Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Give Me A Hand

Nikon D700  F/3.5  1/500s  ISO-400  PrAP  EV +2.3  24mm
Help me out in analysing this pic, will you?

The challenge is to find three things that are good about it, and three things which could be improved.

But first of all, let's look at some typical touristy shots, below.

The temptation with such a curious item is to take lots of grinning pictures, mimicking the posture of the guy, holding his hand and so on. This is all well and good (and fun) but it probably ain't art.

The gloomy, contrasty original shot
It comes down once again to adding a personal touch to someone else's work and not just taking a straightforward, head on shot, and I'll repeat what I often say: if you want to take a tourist shot, when you see something interesting, stop dead, lift camera to eye, and click. For a snap that's fine, but there's lots of potential here to do better than that.

In one of the shots below you can see people shooting from the side, and that's basically what you have to do here. But be careful. If you just shoot from the side any old how, it won't necessarily be any better than a head on shot.

Having typical tourist fun
The thing is to work with the sculpture. You've got this amazing downward-pointing hand which has been rubbed back to its (presumably) original gold colour by enthusiastic Montmartre meanderers. This lends itself admirably to being the main focus of the shot, and I'll get back to focus in a minute!

So, three things I like about the final image above. Firstly, the shiny hand is prominent (i.e. large) in the shot, thanks to getting in really close under it with a wide angle lens.

Secondly the focus is on that hand and not the man's head, which is logical if the shot is to be harder-hitting and the hand the main feature of the photo.

Thirdly, I like the sharp angles of the wall and the building in relation to the sides of the picture - a strong dynamic composition.

And three things I think would make it better. One, the focus is on the golden hand, which is good. However, and it's a big one, the fingertips are not sharp. This is a major fault in my opinion.

The problem was I had a wide aperture (F/3.5) and was very close to the subject, which gave me a very narrow depth of field. And then I must have focused on the plam of the hand and not the fingers and unfortunately the latter went fuzzy. I probably thought I'd get away with it but the result proves otherwise. I could have used my depth of field preview button and maybe I did, but I obviously didn't get it right.

Check out every possible angle
The second thing that could be better is the exposure. Shooting into the sky, as I was, meant I had to compensate by at least +2 to avoid the sculpture becoming a silhouette and the underside of his upper arm is still practically black.

This of course means that the top of the building and the edge of the tree has completely blown out (been totally over-exposed). This gives the shot quite a nice atmosphere though but still it's a tricky image to light properly. A reflector or even a blip of flash could have helped reduce the contrast but introducing additional evils might have made the image seem unnatural and I rarely use tricks like those in the street if I can help it.

Shooting off the beaten track
Finally, the angle from which I took this shot wasn't necessarily the best one. I've taken more interesting shots of this sculpture where you can see the fingernails and the back of the hand, a bit like in one of the shots here but in the end you just have to crawl and scurry around looking pretty silly trying to get the most striking result possible.

One of the best ways to do this is to place the two hands in diagonally opposite corners, as I've almost done above. You could focus on the guy's head and have the hand a big blur - that's a personal choice. Or you can do something completely different I haven't even thought of. That's the fun of the (af)fair, folks!


* 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.

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