Digital photography has given us many amazing tools to create better images. No more guessing on the right exposure or composition. Take the shot, review the image on your LCD, and adjust accordingly. But just remember to use these new tools to their fullest advantage, and don’t get trapped following to many ‘rules’.
One rule of thumb that has some confusion surrounding it is ‘expose to the right’. This guideline refers to the fact that cameras can capture more pixel data when you set your exposure such that your histogram pushes up against the right side of the display. In other words it is like you are over exposing the image in order to capture more data. In post processing you can pull the exposure slider back left to create the exposure you want (with more pixel data since you exposed to the right).
This is a good rule of thumb, but just remember this; blinking highlights don’t mean a bad shot. With travel photography in particular, I frequently have blown out highlights in my shot. Why? Because I am on the move, and shooting during the middle of the day in contrasty light. Travel photography is not landscape photography where you can wait for the perfect light. It is not indoor sports photography with controlled lighting. Travel shooters may only have one hour in a market, and then have to move to the next town. I expose for my subject instead of exposing to the right. The image above is a good example. These school girls were photographed in the middle of the day, and the bright background was blinking on my LCD. If I would have under exposed to eliminate the blinking highlights, then the girls would have been way to dark. Instead, I exposed for the girls, and let the background blow out.
The bottom line here is to really understand what your histogram is telling you about your exposure, and use that information to your advantage. Sometimes exposing to the right works great, other times not so well. I solve this challenge by exposing for my subject, and letting my highlights fall where they may.