First, a huge emphatic THANK YOU! to photographer Ming Thein for a great introduction to some (just a few!) of the elements of taking good photographs. Sorry for the shouting. One curious aspect of this great article: it made me think of some of the issues not covered in very much detail. Specifically, two: the eternal debate between color vs. black & white; second, the question of editing the picture after taking it.
I believe that one of the most important ways a photographer can show the world through his/her eyes consists of the editing done in post. Two reasons why: first, I’ve seen the output of professional photographers who have massaged their RAW files in Lightroom and Photoshop, and when I see the results in 16×20, sometimes I literally gasp; second, I’m very weak at editing so I assume it must be important.
In recent weeks, I’ve tried to capture my world using the tactics of Garry Winogrand, the most amazing photographer I’ve discovered since Sebastiao Salgado. Interesting paradox there–trying to see the world through my eyes using someone else’s techniques and style. Here is an unedited color photograph I took today from the observation tower of San Francisco’s De Young Museum:
Not a bad shot, capturing a couple looking to the west of San Francisco during the Magic Hour at 7:17 p.m. Note the two sets of reflections, one in the window, one on the floor. I stood on the other side of the tower, facing east, with my Nikon Coolpix S9100 (Landscape Mode) dangling at my side pointed backwards. Classic clandestine street photography. The shadows on her clothes and hair are a little dark, and the sky a little bright. However, since I wanted to experiment with Winogrand’s style of photography, that meant I had to convert to black & white. Presenting the first attempt:
I used iPhoto on a copy of the original (and I always try to use a copy–sometimes I even succeed!). First, I reduced Saturation to 0% to get black & white. Second, I reduced shadow by 20% to get a little more detail from their clothes and her hair. Third I reduced brightness by 35% because I thought the background sky was too distracting. Now something else distracted me: the diagonal shadow at the bottom and the two supports and their reflections at the extreme right and left of the picture. So I cropped.
This works for me. At least for now. Once I really learn editing I can go back to the original file. Here, all the attention rests on the couple and their reflections, the shot captures the mood, and you can instantly recognize the nature of their relationship (look at where they’re touching). I won’t pretend it’s great, but it is one of my better recent works.
And therein lies the paradox. To show the world through my eyes, I had to make the world completely artificial–because the world is not all black and white.
Vonn Scott Bair