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The MegaVision Shooting Style

MegaVision recommends a shooting style that makes emotive, well-rendered photographs and MegaVision products are specifically tailored for the knowledgeable and skilled professional photographer.

At the beginning of digital capture, it was necessary to give full exposure to scenes that needed to be rendered on reflective targets because the capture devices were very low performers with respect to signal-to-noise. The 1987 original MegaVision Tessera had a signal-to-noise ratio of 500:1, the current E Series at 3900:1.

Nonetheless, 500:1 was adequate for newsprint if the picture was perfectly lit, because the newsprint target couldn't render a lot of tones. The earliest uses of digital capture were directed toward the newsprint target for two reasons: the high volume, low margin imaging we see in newspaper advertising didn't require an expensive film workflow, and the limited dynamic range of the new capture devices were minimally (but acceptably) suited for newsprint.

Improvements in signal-to-noise can be used in a variety of ways. The improvement can be used to make more ISO. It can be used to lower noise. It can be used to provide overexposure protection (with film called latitude). It can also be used to provide a combination of attributes. How digital capture companies use improved signal-to-noise makes a difference to the look of the picture, or the ease with which it's captured and subsequently rendered. Photojournalism cameras for example, are commonly equipped with higher ISO's, not surprisingly because news often happens in low light levels. If plenty of light is available, noise is suppressed with adequate exposure and the higher performing s/n might be better used to provide over exposure protection which allows more flexible lighting and file processing for the advertising photographer.

Emotive shooting, according to Ansel Adams, involved working with a number of tones appropriate to the target paper. Ansel never made a grade 1 neg for a grade 5 paper, because it didn't work well. Digital imaging works very much like film imaging in that when there is the correct number of tones, the pictures look more realistic.

With 500:1 signal-to-noise, there wasn't the luxury of giving less exposure; with less exposure, the shadows became quite noisy. Now with 4000:1, there can be less exposure and the shadows don't get too noisy if the lighting contrast is reasonably close to the target's ability to render contrast. Giving less exposure (without the noise penalty) allows flexibility to alter the underexposed high value and drag it up to an appropriate print highlight, building contrast if the high value needs more contrast, or smoothing the high's tonality if it needs less contrast. With a RAW .dng as our native file, settings can be changed to take advantage of the properties of a different target.

Underexposing the scene's high value and remapping it to a print's high value does something more than give choices about contrast in the highs; it also reduces the number of useable tones in the file, so that it can render more emotively on the paper. The more underexposed and remapped up, the fewer useable tones are available to print. Shooting fewer tones allows the ability to use a Normal-Plus development to exploit for better local contrast when the image renders reflectively.

Better local contrast makes for more emotive prints because prints aren't 12 bit targets, regardless of what the printer marketing purports. Reflection densitometer reports do not include D-log measurements of 3.6 for reflective papers, which would be 12 bits. Reports such as 2.5 (8.3 bits) are common for glossier substrates but by observation do not exhibit the separate rendering of each and every 255 based levels/ tone that 8 bpc contains.

MegaVision's thinking about capture follows in the style that Ansel Adams taught, specifically to make a picture's contrast as close to the target as possible. Is this shooting style the only style? No, but it has merit and invites careful consideration of the MegaVision workflow.

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