Blowing Highlights And Clipping Blacks: The Rule Behind Lost Details
ideally, when we create a photograph we want to preserve as much detail as we can. we do this by determining what detail is important to the story of our image, choose the appropriate settings to incorporate those details, and then take the photo. there are times, however, that we will clip the blacks or blow the highlights in our image. this means that our blacks are too dark and our whites and too bright, respectively. the blacks are so dark that we can no longer see detail and the whites are so bright that we are no longer seeing detail, in those areas of the frame. by monitoring our histogram we can begin to monitor where in the image we are blowing highlights and clipping blacks. once we know the areas of concern, we can then decide if we want to fix those areas or not.
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Blowing Highlights and Clipping Blacks: The Rule Behind Lost Details
Checking For Blown Highlights
to quickly check for blown highlights in lightroom, you will refer to your histogram in the top right corner of the develop module. here, you will find two rectangles on the upper left and upper right of the histogram. if either triangles are white, you are being told that you are either blowing highlight or clipping blacks. the right triangle is where you will monitor your highlights. in the image below, you will see that the right triangle is white, indicating that i am blowing highlights. to see where the blown highlights are on my image, i simply click the white triangle and the areas of blown highlights will turn red on my image.
once i know where my blown highlights are, i can determine if i want to fix them or if i am okay with them being present. to fix blown highlights, you will mainly focus on the exposure, highlights, or whites sliders in lightroom. because the blown highlights within my image are on an area that is unimportant to me, i am fine with them being blown and choose to leave the image as is. if there were blown highlights on my subject’s skin or on an ares of more importance within the frame, i would certainly remedy the blown highlights. this image was taken on a snowy day, and i do like the idea of having a bright white window to portray that weather. also, the blown highlights in this image are on the sky that was already white because of the snow. i have preserved the white snow on the ground, which is the important area for me.
Checking For Clipped Blacks
to check for clipped blacks, you will refer to the same histogram in the develop module of lightroom. this time, you will refer to the triangle on the left to monitor clopped blacks. if the triangle is white on the left side of the histogram, you are being told that your blacks are being clipped within your image. by clicking that white triangle, you are turned on the blacks indicator and you will be shown the areas of clipped blacks with blue on your image.
now that you know where your clipped blacks are, you can decide if it is necessary to fix them or not. you will mainly focus on the blacks and shadows sliders when fixing clipped blacks. because the clipped blacks are in the shadows of my image, i am not worried about preserving detail in that area. in fact, i prefer that this area of the image is lost to shadow because it is hiding the additional cherrio crumbs that have fallen onto the highchair seat and i don’t need detail in that area to tell a better story in this image.
Checking For Blown Highlights and Clipped Blacks
you can certainly check to see if you are blowing highlights and clipping blacks at the same time by clicking both the blacks triangle and the highlights triangle on the top of your histogram in the develop module of lightroom. this will show you the clipped blacks in blue and the blown highlights in red.
because the blown highlights are so minor and not hiding important detail from my image, i choose to allow them to remain. i may even choose to blown them further, to hide the dappled information coming in from the window that may be distracting for the viewer. in regards to the blacks, i am also fine with where the clipped blacks are located because they aren’t hiding any relevant detail. as long as i don’t have clipped blacks or blown highlights on my subject or on an area of the frame that i need to tell my story, i am generally okay with their presence. of course, this is on a case by case basis and my main goal is always to create an image free of clipped blacks and blown highlights.
blowing highlights and clipping blacks naturally occurs within photography, but knowing how to monitor and fix those areas will help you to strengthen your image. there will be times when your clipped blacks or blown highlights will be preferred within an image and times when they will be ruining your image. by using the indicators in lightroom, you will be able to take control over those questionable areas and determine when and why you would rather fix or leave them as is. for me, when it comes to blowing highlights and clipping blacks, i am sure to avoid it entirely on my subjects and in areas of my frame that are relevant to my story.
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