Travel Photography How-to Week. Day 2: Breaking A Rule - One of My Rules

Those of you who listen to the PhotoFocus podcast that I do with Scott Bourne know that one of my favorite photo expressions is: Exposure for Highlights – meaning that you don’t want the highlights in the scene overexposed and washed out. Expose for the Highlights was the credo for slide film shooters, too!

Exposing for the highlights is a basic guideline. For example, if you are photographing a cityscape, seascape or landscape, you want to exposure for the brightest part of the scene – even though in ACR, Lightroom, Aperture and other RAW converters – you can recover up to about one stop of over exposed areas (from a RAW file). If the highlights are overexposed, by more than one stop, they probably will be gone and lost forever.

Well, friends, like all photo rules, this one is meant to be broken, too.

This picture, one of my favorites from a trip to Cuba, illustrates my point. Had I exposed for the highlights – the windows – the young couple, with their beaming faces, would have been way too dark.

The story behind the photo: While I was walking down a street in Old Havana before sunrise, I spotted two cool, vintage blue cars. I experimented with creative composition and got the shot you see here.

After shooting for a while, several people started getting in the shot in the distance, “ruining” my picture. However, keeping in mind that photo opps are everywhere, I walked up to the car and noticed the cute young couple that had just jumped in the back seat. I asked if I could pop in for a photo – using sign language because I don’t speak Spanish. Okay was the answer. I jumped in the front set and fired off a quick shot – because the car was running and I felt that the people wanted to leave in a hurry.

Sure, I could have used a flash to balance the inside light to the outside light – but I think that would have destroyed the spontaneity and feeling of the moment. Also, I kinda like the way the couple is surrounded by the bright windows.

And by the way… did you notice the interior of this car? Looks at all the stuff that is missing!

Hey, if you don’t agree on all this, let me know – as always. Either way, I love this photograph because it not only captures the couple totally at ease with a total stranger, but it also illustrates the all-important point in travel photography: it never hurts to ask. And… I guess it also illustrates one of my photo skills – photographing strangers in strange lands.

If you want to learn more about light, check out my book: Exploring the Light.

I hope you enjoy this week’s photos and the tips. If you want some hands-on experience, hope you can join one of my workshops.

If you are interested in joining one of my Cuba Workshops (after it opens and Americans can go legally (you need a license from the U.S Treasury Department now), keep checking my Events page.

Explore the light,