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Author Topic: Composition and subject  (Read 1115 times)

Offline chris@seary.com

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Composition and subject
« on: November 20, 2009, 10:38:41 PM »
I went to Swindon Photographic Society last night and saw a talk by a chap called Dr Greg Duncan. Amazing evening, lots of short talks about things such as the loss of colour in Photoshop (I was quite amazed at how many colours you lose once you start working on jpegs, and he gives an overview of the maths entailed with it). Also, some amazing demonstrations of the problems arising from the optimisations built into Photoshop algorithms.

He also spoke at length about the manipulation of photographs, and the ethics and truth behind it. For instance, he showed a shot of a village in Burma where two tourists were in the shot. He showed a second version of the shot, with the tourists removed. Was this right or wrong? Well, he then went on to explain that there is only one bus per week to this village, and tourists are only seen for half an hour per week. Was the shot with the tourists removed more truthful in giving a perception of the village? It certainly looked better.

He went on to demonstrate the different steps taken in another shot of a Burmese rice seller - removing distrations, then building up up the edge of picture to strengthen the compositon, then removing the raildroad tracks in the background. This was justified by the fact that these tracks were being pulled up the Burmese government, and wouldn't be there a week later anyway. This went on, and he presented all versions of the photo in a series on one screen, and said 'which edit goes too far?'. It was quite hard to pinpoint where truth (or at least a representative perception) was lost.

The whole point of this was to demonstrate that we can 'tweak' reality just a little to get something that not only represents the subject, but also is strong photographically (composition, tone, colour etc).

This stress on the composition and photographic power of the image is perhaps a shame. Are there some subjects that just won't be photographed due to their lack of graphic imagery? For instance, in landscape photography, the less than beautiful urban areas just don't get a look in most of the time. Nude photography is limited to 'cheesecake' shots - only young attractive (mostly female) subjects are appreciated.

Are we limiting our photographic subjects by focusing so much on image impact? Perhaps we should also stress the subject and what we are demonstrating, rather than just trying to make it look 'pretty'?

Offline Graham

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Re: Composition and subject
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2009, 07:27:52 AM »
    That sounds a really interesting talk and I would have loved to have been there. You've raised a number of issues that I'm going to have to think about.
                        Graham. :)
« Last Edit: November 21, 2009, 08:00:27 AM by Graham »
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Re: Composition and subject
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2009, 07:53:28 AM »
Interesting talk as Graham says.

Maybe when using the term 'cheesecake' you should have included landscape as well - because it certainly fits the term as you were using it.
To some degree- are we as photographers being led down the same path that the female sex is over looks? It has to comply with what the press define as aesthetically pleasing...

With regards to nude photography - is there a supply of women who are not young and/ or attractive willing to disrobe for the benefit of art?
When talking about urban landscape how many are to afraid to wander into some of these areas for fear of not returning home with our kit still intact?
As for image manipulation - it has been going on for years. It was just harder to do in film days. Remember the picture of the fairies that caused all the fuss?
It's been a long time since it could be said that the camera never lies.

The final image is the one that 'the photographer' wishes to present - not always what they are able to take. I accept it for what it is - a means to an end.
It is, at the end of the day, their image...

Offline anglefire

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Re: Composition and subject
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2009, 11:52:23 AM »
There are forums for models, MUA and togs to get in touch. http://www.purestorm.com/ is one such site. Its where the models I took some shots of hang out.

Marcus, must have liked one of my shots - its his main shot! http://www.purestorm.com/profile.aspx?psid=marcus1979&logon%24btn_searchgo.x
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Offline jinky

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Re: Composition and subject
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2009, 02:04:17 PM »
I think urban photography is really growing and see lots of street photography and urban decay type shots. In Flickr Leeds group there is an urban explorers group that "get into" all sorts of derelict places taking shots with models and as the structures are.

Offline SimonW

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Re: Composition and subject
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2009, 03:30:05 PM »
I think if you want to create a picture - well, anything goes really. But if you're taking photos for record purposes they should remain untouched - though I wouldn't argue with removing tourists as in the example above.

Yes, drawing the line isn't easy! The "record shot" with the railway removed could perhaps be used by the contractor to support a claim for an early-completion bonus. So perhaps it goes too far even though it shows potential future visitors what they could expect to find.
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