Composition/Post Processing, “Removing the unnecessary”

I realized that many of the my favourite photos are the ones that exhibit a kind of quality which I call a simple image. These photos have very simple & uncomplicated compositions, without much detail to distract the audience. The person looking at such photos are drawn to it because of usually a single component of the photo which stands out. These kind of images pulls the audience into the intended focus of the image & keeps them there since there really little else to distract the viewer. These images are able to demonstrate a powerful emotion in which the photographer planned for the audience to experience.

When composing a photograph, do the following…
1. All powerful images is about communicating an emotion.
2. Remove what does not contribute to the emotion!

More times or not, you’d be removing stuff from your composition or final post process which does not contribute more to the image than adding to it. This is done through observing your surroundings & looking at what is out-of-place but at the same time find what parts of the environment which “fits” the mood of the location which you are photographing.

The two ways that you can use to eliminate or strengthen the emotion of an image is through composition & the adjustments on the camera to get the desired effect… then at the end of it, remove unneeded elements from the photo with some adjustments in tones, curves or a simple brightness/contrast tweak. Whatever the method you use, you should always have a idea of the final image which you are trying to produce. Never snap first & think post processing later.

Many gurus will tell you that you “must get the image right out of the camera“… well…. if that suits you but since I have this advantage called Photoshop, I’ll take that advantage any time of the day & create a more powerful image using it. Photographers have been dodging & burning ever since the film days albeit more difficult in the darkroom but it’s still called post processing however you see it. Ansel Adam’s famous photo Monolith, the Face of Half Dome was also post processed!

I arrived at a local bar that evening & fired off a shot to see what I would get under full auto conditions just to gauge the kind of lighting I was dealing with. The light was extremely low so the camera picked ISO 3200 straight away & struggled to keep the white balance… well… balanced. Since most of the image was yellow/orange, the pool table & the 2 television screens behind looked weird. It’s either I shot parts of the pub which had the orange tint, or I just focused on the pool table & get a more neutral low light shot.

There was also too much detail in the photo so everything had to go. I went for a simple method of eliminating all the clutter… zoom in & frame tightly.

Ok not quite there yet but getting there. There is still too much at the back & the conflicting color balance isn’t working to what I had in mind. The folks at the back didn’t help neither.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I recomposed & dialed down the exposure… by quite a lot! But still the light & the reflection off the table was not helping in the mood of the image. By dialing down the exposure, I underexposed the image & darkened the area behind the pool table but at the same time made the table & the white lamp above it barely visible in the process. I had envisioned this shot having a dark background, but a much more properly exposed part of the table & just the glint of the white lamp above it… but NOT the yellow light from the back reflecting off the table.

This was the final image after post processed. I increased contrast & brightness to further eliminate the background & brightened the table to an acceptable level. I removed the yellow light & the reflection.

Many people, including myself at times, believe that if we travelled to different locations, we can get nice beautiful scenes to shoot. We tell ourselves that if we can find that great scenery or awesome waterfall that we will automatically get a great shot! Unfortunately, great photographs are determined by what is not in the shot than by what is included in it. If you haven’t already learned this by now, you would be sorely disappointed even when shooting in such locations.

The image above was captured at about 6 in the afternoon, approximately an hour & a half from sundown. If I had shot at the correct exposure & left the image as it was, it would have looked nothing like this. The foreground was littered with rocks & debris, the sea water was green & murky… didn’t match the color of the sky. Also the sun blew the entire image so bright it was impossible to get any detail from the clouds. I had to subtract a lot of elements both from adjusting the exposure & color settings on the camera, at the same time had to work without a graduated ND filter so it was difficult to get the sky to not blow the entire image all the time… then later did more work in the digital darkroom to get this photo the way you see it now. I also made a friend with the fisherman so that he wasn’t bothered with me taking his photo. Mind you he looks far away but this was shot at 17mm on a full frame DSLR.. so I was pretty damn near him! Wahahahaha….

P.S. I will try to include brighter looking images next time… just had these two examples at the moment. 😛


3 responses to “Composition/Post Processing, “Removing the unnecessary””

  1. kc says :

    very good picture on your fisherman photo…
    hope that you can share out how to PS that kind of effect.

    • Adrien says :

      Hmm… ok let me see if the layers on my original photoshop file is still intact… I may not remember all the steps so I’ll need to reverse engineer this one. Either that or I’ll start with a fresh photo next time. Check again in a couple of weeks…

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