Text and Image Photography

New Images Photography

Are Blown Highlights Acceptable?

If you look closely at the men wearing the white uniforms in this image, you’ll see areas of pure white. Most professional photographers avoid these at all possible costs. A polarizing filter can reduce blown highlights that white surfaces reflecting light can cause. In this shot I didn’t use a polarizing filter, which is why blown highlights show up in it.

I’ve seen some images in the Annenberg Space for Photography and other photography museums that contain large areas of blown highlights. This brings to light the debate about whether or not blown highlights ruin a photo. You probably can get away with blown highlights if you have a unique image, say, a photojournalism shot of a war scene. A photographer who takes these kinds of hand-held shots probably isn’t going to use a polarizing filter because it can cause photos to be soft due to shutter having to remain open longer to compensate for the filter’s blockage of light thorough the lens.

Please weigh in to this conversation. Can blown highlights be appropriate? If so, under what circumstances?


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