On-Line Digital Photography Course
issue of how much to 'play around' with a photo after clicking
the shutter button is a long-running issue in modern
The purists would say that
the authenticity and 'art' of photography has been irrevocably
damaged by the advent of digital technology. The pixel bods
don't understand what they're on about.
And those, like myself, who
have crossed over from the old methods by happily incorporating
the new enjoy the best of both worlds: enhancing the essential
techniques for taking a great shot before snapping with
some of the marvellous new possibilities available after
If you work hard to make
sure the original picture has merit, then the bewildering
gamut of special effects or just ways of correcting unfortunate
restrictions or mistakes such as poor lighting conditions or
camera shake are all perfectly acceptable tools in the modern
creative photographer's box of tricks.
This is the second
enigmatic, otherworldly according-squeezing chick I've seen
haunting the slopes of Montmartre over the last year. I
wonder if there's some sort of training course for
enigmatic, otherworldly according-squeezing young ladies who
are then deployed at strategic tourist traps scattered
around the city to keep the punters (and photo tour guides)
Whatever the truth, I
can't help being captivated when I see a scene such as this.
However, often there are, unsurprisingly, horrible hoards of
gaudily-dressed tourists traipsing past, getting in the way,
and generally messing up the shot in one way or another. In
addition, this day, the lighting was flat, and the backdrop
(the wall) resolutely grey.
So how do you deal with
this? It's actually very simple. To solve the problem of the
tourists you just stand in the same place, or several places
in view of the subject, and snap many many shots.
To deal with the poor
lighting conditions, you decide what sort of atmosphere you
want to create and play around afterwards in your favourite
image processing package!
I decided I wanted to
increase the saturation of the colours whilst adding a
slight level of haze or dispersedness of lighting to enhance
the ethereal quality of the subject.
This wasn't done
with a single operation, but a combination of about five
different effects, and I honestly can't tell you anything
else than play around yourselves with all those amazing
creative possibilities and see what happens. There are no
rules to originality!
One word of warning,
though. As ever, make sure the effects complement the
subject and make sure the picture has merit before applying
weird special effects indiscriminately.
Perhaps most important
of all, be aware of the point of no return, where the
effects have taken over the image, and the first thing
someone looking at the picture thinks is 'Photoshop'!
In this image I even
retraced my steps a bit, reducing certain effects, to make
sure the modifications enhanced the original image rather
than taking over. But in the end it's for the viewer to be
the final judge.
As I mentioned above, I
took a lot of shots, and this one had two merits. First of all,
there were no tourists in the way. And secondly, the expression
on the girl's face particularly pleased me.
In fact, it's not really an
expression - her features remain strangely impassive RIGHT
But the sideways glance
as she plays is marvellous. She's looking out of the photo,
which allows us to imagine either prosaically that someone has
just attracted her attention, or much more poetically that she
is elsewhere in her mind, perhaps carried away by the music she
is playing so lyrically.
The picture itself is split
perfectly down the middle by the change in shade of the grey
wall, the girl occupying one side and her case and the parasol
the other. The diagonal of the parasol creeping into the other
half of the picture links the two sides and offers the girl her
own internal frame.
In fact, the girl is
entirely alone, completely surrounded by the grey which
contrasts well with the saturated unusual colours of her
according and the warm tones of her skin.
This isolation adds a
certain poignancy to the image, linked to her enigmatic
expression and elsewhere gaze. Her only friends seem to be her
travelling case containing her wares and her colourful parasol,
and it makes you wonder who she really is and what her life is
like as a street singer in the winding alleys of Montmartre.
And I've only just
noticed myself the beautifully pleasing symmetry of the two near
vertical lines leaning out just slightly on each side of the
picture: the joint in the wall on the left and the parasol
support on the right. I honestly wasn't conscious of them until
finishing this section but I guess subconsciously I must have
cropped the photo thus and I've just given myself a pat on the
back for doing so!
Then comment on this
lesson in the Photo Blog with a link to your best result - we all want to see
- In your
favourite tourist area look for street musicians and
other performers such as mime artists or jugglers. Take
loads of shots from different angles and watch the
- Wait for
significant moments such as when a juggler is looking up
to catch a high-thrown ball with a concentrated
expression and open mouth, or the reactions of performer
and observer as a child drops a coin into a 'living
- Try to 'enhance reality' in
some of your shots which at first seem rather
disappointing or 'flat'. As long as the composition and
subject are good, you can perform wonders these days
with a mid-priced image processing program
- your choice of post-processing should always
complement the original subject. Make sure the picture
is worthy of treatment in the first place and above all,
don't indulge in a blatant sales demonstration of a
given special effect by slamming all the options up to
maximum - this will almost always be to the detriment of
the original image, and in particular the effect it has
on your audience
- expression - it's vital.
What more can I say? Take 200 shots if necessary, but if
you don't have an expression which says something
about the person or the situation then you ain't got
- composition - the
compositional elements will vary with every shot, and
there are no absolute rules. Be aware of what you have
to work with as you study the pictures afterwards, and
develop your judgement to see which picture has most
successfully combined various elements which could be
used, especially with intelligent cropping, to make your
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