Please note that there will not be a meeting at the club next week instead we are away at Backwell for a club camera battle. Said battle commences at 19:30 hours come along and support the club. Details are as per Gerry’s flyer here>>> Backwell Battle.
We were fortunate to have to the WCPF travelling exhibition again with us at the last club meeting, these prints were the ones that didn’t make it to the final cut. It was, as ever, as instructive as it was occasionally puzzling. We also had gold silver and bronze award prints to compare these to and there was much lively discussion about the relative merits. As has been said before, beyond the basic and accepted technicalities of the exposure triangle, focus, composition and subject and competition specific rules lies the more fraught ideas of what makes a good subject and a good image. What follows are some reflections from comments made and brief discussions had on the evening.
There were a couple of things that stood out quite strongly in the negative camp: one was to do with the style of mounting and the other was the overuse of the clarity slider in post production.
Let’s take the mounting issues first. Nothing says that the print has to be bang in the middle with an even border all the way around in order for a printer to be properly presented. Indeed variation can really bring a print to life. There were, and not just in this correspondent’s view, a number of prints that used letterboxing but set them in the top third of the frame in portrait giving undue prominence to the thickness of the bottom border. The effect of this was to immediately draw attention to the frame and distract from the picture because of the depth of the bottom part of the mount. Never in human history has the utterance “Nice frame” been a compliment. It was a shame that the frames swamp out some rather interesting images which were otherwise of very good, certainly club level, competition standard.
The Golden Ratio again rears its head and is supposed to produce the optimum border calculation (I will save you the maths, 6.05 cms on a 40 x 50 mount, for other sizes I direct your attention to the calculator at the bottom of the link). Nothing, though, says that a border has to be the same all round, it is a question of perspective. Think of the hinges on a door. When properly hung the top and bottom hinges are set at different depths from those extremities because we generally view these things from a standing position and if evenly spaced the perspective looks wrong. The bottom hinge is actually set higher so as to create an illusion of even spacing. otherwise it looks “wrong”. The frame of a print can be a powerful statement, but shouldn’t be so powerful as to overwhelm the statement the image itself is supposed to be making.
The clarity slider is a great way to boost mid-tones, or cut them back. It is an invaluable tool. Like everything else it can be overdone. There were a couple of black and white images that had the grit in the mid-tone turned up to eleven. Clarity works by increasing contrast but with a bigger effect on both the highlights and the shadows, essentially pulling out the histogram from the centre. Texture is more refined and certainly there is a case for a higher input when it is in need of a boost, and it does seem to work more effectively in black and white. Move the slider to the left then it has a softening effect (often the chief culprit in the charges of unrealistic portraiture or death by post-production). It’s not just clarity that can be overdone of course, saturation can become garish with very little input in the right (if that is the correct word) circumstances. Vibrance is the smarter sibling of saturation. It will select the dull colours and boost them whilst leaving the vibrant ones alone. It will leave skin tones untouched. Taken as a trio these are very powerful tools but need to be handled with care.
For all that these things are a matter of taste and therefore personal. Judging – and these were the entries that just fell short in the judges view – is as subject to fashion as anything else. HDR, partial colour remain controversial, not least because they are difficult to do subtly. That said, how dull would it be if every photograph was conducted purely to competition standard? I, for one, am glad of the variation.