Sunday, July 19, 2009
The other day I was in a conversation with a few other photographers and there seemed to be a consensus that it's preferable to over expose negatives than underexpose. I certainly can see the logic in this if we're talking two or more stops of exposure. But as a general rule I can't say I like the idea.
It's possible that years of shooting slow speed transparency film instilled in me a deep dislike for blown out highlights. Of course there are times when blown highlights are unavoidable or even contribute to the making of a very expressive or dramatic image, but as a rule I think every effort should be make to avoid them.
I'd rather loose shadow detail than settle for blown highlights. Shadows are shadows. They are supposed to be dark. They are supposed to hide information. Dark to black shadows can be an advantage, but how often does a blown out highlight bring anything to an image?
So here's my rule:
Compose for the shadows
Expose for the highlights
Always determine what is the most important highlight in the scene and expose for that highlight. Compose your image using the shadows to the best advantage: fewer shadows to emphasize the highlights or more to add drama. Keep in mind that balance is always important, but some times balance is best when skewed to one side or the other.
Photos: ©2009 David W. Sumner