If you are like me at all, when first learning the fundamentals of photography, your main objective is to learn to take photos the “right way”. 

Intriguing composition.  Perfect exposure.  The right amount of depth of field and I can go on and on and on….but those are just rules, and as artists, shouldn’t we not be afraid to break the rules sometimes?

By the end of this post you will fully understand why sometimes I choose to purposely underexpose my photos in camera to help with the final output of the edited photo. 

When & Why?

Why exactly would I purposely aim for a less than perfect exposure?  In certain lighting situations where the background (mostly sky) is significantly brighter than your subject you only have two choices for a “correct” exposure.

Breaking Photography Rules Exposure_0002

1. Expose for the subjects – since the subjects are backlit by the brighter background, if you want to correctly expose for the subjects you ultimately will end up having increase your overall exposure resulting in a good exposure for your subjects skin tones but overexpose the background or sky.

Breaking Photography Rules Exposure_0003

2. Expose for the overall scene + fill flash – to preserve the sky & background detail but still have the backlit subjects exposed correctly, you have to use flash to fill in the shadows or darker tones of the foreground to better match the tones of the background.

But sometimes, I want something in the middle.  I don’t want to completely overexpose the background and loose color tone detail in the sky, but I also don’t want to use flash because I want the softer natural light look…

Breaking Photography Rules Exposure_0001

So the solution is to underexpose your subjects to retain color and detail in the sky and then in post processing (Lightroom) use tools to keep the background while fixing up the darker foreground…bingo!  Now – there is a fine balance between underexposing too much and not enough and also make sure to use your lowest base ISO setting and shoot RAW to make sure you have the best results during editing.

Breaking Photography Rules Exposure_0000

Here is the final image edited with my wedding presets in Lightroom 5.

Click here to get my 20 page eBook “The Fast Track to Creating Stunning Imagery” & also be sent my set of Lightroom Presets…all for FREE.

To see exactly how I edited the image & some additional tips and camera settings for this photo watch the video below:


Do you ever “break the rules”?  Let me know in the comments below thanks! Cole

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