Exposing the GH4
Most advice regarding exposing digital cameras centers around protecting highlights. In general, this is good advice because if you blow out highlights, that information is well and truly gone. There is nothing that can be done in post to recover it. Because of this fact, I tend to error on the side of under-exposing my images.
This rule of thumb is so ingrained into my thinking and workflow that it’s taken me far too long to realize that exposing to the left is a dangerous strategy when shooting with the Panasonic GH4.
Good exposure is good exposure, but at the fringes, some sensors are more forgiving of underexposure, and some deal better with slight overexposure. Because the latitude for a good exposure is so slim on most affordable DSLR style cameras, it’s very important to understand in which direction you should lean when you have to compromise. And in any scene with wide dynamic range (very dark darks and very bright brights) you’re going to have to compromise.
With the GH4, it is very clearly advisable to error on the side of overexposing. (“Exposing to the right.”) The reason for this is two fold:
- Underexposed shadows are very noisy and look quite bad when raised in post.
- Color accuracy suffers significantly in under-exposed midtones, and is very difficult to correct in post.
As usual, pictures demonstrate this much better than words. The following are still grabs from the same take. All of the camera settings are exactly the same, the only thing that changed was that I manually adjusted my aperture.
Pay particular attention to the groom’s jacket and the bride’s skin. Despite using every color correction trick in my toolbox, the the best I match I could create leaves the underexposed shot clearly subpar.