The "correct" exposure is sometimes considered an objective matter. I used to have this idea in my head that the optimal exposure would be a matter of simply ensuring that I had not overexposed or underexposed anything, thus the histogram would look like a bell curve with the zenith of the curve centered at middle grey (14% grey). I'm one of those guys who always tried to play by the rules, color within the lines. So it was hard for me to be radical and allow myself the artistic license to create photos that contravened the "one right exposure" notion. Below is a photo I recently took during the 2017 elk rut. I realized that the feeling I wanted to capture was in the motion and power of the bull elk. The landscape provided a strong dramatic diagonal in the composition. By underexposing the elk and foreground and rendering these elements as a silhouette I believe creates a far stronger image than increasing the exposure and rendering detail in those areas while allowing the sky to be blown out (overexposed). Blending the exposure in a HDR manner was another option, but I believe the over all effect would be "blah" and lack the intimacy I believe I was able to capture in the low key capture displayed here:
Another photo (below) taken earlier the same day I believe also demonstrates this idea of exposure for emotion, intimacy and "effect". Truth be told, I have found that I may prefer low key photos, those moody sort of images with deep shadows and rich jewel-like colours either in the cool or warm end of the spectrum. At this time of year sunrise is pushed back later into the morning and I had the opportunity to catch the light as it rose over the hill and just kissed the head and antlers of this Mule Deer in strong side lighting. I again went for a low key approach to reveal the beauty in the deer and his environment. Additionally, I decided to apply a slight vignette to the image to bring attention and add drama to the majestic buck.
So, don't be a slave to the "auto" mode of your fancy digital camera's meter, blow out some highlights, underexpose some stuff....I guarantee you won't hurt anything and you may find it liberating to be the master of your exposures. Your photos might get a few more oohs and ahhs as well.