Burn out; burnt out; blown out; blow out; burnt highlight; blown highlight
When part of a scene is brighter than the average brightness of the scene by more than two stops of light the camera will normally create a pure white spot. It will not be able to resolve the contrast range. The bright spot will be pure white and no detail will be visible. This bright spot is referred to as being burnt or blown out.
Human eyes are drawn to bright spots first in a scene/picture. As a burnt out spot is likely to be lacking in detail it is unlikely to be the subject of the shot. Such a spot is therefore a distraction spoiling the image by drawing the viewers eye away from the subject.
Burnt out areas are not recoverable even if the photograph was taken in RAW. This is because the dynamic range of a camera in 2013 does not exceed two stops either side of the average brightness in the scene. It therefore cannot normally see detail in bright spots outside that range.
The dynamic range of the camera does not change. What can change is the sensitivity of the digital image sensor. By raising or lowering the ISO. This will allow the camera to cope with the bright spots and show the detail in them.
If you expose for the bright spots in the scene you will be able to reduce them or remove them. However, you may leave darker spots in other parts of the scene. These will be less distracting than bright spots, but may still unbalance the scene. Dark spots with no detail can form strong distractions of their own.
Photographic Glossary – Definitions, articles and resources…
Definition: f number; f stop; Stop
Definition: Sensor; Image Sensor; Digital Image Sensor
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