But there's been little talk about achieving the same results with JPEG files.
To say that you can achieve almost the same results as Raw, while enjoying the convenience of shooting in JPEG, seems like heresy. But I am impressed with the level of detail in the FZ18's JPEG files, especially in the darker, underexposed areas. That's what's led to this series of articles.
Please note that I am only claiming this for the Panasonic DMC-FZ18's JPEGs, and not for the JPEGs produced by other cameras. But after seeing these results, you may want to see what you can do the JPEGs produced by your particular camera. You might be pleasantly surprised.