Sunday, September 18, 2011

There Once Was a Girl and Some Ducks...A Post Production Journey

I was at Descanso Gardens in Los Angeles a few months ago and had the opportunity to capture an image that was full of anticipation.  The scene developed rather quickly as a young girl hesitantly approached a group of ducks nestled on the ground next to a pond.

Barely having time to take up position and adjust the camera, I captured the moment just before she started to pet the closest duck.  This moment was full of excitement and tension and I couldn’t wait to get back and see the image on a larger screen.

In post production, one thing that I noticed that was dominating the image was the bright blue of the young girls dress.  This seemed like one of those times when a color image works against you because of color distraction, and so I decided to convert the image to black and white.

I liked what black and white did, but was never completely satisfied with the result.   I liked the image enough that I shared it with friends and with my local photography club.  The reaction was consistent…nobody liked the image.  The ducks were completely lost in the background.

So I went back to the drawing board.  I started with the full-color image, de-saturated the dress and worked more on the lighting and contrast of the ducks.  I was pretty happy and ran the result past those same friends of mine who had seen the black and white version.  Reaction was all favorable, but interestingly enough, another consistent response came out—the girl’s leg was now a distraction, and a tighter crop was recommended.  This response came from two friends who don’t know each other and live in different cities—I found their common observation interesting.  I didn’t see the leg as a problem, and in fact thought that its position helped convey the tentative approach the young girl was making.  I did see how the high contrast between her leg and the surrounding would draw the eye’s attention so I thought I’d try out their suggestion.

So, my final edit was the tighter crop, and you know what?  I like it, but I also like every other version of the image.  I think it was a strong image to begin with, and a stronger image with each post production improvement. 

My journey helped reinforce two points…1)  starting with a strong image IN CAMERA is really important, and 2)  don’t be afraid to get the opinions of your friends and be open to trying their suggestions.

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(metadata 1/180 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 320, focal length 105mm)

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