Strong Colours, Simple Composition

February 10, 2016  •  Leave a Comment


Young Monk Studying, Chimi Lhakhang, Bhutan. 
Nikon D800E with 200mm f2.0 lens, 1/200 second @ f2.0, ISO 5000

Where does your eye go? I guess I can't answer this for everyone, but my eye is initially drawn to the strong crimsons of the young monk's robes. Since there is nothing particularly light in the photograph and the background is so dark, the mid-tones of the highly coloured robe glow in the image. The dominate. I have used a little extra contrast (using a curves adjustment layer) to enhance the three-dimensionality (a little like using the clarity slider in Lightroom, ACR or Capture One).

As the eye moves around the frame, the lightest part (which is where the eye is naturally drawn) is the monk's face and this is also where the story lies. This is the main centre of interest. If you follow the line of the monk's gaze, you reach the scriptures he is studying, a secondary centre of interest, and the two are joined by his hands. These three compositional elements - face, hands, book - are lighter in tone and less saturated in colour, standing apart from the robes and the background. They grab the viewer's attention both tonally, as well as telling a story. When you post-produce your images, you want to do it in a way that makes sense - so that your photography compliments your subject.

Finally, as we look further around the image and into the shadows, we discover the reason for the young monk being to one side of the frame. To his left (camera right) an older monk looks on, providing help and instruction if and when it is required. Note, we don't need the whole of the older monk's head and body to tell the story. In fact, cropping in tightly with the 200mm lens concentrates our attention on the main story, like the monk is concentrating on his scriptures.

Post-production for photography is partly a matter of skill and technique, but more importantly it is applying it appropriately so that it enhances the story or the emotion you're conveying. And your technique should be invisible - invisible Photoshop.

If you're interested in a photography workshop later this year, I have trips going to Karijini, Kununurra, the Daintree, Arnhemland, Whitsundays, New Zealand, Bhutan and, with a bit of luck, Patagonia and the Atacama Desert in Chile as well. Full details on the Better Photography website - but please book soon!


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