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Problem picture #6

What's wrong with this picture?


This image, taken to promote the superb cuisine and ocean view available at Pebbles Restaurant in the Driftwood Inn on Canada's lovely Sunshine Coast, illustrates a prime mistake that is commonly made by photographers at all levels. It is one that is sometimes not apparent until you actually see the final image. Can you see what it is?

Reflection of the flash.

The studio flash unit and umbrella reflector can be seen reflected in the dining room window behind the model.

The flash unit and umbrella reflector are shown by the green arrow.
The flash unit and umbrella reflector are shown by the green arrow.

When your subject is in front of a window, mirror or any reflective surface, and you're using electronic flash, you run the risk of the flash being seen in the picture. And that's a no-no. Photographers using studio flash units with modeling lights* will usually catch the problem right away, because the modeling lights, which are normally always on, will appear as reflections. But, if they're turned off or just not there at all, this kind of picture problem can result.

*Note: You may not know what a modeling light is. You could look up its definition in our comprehensive glossary, but we'll save you the trouble. A modeling light is a tungsten light built into a studio flash that remains on while the flash is in standby mode, permitting the photographer to assess highlight and shadow areas that will be created when subsequently exposing the film or the digital sensor in the brighter light of the flash. The modeling light also provides enough light to permit focusing.

More than one problem

There is more than one problem here, though. A second, less-noticeable flaw with this photograph is caused by a window reflection.

The model's shirt can be seen reflected in the window.
The model's shirt can be seen reflected in the window.

You will notice that the model's white shirt can be seen reflected in the glass behind her, on her left. The photographer could have solved this problem by choosing a different camera angle that placed the shirt's reflection directly behind the model, or by asking the model to move slightly to her left so it wouldn't be seen in the picture. Of course, the problem can also be handled in the digital darkroom afterwards, but you are best advised to take photographs that don't need to be corrected afterwards.

And that's not all

Have a look at the top of the picture, where there is a dark band running at an angle into the image. That is the window frame.

The window frame could have been eliminated for a clean background.
The window frame could have been eliminated for a clean background.

The picture would have been better without the window frame's presence. It's not a huge error, but it is a distracting influence.

One more flaw

We feel like we're beating this one to death. But, you must be highly critical when you are viewing your pictures, and look at all the potential problem areas. When you eliminate them, you will be amazed at the difference, and will be proud to display a photograph that will pass the most severe scrutiny.

The last error is possibly the most common problem that many photographers overlook - keeping the horizon level. It is not level in this photograph, and few professionals would allow it. You shouldn't either.

The original (left) is not level. The image on the right has been corrected.
The original (left) is not level. The image on the right has been corrected.

All of these flaws can be corrected digitally using a program like Adobe PhotoShop. But the task can be time-consuming, and should really not be necessary. You are always better off to correct image problems before taking the picture.

Click here or on the link at the bottom of the page for Problem picture #7.

 
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