30 Mar 2008

Cropping for more impact

In my last post I mentioned that I took a student who was with me for one-to-one tuition, down to my favourite cove on the seashore near my home - I posted a photograph of him down on the beach. Well, this morning I got a lovely email from Phil Hallam, who has put up some of the pictures he took on a webpage... it's worth taking a look..

Phil started taking photographs only ten months ago, so I think the results he produced during his day with me are all the more remarkable.

As I am never loathe to print a favourable comment, this is what Phil said about his day here in Galloway...

"Just a quick word to say thank you for an amazing day. I learnt more in one day with you than I have reading books or instruction manuals over the last 10 months."

Anyway, I introduced Phil to the idea of Photoshop and explained that many of the adjustments that can be made to a photograph after it has been taken are perfectly legitimate - cropping and darkening a foreground or sky, for instance. This is not 'cheating' in any way and it's not new. It's just a matter of using the old skills and modern tools that are available - the Victorian photographers were masters of re-touching and adjustment of an image in the darkroom, so Photoshop - or post processing with any imaging programme- is only a modern way of doing what is really very old hat.

When I was working full time using black and white film, I knew exactly what I was going to do to a photograph when I put the negative in the enlarger. I knew this at the time of taking the photograph - when the button was pressed. Now, when I work with digital cameras, I have a fair idea of what I am going to do to a photograph when I get it onto the computer. This 'post processing' is, to me, all part of the normal way of producing the picture as I envisage it in the real world.

Above I have posted one of Phil's super shots he took during his time on the coast with me. This is the way Phil saw it and took it and posted it on his web page. It has not been cropped, or changed it in any way.

Below is the same photograph. However - hope you don't mind, Phil - this time I have cropped it a little and used the burning in tool and dodging tool to emphasize the dark storm clouds and waves. I would have done exactly the same sort of cropping, darkening and lightening if I had had this photograph in the darkroom. The idea is to maximise the impact of the photograph and to attempt to guide the viewer's eye to the most important elements of the composition. Notice that I have cropped a lot off the right hand side of the composition, but very little off the left hand side. This has put the waves more to the right so that the eye follows their movement to the left and brightest side of the picture. I agree that my crop has put the horizon pretty near the centre of the frame, but I think this is a price worth paying to get more visual impact from the movement of the waves.
Maybe you prefer this version, well that's fine, but I think you will have to agree that the cropped version does have more impact.

Hope to see you again soon, Phil.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Philip
Sorry for the delay in replying, but as you are aware I work all over the country and I've only just got my laptop back after it had a "encounter" with a glass of wine, and lost!
As recommended, I am now the proud owner of Photoshop Elements and what fun I'm having with it. I am slowly getting to grips with it and puuting into practice the techniques you showed me. I will send you some of the before and after pictures for comment, I think you'll enjoy my experiments. The pictures you cropped and dodged look great and I will be taking your tips on board. As you said "what first caught your eye" Speak soon. Phil