You’re out walking, camera in hand, and something catches your eye. You swing your camera up, make sure the settings are correct, compose your image and press the shutter.
When you load the image onto your computer and look at it more carefully, how often do you wonder why you took the photo? You remember what caught your eye and you can see it in the image, but it just doesn’t stand out the way your eye saw it.
One reason, perhaps, is that although the subject is in the photo, so is a lot of other stuff that is just plain distracting. In fact, if you asked a third party to tell you what the photo’s subject is, you’re not confident that they would be able to point it out amidst all the other junk.
That leads us to our Theme: Subject and Simplify.
Select, from your many photos, one with which you were disappointed. You are to show it as Before.
Next, identify what you had intended to be the Subject of the photo. Look carefully at each object in the photo and ask, “Does this distract the viewer’s eye from the subject? Could this be removed from the photo without weakening the subject?” If the answer is “Yes”, remove that object from the photo. When you’ve gone as far as you can go, you’ve arrived at the After photo.
The Before and After will be your theme photos. When your two photos are shown, you’ll be asked to identify the subject and to explain why each of the other objects in the After photo are necessary to support the Subject. (Note: you may use the excuse that you lack the technical knowledge to remove an unnecessary element – I’ll be using that reason a lot!).
I saw the cranes being used to extend a building area into the Thames, downstream of Tower Bridge in London. I was struck by the contrast of The Shard, gleaming in the background, and the building activity in the foreground. When I looked at the photo I was disappointed that my somewhat fuzzy concept hadn’t been realized, in part because there was way too much going on in the photo and the message was lost in the details.
So I cropped in to show The Shard framed by two cranes, one of which is holding a piling that will soon be pounded into the river bank. Obviously new construction is going forward, so we are seeing new construction in the foreground, the organic growth of London, while in the background, the finished Shard represents an end result of the growth.
The concept is still fuzzily illustrated, but every remaining element is in the photo for a reason.
When I took this photo it was because of the little plants growing up from the moss on the foreground rock. I didn’t notice the rock in the upper right corner – I should have composed differently to eliminate it because it is just a distraction. I also noticed that what little colour there is in the water is not particularly attractive.
First, in Lightroom, I removed the distracting rock (by using the Spot Removal tool again and again). I moved the image into Photoshop and put a black and white layer on, which took the colour out everywhere. I on the new layer created a mask shaped to allow the underlying layer to come through, but only for the foreground rock, moss and little plants.