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This article was written by the New York Institute of Photography, America’s oldest and largest photography school. NYI provides professional-level training via home study for photographers who want to give their images a professional look, and perhaps earn extra income with their camera.
PAINT A SUNSET
We're glad to note that NYI Student Advisor Richard Martin has graciously provided us with his analysis of a provocative student photograph. Students who have the good fortune to work with Richard know that he has a keen eye and knows how to get to the bottom of what works in a photograph, and how subtle changes can affect the image's meaning.
This simple Three-Step Method is the secret of every successful photograph ever taken. We teach our students to consider these three steps every time they look into the viewfinder. To consider them before they press the shutter button.
The first word that popped into
my head upon viewing this image from NYI Student Erin Paul
Donovan was "wow". The second word was "Photoshop". It would
be easy enough to layer the silhouette of the artist and "canvas
frame" into the photo. But was it done that way? Viewing the
image in Photoshop 7 and adjusting the levels, I detected what
appeared to be indentations in the sand where the frame's legs
stood. Also, the perspective distortion evident in the "canvas
frame" suggests that this was not just a rectangle inserted
into the image via Photoshop. The side of the frame closest
to the camera is slightly longer than the opposite one, a common
result when photographing structures from such a vantage point
with most cameras. Of course, that effect could be created
in Photoshop in order to present a geometry we are accustomed
to seeing in photos. But perhaps the photographer, Erin Paul
Donovan, constructed a simple plywood frame and positioned
it in front of the sunset scene along with the artist and his
brushes. Viewed normally, however, these elements appear as
a stark silhouette, making it difficult to determine how the
photo was actually put together. Photoshop or plywood? What
do you think?
Speaking of words popping into one's head, some viewers might
suggest another one for this image – kitsch. The American
Heritage Dictionary defines kitsch as "art or artwork marked
by sentimental, often pretentious bad taste" and I must
confess that I can see it that way too. But I like this
photo. I think it is a work by someone who thinks about
their images. Thought and creativity are very important
to making (as distinguished from simply "taking") photos.
Also, it manifests a kind of "minimalist" vision that appeals
to me personally. Nothing "busy" about this composition.
It's stark and simple and that contributes to its impact.
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