Photography Advice: my thought process in taking an interesting shot

So first up big thanks to those who turned up to the photography walk/class yesterday.  We were very lucky to have a warm and dry day here in Northern Ireland.  They are sadly not that common.  It is lush and green here because it rains a lot. 

When we started I asked what my fellow photographers where interested in shooting and learning and tried to tailor the class around that.

One of the things I wanted to show was how a little time and thinking can create more interesting shots.  I took everyone over to the "big fish"

It is big, it is a fish, this is about the most boring shot you can take of it. Also what most tourists do.

It is big, it is a fish, this is about the most boring shot you can take of it. Also what most tourists do.

So I told them all to take this shot, and then set them the challenge of shooting something more interesting over a 10-15 minute period.


While I was talking to one attendee I mentioned a lot of tourists photograph themselves kissing the big fish and thought it might be cool to have the big fish kiss something instead.


So I positioned the big fish in such a way that it was a foreground element, out of focus.  My thought process was, it's so iconic, even without any detail the colours and outline alone would say "big fish" and I could instead focus on what I wanted it to "kiss". In my head I figured another big landmark here, one of our H&W cranes, Goliath I believe.

This was my first attempt, but I wasn't happy.  The fish was too in focus and the implied kiss wasn't obvious enough.  So I repositioned and shot again (I was using a prime lens so had to move about, more on that later).

Much happier this time.  There were some distracting elements in the frame, but I knew I could sort those out in post processing.  This here is straight from the camera, and I promised an attendee I would show my editing process and thoughts on editing so that is what follows.


First up I corrected the colours and contrast a little, to emphasise the complementary blue in the fish and yellow in the crane.  The lens I used was a 50-year-old manual focus nifty fifty f2 lens I bought the previous Sunday at the legendary Crumlin Road Car boot sale.  It cost me £8 after a bit of haggling and came with an old 35mm camera body attached and a teleconverter.  I wasn't worried if the camera worked or not because I knew I could adapt the lens to my Sony mirrorless camera.  I specifically used this lens to try and teach something else.


Gear is just gear! Knowing how to use what you have is FAR more important than owning nice gear.  Hopefully this article will teach that too. Now onto more fine tinkering.


I only removed one thing here, can we play spot the difference?  You should be able to see it immediately if you look between this picture and the previous one.  Colour theory teaches that red is the most eye-catching colour, and orange a close second.  The marker buoy! It was extremely distracting to my eye, and might have been the first thing your eyes moved to when looking at the original picture.  Now it's gone it changes the focus of the picture. 


Next up, what I like to call border patrol. I didn't coin this phrase but it helps me remember it so I use it.  It is the process of looking around the edges of your frame and thinking about distractions etc. I do this in the viewfinder while shooting, and I made a mental note to sort the vignette caused by the old lens and the tops of the bollards in the very bottom of the frame.

Last but not least I considered the picture as a whole. I looked at the sky and realised it wasn't how I saw it on the day, too much detail was lost because a camera can never capture the colour depth and dynamic range of a human eye. I wanted to recover some of the detail in the clouds so darkened down the sky. I also wanted to sharpen the H&W on the crane, so did that too.


While doing this I also considered the crop, I wondered what it would be like with a portrait orientation so tried a few different crops and settled on this.  Very different but equally as nice.

Hopefully you found this interesting, few folks online talk about the artistic process of photography, what goes on in the head of the artist.  For me it's far more important than any gear or techy considerations and hopefully taking a picture with a 50-year-old junk lens and showing you how I thought it through has illustrated that.  If you like the article please feel free to share it or request other topics on my facebook page.  A like would be appreciated too ;)