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Problem picture #14

What's wrong with this picture?


This picture has very little to recommend it, other than to demonstrate common problems we all face.
This picture has very little to recommend it, other than to demonstrate common problems we all face.

This picture has a number of deficiencies, but it primarily illustrates three common problems that show up in the images of beginning photographers:

(1) Poor positioning of the subject for the ambient lighting,
(2) Centering the subject's head in the middle of the frame, as if it was a bull-eye in a target, and
(3) Placing the subject too close to the window column behind him.

If the photographer had moved in close enough to the subject to fill the frame, and positioned the subject so his head didn't occupy center stage, the image would have begun to improve, as shown below by cropping the image.

Moving in to fill the frame would have solved one problem, but would still leave the problem of proper exposure for the window light, and an unsightly column in the background.
Moving in to fill the frame would have solved one problem, but would still leave the problem of proper exposure for the window light, and an unsightly column in the background.

The column behind the subject adds nothing except distraction to the picture. If the photographer had posed the young man so that the column was not visible in the picture, it would have improved the composition.

The photographer must have been thinking that he or she would have had adequate light on the subject by placing him so that some exterior light would fall on him. Nothing wrong with that. Good thinking, in fact. Natural light is great. But, he or she didn't ensure that the light would strike the subject on the side that was being photographed, not the subject's back. If the photographer had stood more to one side while the subject looked out the window, the picture would have been much better illuminated.

The photographer could also have metered for the light illuminating the camera side of the subject to correct for the darkness on that side, but the background would have been even more overexposed than it already is, and would probably have become washed out. That would have been all right if the photographer had moved in close, as shown in the cropped picture above, because the background would have been less important to the picture.

The picture below, taken in Costa Rica, provides an example of this effect, where proper exposure for the light falling on the model overexposes and washes out the tropical background. In this shot, that is all right, because the model more clearly stands out against the bleached-out background, emphasizing that she is the center of attention.

Proper exposure of the subject caused this bright background to be overexposed.
Proper exposure of the subject caused this bright background to be overexposed.

Alternately, the photographer could have used fill flash or a reflector to illuminate the subject's shadow side, facing the camera.

Fill-flash provided the illumination for this picture.
Fill-flash provided the illumination for this picture.

It's important to be aware of the effect of surroundings on your pictures. Bright back-lighting and an unnecessary column detract from your images.

Move in close; keep compositions simple; make sure your subject is adequately illuminated, and that you take a proper exposure reading.

 
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