Thursday, 20 September 2012

Go Smoking Zone

Nikon D800  F/5  1/1250s  ISO-400  PrAP  EV 0  24mm 
for shadows and all...

Some glorious lowish sunlight awaited my clients and me on a morning photo tour of the Saint-Germain des Prés quarter this Saturday.

Amongst the many interesting things we came across, some of the best, as usual, were some of the least planned, as you can see here on the right.

It may look like I was right up close and personal with this smoky dame, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact this is a fairly radical crop from the original shot you can see below, and I can't help wondering, seeing as I took it with my zoom at the widest angle of 24mm, why I didn't zoom in more in the first place.

I'm sure I had some reason or other final composition in mind, but in the end, looking at the picture, this seemed the most logical way to go.

As I assessed the original shot, I realised that the woman and her shadow smoking were by far the most interesting elements of the shot. Luckily, with the huge resolution, the crop needed didn't present any quality issues at least for the internet, even though I'd used fine quality JPG as opposed to RAW in this case - the pixels were still there!

My first crop can be seen here. As you can see I left a bit of space behind the lady, as I would usually do, and a similar amount around the head of the shadow too, for balance.

When I looked at it closely though it really started to bother me. People were rather inconveniently growing out of her back, and touristy types at that!

Now I have nothing against touristy types, don't get me wrong, but they weren't doing anything for the moody shot I was looking for here.

So then I had the idea of going for a more radical crop, slamming the woman right up against the left-hand side of the frame, almost as though she was leaning against it, and coming in a bit tighter on the shadow too, again for balance.

This worked well, and I was able to get rid of all but the tourists sports shoe sticking out from her butt. My final initiative was to use a trick with often solves problems such as this: monotone it.

I've always liked rich orangy hues, as opposed to washed out sepia, and that's what I went with here. Now were left, effectively, with the smoker, her shadow somewhat framing the tree standing against the tree in a reasonably pleasing triangular composition. In fact, you could imagine an almost perfect diamond or parallelogram going from her head to the basket to the shadow's head and her feet, which is quite nice.

The butt-shoe's still there but if you didn't know about it already you can probably get away with it.

The café with its chairs have simply become atmospheric, while in the original shot the red of the seat backs threatened to distract from the smoker and her shadow, which was the who point of the shot in the first place, don't forget.

The final, unavoidable flaw is possibly the bike passing her in the distance. However the rider provides an almost black backdrop for the smoker and her cigarette so it's not worth binning the shot for that.

One final quirk is that directly opposite the woman's head is a no-smoking sign on the door of the café - a good example of additional little 'pleasers' which only come to light after the event itself.

Now that I've talked so much about this shot I can hardly stand back from it - the final version - and decide if it's any good or not. But hopefully it's served to illustrate some points and some of the decisions you need to make to transition a raw image into something you can be reasonably happy about showing to others. Which I certainly wouldn't have been with the original. Aren't shadows wonderful?!


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment