David Osborn Photography, London, England

Part 3: Behind The Photograph: Tower Bridge, London

Improving Your Landscape Photography At The Fundamental Level.

David Osborn Photography, London, England

Part 3: Behind The Photograph: Tower Bridge, London

Cleaning And Compositing

The Image Too Date After Cleaning And Compositing

Part 3: Cleaning And Compositing The Assets

The original plan was for an artistic architectural photograph of Tower Bridge and ‘The Shard.’ Finding such great characters at the classic car show changed everything. I knew when I found the character with goggles that he would have to be in this position in the composition, up close and large, even if it raised new questions about who is now the main hero of the picture; we can have only one. The first job was to compose all the elements, paying careful attention that each one has room to breathe, their outlines kept clean in relation to their backgrounds. This raised one major problem. If I had known about the character with the goggles when I photographed the background, I would have given more background on the left. As it was, I did not have enough room on the left of the picture to fit the man comfortably, which I explain below. I was also very conscious that I must create a story to make the picture work and yet I am trying to make a story ‘after the event;’ trying to make a story from the elements I have. Elements that have no logical connection to make a story. The opposite approach to what I teach you, oops! ‘The primary goal for this stage of creating the image is to create one perfect image as if it were taken as one frame in the camera. Perfect and convincing without any Photoshop artifacts. Next, clean the image so it has every distracting detail removed. The result should look very clean, easy to read, slightly flat, and full of information in every part of the image. We then work through all ‘The Artistic Principles’ to create the final image.

The Work Process Involved

The Canvas Resized  And Recomposed

Canvas Resized. The canvas was recomposed to keep a Nikon 2:3 format, as if turning the camera more to the left, cropping off the distracting tree on the right. The man is positioned so he feels comfortable in the composition as an overall design with a nice clean outline. Notice how the direction of light on the man fits perfectly with the light on Tower Bridge; he looks convincing as if photographed on the day.  The problem was my lack of content now on the left to fill the frame. The solution was to take the building, wall, and foreground pavement hidden behind the man and move them to the left. The sky is painted in from other existing exposures. Finally, the background image, but not the man, was stretched a little vertically to make Tower Bridge slightly elongated and have a more elegant feel. The foreground walkway is a beautiful, clean stage ready to add the supporting cast; the car group.

The Main Areas To Be Cleaned

Remove Distracting Content. As a viewer, we’ll ‘read’ every part of the image and that takes time. Time is what the viewer will not give you much of; so we must be very efficient with what time your viewer does give you. We don’t want to waste their time looking at details that do not benefit the story. We must remove the noise from the signal so the remaining signal is pure. Ideally, everything in the picture adds to the story and there is nothing that distracts from the story. The main areas to clean were replacing the buildings below ‘The Shard’ with the new image taken to remove the gantry, removing the security camera and ugly brick ‘box’ below it. Remove the buildings to the left of ‘The Shard’, the black stain on the wall of Tower Bridge, and the electric cable that runs across the picture from the street light. The beauty of Photoshop is that this can be done with precision whereas Lightroom does not have the tools sophisticated enough to do the job well. The result is a very clean ‘stage’ to add the supporting cast onto.

The Car Story And Chracters

The Car Group. The first decision to solve was the car, to find a suitable car which did not dominate the scene and importantly, fitted correctly from a perspective point of view; that it looked totally natural, that it could have been taken in the original photograph. That done and after very careful masking and making the shadows on the ground, the decision turned to the people within the limitation of what people I had available to use. There needed to be a logical underlying storyline implied. The storyline I came up with was that something just out of frame, picture left, has taken their attention. The driver, the man with goggles is going over to investigate, meanwhile his passengers look on. The key is having expressions that look genuine to the scenario and momentary body language to give the picture a feeling of tension in all three characters, all focused together on one point in the picture. What the event is, is not explained, I leave that up to your imagination. Indeed, why the event is happening; a classic car, people in vintage clothing by Tower Bridge is a total mystery. We’ll keep that just between you and me though huh!

Refining A Moody Sky

A Refined Sky. Most of the sky is the original sky taken on the day of the shoot with a few refinements. The sky is more complicated than at first glance. I needed the sky to be brighter on the left as this is where the light source is, but I also need the sky to transition gently towards being very dark as a background contrast for the light on Tower Bridge. Being greedy, I also wanted to keep my lucky reflection of the sun on ‘The Shard,’ which meant a very short transition back to being a clear sky without clouds. I also used the line of the clouds to draw the eye from the right of the picture, back towards Tower Bridge. The bright clouds on the right, indicate a change in the weather, like the passing of a storm. All these criteria being stated, the final solution must again, look totally natural and convincing. The final details are the curve of the three birds that direct your eye towards ‘The Shard’ and finally the bright red London bus as the central, eye-catching detail that grabs your eye, cleanly positioned crossing Tower Bridge.

The Actionable Takeaway

Everyone must have their own ethical limits as to what is acceptable to add and remove from any photograph, I have them. My criteria are: ‘if I had all the time and money that I needed, could I have captured the picture I’m creating in one frame, in the camera.’ Secondly, if the details are ugly and irrelevant details, I’m happy to remove them. I will not, however, remove an element or detail that is part of the original building as it was when it was built. However, we are not creating a documentary photograph, we are creating a visually interesting image. The perfect scenario is creating a visually interesting image that has a perfectly logical storyline. If we can’t have both, we must choose the visually interesting first, because we are working in a visual medium. As photographers, we need to start out creating the picture with a clear idea behind that photograph. However, it is also the element of not knowing exactly how that photograph will turn out, that makes the creative process so engaging and interesting, enjoyable. If we just mechanically turned our idea at the camera into print, knowing exactly how the final picture would look, it would be a boring and uncreative journey to the final picture. This image would be impossible to create in Lightroom because Lightroom does not allow for compositing and major object removal, restrained to a very basic form of layers in the new release of Lightroom. Yet compositing is the major way to take control of the image and be creative, making something different while having the precision not to leave compositing artifacts like bad joins. Photoshop is not hard to learn, requiring more time and patience to create the image than great skill and advanced Photoshop knowledge.

Get Notified For The Next Story: Part 4: The Finished Photograph

The final stage is to apply each of the ‘The Artistic Principles’ and artistically transform this technical foundation into a beautiful artistic statement. We need to create the light, mood, drama, and atmosphere. How to convey the story through the mood and create an air of tension and mystery that triggers the viewers imagination. At the moment everything is too easily ‘readable.’

“I teach the complete photography workflow from concept to print.

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