My first thought when reading this project through was feedback given to me on an image I uploaded whilst doing a 10 week digital photography course with the Open University a couple of years ago. ‘It’s over exposed and the highlights are clipped’! Until then I had never heard of ‘Highlight Clipping’. Since starting to shoot in RAW, I have become familiar with the ‘highlight clipping warning’ when activated in the histogram but whilst I use the histogram on my camera when taking photographs, and often shoot at an exposure compensation of -.7 becuase my camera tends to over expose, I did not realise that I had a highlight clipping warning on the camera display. If this course is teaching me anything it is to go back and read the camera manual, that done, the highlight clipping warning is now activated.
The second thing that came to mind was a recent holiday to Switzerland when I attempted to take photographs of the Eiger which was right opposite our hotel, and re-shooting the picture again and again because the histogram showed that the snowy top of the mountain was over exposed. I hadn’t realised quite how much the highlights were clipped until I uploaded the images onto the computer. Had I had the highlights clipping warning activated at that point I could probably saved myself some time, having said that, those where the highlights are not clipped are so dark elsewhere that I’m not sure I will be able to retrieve them. I will need to go back to the last exercise and apply the curves adjustment!
Highlight clipping exercise
Following the guidance in the workbook, I took 5 photographs of a rose in quite bright sunlight. I had to experiment to get a shutter speed and aperture that only just resulted in highlights being clipped on the 1st image and settled for 1/100 sec at f8. With hindsight I would have adjusted the shutter speed so that the background remained blurred in subsequent shots, but I adjusted the aperture instead. In this first shot, the overall image was quite over exposed although I could still see the outline of the flower quite clearly. I didn’t particularly think that there was any colour cast but saturation was quite low.
The next shot was taken again at 1/100 sec and this time f5.6. This time highlight clipping was evident over the majority of the flower, the whole image was very pale, there was no detail in the petals at all and the centre of the flower, which had been a deep apricot colour was now a bright yellow and the whole thing looked soft.
The third shot, taken at f/11 and 1/100 sec showed no highlight clipping at all. The values on the histogram were evenly spread across the whole range and there was some detail in the petals of the flower. There wasn’t any total white in any of these images and the colours were returning to a more normal look. That said, I still felt that this image was over exposed, and there was a lack of detail in some of the lighter areas, particularly when compared to the later images.
The fourth shot was taken at f/16 and 1/100 sec and although the histogram showed that the values were starting to move to the left and there was some evidence of shadow clipping, for me this image produced the best and most realistic colour. Colours were well saturated, there was no colour cast and the division between the different shades were much more visible. I was also able to see much more detail in the petals of the flower.
My final image was taken at f/22 and 1/100 sec and this one was not what I expected. Whether the sun light had changed I don’t know, but this one seemed to be slightly brighter than the previous shot taken at f/16 and with a slightly pink tinge. I felt the detail in the previous shot was better too and interestingly, when I looked at the histogram, the values were more evenly spread than in the previous shot.
The second half of this exercise was quite hard as I was using Lightroom to process the RAW files and it does not have a ‘recovery’ slider, at least, if it does, it is not called that. The tonal curves facility does have the RGB symbol though and pulling the highlights with that produced some really weierd results.
I have a few days away on a landscape photography course so will finish this when I get back! Note to myself – upload some of these images