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The Spot Metering Method for Precise ETTR

Most recommendations for ETTR (exposing to the right) require you to use the histogram and “blinkies” on your camera to judge overexposure. And while this method works fairly well and has plenty of benefits, it isn’t flawless. Here’s an alternative method involving spot metering, which works better in many cases.

What Is ETTR?

ETTR is a method of exposing photos which involves capturing as much light as possible, without blowing out any important areas of an image. We’ve written about it before. It is also known as optimal digital exposure.

Some photographers incorrectly think that ETTR involves taking photos that “look too bright” and then darkening them in post-processing. This isn’t always the case, though. Many photos which are properly exposed to the right will look dark out of camera. That’s because a central tenet of ETTR is to avoid overexposing critical highlight detail.

The following image is exposed to the right; in other words, it is captures as much light as possible without any overexposure:

Bright ETTR Image

NIKON D800E + 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 100, 2 seconds, f/11.0

But so is this image, since it also is the brightest possible exposure that doesn’t blow out any important highlights (those clouds are just barely recoverable):