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"Above The Line"

Paris is jam-packed full of churches, and whether you find them uplifting or insulting, there's no question that architecturally, photographically and (why not) spiritually, they offer many opportunities for reflection.

This rather bald-seeming angel (as often happens with my self-portraits when there's a particularly unsympathetic overhead light...) has a touching uplifted gaze and is completely surrounded by the intricate decoration of the doorway.

I often wonder about the lives of those who created such creatures - I'd love to have chatted with the sculptors responsible for the wonderful array of phantasmagorical faces that graces the Pont Neuf, for example!

Can you imagine the hands of the creator of this little character, gently caressing her fine features and perhaps feeling a real emotion towards this delicately crafted piece of stone?

Key points
Extraneous Items
The main thing I want to show through this photo is how important it is to watch all aspects of what is in the frame carefully.
In this more global shot of the front of the church you can see a particularly annoying grey metal wire cutting through the angels when seen from ground level and capable of ruining the picture.
You could try and use an image processing program to remove it later (which would be a pain), or you could try walking around a little to see if you can't improve the composition, but that line ain't going anywhere!
My solution was to look for a composition which would allow me to avoid the line and still produce something pleasing.
When I compared my shot to those of my tour members, sure enough, there was the thick grey cable in every shot. When they asked me why they couldn't see the cable in my shot, as told them because first of all I realised it was there in the first place, and secondly, made sure it wasn't in my final view.
The same goes for the classic horrendous rubbish bins, lampposts growing out of heads and all manner of disasters. Keep your eyes open (and move them around a bit too!).
Very often you can manipulate the composition and the restrictions if you think about it. That's what I did here. I wanted to take a shot of the angel but also to avoid that awful wire at all cost.
I realised that if I zoomed in on the angel just above the wire, placing her in the bottom right, I could then give her lots of attractive celestial coloured blobs to be devotedly gazing upwards into.
As with the principle of giving people who are walking or riding some space to move into, the same goes for gazes. As a general rule, it makes sense to either give people some space within the frame to look into, and if appropriate include the thing they are looking at too.
Post Processing
Architectural shots often benefit from a bit of help with the colours and contrast, as murky greys are not the sexiest of subjects.
Here I cleaned things up to make the shot pop out much more, while not really changing what you could see with the naked eye, but which didn't come across in the original image.
And anyway, what's wrong with a bit of divine intervention from time to time!

Photo Ideas
  • God is in the details! Well, I don't believe that, but if you stop looking at a boring old building as a whole and concentrate on a detail you will often be surprised. An amazingly decorative door knocker, an unexpected sculpted face above the door, or a strange little figure who holds the shutters open - it's all there if you look for it.
  • Take a global shot of a scene without thinking about it much. Then count how many horrible non-photographic items you've included - bins, rubbish on the floor, street signs, unwanted people - you'll find millions. Then ask yourself how you could remove them from your shot.
Then comment on this lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • extraneous items - keep your eyes open and always ask yourself - is there any crap in my shot that I will regret afterwards... and how can I eliminate it before taking the shot.
  • composition - marry the composition of your picture with the emotion emanating from your subject. If the subject is looking up, well, she would probably be happier with something to look at!
  • post processing - architecture almost always benefits from a bit of help after the facts. Normally a few blips of contrast, saturation and sharpness are all it needs

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