Exercise: Highlight Clipping

For this exercise, you are asked to find a scene which has a wide range of brightness (Appears contrasty).Find the exposure setting, in which the highlight clipping just appears. Make a note of the shutter speed and aperture.

Once you have done this and taken your first photograph, you must then increase the exposure by One F-stop, adjusting either the aperture or shutter speed only. This should then show you a wider area of highlight clipping.

Take Three more shots in which you decrease the exposure each time by One F-stop.

In total, you should have 5 frames.

View them side by side, and note what differences you see. Make notes on the following aspects of the highlight appearance.

  • Completely lost areas of visual information
  • A visible break in the form of an edge between nearly white, and total white
  • A colour cast along a fringe bordering the clipped white highlight
  • The colour saturation

Please note, even if an image has been exposed so that there is no highlight clipping, the colours of the highlights may still be weaker than  you might want. This often happens with bright skies, particularly with bright clouds.

For this exercise, I will be using light room. I decided that I would change the F-Stop rather than shutter speed for this exercise.

I began by taking a photograph where the highlight clipping began to appear on my camera. As my camera only showed a small picture with the highlight clipping on it, I would not be able to see the full scale of clipping until I uploaded them onto the computer.


The setting for this was F/9, 1/200, ISO 100


9 clipping

When I zoomed into this image, the detail on the trunk of the tree is fine. No noise, no data loss, the colour is ok. With the sky area, there is data loss in some of the white cloud areas. Hence why there is highlight clipping. I personally think that is my fault for shooting white clouds. However, around the data loss areas, you can see a visible break from ‘Nearly White’ to ‘White Highlight’.



You were asked to Increase the exposure by One F-stop, which would result in an image which shows a wider area of highlight clipping.


The setting for this was F/8, 1/200, ISO 100


8 clipping

When I zoomed into the increased F-stop image, I could see that on the trunk of the tree, a few of the highlights were becoming lighter. The sky area had increased with highlight clipping, and in the area I zoomed into, you could see a lot of data loss. There was however a visible break between ‘Nearly White’ and ‘White Highlight’.



You were then asked to take Three images, each decreasing by One F-stop at a time.


The setting for this was F/10, 1/200, ISO 100


10 clipping


The setting for this was F/11, 1/200, ISO 100


11 clipping

When I zoomed in on this image, I knew that there was no highlight clipping. The trunk of the tree had good detail, no visible data loss, unlike with the other images. The sky area also had NO visible data loss. You could clearly see the clouds, which showed that you could see the ‘Nearly white’ and no ‘White Highlights’ anymore.



I decided to take three more images where I would increase the F-stop from F/8, as I was unable to decrease any more from F/11. These would show more highlight clipping.


The setting for this was F/7.1, 1/200, ISO 100


7.1 clipping


The setting for this was F/6.3, 1/200, ISO 100


6.3 clipping


The setting for this was F/5.6, 1/200, ISO 100


5.6 clipping

When I zoomed in on this image, I knew it was the one with the most highlight clipping, which would mean a lot of data loss. In the tree trunk area, there was data loss in the highlighted areas, including noise. In the sky area, there was a significant amount of data loss, and I found it hard to see a visible break between ‘Nearly White’ and ‘White Highlight’, I could just see white highlight. There is a lot of noise over all of the image.




My favourite image would have to be the one taken with the settings of F/10, 1/200, ISO 100.


I prefer this image, even though it is slightly under exposed, because the detail is very good. There is a slight amount of highlight clipping, which means that the detail on the tree itself and the cloud/sky area is very good. There is also no data loss in this image.

Overall Opinion:

I had a lot of problems again with this exercise, simply because of my Photoshop elements which meant I was unable to do this exercise until I could install the Light room. Once I had done that, I could continue with my work.

If I was to re-do this exercise, I would change my subject. I think I made a mistake by shooting into the sky with white clouds. Even though the exercise went really well in my opinion, I think that if I was to use something which was white in colour with detail such as a building or a still life, I would be able to see any differences in highlight clipping, visible nearly white/white highlight and data loss, a lot easier. I did struggle trying to differentiate between the nearly white and white highlight as the clouds were bright white when I took the photographs, so that is one reason why I would change the subject.

Other than this, I think the exercise went well. With my preferred choice being an image that was underexposed, I have learnt that using highlight clipping can definitely help when you are taking a photograph. I would also say that you shouldn’t always rely on the small highlight clipping you can see on your camera’s LCD screen. Take as many different exposures with the highlight clipping, and without the highlight clipping, because once you have uploaded them onto the computer, the images are sometimes different to what you expect, in regards to details etc.







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