BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Sandra D. Lane
 

What is Wrong With This Photo?


 
  Vacancy
Vacancy
Kodak cx4230 w/flash taken in early evening.
© Sandra D. Lane
 
 
Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this photo? I know thre is something, but I think I am just too new at this to figure it out. Thanks!


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11/7/2002 2:58:29 AM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   2 things that jump out at me.

1. The light is very flat. It looks like you used an on camera or built in flash. My first recommendation would be to use the existing light when possible. If you must use flash then get the flash off the camera and off to one side. Beyond that, it usually helps to increase the size of your flash relative to the subject by bouncing it somehow.

2. Your main subject is very centered. Try not to center your subjects so much.


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11/7/2002 1:03:26 PM

 
Sandra D. Lane   Ok. I can see that now, and yes I did use a built-in flash. The whole thing looks flat! Thanks Jeff. You mentioned 'bouncing' flash... How is that done? Do you mean by bouncing it off mirrors or something? Since I took this in the evening, albeit early, extra light was needed. Does it need to be 'flash', or can I just use extra man made light?

Incidently, I am a night person. Anyone with ANY info on how to take good night pictures would be greatly appreciated!


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11/7/2002 1:50:11 PM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   If you use a tripod you won't need a flash when the light gets low. Food for thought.

To bounce the flash you need a flash other than your built in flash. There are many attachments to bounce the flash into. I suggest going to the bookstore and looking for books on artificial lighting and composition.


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11/7/2002 3:55:18 PM

 
Sandra D. Lane   OK. Thanks a bunch. Will do!


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11/7/2002 5:19:05 PM

 
lou estes   I agree with Jeff's suggestions and might have a couple also. First I would suggest purchasing a flash that swivels not only side to side but also up and down. Then with the flash turned slightly to the left and angled up and getting closer to your subject take the picture. You might also try reflecting the flash off of a piece of white poster board. This would reflect off of the poster board back onto your subject. As far as for taking night pictures you would definately need a tripod and cable release and use very slow shutter speeds. I am talking settings such as 1/15 or slower posssibly even bulb setting from one minute to thirty minutes or longer depending on what you are photographying. Hope this has helped and experiment with different settings and write them down so that you know which setting worked. I still do this and always will.
J Lucius Estes
Lou's Freelance Photography
Westport, WA


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11/27/2002 12:29:12 PM

 
VAL ROYAL   Crop out some of the excess. Also, taking the photo from another angle will give you a new view, maybe more exciting.


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11/27/2002 3:05:37 PM

 
Mary E. Hamel   Hi, Sandra -- There are a lot of books and info on the internet about night photography. One internet site that I absolutely love is Troy Paiva's "Lost America" - he shoots under the light of a full moon. Check out www.lostamerica.com for some inspirational photographs! He also tells you how to do it yourself. Have fun!


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11/27/2002 5:39:33 PM

 
Brenda    Hi Sandra. I think maybe it doesn't look right because the "birds" are missing... it is an awfully quiet feeder. Pretty though...


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11/27/2002 11:09:09 PM

 
Sandra D. Lane   Thanks a bunch guys! Sorry it took me so long to get back to your suggestions. I have been away from the computer for awhile. Mary, I am going to check out that site right now. Sounds like something right up my alley. Brenda, :-), I realized that about the "lack of birds" just a little too late. Birds would indeed have given a little more life to the photo. Thanks again everyone.


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12/4/2002 8:35:01 PM

 
Heather Petersen   I agree with most of the answers. I think giving life to the photo would definately be more interesting. Also, the idea of the white poster board works. I use that technique a lot as well. I also would like to suggest using black and white film and maybe handcoloring the piece, it seems to add more authenticity and as I like to say "spice" to the photo. Try to off center it or use a different lens, I believe it's the 64mm, that allows you to get in really close so you can capture detail and maybe a bird with grace. It's appearance during your shoot and you'll get a ghostly remnant of it's wings in the photo as well. Good Luck!


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12/6/2002 3:10:59 AM

 
Sandra D. Lane   Thank you Heather for the advice. I have a lot of work to do! :-)


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12/6/2002 3:46:01 AM

 
Robert    I am going to be very critical of the previous answers.
But I want suggestions or corrections from others where applicable.
I am a "beginner", and I throw that out there only for the following purpose...
Frankly, I consider myself pretty on top of things. I am still amazed that confidence breeds contempt in this world. It is Ironic. But that would mean we need to branch into psychology... so let's stick to photography.
Jeff K was right in the analysis of "why your shot sucked", concerning technical aspects. Or some technical aspects. I love the fact that Jeff is able to give advice that is pure and simple without further verbal qualification, where I am not able to do so... Jeff is a perfect example of "perfect answer, on a simple basis".

"If you use a tripod you won't need a flash when the light gets low. Food for thought.""
Not true. That is too broad a statement to be true.

"To bounce the flash you need a flash other than your built in flash."

No- not true... you can bounce the flash that is built into your camera system. You simply need skill, and a bounce SURFACE for the light.

I like, of all the offers of advice, Heather's advice.
Why?
Your shot is not particularly interesting. You have opted for a shot that also is very contradicting:


1. New wood, uniform wood grain that is milled, bird feeder full of seed, plexisglass,- in contrast to---
2. Old wood, random wood grain that is BARK and weathered, Deep Moss (that really makes the uniform milled wood look BAD!)...

Bottom line, my dear???
You have no clue what makes a good picture, yet...
I would have never even thought of taking the pic of the birdhouse... regardless of ANYTHING... even chicks on the damn thing.

Bottom line? Why did the pic not work?
It was NOT a pic that deserved to be put on film...
Work on it...
Work on it...
it is the eye that makes the shot...


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8/11/2003 2:16:40 AM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   ("If you use a tripod you won't need a flash when the light gets low. Food for thought.""
Not true. That is too broad a statement to be true.) - Explain how that is not true. Granted you may have times where a flash will be necessary but using a tripod opens up opportunities for shooting in low light. It may be a broad statement and there are obvious exceptions but it is true.

("To bounce the flash you need a flash other than your built in flash."

No- not true... you can bounce the flash that is built into your camera system. You simply need skill, and a bounce SURFACE for the light) - I suppose in theory you can bounce the light from a built in flash. However, it's not practical in the real world. Built in flashes are typically too weak to effectively bounce. You will usually lose a couple of stops of light when bouncing and that's going to be too much for the small built in flash. Then there's the problem of aiming a built in flash. The point straight ahead which makes bouncing them in a useful direction somewhat difficult.

(Bottom line? Why did the pic not work?
It was NOT a pic that deserved to be put on film...) - It is a big mistake for anyone to proclaim what should or should not be committed to film. Photography is, among other things, art. Don't ever let anyone tell you what you should or should not take pictures of. And try to not let your preconceived notions of what a photograph is inhibit your choice of subjects.


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8/11/2003 10:47:33 AM

 
Angela K. Wittmer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2003
  I understand that the idea of this forum is to give suggestions for improving photographs, but I think, Robert, that telling someone that a object is not worthy of film is incorrect. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and every photograph is beautiful. Please take photos of what you enjoy Sandra!!


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8/11/2003 2:13:36 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Well the origianl question was asked last year, but I'll add in anyway, and try to be to the point without anything sounding snobby hopefully.
Flatness of photo-yes on camera flash does that. Using available light would have been better.

About the photo not working-depends on what you wanted to express. You titled it vacancy, but the angle shows the part with the bird seed. You don't see inside the house. That's what I thought of first.
Using a tripod and not needing flash-yes sometimes just a tripod won't work, if the subject you shoot moves. With slow shutter speed & tripod, if the wind made the birdhouse move, it could have been blurry still.
Bouncing flash-yes you can bounce on camera flash. I'll try to explain clearly. You take a picture of your friend directly in front of you. Light from on camera flash spreads out about will say 50degrees to either side of friend. You can put something reflective to side of friend to bounce that light back in friends direction, maybe causing some hight lights, or adding some definition reducing flatness.
Angie is right, take pictures of whatever you want. Some work, some don't. You experiment, you explore, you get better.


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11/16/2003 1:03:20 AM

 
Patrick J. Whalen   Hi Sandra, I was just looking at the Q&A section of this site,this comment is on your photo vacancy: I agree with all of the advice from everyone except for Robert. Perhaps Robert should actually go back and read the Entire statement about you question, especially the part about you being NEW at this.If Robert reads this perhaps he would be willing to post some of his very first photos that he ever took so people could see and comment on them as well. My advice to you Sandra, is to keep shooting and never give up. Pat


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1/26/2004 8:13:27 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  yes, you run into a lot of divas. Srew 'em and keep taking pictures.


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1/26/2004 12:56:38 PM

 
Wing Wong
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2004
  Hi Sandra,

(wow, this is one talked about pic!)

Cons: kinda bland, centered bird feeder, flash washed out some of the colors, the lichen/moss on the tree bark kinda dominates the color of the picture.

Pros: The tree makes for good framing, the birdfeeder is indeed vacant. :)

Thoughts: (should you venture to take this picture from a different vantage...)

Maybe move the frame to the right and up a bit so that the tree still frames, but the birdfeeder is then in the bottom left 1/3 corner of the image. Guessing that will give you more sky.

A trick to soften up the on-camera flash is to put some wax paper in front of the pop-up flash or some vellum. :)

Another possibility, as someone else suggested, was to perhaps use a tripod and give the image a longer exposure without using flash. Dunno how much that would have helped in this image, though.

But good luck and hope to see more of your pics!


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2/10/2004 5:31:01 PM

 
Nick Milton
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/25/2003
  sandra,

just keep taking pics,if we give everyone encouragement but constructive
critism we will all keep improving.

as far as the pic goes(hold on im gonna study it)im back,well I have to say,is your question a trick question,because it has an appaearance of the bird house being "added" into an existing pic???

maybe 2 seperate pics merged???

thats my feeling,very creative if it is.

fooled a few people.

keep going.i like it anyway.

nickmiltonphoto.


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2/19/2004 2:33:59 AM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   "A trick to soften up the on-camera flash is to put some wax paper in front of the pop-up flash or some vellum." - I see this suggestion all the time. It doesn't work that way. You don't soften light by shining it through diffuse material. Light is softened by making the light source larger relative to the subject. If you were to place a big piece of wax paper a couple feet in front of your flash then it would make the light softer. Putting wax paper or tissue on your flash only cuts the amount of light the flash puts out not the quality of it.


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2/19/2004 9:54:03 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  This question keeps hanging around. But it does soften a little bit, but it only works for a subject that is about 2-3 ft in front of you. After that you are just shooting with a weaker flash. The way people advise to use it dosen't work.


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2/19/2004 11:26:47 AM

 
Wing Wong
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2004
  I have a setup where I take a 24"x24" piece of vellum about 1-2' in front of the flash or light source. The light striking the vellum essentially turns a 6" diameter light source into a softer 24"x24" light surface. So using a diffusing material like wax paper or vellum DOES create a larger light source/surface in relation to the object being photographed/illuminated.

The amount of softening you will receive is dependant on a few factors:
- how much light is coming off of the source
- how thick and how much distance between the light and the vellum/wax paper.

Don't get me wrong, vellum and wax paper is no substitute for a good diffuse light source. My suggestion was not meant to imply that. Only that it was a tip which would be a quick and easy to try out.

"on-flash" type diffusers basically convert the rather harsh focused light of a flash unit(those which have a low-frequency fresnel lens) into a softer illlumination source. The stronger the light source, the less light diffusion happens. But this isn't the kind of thing I was suggesting in my original post.

The idea works because it is the basic idea behind a soft light box source. Just lower tech and with less than optimal equipment. A retail/pro unit would also have aluminum reflectors on the inside to make more use of the light so you get less light loss.


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2/19/2004 12:12:30 PM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   Wing, I think we're on the same page here. I was just trying to make the point that it's not the diffusion material that softens the light so much as it is the size of the source. Too often I see people suggest simply putting a piece of tissue over the flash as a means to soften the light. It just doesn't work that way. The idea is to do as you suggest. Put the diffusion material away from the flash and create a larger light source in that manner.


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2/19/2004 12:18:37 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  But most people say to try putting something directly over the flash, and that barely does anything.


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2/19/2004 12:20:18 PM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   That's what I'm saying Gregory. Putting something directly on the flash does nothing to increase the size of the light. Consequently no softening takes place.


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2/19/2004 12:23:23 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  I know, we just answered at the same time.


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2/19/2004 12:25:33 PM

 
Jeff S. Kennedy   LOL!!! And here I just thought you were a little thick. ;-)))


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2/19/2004 2:17:07 PM

 
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