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Old Jan 17, 2014, 03:38 PM   #1
kallisti
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Help with composition/cropping in post

I've recently been putting much more effort into what I do with my photos in post. I had been ignoring this step and concentrating on trying to improve my skills at the time of capture, thinking that garbage in equals garbage out.

I'm now trying to spend more time trying to get the most out of the photos I've taken in preparation for printing/framing some. For the first time really trying to learn the software to use it to its potential.

I have two photos that I would like help with regarding the best crop for them. For both, I'll include the original image and then two different crops. I'll include my own thoughts for both, but I'm not sure I trust myself and would welcome opinions. Both were taken on a trip to NYC last summer using a 35mm lens and rangefinder camera. Both were adjusted using Silver Efex Pro 2 and then cropped in LR5.

The first is of a candid street shot at night in the village that caught my eye.


Original version.


Removed some of the distractions on both the right and left side of the frame. I selectively darkened the window so it wasn't so blown out. I was initially happy with this version.


Looking at it again, I felt that there were still too many distractions on both side. The subject is the store with the man outside looking in. I started thinking that elements on both sides were pulling the eyes away from the subject. Was I right on this?

The second photo was taken on a boat tour around Manhattan. This is looking northeastish. The sun was reflecting off the new Freedom Tower. Liked having the sailboat in the frame.


Somewhat underexposed because of the reflected light off the tower.


This is an early version of the photo which I think I may have posted in the POTD thread. Sky somewhat more dramatic than the original. The sailboat slightly more prominent than in the original but not the subject. I made this crop thinking that the light from the Freedom Tower was so bright that it should dominate the frame and be centered.


Did some fairly extensive adjustments in Silver Efex Pro 2. Made the sky more dramatic. Also selectively brightened the sailboat. Looking at the image after the above adjustments I started thinking that the sailboat is fairly prominent but is too far over on the right of the cropped frame.


So I tried this crop that moved the sailboat closer to the center. Not sure if there is now tension in the image from two competing subjects that are roughly balanced in the frame.

Would welcome any thoughts/opinions/advice for either of these. Trying to improve and could use some feedback
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 05:17 PM   #2
Alexander.Of.Oz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kallisti View Post
I've recently been putting much more effort into what I do with my photos in post. I had been ignoring this step and concentrating on trying to improve my skills at the time of capture, thinking that garbage in equals garbage out.

I'm now trying to spend more time trying to get the most out of the photos I've taken in preparation for printing/framing some. For the first time really trying to learn the software to use it to its potential.

<snip>

The second photo was taken on a boat tour around Manhattan. This is looking northeastish. The sun was reflecting off the new Freedom Tower. Liked having the sailboat in the frame.

Thumb resize.
Somewhat underexposed because of the reflected light off the tower.

<snip>

Would welcome any thoughts/opinions/advice for either of these. Trying to improve and could use some feedback
I can't help you with the first, I just don't do that sort of photography, so genuinely have nothing to offer there, sorry.

With the second picture, I'd try a square crop, like this. I like it with the reflections spanning out at the bottom of frame, it adds some difference to them. In regards of finishes, I'm just starting to explore this myself, so all I can offer there is to look at the light and ask yourself how you want it to appear. Dramatic, subtle, etc...? Only thing I can offer you is that I feel the boat should be softer, not so harshly lit in the scene, it already stands out due to its overall lightness, there's no need for it to steal attention from those wonderful reflections, unless you want it to be the star of the show.

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Old Jan 17, 2014, 05:42 PM   #3
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For the Pink ***** Cat photo, the second one is close, I would've used all of the stone on the right side and possibly a little less of the street on the bottom. Kind of like:
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 06:38 PM   #4
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I'm no expert my any means, but I do try to experient in photo as well, so my thoughts:

For the street shot I prefer the second version. For me it gives the "street feel", as more of it is visible, yet the subject is not as distant, as in the original. The third feels cramped and way too close-up.

The boat is more tricky. Definitely don't overadjust, looks like *****, tbh. The second version's contrast is better. As for cropping, I would do the slightly more zoomed-out last version, but with more water in it, like the orig.
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 07:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by eXan View Post
I'm no expert my any means, but I do try to experient in photo as well, so my thoughts:

For the street shot I prefer the second version. For me it gives the "street feel", as more of it is visible, yet the subject is not as distant, as in the original. The third feels cramped and way too close-up.

The boat is more tricky. Definitely don't overadjust, looks like *****, tbh. The second version's contrast is better. As for cropping, I would do the slightly more zoomed-out last version, but with more water in it, like the orig.
I think I went a little overboard with the brightening on the boat. Blew out some of the detail. Also think I went a little overboard with the sky.

Here is a more conservative version of the latter photo:

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Old Jan 17, 2014, 07:14 PM   #6
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For the pink cat, I don't know there is much you can really do. You were basically in no man's land when you took the photo - you're in the wrong place. Add to this, it's just not really that interesting a photo anyway. Perhaps moving much closer, meaning close enough to crop almost everything except the man and the window out of the frame, get some of the man's face in the photo. Alternatively moving away, getting a wider view, more context may have made the photo better. The lighting in the street is pretty bad. Sometimes there just isn't a good photo to be had.
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 08:06 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Attonine View Post
For the pink cat, I don't know there is much you can really do. You were basically in no man's land when you took the photo - you're in the wrong place. Add to this, it's just not really that interesting a photo anyway. Perhaps moving much closer, meaning close enough to crop almost everything except the man and the window out of the frame, get some of the man's face in the photo. Alternatively moving away, getting a wider view, more context may have made the photo better. The lighting in the street is pretty bad. Sometimes there just isn't a good photo to be had.
Painful to read this, but I can't really argue. Most of the photos I take are of static subjects where I have the luxury of moving around to find the best vantage point. Don't always make the best decision, but I always think about it.

For both of these images I didn't have that luxury. For the pink cat I was wandering around with my wife and niece. Saw the store front and saw the man in front of it looking in. I was across the street. Pulled out my camera and shot. The moment was what it was.

I *want* this to be a stellar image. I try to convince myself that there are all these reasons it can seem interesting. But as I stated in the OP, garbage in equals garbage out.

Sigh.

Having said that, my wife likes this photo and I'll be printing it. Just have to settle on a crop she likes
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 09:02 PM   #8
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An interesting exercise is to watch other photographers at work. On youtube there are clips of Garry Winogrand, Joel Mayerowitz, William Klein, Saul Leiter, Brice Gilden etc at work. These are all masters of street photography, and all worked a lot in NY. Watch them work, as well as look at their work. This will give you a good idea of what and how they get/got the shots they do. I'm not too sure of focal lengths, I believe Winogrand was very much a 28mm guy, Gilden is 28mm, even 21mm sometimes. The others I'm not sure about. But it goes to show, just take those extra 2 or 3 steps towards the subject, don't be frightened, fill the frame!

Finally, what's with this "I pulled out my camera" nonsense?! The camera should be in your hand ready to fire at all times!
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 09:33 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kallisti View Post
I *want* this to be a stellar image. I try to convince myself that there are all these reasons it can seem interesting. But as I stated in the OP, garbage in equals garbage out.

Sigh.

Having said that, my wife likes this photo and I'll be printing it. Just have to settle on a crop she likes
Personally, I'd be looking to crop it in a similar way to your 3rd crop - I agree that this version manages to exclude some distracting elements. However the shot is WAY too dark overall.

I don't do street photography myself, but I think the key to it is drawing your viewer's eye to the subject in context. This means showing the whole setting, which the image doesn't currently do.

You mentioned in your original post that the subject of this shot is the both the man & the window. I'd much prefer to see the man a LOT brighter in the shot - this will help include him as part of the subject because the viewer's eye will be drawn to him. At the moment, the eye is drawn solely to the window and you have to consciously look around the frame for other details. Rather than darkening the entire frame, you could use a vignette to help lead the viewer's eye. Elliptical vignettes usually look really fake, so paint it in manually trying to accentuate the shot's natural shadows.

I've drifted away from the subject of cropping here, but I really think there's more to realising this images full potential than just cropping in tighter. Really don't want to offend, just trying to offer some constructive feedback about post-processing in general.

Hope it helps.
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 09:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Attonine View Post
An interesting exercise is to watch other photographers at work. On youtube there are clips of Garry Winogrand, Joel Mayerowitz, William Klein, Saul Leiter, Brice Gilden etc at work. These are all masters of street photography, and all worked a lot in NY. Watch them work, as well as look at their work. This will give you a good idea of what and how they get/got the shots they do. I'm not too sure of focal lengths, I believe Winogrand was very much a 28mm guy, Gilden is 28mm, even 21mm sometimes. The others I'm not sure about. But it goes to show, just take those extra 2 or 3 steps towards the subject, don't be frightened, fill the frame!

Finally, what's with this "I pulled out my camera" nonsense?! The camera should be in your hand ready to fire at all times!
I chuckled when I read your last line. While NYC is safer now than it was in the past, can't say I'm comfortable walking around holding a Leica next to my eye all the time. Given recent articles I've read though, flashing Apple gear is what will get you in trouble....

Useful advice in your post. Thanks.
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Old Jan 17, 2014, 10:03 PM   #11
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Personally, I'd be looking to crop it in a similar way to your 3rd crop - I agree that this version manages to exclude some distracting elements. However the shot is WAY too dark overall.

I don't do street photography myself, but I think the key to it is drawing your viewer's eye to the subject in context. This means showing the whole setting, which the image doesn't currently do.

You mentioned in your original post that the subject of this shot is the both the man & the window. I'd much prefer to see the man a LOT brighter in the shot - this will help include him as part of the subject because the viewer's eye will be drawn to him. At the moment, the eye is drawn solely to the window and you have to consciously look around the frame for other details. Rather than darkening the entire frame, you could use a vignette to help lead the viewer's eye. Elliptical vignettes usually look really fake, so paint it in manually trying to accentuate the shot's natural shadows.

I've drifted away from the subject of cropping here, but I really think there's more to realising this images full potential than just cropping in tighter. Really don't want to offend, just trying to offer some constructive feedback about post-processing in general.

Hope it helps.
Your comments are all appreciated. You didn't wander off point--all helpful stuff.

Here is a version with the man brightened a bit. Also darkened the store opening around his head.

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Old Jan 18, 2014, 12:20 AM   #12
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I would reconsider your method of black and white conversion. Both of these are very dark yet with blown highlights, this creates an illusion of even more lost detail. I generally like higher contrast black and white, but these somehow look muddy and over contrasty at the same time.
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Old Jan 18, 2014, 07:05 AM   #13
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I would reconsider your method of black and white conversion. Both of these are very dark yet with blown highlights, this creates an illusion of even more lost detail. I generally like higher contrast black and white, but these somehow look muddy and over contrasty at the same time.
There was no black and white conversion. Both shot with a leica MM.
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Old Jan 18, 2014, 07:16 AM   #14
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I chuckled when I read your last line. While NYC is safer now than it was in the past, can't say I'm comfortable walking around holding a Leica next to my eye all the time. Given recent articles I've read though, flashing Apple gear is what will get you in trouble....

Useful advice in your post. Thanks.
Nothing wrong with walking around NYC with a Leica fixed to your eye. Loads of people doing it with no problems. Get some insurance, it's not expensive, and then start using the camera as it was meant to be.

Check out Peter Turnley, he lives in Harlem I think (along with Paris). He has a Leica MM, amongst others, always got one in his hand!
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Old Jan 18, 2014, 10:27 AM   #15
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There was no black and white conversion. Both shot with a leica MM.
My mistake, I just read that you were using silver efex and thought it was to convert. Still, the tones look really painful to view. I do use profiled monitors.
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Old Jan 18, 2014, 12:56 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by kallisti View Post
I've recently been putting much more effort into what I do with my photos in post. I had been ignoring this step and concentrating on trying to improve my skills at the time of capture, thinking that garbage in equals garbage out.

I'm now trying to spend more time trying to get the most out of the photos I've taken in preparation for printing/framing some. For the first time really trying to learn the software to use it to its potential.

I have two photos that I would like help with regarding the best crop for them. For both, I'll include the original image and then two different crops. I'll include my own thoughts for both, but I'm not sure I trust myself and would welcome opinions. Both were taken on a trip to NYC last summer using a 35mm lens and rangefinder camera. Both were adjusted using Silver Efex Pro 2 and then cropped in LR5.

The first is of a candid street shot at night in the village that caught my eye.

Thumb resize.
Original version.


clipped...---------------------------

Would welcome any thoughts/opinions/advice for either of these. Trying to improve and could use some feedback
I'll work with this and make you start over...;].You have three competing elements here from left to right along the top. One of my design instructors taught us to make everything look intentional in a composition, that means is't either all in or all out of the frame. The lights to the left are part in and part out, so they have to go. The ones on the far right are all in, so you can keep them if you want. Now you make an artist's decision. Does the element on the right compliment the main one or distract from it? Your call. Make two crops, one with and one without the right hand lights (all of them) and decide which you like better.

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Old Jan 19, 2014, 07:15 PM   #17
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Your comments are all appreciated. You didn't wander off point--all helpful stuff.

Here is a version with the man brightened a bit. Also darkened the store opening around his head.

Image
Nicely done! This is definitely a good edit to the shot - it really helps tie the man to the window rather than simply being a silhouette as he was before.

How much did you darken the shot? I still think the left of the scene is a bit too dark. You're losing detail in the bikes and the front of the shop next door. I understand that you don't want these elements to be distracting, but I think you could avoid drawing attention to them without having such a high black point.

Good work! All the best.
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Old Jan 20, 2014, 10:19 AM   #18
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Thanks for the all the very helpful replies. Lot's of food for thought.

Photography is a hobby for me. A serious hobby that I really care about, but not a source of income. Work doesn't let me devote as much time to it as I would like. I'm learning as I go along. I'm better than I was, say, five years ago but still have much to learn.

There is more detail present in the blacks, specifically in the bikes and in front of Music Inn.

Started from scratch with the RAW image. I think this is the best edit thus far:


Added more control points in Silver Efex Pro 2 to selectively change the tones in different parts of the image. Didn't whiten his head/face quite so much as in the previous version. Lightened his shoulders slightly to bring out the musculature. Darkened the face of the manikin in the right corner of the window slightly so it wasn't so blown out and making it easier to see what is going on in that portion of the window display. Brought up the shadows a bit on the left half of the image. Cropped out the doors/lights on the right side of the image. Also globally lowered the highlights a bit which helped with everything in the window display.. Think this is the version I will print.

Again, huge thanks for all the replies.
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Old Jan 20, 2014, 10:59 AM   #19
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My two cents on this...just pertaining to the Pink Cat photo.

The original shot looks like a basic P&S shot of a street at night. Kinda distracting with light pulling my eyes around but leading me nowhere in particular.
The first Crop is a better focus but I still go between the guy on the left (didn’t really notice him in the original) and the guy by the window. Not sure if it is shot/cropped with the idea of see two different people and how they interact/live on the street scene.

The last crop (best of these) let’s me focus on the man by the window. It evokes thoughts of “what is this guy thinking?” “does he want to buy something?” for himself...wife...gf...etc. What thoughts are running through his head.

So: Original = street at night (ehh, I quickly move onto the next photo); First Crop = interesting, makes me wonder a bit between the two men (I stay here longer than the first photo but because of bouncing eyes move on); Second Crop = hmmmm, interesting. Makes me think more and look into the photo/store more, what are those things, what does this man think. (I stay here the longest and explore more and more)
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