Consider this photo:
Camera Settings - 1/160th. sec. shutter speed, f/5.6, ISO 400, at 50mm.
It took me almost a couple of years to decide on whether or not I should post this online, since personally, I saw too many "things" I don't normally like in a shot. Sure, there's the rumpled curtain, the leg of a lightstand at the lower left corner, and the comb underneath Jazz's legs (which I easily took out via photoshop). But I overlooked these things simply because my eyes were pulled to her almost silhouetted body, a stark contrast to the highly exposed background. What made this photo stay for a few days in my archives was actually something more technical than that: her face wasn't properly in focus, and this gave me a lot of trouble. Yes, believe me. I can be stopped at times with little hiccups like this, only to realize that I can only see the flaw when I'm looking at it at a 150% crop.
Short answer? Whenever you want to.
Photography as an art goes beyond the restriction of the fundamental tenets our photo teachers tell us to follow, like creating proper exposure, avoiding loss of details caused by clipping, following the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, etcetera, etcetera... Yes, these are rules, but the same rules can be bent - others broken - all for art's sake. The same principle goes to deciding whether a photo should be rendered in its natural colors, or you strip it off instead by pulling down the saturation levels on your photo editing software. Again, there are rules to follow (which we'll discuss after the break), but you decide what to do with them in the sole purpose of expressing the photo's message and visual impact however you see fit.
Of course, actions reap reactions, and there's always a chance that deviating from the norm might not fare well with your photo's final outcome. You've been warned.
Consider this photo:
Of the lighting modifiers I use on studio, I normally juggle between the venerable softbox and the ol' reliable umbrella (shoot-through and reflective). Depending on the situation, I like to use either of the two because of the soft and flattering quality of light they produce with my strobes, and my subjects would come out nice in the shots. The thing though is that these produce mainly soft lighting with a very gradual light-to-shade transition. I wanted to try something else, something that modifies the characteristic of the light into something that's not that soft, but not that hard either (as opposed to using direct flash). Something that produces a dramatically distinct yet still flattering lighting effect that boxes or umbrellas couldn't (arguably) deliver. So after searching online I came across a 22-inch pre-owned beauty dish: a bargain for only less than $50.
So how does it fare?
One of the things a photographer would tend to avoid in photography is to have any clipping (the presence of absolute blacks or whites due to too much under or overexposure, resulting to lost detail) involved in his or her images. A good example that we can all relate is when we take a photo of a backlit subject under a mid-afternoon sky. Suppose that we took the said shot without any other artificial lighting to aid us, we can only choose three options: obtain proper exposure on the subject and blow-up the background (sky) in the process, take a proper exposure of the sky and leave your subject underexposed, or obtain a proper average exposure on both subject and background, which leaves us with a somewhat overexposed background and a somewhat underexposed subject. For us who are acquainted with Photoshop, we would normally choose the last option for two reasons: there is no clipping (or at least clipping is minimized) which thus preserves the details of the overall picture, and that the colors, though at times undetectable by our eyes, are still there, and with the aid of Photoshop, we can still bring them all out.
Now that we’re familiar with clipping, then comes this question: do we really have to avoid clipping as much as possible?
Let me show you two examples:
It is always a pleasure for me to take portraiture shots, since I get to mix up various elements (subject, background, lighting, etc.) to create effective and evocative images whenever I could, and at the same time create a lasting bond with the people I work with whenever I would engage in activities such as this. However, since I usually do my shoots beyond the confines of a studio, some of the said elements can also be beyond my control. The subject's not much of a problem for me, as all it takes is some effective communicating to let them do the poses you wish them to do. Same goes for the lighting and gear, as I'm deeply familiar with their abilities and limitations that would allow me to produce the shots I need. The background is the one element that usually gives me the most trouble, especially if its design would do nothing more than to hinder the effectiveness of a photo, particularly in terms of bringing out its intended message or flavor.
One concrete example would be this shot:
A lot of people have been asking me questions regarding certain photos that I have shared to you here on this site, as well as on my Facebook Page. The questions would normally be concentrated on topics like the kind of gear used, settings chosen, and lighting conditions involved. In line with this matter, I have decided to establish a Blog Mini-Series called "The Photo in Question", wherein I will try my best to give thorough yet easy to understand explanations and descriptions in line s to how the photo was created. The series will also have its own category on the right side of the page, as you can see here.
Let's start with this photo...
Jazz, my wonderful assistant-slash-model-slash-and-more, once invited me to one of her school's activities, a Stoplight-Themed Pageant/Party at the Icon, a Club that is located at The Intercontinental Hotel in Makati. Since the Icon is pretty much what one would expect in a prestigious club - lots of laser lights, fog machines, sub-woofers the size of your average armoire, disco balls, and pretty much assorted visual effects all confined in a very dimly-lit expanse of a room - photography there would be quite a task, even if one would bring out a DSLR mounted with a very fast prime. No matter how one would look at it, a camera's AF system would still need a significant amount of light for it to function properly, otherwise it will just hunt in the dark (no pun intended). This is where the benefits of a flashgun becomes very apparent, not just as a stronger source of light versus the kind of light that pop-up flashes would give, but also as a critical AF assistant.