Sunday, August 15, 2010

Of visions and perceptions

If you're neither a photographer nor have any inclination towards photography then this article would bore you to death, browse something else on my blog, coz this one's serious write up on photography, without any exotic photographs in it.

As a photographer the way you look at things, subjects as referred to in photography jargon, undergoes a paradigm shift. Many a times it may so happen that you're on the bank of a stunning lake where people are going mad by the sheer beauty of the scenery and you're absolutely clueless of how to compose a good shot; or the other way round where in you're completely engrossed in shooting a subject and others find nothing there.  I'm sure most of us who are into some form of photography would have experienced such a thing.  So what is it that we photographers see or want to see that others don't care to?  Let's see that in this article and along with that I'm also gonna answer few a question or two which I'm asked by people concerning my photography.

Photographs are formed at various junctures - many a times it's formed in the brain when I see the subject, at times it's formed only when I see the subject through the viewfinder (especially macro shots), sometimes, sad but true, they are made only after tweaking around adjustment knobs and controls Aperture (Aperture 3 Upgrade) or Photoshop (Adobe Photoshop CS5).  Obviously the most important of the three is when the photograph is formed in the mind, that's when I actually SEE the subject and click.  The word SEE here needs elaboration here.

When I say SEE, that's when I mean I analyse the subject for highlights and shadows, for repetitive patterns and textures, for colour contrast, for reflections, for uniform background, for the right moment, for the right expression, for lines, curves and angles and what not.  Probably this is where the perception as a photographer differs from what others see.  It's not just the analysis that goes in but also many rules of photography like - rule of thirds (off-centering the subject to either of the thirds), arrangement of subjects to avoid unnecessary mergers, symmetry and balancing, framing the subject with a natural frame if available and elimination of unnecessary things.  Not just all this, the photographer has to worry about the technicalities of the photograph too - shutter speed, aperture, ISO, flash, white balance etc.

The more you get into photography the more your mind tries to SEE things in everything.  Recently I was telling a friend of mine that earlier I used to see mountain as a mountain and river as a river, but of late, a mountain would mean its colour, its texture, its elements, the sky in the background and a river would mean a reflection or the meandering curves or the smooth texture.  This way your brain gets seasoned to analyse whatever it sees.  The flip side of this is it's hard to see things the way they are. I tend to find the aforementioned patterns or colours or whatever in every damn thing I see and this way I feel helpless and handicapped without a camera slung around my neck.

And most people ask me if I edit my photographs?  What is the extent of changes that a photograph undergoes before it gets published?  The first question has a definite answer: Yes every single photograph that gets published undergoes editing, while the answer to the second question is not a precise one.  The extent of editing largely depends on each photograph, some end up with few crop and contrast changes, while other would need filtered B-and-W, curve variation, white balance correction,  spot-and-patch, dodging and burning, saturation and vignetting et al.  To distribute the formation of a photograph, I can say 80% of the image is formed in my mind, 20% after post processing.

The extent of editing may greatly vary from one photographer to another.  The ones into typical Indian wedding photography do lot of creation in Photoshop, they'll take you to the snow capped mountains of Switzerland to lush green pastures of Scottish highlands to Italian cafe alleys in a flip of a page.  Also the ad-agency guys do whole lotta creation with the photographs.  So if you ask me questions like if I place the butterfly on the flower or a camel in the desert when it comes to my photographs, my answer is a capitalized, bold NO.  I just adjust whatever is there in the image, I seldom bring in (create) new objects in the frame, though I may eliminate certain things by cropping them.  I must confess I suck at creation.

With all the ability to adjust the settings in a jiffy & being able to see the various aspects of the subject in terms of light & angles a bit of photographer's luck is most needed, especially if for street, bird or children photography, where things are not under our control and very elusive. So if the photographer has got one drop-dead-gorgeous photograph of fish in the kingfisher's beak, lets attribute 99% of the credits to his ability but it would be highly unkind of him if he doesn't feel 1% lucky in getting that shot...atleast for being in the right place at the right time.

And for those few who are interested what equipment/software do I own/use, it's this:
Canon 20D
100/2.8 Macro
MacBook Pro
Aperture 3.0
Adobe Photoshop CS5
Photomatix Pro for HDRs

After being so wordy, it would be very unethical of me not to demonstrate my  boring discourse with a couple of photographs:

Before editing
After editing


Lines and Angles
Colours and Patterns


Rule of thirds

Colours and Patterns

Texture and reflection

Uniform background and Textures

After editing

Before editing


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