Ask James – Do We Still Need To Worry About Exposure?

Hi James,

Since working with RAW files in a program like Lightroom gives us so much latitude with exposure, is it still important to make sure our exposures are right on? In other words, does it really make any difference if I’m over or under a half or even a full stop?


This is a bit of a loaded question. Sensors are getting better and better each year and the recent sensors from Sony are just insane in terms of dynamic range. This means that you could probably be off by a half stop or full stop in certain cases and still have enough latitude in your RAW processor to pull out all the needed detail. BUT…

That doesn’t mean you should get lazy with your exposures. I’m still a huge stickler when it comes to nailing everything in camera possible. Sharpness, exposure, everything. All that aside, my approach to getting the “proper” exposure has changed a bit since switching to Sony. Sony cameras are mirrorless which means they have what’s called an electronic viewfinder. This EVF shows a real time preview of your exposure and you can set the screen to show a heads up histogram that is also shown in real time. So if you dial up the aperture, both the exposure preview and histogram will immediately update as well. What this means is that I no longer need to look at the meter. I just look at the preview on the viewfinder, check the histogram to make sure I’m not blowing out highlights or shadows and take the picture. If I can’t capture all the range in one exposure, I’ll take 1 or 2 more for good measure at different exposure levels (either higher or lower).

Hope that helps!

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