Let’s take first things first though and assume that you are taking pictures in RAW format and not jpg. Well, every time you take a picture, it is highly advisable to check the camera’s histogram, always; this will make sure that your exposure is correct.
Now, correct exposure can be interpreted in many ways. One of those ways is that the image captured on the sensor is best captured as bright as possible. This in return will mean that you have captured as much detail as possible in this RAW (digital negative) file.
Push the histogram to the right. While exposing the scene, add positive (+) exposure compensation (please read the camera’s manual for this) and make sure the histogram leans towards the right side of its box – similar to the small top picture; make sure you have the highlight warning active and no highlights are blinking (burnt out).
Next step, processing. The first thing you need to do during processing is to pull back the exposure to the point where it looks excellent, then continue with your processing.
Why the need for this, you might ask and here is the simple answer. Bright exposure means no colour noise or banding in the dark areas of the picture (providing there are dark areas). If now the dark areas need to be brightened up a bit, you can do so by pushing the shadows, blacks or whatever your shadow recovery slider is called. However, now the shadows will look much cleaner and free from noise than they would if the picture was captured with the correct exposure (example of noise can be seen in the bottom picture).
Read this article, and many more, in High Definition, inside Issue 27 of Landscape Photography Magazine.