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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What are Crushed Shadows and Blown Highlights?

“Crushed shadows” and “blown highlights” are both common exposure problems in photography. Let’s look at what they are, how to identify them, and what you can do about them.

Crushed shadows and blown highlights are two sides of the same coin. When you crush your shadows, you underexpose your image so much that there are large areas of pure black in your image, like in this shot.

When you blow your highlights you do the opposite: you overexpose your image so much that there are large areas of pure white.

The problem with crushed shadows and blown highlights is that you can’t recover them in post-production even if you shoot RAW images. Here’s the underexposed shot brightened up, see how the shadows are still black? All brightening up did is add lots of digital noise to the darker areas.

And here’s the overexposed shot, darkened down. The sky has just gone grey. There just isn’t any image data to recover.

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