Digital photographers who spend too much time on the Internet become utterly paranoid about blown highlights. With the limited dynamic range of digital sensors, “blown highlights” are areas so overexposed that they contain no data at all, or colors so over-saturated they shift hues.
In high contrast scenes, most of us try to preserve highlights, because blown-out highlights with zero data present a printing problem: No ink in the blown out area. It makes inkjet prints look weird. That’s why most processing programs, such as PhotoShop or Aperture, allow you to see over-exposed areas of your images.
Usually, I try to adjust images to preserve highlights, either through underexposure at the time of capture or through post-processing trickery. But not always. You see, very few of my images get printed. Mostly they are shared online, where they are backlit and vibrant and where bright highlights add to their punch.
While post-processing rehearsal images from Dancing With The Ojai Stars, I intentionally blew out highlights and darkened shadows to raise the midtone brightness and boost contrast. It gives them a little more snap than you might normally get at high ISOs in a dance studio.