Photo Review: The Reason "Why?" Behind Your Photos

By Samuel Ogunlaja

"Dry" by Adam Blacker

Initial Thoughts


Macro Photography is the type of photography that emphasizes a relatively small subject, giving us the opportunity to appreciate a closeup, beautiful, and detailed view that one wouldn’t usually see.


With this photo you can imagine the story behind the photo thanks to the elements in the frame – a dry plant, dry grasses, green grasses, a building far away; these elements easily suggest a story that is based on the environment and the season.


Technically, this photo is good. The exposure is moderate; not overly or underexposed, which would post production quick and easy to do (if it is needed at all). The photographer also used a lower depth of field putting the subject in focus and blurring out the background. This is an important characteristic of macro photography. The photographer has really done a good job here helping us get close to nature and its beauty.


There are a few things however about this picture that could have been done better:


Clarity of the Subject


Giving the angle (and perhaps focal length), the subject of the photo is not clear enough to know what type of plant this is. It is important that viewers should be able to identify the plant as this can create more interest in the photo.


If the subject is unclear, then the message is also likely to be unclear and as it stands, it doesn’t seem like whatever fascinated the photographer to have taken this photo has been effectively communicated across to the viewers.


Some elements in the photo (like the dry grasses at the lower left and green grasses by the lower right) may suggest a relationship between the subject and the photographer’s indented story of “Photographing rural surroundings trying to capture the change in seasons with the focus on smaller details”, yet we cannot be sure of this intention.


So as to make the 'why' of the photo clear, the photographer should have either chosen a better angle or gotten closer to the subject to show viewers more detail. Alternatively, a different plant with more detail could have told the same story.


Below is an example of a similar photo with a clearer subject – We know the reason for taking the photo was to show the plant in all of its beautiful detail.


A similar picture with more clarity. Ian Redding (flickr.com)

Background Distractions


The background contributes to a huge percentage of visual weight in this picture which draws the viewer away from the main subject. We see a rural surrounding with a mix of dry and green grasses which suggests a transition of seasons, yet there is a noticeable presence of distraction in the background with traces of bright light (at the upper right of the photo) close to the subject (see markup below).


One’s eyes struggle between viewing the main subject and the light background and this is a distraction. See in my edited example below how much easier it would be to look at the subject without the bright light.


The photographer could have corrected this by taking the picture from a different angle, or if that wasn't possible, by fixing it with post processing software.



Original photo.

The picture without the bright light.

Frame Orientation


This picture uses a portrait orientation, and coupled with the small size of the subject, it allows for too many space in the frame. The large amount of space in a photo (especially the type with tiny subject) can give room for distractions.


When taking a close up photo, it is best (although subjective) to use a landscape orientation, this makes it easy to apply the rule of thirds composition and properly place elements in the frame.


Subject Distraction (This is a subjective point!)


Artistically, the direction of the plant is conflicting with the direction of the other dry plants in the background which makes it a little difficult to follow the narration properly. Although it may not be the same plant as the ones in the background, it would further enhance the photo if the photographer tried to align the subject with other plants in the frame. This is because the human eye naturally traces lines and when the lines become inconsistent, the scene tends to become uninteresting. See below how the photo looks if aligned with the other dry grasses.


(Photoshopped) The same plant aligned with the other dry grasses.

Conclusion


This photo is technically good and the photographer did try to give us a clue to what the photo is all about, however it is suggested that he/she should take time to ask some preparatory question before taking such another time so as to get the very best out of it. See my article coming soon to NZPhotographer Magazine issue 23 for further help on this.

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