With the realization that I’ve been doing it wrong, I’ve completely revamped my approach.
First, now that I truly understand how Dynamic Range in a Fujifilm camera works, I am shooting in DR-Auto again. As a practical matter, that means my images will be DR-100 or DR-200; I’ve never seen the camera select DR-400 on its own. Note that, when shooting night scenes with bright subjects (fireworks), it may still be necessary to shoot DR-400; I’d rather underexpose the shadows than overexpose the subject.
Additionally, my current generation of recipes and the two of the prior generation I kept have a few fundamental changes. First, I am setting my highlights and shadows explicitly, versus setting them to 0 or even -2. Second, I am no longer using Auto WB. Six of my current recipes are using either Daylight or Shade. One, that is still somewhat experimental, is using temperature.
The net effect of these changes is that I am seeing a more “filmic” look in my pictures. That’s one of the reasons I chose the Fujifilm ecosystem, and this is therefore perfectly fine with me.
And now for something else that I’ve recently discovered.
Exposure vs “Brightness”
I’ve been approaching exposure in the wrong way. I have no idea if this terminology is correct or not, but for lack of a better word, I’ve been confusing exposure and “brightness.”
Exposure is the amount of light allowed to hit the sensor and is a factor of a few things, including aperture and shutter speed. What I am calling “brightness” is a combination of exposure, highlights, and shadows. Because of this confusion, I have been adjusting exposure compensation to account for the amount of highlights and shadows, and this is contributing to over- or underexposed images.
I discovered this by observing the relationship between exposure compensation in the raw image and the Push/Pull setting in Raw Studio. I found that, by backing out my exposure compensation by adjusting the Push/Pull by an equal amount in the opposite direction, I can generally produce properly expose images without having to change my highlight and shadow settings. That is to say, if I shot the picture with an EC of +1.3, changing the Push/Pull to -1.3 restores a proper exposure.
Careful use of the EC feature in the camera is important in order to avoid irreparably over- or underexposing the pic.
To be sure, certain high contrast settings might require adjustments, or even force me to edit the raw in darktable. However, the effect of all these changes and careful attention to exposure has allowed me to start shooting raw+jpeg again, and I am rediscovering the fun of photography.
I still need to update the settings for Cleancros and actually write the settings for Eternaty. I also have five new recipes to document, all developed around the highlight, shadow, dynamic range, and WB changes I described above.