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Witch 1"Which Witch?"

One of the wonders of modern technology is the fact that we can snap snap snap and it costs us nothing more than the effort of pressing the shutter button...

... and the time taken to transfer the photos, and the anguish of deciding which one of ten variations on a theme is the best, and the ridiculous amount of disc space taken up by never-looked-at but never-erased photos, and the interminable slide shows friends have to sit through because you couldn't bring yourself to 'prune'.

Almost makes you pine for the good old days when every click cost, doesn't it?!

Witch 2So let's look at three seemingly similar shots, and decide which one to keep and which one to 'heap' (into the trash can)!

Key points
First of all, decide yourselves which picture you prefer: Witch 1, Witch 2 or Witch 3. Now read on...
At first glance, these three pics all seem to be reasonably well exposed. But if you look closely there are differences.
Witch 3Pics 1 and 2 are slightly lighter than pic 3. This is because I had bumped up the exposure by a stop or so beforehand and forgot about it for the first two shots! It happens all the time - watch out for that! You do this by pressing the excellent exposure compensation (+/-) button and changing it to +1 or whatever you want. If you don't have this button it's probably in a menu somewhere.
After shot 2 I realised that they were a bit light, so put it back to normal and shot again, the result being that shot three is slightly darker. Let's look at the result of the camera's choice of exposure (shot 3) as opposed to the first two shots (compensation of +1).
Although the colours in shot 3 look slightly richer (because they are darker they seem more saturated), look what's happened to the detail in the darker parts of the dress.
Witch 2               Witch 3
We've lost a lot of the folds of the dress across the breasts, in the strap and in the arm, which are important details, both for the photo itself, and to do justice to the original artist.
Curiously, the detail in the green leaves seems to actually be better in pic 3! But don't be fooled. This is due to another inherent problem: sharpness/blur linked to point of focus (see next section) and not underexposure.
A very interesting thing has happened here. Look back at the last two pics from the exposure section and at the two pics below.
Witch 2               Witch 3
At first I thought, oh, there was a bit of camera shake on pic 3. But when I looked more closely, it wasn't camera shake that caused the woman and the writing to be blurred in pic 3. It was the point of focus!
Of course I looked first at the woman and the writing and came to that conclusion. But now look at the leaves from pics 2 and 3:
Witch 2          Witch 3
What's happened is that in pic 3 I got the point of focus wrong and the leaves were (relatively) sharp and the woman fuzzy.
And which is more important to have in focus: a beautifully detailed painting, including sharp text, and a wall full of writing ('I love you' in over 100 languages!), or a bunch of swaying leaves? That's right: the wall!
The problem with focusing could have been helped if I'd chosen spot focusing to make my task easier, but that's another lesson.


So, after all that technical stuff, let's get back to more emotional issues, and also ask the question: What about Witch 1?!

On the face of it pic 1 seems to be pretty similar to pic 2. In fact the exposure is the same, but in pic one again I messed up the point of focus - it's the leaves that are sharp - oops! But there is one far more striking and vital difference: the composition.

Although in all three shots the woman is beautifully frames by the leaves (don't you think ?  ;-) in the first pic, the angle of the important horizontal line is much sharper, nearing 45˚, whereas it is gentler in shots 2 and 3, closer to 30˚.

Witch 1                    Witch 2

When a picture includes human elements, it's important to bear in mind what is physically and logically possible. It's less probable that the woman in pic 1 could be nonchalantly leaning against a table whilst standing on a 45˚ slope than in the other two pics.

Also, the line in pic 1 slams violently  down from the top to the bottom of the shot, making me think of a precipitous mountain slope and introducing a tension to the shot which doesn't match well with the lady's languorous demeanour. In shots 2 and 3 the line goes from side to side, much more calming and appropriate, adding to the sultriness of the image.

Finally, in pic 1, the lady's neck must be killing her, and the lines of her left arm and from her waist to right breast are totally vertical, which is not nearly as visually pleasing as the sexy angles in pics 2 and 3, where she's seductively gazing over her left shoulder, as opposed to using it as a support as in pic 1!

(Almost forgot, the woman's slightly smaller in pic 1, yet another reason to throw it out!)

And the winner is... Wall Witch 2!

Photo Ideas
  • Discover the wonders of the '+/-' button (or menu option) of your camera. Almost all models have it nowadays! Take shots at the camera's chosen exposure, and then change it to +1 and -1 and take more shots. You'll be surprised what a difference it can make, and often the camera does NOT get it right!
  •  Discover the 'spot' focus setting and have fun with it. Especially useful as here, when the subject (the woman) is surrounded by other stuff on another focusing plane (the leaves). Sneak shots of subjects through tiny frames such as keyholes or your fingers, focusing on the subject, not the frame
  • Take some shots of the same subject at a series of different angles, and see which one complements it best
Then comment on this lesson in the Photo Blog with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • exposure - the camera averages out exposures to a mid-level or brightness. For creative purposes, this can be a complete disaster! Never trust the camera to produce the results you are looking for and become best of buddies with the wonderful '+/-' button or option. It's a creative life-saver!
  • sharpness - Be very careful with the point of focus. You camera is probably using a kind of matrix to judge what should be sharp. If you have it set to the 'green' position (idiot-proof setting!) or even the 'P' option, the odds are most things will be in focus anyway, which is ok but not very creative.
  • composition - steep slopes can be dangerous! Angles are fantastic creative elements, but make sure they complement the subject and don't become so dominating or simply weird that they detract from the overall image. Women don't normally sit comfortably on tables at more than a 45˚ angle, even those painted on walls, and your brain will tell you so!

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