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What Does ‘Blown Out’ Mean in Photography?

The term ‘blown out’ in photography is used when people are referring to a part of an image which does not retain any detail and instead just shows up as a glaring plain white spot.

This happens when the blown out area is too bright compared to the rest of the image and the camera is unable to render details in this portion of the image due to its dynamic range. 

An area is too bright when it is overexposed. Sometimes there is not much you can do if your main subject is too dark compared to the overexposed blown out area. Other times there are easy fixes. 

The key thing to remember is that the blown out areas are too bright in relation to the rest of your image. A common issue is when the sky in your photos is blown out. Read the post below for some tips on dealing with this.

Blown Out Backgrounds

You will often hear people talk about blown out backgrounds because this can happen quite often.

So to echo what blown out means, a blown out background is a background that is too bright compared to the rest of the image and the camera shows it as a plain white area with no detail.

To give you an example, think of a wall with white wall paper on it that has some patterns on it. To the naked eye you can see the patterns in the wall. However, if you took a picture where the background was blown out then the image would just show a plain white wall where you are unable to see the details of the patterns on the wall paper.

Are Blown Out Backgrounds Bad?

In general people will want to avoid blown out backgrounds since they can be distracting to the subject. This is because the human eye will have a tendency to look at the brightest part of the image. 

Of course there are times where you can use it for creative purposes, but as a general rule of thumb photographers will try to avoid having their photos overexposed with blown out areas.

When Are Blown Out Backgrounds Good?

There are times when photographers will specifically want blown out backgrounds in their images for a certain purpose.

The most common use is in product photography where the photographer may purposefully blow out the background to be plain white. 

Product photographers do this because it makes it much easier to isolate the subject in post production so that they can place the subject into any background that they want. It can also work good for clean catalogue images.

One method is to purposefully shine a bright flash into the background which underexposes the subject heavily and allows you to easily ‘mask out’ the subject from the background in an editing software like Adobe Photoshop.


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