Overexposing Your Images

Generally speaking, when you're taking a photo you want to expose it correctly so that it's neither too light, nor too dark. You don't want an overabundance of shadow but at the same time you want enough to provide contrast and depth.

However, just like almost any other rule of thumb in photography, this can be bent or broken for the sake of creativity. Sometimes I find myself purposely overexposing my images because it can create a wonderful soft look. Other times it can make a photo even more striking.

This black and white photo is overexposed to the point that it completely blows out the background but by converting it to black and white it makes a gorgeous high-contrast photo that creates a very strong mood.

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Image Credit: xJasonRogersx

In the following two photos I overexposed to heighten the sun's light through the trees and plants which softens the whole look and creates an almost ethereal mood.

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Image Credit: Sherry Osborne

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Image Credit: Sherry Osborne

In this photo, I overexposed in order to get a bright and almost translucent look to the snow and the trees, then used a Photoshop action to make it a sepia tone. I don't think the effect would have worked as well if I had exposed correctly according to the light meter.

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Image Credit: Sherry Osborne

Being comfortable with ignoring your light meter (to an extent) is also a necessity for photographing snow. If you go by your camera's light meter, your snow will come out with a gray cast to it. In order to make snow in photos as white as it is to the eye, you'll need to bump the exposure up a little bit.

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Image Credit: Umberto Fistarol

When you overexpose your photos, try doing it in small increments. There is a point where all detail will be completely blown out and you won't be able to do much with it at all. Check your light meter and when you see that it's telling you that you've metered "correctly" (i.e. it's right in the center), open your aperture wider or slow your shutter speed by about one stop. Once your photos are looking a little overexposed but still detailed, you should be right on. 

Generally I overexpose by one to two stops, no more than that. That way I'm still left with enough detail to work with so that it's recognizable while still making a lovely creative effect.


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Beyond MegaPixels is a digital photography website that provides a variety of information, specifically focusing on digital photography guides.  The guest author of this article is Sherry Osborne, a frequent contributer to Beyond MegaPixels.  

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