Dulltown, Europe: Today’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quotation is from The Adventure of the Speckled Band:
Holmes: “Do not go asleep; your very life may depend upon it. Have your pistol ready in case we should need it. I will sit on the side of the bed, and you in that chair.”
I took out my revolver and laid it on the corner of the table.
Holmes had brought up a long thin cane, and this he placed on the bed beside him. By it he laid the box of matches and the stump of a candle. Then he turned down the lamp, and we were left in darkness…
Come in… Come in, welcome to my darkroom, isn’t this red light mysterious and pleasant? No, no, I jest! We’ve nearly all gone digital now haven’t we?
Photography: Of course, photography isn’t about photography… I’ll let that hang in the air for a moment… How’s that for a contrived introduction?
No, but really, good photography isn’t about expensive cameras and super lenses, it’s all about keeping your eyes open and looking – looking around and spotting visually interesting things, and ‘seeing’ them as possible pictures before you’ve even got your camera out – oh, hang on, look over there, that fat man, see, he’s struggling holding on to that very large child’s inflatable green dinosaur in this strong wind.
It is also about looking carefully at the image on your camera’s (or phone’s) little screen and adjusting it by moving the camera about a bit to make the composition ‘better’. Yes, most of the clever work is done before you press the button, but if you happen to have some sort of photo editing software on your laptop you can later tidy up, improve, and even, to some extent, rescue your image.
Speaking of such software, I use something called Photoshop CS2, which used to be very expensive to buy, but is now available, free of charge, to download legally – isn’t that great? If you want to give it a try, here is the link. Just follow the instructions. Photoshop might take a little bit of getting used to, but it is well worth learning the basics. I probably use less than 10% of what it can do.
So, girls and boys, I thought that today I would discuss composition, and also mention a bit about of tweaking of the captured image to ‘improve’ it. No, no Claire, it’s not cheating! We will only be doing what those old time photographers did in their darkrooms for the last hundred years, it’s just that the ‘tools’ are easier to use now.
For demonstration purposes I went out to deliberately take a ‘bad’ photograph – it was harder than I thought – it really went against the grain! However, I wandered down to Dulltown Marina and took a pretty bad shot of some nasty white yachts against the background of the city centre. Here it is:
Two things jump out immediately, it is pretty drab looking and gloomy, and also, and more surprisingly, the world is tilted! Well it was a gloomy day, but I think it’s the tilt that is the most upsetting. Lots of people on the Flickr photo sharing site seem to take reasonable looking pictures, but they don’t pay much attention to the horizon – even the slightest tilt gives the photo a subconscious feeling of ‘cheapness’ and ‘uneasiness’.
Now here is the same picture with a bit of digital tidying up; it only took a few minutes to do.
Now, this is not ‘my kind of photo’, but I think it is certainly better than the original.
First I rotated the whole image a littler bit to get the horizon back to level; phew! What a relief! Then I fiddled with the brightness and contrast to perk it up a bit. After that I cropped it and got rid of some of that rather uninteresting water at the bottom – I’m sure you get the idea. But of course it would have been better to have composed the thing properly in the first place, and to have held the camera level before pressing the button.
By the way, look at those nice Victorian copper domes on the Dock Offices in the distance; oh, and on the left, that’s the ugly great tin shopping centre they built in 1991 – nasty isn’t it?
So there it is. I don’t think it looks ‘Photoshopped’ though, do you? No turquoise sky or squadrons of pterodactyls flapping in from the east, or Elvis sitting having a burger and a beer on the poop of his yacht…
To sum up: Look at things; look carefully at the little screen; move the camera about and compose; and, keep it as level as you can…