POST II ON BEING A RUTHLESS PHOTO EDITOR OF YOUR OWN WORK — What Exactly is In-Focus?
YOU. MUST. BE. RUTHLESS!
A Recap from Post I on Being a Ruthless Photo Editor of Your Work:
In my first post on this topic of Ruthless Photo Editing, I mentioned the idea of “The Craft of Photography“. You may or may not know what I mean by this idea, this “Way of the Photographer!” I will attempt to explain this concept below.
Here’s the link to Post I:
But First, Consider This:
⊙ It is the goal of every camera corporation to get you to buy equipment that you DON’T NEED, as quickly as they can get you to upgrade to the next, best, artificially intelligent image capturing device that will do ALL OF THE WORK FOR YOU!
You just need to set these “wonders” of modern artificial intelligence (A.I.) photonic capturing engineering, to AUTO MODE, and let the Magic Fairies built into these machines, do ALL of the work for you.
Turn the A.I. camera to the ON setting. Set the A.I. to AUTO Mode. Push the Shutter Button. And, Prest’O Change’O, You are a Great Photographer Taking Great Images, and you have sold your “Photographer’s Soul” to the A.I.-Driven-Modern-Camera-Corporation-Devil!
You are NOT involved in the CRAFT OF PHOTOGRAPHY if you are not using your brain to involve yourself in EVERY part of the photographic process, from preparing the camera for operation, considering subject and lighting, considering backgrounds and framing, considering depth-of-field and shutter speed, and etc.
IF you allow the camera to do all of the work for you, you may get some really fine images as a result, but you are NOT a Photographer, or Photographist (as I prefer)—You are NOT engaging in the CRAFT of Photography.
So what are you IF you let the A.I. camera do all of the heavy lifting to capture images? An automaton. You are a person with a high-tech gadget that is so easy to use and so sophisticated, that it is nearly impossible to get truly horrible images if you point the camera at something halfway interesting, and if you have the device turned ON, and if you can press the shutter button.
⊙ Just because you can pick up a scalpel and cut something with it does not make you a Surgeon. Just because you can pick up a wrench and turn a bolt, does not make you a Mechanic. Just because you can pick up a camera and point and shoot, does not make you a Photographer! Each of these professional designations (Surgeon, Mechanic, and Photographer) takes a certain amount of training in the CRAFT of their professions.
IF you want to be a Photographer, and you want to truly engage in the Art of Photography, YOU MUST LEARN THE CRAFT OF PHOTOGRAPHY!
- As much as the fancy-smancy advertisers want you to believe that IF you buy the latest-greatest (until the next latest-greatest) camera gear, it will make you a Photographer—NO, that is a lie! That makes you a person with the latest-greatest camera gear, but you may know absolutely nothing about being a Photographer, because you lack the knowledge and training involved in the Craft of Photography.
WHAT IS THE STORY IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPH?
Does your photo have a story?
You are communicating something with your photography. Photography is an art form, as well as, a medium of expression.
However, did you have something in mind before you took that particular image (You saw a story unfolding in the scene you focused on)? Or, was it just a random act of capturing a subject that overwhelmed your attention (e.g. beautiful light, vibrant colours, interesting shadows, contrasty elements, cool lines, amazing textures, etc)? To me, both instigators are legitimate excuses to design photographs.
Let’s Focus on the Story-Instigator for now, and NO matter what, You Must Still be Ruthless with Your Photography Editing!
What are the main subjects in your photograph?
Does your photograph have a main subject?
In the two photographs below, is an example of a scene where I imagined a Snail having some sort of first-contact alien experience with a padlock!
I captured three shots total. One photo was eliminated immediately because of obvious flaws in focus sharpness. However, below are the two remaining efforts. For my standards, one photo is acceptable, and the other one was axed from my consideration after inspecting it more closely. Since our topic is “Ruthless Editing“, our subtopic, and actual main focus (pun intended), of this blog post, is about FOCUS:
☆ IF you have a story in your photograph that you need to clearly convey to your audience, then you MUST STILL use your skills in the Craft of Photography, to ensure that ALL MAIN SUBJECTS in your photographic-story are in Crisp Focus!
Because I do test my skills in the Craft of Photography, I use the “M”, Manual Mode on the camera, 90%, or more, of the time. Because I want to continue learning about Photography, I also need to fail a lot, so I can learn from my mistakes. If you let the camera decide everything for you, you may fail a lot too, but you won’t know what steps you did to fail, because you let the A.I. make all the adjustments and settings for you. If you don’t care about the Craft of Photography, that’s fine too. There’s nothing that wrong with easy and letting A.I. do the snap-shooting for you. However, you won’t become a Photographer with that modus operandi.
Here are the two “Snail Meets Padlock” Photographs, which I thought were perfect for the topic of this post, of having your subjects in-focus.
“Snail Meets Padlock” (but the padlock is not in-focus)
☆ I rejected Photo 1 because the padlock is an integral part of the story of this photo, “Snail Meets Padlock”, but it is slightly out-of-focus.
Photo 1—The Snail is in pretty good focus (100% enlargement).
Photo 1—The padlock is out of focus (100% enlargement).
“Snail Meets Padlock” (Snail and Padlock are in-focus)
Photo 2—The snail is in pretty good focus (100% enlargement).
Photo 2—The padlock is in pretty good focus (100% enlargement).
All Photos Copyright 2019 Nawfal Johnson
All Rights Reserved.
☆ Photo 2 met my Ruthless Photo Editor Standards in most aspects. Both main subjects are in pretty good focus, and the background is acceptable to me.
The EXIF Data (below) will show you that the Aperture was the same, F/11, for both images; however, the change in focus came about due to changing the Focal Length used to take the shot. The wider focal length used for Photo 2 (30mm), gave the F/11 aperture sufficient Depth-of-Field (the area in front and behind the subject that will be in-focus), to get both main subjects in good focus.
Even though I prefer the tighter feel of the frame in Photo 1 (shot at 55mm), better focus of the main subjects in these photographs is more critical to tell the story; and therefore, Photo 2 is preferable to telling the story going on in the photographs.
☆ To get this photograph EXACTLY how I want it, I should have used a camera on a tripod, setting the zoom lens tighter (more zoomed in) and increasing the F-Number to F/16 (perhaps). However, that would have led to a slower shutter speed to compensate for the smaller aperture opening in the lens. I know that snails move like………Snails, but a too slow of a shutter speed may produce a blurred snail, and then, I have another unusable photograph on my hands. ● Another important trick when shooting a photo with more than one subject is that you need to position the camera as parallel as possible to both/all subjects to ensure better focus by reducing the depth-of-field needed to get all subjects in-focus. Of course, you can always increase your ISO Number so you do not need to reduce your shutter speed, but I typically do not want to go above ISO400. It is the nature of my “ancient” camera, that limits me to that 400 speed, to meet my critical standards.
Perhaps the only reason to upgrade to a new camera (for me) is to get one that can be used at higher ISO Sensitivity without causing rejectable digital noise.
Here’s a Photo Editing Tip: Cut Your Photograph into Four Equal Imaginary Sectors
Make an imaginary line halfway, vertically and horizontally, in your photo, and determine if any items in each sector should be in critical focus for the purpose of the photo. I do this process in some photo editing software. I zoom in to 100%, on some object (critical or not) in each sector. If a certain object in the photo is a critical component of the photo story, but it is not in-focus, then the photograph may not work…then it may be time to reject the photo because it does not meet my goal for the photo, and it does not stand up to my Ruthless Editing Standards. I also target known critical subjects in the photo and see if they are in-focus, using this editing method. By eye-balling the photo, I also look to see if the background is significantly out-of-focus so not to distract from the main subject(s). If that standard is not met, it may also force me to reject a photo.
Look at the EXIF Data During Your Post Mortem Editing
The Numbers in the EXIF Data can tell you a lot!
Photo 1 EXIF Data :
Photo 2 EXIF Data :
Is this Whole Editing “Thing” Subjective?
Yes and No.
When your photos have been rejected by photo editors, contest judges, and fellow photographers on the Interwebs, how many times have you said, wanted to say, or thought about saying, “Come on, bloody hell, are you crazy, it is a great shot!”
You, of course, are your own worst critic sometimes, thinking that all of your submitted shots to various contests or publications, are fantastic. That may be your opinion. Judges and editors, and Internet peers, may have a totally different view of your work.
For example, when I submit work to my stock agency, I think it is good work. When they reject my work, for whatever reason, they must have a different opinion based on various criteria. It doesn’t mean that you, the Photographer, are wrong necessarily in your assessment. However, it also doesn’t necessarily mean the editors are always right, all of the time. Nonetheless, Photo Editors are highly skilled and they do edit photos for a living, so that does carry some weight.
Therefore, the truth in the merits of your photographic works may sit somewhere in between. Otherwise, and quite potentially, you are seeing with eyes too close to the work, and you may be biased toward your work, and not seeing flawed characteristics in your work that other, more ruthless editors, are catching.