Yes, It’s OK To Blow Out The Background


I’ve talked to several photographers who struggle with foreground and background exposure.  They get frustrated because they want  a particular shot and want to have the whole photo properly exposed.  In certain situations that can be tough to pull off in the camera – especially when the subject of your photograph is a person or people.

Even if your subject is in shade, the scene might be backlit and that will wash out any background on bright sunny day.  Photographers don’t always have the luxury of picking the time of day that we shoot.  Clients may have a specific time and date in mind and they are likely not going to be what we would consider to be ‘ideal’.

This brings me to the point of this post: it’s OK to let your background blow out.  Doing so can sometimes serve double-duty.  First, having the background blown out adds drama to your photo.  Second, it could possibly help to hide distracting elements in the background of your photo.

For instance, the photo above I shot in the middle of the afternoon on a cloudless day.  The available light was bright and harsh so I put my subjects in front of the pillars which provided shade.  I exposed for my subject (the couple) and let the background blow out.  If I had let my camera make the exposure decision for me, it would have exposed for the sky in the background and my subjects would have been very underexposed.

Sure, I could have double-processed in the image in Photoshop to get a properly exposed foreground and background, but where’s the fun in that?  Rules are meant to be broken.  So challenge yourself and go out and try something new.  Get out of your comfort zone.  You will likely surprise yourself with what you learn.

2 thoughts on “Yes, It’s OK To Blow Out The Background

  1. Well said Stephen. Sometimes, you have to accept what you have been given and either you like or you don’t. I happen to love it. I will definitely keep this in mind as I try my hand at shooting portraits in the future.

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