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:
Camera Settings - 1/250 sec. shutter speed at f/8.0, ISO 100, at 105mm.
One of my recent self-portraits (I only do self-portraits if a model isn’t available.. and no, I don’t consider myself as one. ^_^) was done during the testing of my new lighting equipment, the JTL Versalight Studio Strobe System, as well as the Phottix Para-Pro 72 inch Reflective Umbrellas. I didn’t really pay much attention to the background (in this case, a whiteboard) since I was only interested in (bringing out) the subject, so I let the former blow-out with highlights by flooding the latter with light from the strobes.
Camera Settings - 1/100 sec. shutter speed at f/3.5, ISO 800, at 112mm. focal length, wireless speedlight assisted
This portrait of a conductor, however, has a lot of blacks, and some detail is gone due to it. As you can see in a screenshot of Lightroom, the blue parts reveal the black clippings in this photo. In adjusting the tonal values, I intentionally dropped the blacks in Lightroom for one reason: to emphasize the white parts of the picture, particularly the ones found on his face and hands. This, in effect, made the photo more dramatic than it originally was if the tonal values were left alone. The thing is, for the photo to become visually effective, I didn’t really need to present every detail in this photo; I only needed to show what really matters. For example, most of the details of his polo is gone due to the black clippings. But does it matter? And would you even know they were there if I didn’t tell you about this in the first place?
So going back to the question, we don’t have to avoid clippings, unless if we absolutely need every detail to be visible in the photo (think HDR landscapes). This is basically similar to our gear: we could bring them all to a certain photo session (there’s no real harm in that), but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll be using all of them. Clip once in a while, and be surprised by the results this could give.
Gear used in these photos:
AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm. f/3.5-5.6G IF ED lens
Sigma 70-200mm. f/2.8 DG HSM lens
Nikon Sb-900 Speedlight flash
JTL Versalight Studio Strobe System
Phottix Para-pro Reflective Parabolic Umbrellas
Pixel King Wireless TTL Flash Triggers