Snapshot to Photograph

IMG_4581.JPGI took this quick snapshot from the hip and without thinking much about it. I noticed the scene as I was walking past, and just shot reflexively.

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I shot again as I got closer, and then a third time. All the images were way off level, badly cropped and not especially interesting. I was tempted to delete them, but decided to let them be while I went on looking for something better.

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On another day, as I was looking through my shots while in less of a hurry, I was first attracted to the bright colors of the flag, but when I looked more closely, I began to zero in on the relationships of the figures, and the color in the sunglasses on the figure on the left. Those great boots, also interested me.

I zoomed in for a closer look, and when I saw the center figure’s eyelashes, and all three expressions, I was hooked. I wasn’t entirely sure it would work, but decided to try rotating the image to level it up. It worked, and I liked what I was seeing.

I then cropped it, and began playing with it in Snapseed, using the TuneImage/Ambiance, and other sliders to open up the shadows and sharpened it a bit using the Details/Structure slider. I framed it with Frames, changed it to black and white, added a blue filter to lighten the sky, then, back in the Tune Image menu, I added some warmth, and there it was, the photo of the day for my Instagram gallery, @johnfarnsworthphotographer.

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I’m glad I didn’t delete the original. I do wish I could give a more blow by blow account of the way I proceeded with it, but I don’t keep a record of the steps I take, and seldom repeat myself exactly, preferring to just play with the sliders, dodging, burning, adjusting, caressing and manipulating until I find the photograph lurking in the snapshot.

As Ansel Adams said: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

THE LIFE OF A PHOTOGRAPH, CONTINUED

We did the fishmonger last time; now let's do some things with just the fish. We start by cropping the original image, removing the part that we no longer need.

This gives us a starting point, but let's try and make it more interesting. We could start by cropping down to the most interesting fish, eliminating even more of the unnecessary bits, and pumping up the color…

Hmmmm, not bad. What if we darken the image and add more contrast?

I kind of like the sinister look that it has now. Definitely more interesting than what we started with. We could stop here, but why not go back a step, and pump the color even more…

Now, let's play around with some distortion… Give it a little of the old fish eye look. Pun intended.

I think we've got something here. Let's go further with it and see what we get.

Yikes! Not sure I like this one. But wait. Notice that big, deep, black hole that has opened up in the center. What a great spot for an editor to place a title. And there's another negative space in the lower right that could hold some additional copy. A handy app for trying this idea on for size is Skitch…

That was fun! But I think I'll try and take it even further. I'm liking those guys on the right, so I think I'll crop down to them and rotate, like this…

Powerful, and might look good with text flowing in the dark space. But the fish on the left troubles me, the way it leads the eye out the bottom of the picture. Of course, that could be a good thing if it worked within the context of a page layout, for instance, taking the reader right into the beginning of the story. The red one in the bottom left also bothers me, as does the hard to see third fish on the right. I play around with several versions, changing values, contrast, sharpness, color saturation, etc, until I come up with this one that I like…

Much better! Some carefully applied vignette helped with the lower left, and I brought up the light on fish number three, while selectively applying more vignette to keep the values down on the rest of the image.

Want to take it further, yet? OK! Let's rotate this sucker and see how it feels…

Interesting. But, now that upside down fish is too distracting. And the big one on top is way too heavy. Time for another cropping…

And Bingo! How's this for a magazine layout, or a blog banner. Now all we need is a bunch of fish tales 😉

We've come a long way from the original photo. There were several points along the way that we could have veered off from in even more directions. Another time I'll share some things to be done with a failed original to make it into something useable. On yet another, I'll show how I get from photo research to a finished painting. So stay tuned!

Hasta Luego