Maybe a break from the recent winter theme is in order. Anyone ready for spring?
A frequent topic recently has been "rules" in photography. These rules have value, and are usually based on sound, proven reasoning that result in sound, competent images. But true artistic success requires doing something new, yet if there's a rule for something, doesn't that mean it has already been done? So, paradoxically, genuine creativity requires breaking the rules that are supposed to lead to good images.
One of the most absolute pieces of photograph advice we hear is, "Never blow your highlights!" And for the most part I agree that blown highlights ruin an image. In fact I've spent a lot of time writing about how to deal with difficult light, and it's all been based on the premise that we need to save the highlights at all costs. In blog posts I've written about exposure methods, graduated neutral density filters, digital blending, HDR, and silhouettes as techniques for saving highlights.
But what if we say it's okay to blow out the highlights? Suddenly a whole new world of possibilities opens. In today's image it would have been far easier (and more comfortable!) to follow the "rule" and photograph this poppy from above where the light wouldn't have been a big problem. But I really like the glow of backlit poppies and decided to see what I could find by getting on my back and shooting up at the poppy's backlit side. It was immediately clear that exposing to retain the blue in the sky would have rendered the poppies black, but rather than give up, I simply exposed to maximize the poppy's color, completely blowing out (overexposing) the sky. The result was a striking white background that actually underscores this brilliantly backlit poppy.
Something I constantly encourage my students to do is start with the conventional shots, but aggressively seek the unconventional. If a "rule" applies, go ahead and follow the rule for a shot or two, then look for opportunities to break it. You may end up with more failures than successes (but of course nobody needs to know that), but I'll bet your successes will turn out to be among your favorite images.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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