Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's All a Point of View

Hi everyone.  I hope your week as been a good one.  Today, I want share a couple of techniques I use and show you the dramatic impact they can have on your images.....crop and graduated blur.  

The image here is one I came across back in Sept. from a fellow photographer friend Kristina.  She has very graciously allowed me to use it for my demonstration and I'm quite grateful.  She has a keen eye on a variety of subjects so, if you have some time please check out here Flickr site....

When she posted this image, she noted it was the original crop straight out of the camera.  I  mention this because I want to point out what a beautiful job she did with composing the scene. The more time you take to really think about the composition in the beginning, the greater possibilities you will have to give the same image different "stories" later on.  

I've discussed in an earlier blog regarding how you can powerfully decide the "story" of your image through your choice of how you want to crop the image.  Her original image has a wonderful "cinematic" feel to it.  With the inclusion of so much space, you really get an understanding of the scale of the situation.  The smallness of the child....a feeling of vastness to the world around him....a sense of being alone.  The environment, both inside and out,  is as much a character in this "story" as the child is.  By cropping out the majority of the inner environment, as I did here in this square crop, the story is now about two players.....the boy and the world out side.  You are certainly more focused on the boy, but still keenly aware of the focus of his attention.

Now you will notice I've added two angled graduated from left to right and one from right to left, using the same angle of tilt in the boys face.   This puts only the face of the child into focus and thus, brings all the attention on the look and expression of the child.

You still have an awareness of the interaction of the boy with the outside world, but now it's role has been pushed even farther into the background so that your focus is even more concentrated, not only on the child but also the possible emotion of the child.

Now, how about a vertical crop?  Really, just a variation on a theme from the square crop, but depending on what the situation is of where the image is going to be hung or incorporated, the vertical configuration might actually work better.   Remember, with no context as to what the original image looked like, cropping the image in this way is as "correct" as the horizontal to a viewer.  It really has as much to do with asking yourself which of these fits best for what you would like to communicate  with your image.

Once again, let's look at what the addition of a graduated blur does to the image.....

This time I ran two graduated filters, running on a slight angle.  One runs on a line going from the top right corner of the window pane, over the top of his ear, toward the upper back collar....graduating toward the top.  The bottom one runs along a similar angle while just clipping the bottom of his chin.....graduating down.    

Notice how this puts the eyes, nose and mouth area in focus along with the area straight in front of his face.  By doing this, there is a "reality" to his gaze and a feeling of intensity because where he is looking seems clearer and more intentional.

Now for one last about this?  Normally, I would not probably crop the  image in this way with the weight of the image heading away from the natural direction or movement captured in the scene.  It sets up a kind of strange tension.  But after cropping the image, I noticed an interesting dynamic going on, especially if there was to be further pp work later on such as texturing the image.  

Looking at the scene in this way put a menacing edge on it.  The cheerful quality of light is mostly missing from the scene and now the boy has a slight feeling of being imprisoned.

All the more so with the addition of the graduated blur.  This time the blur adds a greater feeling of mystery to what might be there in the dark.  And, with the boy's face in focus, forces the viewer to wonder about the emotion of the situation.  How might a child feel who seems to trapped and/or cut off from the outside world? 

Now I know, some of you are thinking....he got all that from this picture?  Sure....why not.  Keep in mind, if you had no context for what the original image conveyed and the image here were the first ones you had very easily could head down this train of thought. 

I believe each of the versions shown here captures a different direction of thought.  Now, everyone will have a different interpretation of what that end thought might be, but the point is this...By just incorporating these two techniques of alternative cropping and graduated blur, look at how many other interesting "stories" you can create from the same image.  But, as I mentioned at the beginning, you have to craft a good starting point and develop your eye for a good scene.  It might take some practice, but the more you experiment, the easier it will come to least that's my point of view.


  1. wonderful! im a beginner in all this so i welcome this easy to grasp article... hope i get to read more like these :)

    thanks for the demonstration!

  2. This is very enlightening and inspiring. Thank you for going into such detail on not only the techniques, but the potential emotional interpretations of the various options.

  3. Very well illustrated, John. You have an excellent blog!