The best thing about the rules of photography are that once you’ve learned them, it’s time to start breaking them! One of the rules that can easily be broken, especially during the bright summer months, is overexposure. We talk a lot about exposing a photo correctly and not having blown highlights or clipping your whites. But, there are times that that is just not going to happen. You’re going to have to overexpose to get the shot that you want.

Overexposing {and underexposing} can create drama and make your photograph interesting. So when is it ok to overexpose your photograph?

Breaking the Rules: Overexposure

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Week 29: July 13-19

1. Soften your subject. By overexposing your subject a little, you will  soften their appearance. For example, if you are taking a photograph of your favorite furry friend, you may want to overexpose {just a tad} to convey that soft cuddly feeling. I would suggest only exposing by a stop or two.

2. Overexpose the sky. One of the most difficult places to properly expose your photo is on the beach. It’s bright. You have a huge reflector in front of you bouncing the light right on your subject’s face. Unless you want to drag your flash to the beach for some fill flash, you are going to have to compromise. For me? I will overexpose the sky to get my subject right. After all, I am focusing on the cute faces or the quick seagulls, not the bright, blue sky. However, if I am taking a landscape photo and want to get that nice blue sky, I will do the opposite and underexpose. 

breaking the rules overexposure

3. Add drama. Back when we talked about adding contrast to your photographs, we talked about high key photographs. By overexposing your whites for a black and white photo, you will end up with mainly blacks and whites, very little gray. If you want a completely white background, you can blow you white channel to create a bright, white backdrop!

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4. Know what looks good! Even though we are breaking a rule, you want to make sure you don’t take it too far. When overexposing, you want to make sure you are reading your histogram. It will help you from going overboard when overexposing. If you are shooting outdoors near a lake or on the beach, you will have a little bit of clipping due to the water. Just be careful that your clippings are not on someone’s face or shirt! This never looks good. Also, if your subject is white or wearing white, be careful! You can go from slightly overexposed to completely washed out quickly.

Remember, just because we are being rebelious this week doesn’t mean we should break all the rules! If you are breaking a rule of photography, try to stick to the rest! Make sure you share your rebelious photographs on Facebook!


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