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Why and How: Finalizing the Creation of Artistic Photographs – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Landscape in black and white of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Landscape in black and white of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Do Not Hesitate to Frame Your Works

The third phase for the preparation of a photo exhibition concerns the choice of frames. A frame is not needed to showcase a work. For an exhibition at a festival that lasts only a few days, it is not worth the expense to frame. In addition, an exhibition at a festival generates few sales, if any. Most visitors come to walk around and appreciate the photos but are not interested in buying them. Thus, there is no need to spend money on framing because the return on investment is almost zero for most exhibitors.

However, for an exhibition in a gallery, it is essential to frame your works correctly. The frame is like a case that surrounds a sparkling jewel. It highlights the artwork, increasing its appeal and value.

I attach great importance to the framing of my photographic artworks. A poorly chosen frame will not interest or attract anyone to the photo within. Thus, it will not sell.

Choosing a beautiful frame requires experience. You must consider the tones of the photograph. If you exhibit a series, all of your photos should share the same tones. Indeed, all frames should be identical, to ensure consistency.

If you do not possess skills in the area of framing, it is better to contact a professional framer, who can advise you and help you choose the best frames. For example, the more lightweight a frame, the more expensive it is. Today, wooden frames are very expensive, but they are elegant. Most photographers choose resin frames. They have less character than a wooden frame, but they are cheaper.

The Benefits of Choosing a Large Format

The finalization of a photo can occur through an exhibition, paper prints, a book, or a slide show.

I prefer paper. Because it lasts a long time, I believe that is the best medium for photographs.

For your prints, do not hesitate to think big with a size of at least 24 by 36 inches (60 by 90 centimeters). The viewers will be encouraged to look at your work from a distance. The bigger a work is in size, the more a viewer will take a step back to appreciate it in awe.

A printed work with a small size forces the viewer to get very close. In this case, he will observe the details and forget to look at the work as a whole.

Book: A Potential Option for Finalizing a Series

The creation of a book is a very interesting solution for producing a material work of photographs. Today, many online services allow you to create a book of photos with excellent paper quality. Should you choose to assemble a book, do not hesitate to place a high price on it, for its value has increased.

While a low price guarantees a choice of layout and minimal color management, a high price guarantees an adept management of colors and lights, beautiful binding, and a more personalized work.

Ideally, you should test several services to find the one that suits you best. If you are lucky to have a laboratory located near you, take the opportunity to meet with the technicians because you can better explain your expectations for your book. In general, a book of 24 photos is worth a hundred dollars (a hundred euros) if it is a quality piece.

The first step in creating a book is determining the format: square, rectangular, and the ratio between height and length. This is crucial because the format is the case of the photos in the book.

The second step is the choice of layout. In general, online publishing services offer proprietary software for creating the book. An advantage is that they are simple to use. The disadvantage is a digital book created with one service cannot be exported to be printed with a competing service. For my part, I use specialized software that allows me to generate valid PDF files that are compatible with any publisher.

The third step is choosing the title and fonts that will be used for the text. This is critical. A well-chosen font will attract many viewers because it is an easy and enjoyable read.

Finally, you must choose the cover. A good cover immediately attracts potential readers. Thus, it must be carefully chosen. /p>

Competition: A Potential Option for Finalizing a Series

Participating in a photo contest is another option for finalizing a photo or photo series.

I only consider competitions that require a print on paper and the presentation of a finalized work.

Contests with digitally formatted works may be interesting, but they do not reflect the culmination of a work. For me, a photo only exists as a completed project if it is printed.

As I described in this article, a photographer should be interested in participating in competitions. It is an enhanced way to evaluate your skills among other photographers. Personal growth is achieved through participation in a competition, where the focus is placed more on your abilities as a photographer rather than your photo’s ability to convey messages or express emotions.

Before entering a contest, you must always read the rules to properly meet the selection criteria.

You must make sure of your personal rights when submitting a proposed photograph. Over time, competitions have become a way for many communities to create a stock of photographs at a lower cost. You must preserve your work as your own.

Often you must give your permission to the organization, allowing them to use your photos for an unlimited period. The photos may then be used for advertising. In return, the competitions offer an initial price that is limited to a pubic exhibition. This process can be very profitable for the organizers but not especially for the photographer.

Nevertheless, a competition allows you to show your vision of the world and share your messages with a large number of people. Be sure you choose the right one. Research and estimate if the public will appreciate your artworks at its value. You must decide whether or not your work is suited for a specific competition.

I think that more and more competitions flatter the ego of the participating photographers without really providing the magical touch procured in writing the photographic language.


The finalization of a photographic project is a necessity for you. This is the culmination of a long process that began with the definition of your photographic consciousness, an artistic approach, and then a real project.

Realize that completing a photo project through either an exhibition or a book is a great source of satisfaction that will motivate you to advance in your field. Even though we are artists, we need recognition and motivation to keep moving forward.

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Why and How: Finalizing the creation of artistic photographs – Part 1

Let’s say you have begun working on an exciting new photographic project. You have now established the first installment of an interesting series. Through this work, you have defined and applied your artistic approach.

Perhaps you may want to convey messages, translate emotions, or reveal aesthetic works. Before you can complete these projects, you must finalize your photographic approach. This process occurs through participation in either an exhibition or in a photo contest.

Landscape in black and white of Island in the Sky in Canyon Lands in Utah.
Landscape in black and white of Island in the Sky in Canyon Lands in Utah.

Editing: An Essential Step to Finalize the Writing of a Photographic Series

All the photos you create exist in digital form. You discover them with your photographic conscience. Currently, these photographs are only accessible to you because you are the author.

Now is the time to ask yourself a question: “How can I propose my work to viewers in an effective way so that they might fully understand my message.” The answer to this question lies in the creation of a unique method that makes your work accessible to others.

As a photographic author, you have had many unique creative options to choose from. You created your photographs on the field, taking care to utilize those natural elements available to you. When framing and composing, you meticulously fashioned harmonious pictures in distinct tones, colors, and shapes. You balanced masses and technique with precision.

You certainly created your photographs with great care, thus defining a solid photographic consciousness. You adopted a precise artistic approach by defining your artistic vision and your photographic style. You chose a photo project, and then expanded it to a homogeneous series so that it better reflects all the messages you wished to convey.

Perhaps, you have accomplished all of these things, only to arrive at a crucial stage where you come back from a photographic session, trip, or series. Where should you go next?

You must begin the editing step as I described in this article.

The editing is the reading phase of the photographs. It allows you to thoroughly read each shot, verifying it to see if it corresponds to the artistic approach chosen for a project.

Editing is a lonely stage for you, as it is for all photographers. All the photos were made in the field. You most likely used all the natural elements and tools at your disposal to create your photos. You transmitted messages and reflected your emotions with your camera.

You already downloaded tens or even hundreds of photos from your camera onto your computer, now you must identify the singularity of your artistic approach. You will determine which pictures to include in your series, website, exhibition, or book.

Your series must be consistent. All of your photos should have the same atmosphere. You must find a balance point between the photos to create a harmonious suite to colorfully and eloquently tell a story.

Editing is a phase that will cause you to doubt yourself and your abilities enormously. Thus, you should consider several tracks and choose the most appropriate choice for your artistic path before beginning a project. This phase of questioning is very time consuming, which signifies its importance. Masterful editing will always save you time during the development phase. Indeed, if editing is poorly completed, you will develop a whole set of photos that will not be interesting. Time spent on editing will enable you to proceed more quickly later on. You will be able to spot the inconsistencies of photos that have been edited well and those that are not. You can then choose which ones to include in your series and which ones to leave out.

The editing phase is essential because it determines the photos that you wish to permanently retain in your project.

Editing is the first phase in the photographic writing process of an artistic photo project. It must conform to the photographer's vision. It determines the final direction of your artistic work.

This phase refines the eyes, reinforces the artistic vision, and teaches your mind to think maturely from a photographic perspective. It helps you to decide which photo is most appropriate for a specific project, so that it might bring value and meaning to a photographic series.to reinforce the artistic vision, to learn to think in photography, to mature. It will help to find the most appropriate form and give full value to a photographic series.

Editing has a very precise methodology.

Once your editing is complete, you will begin the development phase. In this article, I explained the reasons for this very important phase, and how it reinforces the photographer’s vision. Once your photos have been developed with your vision, you will print them. I often say that a photograph only exists when it is printed. The digital form is an unfinished form of the work. It is not the end. Printing is a difficult step that requires experience, time, patience, and many other skills. A photo can be printed in many different ways. You must choose that which best suits your needs.

Exhibition: An Alternative Destination for Your Work

For most photographers, the exhibition of photographs is the true destination for an artistic project. Regardless of whether the project was created for a festival or for a gallery, your project deserves to be recognized. It holds a great importance.

Creating a photographic exhibition is quite difficult because you need enough photographs to accurately and masterfully tell a story. Your photographs must be technically perfect. Once it is printed, any defects such as noise, or errors in framing or composition, will be magnified in front of the viewer.

Keep in mind that the crucial phase for an exhibition is the choice of order in which they will be presented. Every story has a beginning, a development in plot, and a conclusion. You must model a similar rhythm when exhibiting so that viewers can be carried through the flow of the story you have chosen. This allows you to share your artistic photographic approach.

Remember, your photos are a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space. Shooting on the field with modeling accounts for the three-dimensional space of reality.

Setting up an exhibition with scenography accentuates the 3D effect that both you and your viewers are looking for.

Choose Your Paper with Care

The second phase is the choice of paper. Few photographers can distinguish when to use a certain kind of paper for specific photos. For example, a work in color should not be printed like an artwork in black and white.

The best solution is to go to a laboratory and establish a relationship with a specialist. Explain your artistic approach, the desired rendering, and the lighting that will be used during the exhibition. The specialist can better assist you when your explanation is detailed. The more exhibitions you participate in, the more experience you will gain in choosing printing papers.

Do Not Hesitate to Frame Your Works

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Why and How Photographing Landscapes in Black and White – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
The Tana waterfall on Blue Nile in Ethiopia is a perfect landscape for black and white photography.
The Tana waterfall on Blue Nile in Ethiopia is a perfect landscape for black and white photography.

Keep Mass Balances in Mind

In a photograph, a mass is an area that is rather dark. We talk about mass because when looking at it, we feel that it weighs heavily in a photo. A mass can, for example, be a rock or a bush of a dark color.

A dark-colored photographic element can lean a photo from one side to the other. This effect can be compared to that of a Roman scale. It is what we call a “mass imbalance”, and in general, we do not find this effect very aesthetic.

Not all dark-colored photographic elements create mass imbalance. Everything depends on their respective volume.

If an element has an important surface in your landscape photography, we say that it occupies a large volume, even if the photo is a two-dimensional media. If it occupies a small surface, we say that it occupies a small volume.

Managing the balance of mass is generally very important in photography, however, for black and white landscape photography, it's absolutely fundamental.

Indeed, as you only have shades of gray, black, and white, if you compose your scene with a big dark mass on the side, the viewer is attracted by this mass and yet feels like the image is chaotic because of the imbalance. The photography will lack harmony.

Balancing masses in the right and left areas of a black and white landscape photograph is not the only thing to keep in mind. We must also be careful to balance the bottom and top of the image.

Choose Your First Plan Carefully

In landscape photography, the foreground gives a scale to the image. When the foreground is sharp, it allows the photographer to establish the beginning of the sharpness area (the depth of field).

If you choose a foreground in a black-and-white photo, make sure it is not too dark. While you may risk creating an imbalance of depth, you may actually create a closer bridge between the viewer and your photography. The viewer cannot go beyond this foreground because you shape his view.

The first plan should be like a step, allowing the viewer to follow wherever your gaze lands. This step must be easy to climb with the eye. It acts as a springboard to other photographic elements in your composition.

In general, the foreground must be in mid-tones, and should occupy little space. Being textured and graphic is a plus because it immediately sets the tone for the photograph and therefore quickly conveys messages.

Examine Your Background

In landscape photography, the purpose of the background is to highlight photographic elements.

To capture a landscape in black and white, you have to be considerate. If your photographic elements are clear, you should choose a rather dark background. If your photographic elements are dark, you must choose a clear background. You must think in terms of contrasts. The more contrasted your picture is, the more attractive it is to a human eye.

Nevertheless, your background should not cause a mass imbalance, or it may interfere with the playback of the photo.

Post Processing Strengthens Initial Perceptions of Your Photo

The development of a black and white landscape is certainly the most important step in the construction of photography.

The development of a black and white photo is not simply about desaturating colors. In this case, you will have a flat photo without volume and without texture. The first step is often desaturation, which is completed through other creative steps.

If you shoot in RAW with your camera, you have the possibility to directly generate a JPEG photo that will be in black and white. This function should only be used for testing. Blacks and whites are generally unflattering and rather flat compared to a black and white post processed photo developed with a computer. This feature available on many cameras allows you to establish a general idea of the photo, but it cannot be used to acquire a paper print.

I always recommend shooting in RAW to create a photo in black and white because you will be able to adjust the white balance and the exposure. The white balance allows you to adjust many features. For example, it can accent blue or green, both of which are two interesting colors in black and white.

Adjusting the exposure allows you to control the contrast.

Developing a photograph of black and white landscapes is simple and complicated at the same time. This sentence may seem paradoxical, but it reflects the truth.

If you have made an excellent high-contrast photo with photographic elements that have textures and graphics, you can use a specialized black and white software that allows you to choose a predefined template. With some simple adjustments, you will have an excellent photo ready to be printed on paper.

If the scene you chose was a little complex, or if you overwhelmed the image with heavy blacks or extremely bright whites, selective zone development is required. In this case, the use of photoshop is essential. You will need to use the merge masks and adjustment layers to control each area or zone.

Regardless of the method you choose, the general idea of black and white development is to accentuate the properties of photographic elements.

In the first place, you will accentuate the details of the textures. Then you will play on the sharpness of certain elements to better define shapes.

And finally, you will accentuate the contrast to better guide the viewer of your photo.

For your landscape photographs, think about working the blues of the skies, the warm colors of the minerals, or the green of the foliage.

Finally, I recommend you always add vignetting that is dark or clear. The purpose of this treatment is to direct the eye towards the area of photography that is of most interest.

Always Print a Black and White Photo

I think a photograph only exists from the moment it was printed on paper.

In black and white photography, this is mandatory. It is at the time of the print that you will realize if blacks and whites are detailed. It is at this stage that you will realize if the photo speaks for itself.

You cannot print black and white landscapes on just any paper. The paper should be thick and textured. For my part, I always use 310 grams Baryta paper, although different brands exist on the market.

You will realize that several prints will be needed to find the right compromise.

Not All Landscapes Are Suitable for Black and White

You must carefully select the landscapes you are going to photograph and develop in black and white; not all scenes are suitable.

Rather than providing reasons for having caution, which would lengthen this article, here are some color photos that would not make excellent black and white photos.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the image.


Composing and framing a photograph of landscapes with the technique of black and white requires a reflection that begins well before the camera is triggered. Photography is a contemplative process.

Once in the field, do not forget to contrast your scenes and to choose graphic and textured photographic elements.

Do not forget that the development has a considerable impact because you will reinforce the contrast. The incorporation of vignettes will better guide the viewer as well.

Creating a beautiful photograph of black and white landscapes is a special alchemy where the precision of each ingredient must be meticulous. Take your time and be patient. It takes great experience to achieve the creation of landscape photos that possess a deep meaning.

The black and white in landscape photography is above all developing true class through its authentic artistic approach.

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Why and How Photographing Landscapes in Black and White – Part 1

You may photograph landscapes. If so, you are probably wondering whether you should develop your photographs in black and white rather than color.

The answer to this fundamental question is that black and white allows you to give a true artistic interpretation of the original scene.

In this article, I will give you keys to allow you to apprehend this particular photographic technique.

This photograph of bald cypresses is perfectly adapted to black and white photography.
This photograph of bald cypresses is perfectly adapted to black and white photography.

Creating an Interpretation of What You See

Creating a black and white photograph of a landscape is an interpretation. You do not present the complete image of nature as it exists, rather you interpret the reality.

Black and white landscape photography allows you to convey your emotions and/or personal messages in a more direct and artistic way. Since it is an act of interpretation, you are not accountable to anyone for the reality. You can let your imagination and your creativity wander, which truly is the essence of the technique of black and white.

Only color photography under certain conditions can show the reality of a landscape.

You will move away from this, approaching a new representation of reality. This artistic approach of black and white is not easy to implement. Not all landscape scenes can be adapted to the technique of black and white.

You will have to be very careful in the choice of your compositions and your framing.

In the same way that the technique is specific, so is the image’s development. You must respect certain rules.

Contemplate Your Black and White Landscape Photo Before Shooting It

Before you take a black-and-white photograph of a landscape, you have to prepare your mind through contemplation. In general, an interesting and creative photo must always be planned before being shot. This is especially true in black and white.

The technique of black and white does not compromise. You must never forget that black and white is the basic language of photography. You will have to use shapes, textures, lines, and perspectives to translate your emotions and convey your messages through the image.

You only have black, white, and grayscale colors. You cannot incorporate any digression.

When facing a landscape, you must contemplate your final print.

With a digital camera, the picture displayed in the screen on the back of the camera in color. You keep in mind that a color photo will not necessarily make a good black and white photo.

For example, on a color photo, a focus of red will contrast greatly with a green background. But once transformed into black and white, red and green will appear in similar gray levels.

A simple rule to know if a color photo would be beautiful in black and white is to have contrast. Indeed, in a black and white photo, there is no color. One of the ways to guide the eye to go to the centers of interest of the image is to have large differences between dark tones and light tones, hence, the contrast.

Photographing an image in black and white implies choosing simple subjects, clear negative spaces, and soft compositions. You must take care not to add disturbing elements. You must be straight to the point to present your message immediately.

Seeing in black and white means choosing the right lighting for the best possible contrasts. Do not forget that the differences between the bright and dark areas will help the eye move towards the photo’s centers of interest.

To see black and white in nature is to look for shadows to accentuate contrasts.

Consider Choices of Photographic Elements

Once on the field facing the landscape to be photographed, you must analyze each photographic element to see if it will be well suited to black and white. For example, the bark of trees must be gnarled and marked. Clouds must be present in the sky to create the right balance the mass of the ground.

Once you have defined your photographic elements, you will be able to compose and frame.

Color Filters Are Your Precious Allies

Before developing various points of respect in your black and white landscape, I recommend you learn how to use color filters in shooting and development.

Color filters are very useful in black and white photography.

In black and white, the colors disappear. They are replaced by gray levels. The light intensity becomes the only important data.

The use of a color filter makes it possible to lighten the areas that have the same color and to darken the areas that have the complementary color. Color filters allow you to edit, correct, and balance contrasts in a photo.

  • A yellow filter absorbs the blue light. It darkens a blue sky. If there are clouds in the sky, they are densified.
  • A red filter also absorbs the blue light but also the green color. The skies become very dark as if night had fallen.
  • A green filter brightens foliage but darkens red objects.

Today, many photographers who use a software filter claim that that the filter alone is enough to achieve beautiful contrasts in black and white. This is an error because nothing replaces the optical filter. Software makes it possible to reinforce the filter, however, it does not replace it.

Look for the Best Light

To create a good black and white photo, you must first look for a good light. Your goal is to look for the strongest contrasts to create deep shadows and illuminating highlights. Your goal is to highlight the photographic elements. Look for shadows, because the brightness of light only exists if it is present alongside shadows.

The shadows in a landscape scene adds volume, accentuating forms and creating a 3D effect in the image.

Search for High Contrast Scenes

The more contrasted your scenes are, the more successful your black and white photographs will be with your audience.

Contrast is the difference of light between dark shadows and bright lights in your photograph. The denser your blacks are without clouding the image of course, and the brighter your shades are without blurring details, the more impact your photo will have. This is because the human eye loves contrasts. To analyze a scene, the brain always looks for contrasts to decipher meaning.

The more contrasting a black-and-white photograph is, the more impact it has on a viewer.

The ideal is to have scenes of landscapes with great contrasts of light, graphic details, and textured photographic elements.

Seek Textured Photographic Elements

Textures in the photographic elements provide details of what is needed to create the photos in black and white. They allow the viewer’s gaze to notice certain areas of the image without the use of color. Black and white contrasts act like a magnet. The human eye loves looking for details in the analysis of a scene. Even if your composition is minimalist and has few photographic elements, it can attract attention by focusing on textures. For example, stone, tree bark, clouds, etc.

Focus on Graphical Elements

Graphic elements are formidable to create good black and white photos. In landscapes, graphics are everywhere: treetops, drawings on the ground, forms on rock faces, waves, etc. All graphic forms are excellent.

If the graphic shapes you choose are more textured, your photography will have a lot of impact because you combine two essential properties of the photo in black and white.

Some Examples of Landscapes Photographed in Black And White

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the image.

Look for Pattern Repetition

An interesting black and white photograph is based on masses and shapes. If you can find graphic and textured elements, also try to show elements that are repeated like clouds, fields, trees. Nature is abundant in forms. You will be spoiled by its abundance of textures and patterns.

The human eye is always attracted by details and graphics, but it especially attracted by the repetition of a motif. If you want to catch the eye of a viewer, keep repetition of motifs in mind!

Keep Mass Balances in Mind

The rest of this article is available on another page. Click on the link below.

Click Here to Read the Part II of the Article.
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Why and How Photographing the Expression of a Wild Animal – Part 2

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The look of that manta ray show curiosity.
The look of that manta ray show curiosity.

Breaking the Rule of Thirds

Creating contact with the eyes of an animal immediately catches the attention of the viewer of a photograph. Nevertheless, the eyes will not necessarily be on one focus point in the photo. This should not be a concern, since the rules used in the moment of shooting, once they are mastered, can be forgotten voluntarily for a specific reason.

The important thing one must remember is that the photographer must direct the line of sight between the photographed eyes and the viewer’s eyes.

To accomplish this expertly, we recommend trying different positions or tests to determine how you as the photographer prefer to direct attention to the animal's eyes.

If you are trying to photograph an animal looking down, do not hesitate to make a noise to get his attention and raise his head. If he is alert, the gaze will appear strongly focused at the viewer.

Photographing at Eye Level

Whether in terrestrial or underwater animal photography, I always try to photograph at eye level; the photographs have more impact because the line of sight is strong.

It is obvious that for birds flying, you will have to photograph low angle. But in this case, it is quite rare that you manage to capture the eyes of the birds.

This is also the case in underwater photography. Low-angle photography is a technique I use a lot for fish or marine mammals.

It makes it possible to show my subjects in a more imposing way and to give them volume. But I do not make it an absolute rule. For photography of small crustaceans or fish, I arrange myself to always photograph at eye level.

From my point of view, a photograph of an underwater or terrestrial animal at high angle has no interest in artistic photography. I can conceive it in illustrative photography because it can show a behavior. But a high-angle photograph crushes the subject. You lose the notion of volume and size.

To photograph terrestrial animals, depending on the size of the animals, I arrange to find the best position. For monkeys like geladas or vervet monkeys for example, I'm always lying or sitting. It is certain that in nature it is not always appetizing because I drag myself in the excrement all day long, but the results are absolutely extraordinary.

When I photograph mammals from a blind, the height of my seat depends on the size of the animals. In Africa, I never photograph from the 4x4 roof: only from the windows.

For wetland bird photography, I only photograph from a floating blind.

This is the only way to create photographs with a strong look besides the fact that it allows me to approach very close the animals.

Photographing a terrestrial or underwater animal at eye level allows contextualizing the animal in its environment. You can show his universe from his point of view and not only from yours.

Whenever possible, try to always put yourself at the height of the animal. Avoid as much as possible high-angle photography.

Focus on the Eyes

I think that in wildlife photography, eyes are the most important elements to highlight. They are the ones who will determine the intensity and impact of your photography.

It is for this reason that it is absolutely necessary to focus your camera on the eyes. If the eyes are blurry or are not quite sharp, the photograph is missed. Indeed, the viewer will not be able to connect to the main point of interest of the photo.

Of course, this rule does not apply in the case of a photograph that uses the creative technique of motion blur. For example, a herd of buffaloes photographed blurry during the crossing of the Mara River will give an unreal effect.

As always, every rule has its exceptions.

If you are taking a picture an animal, the focus point should in most cases be on the eyes.

Show the Catchlight in the Eye

The catchlight in the eye is a small white spot of light in the black pupil. It is created by reflected light. This small brightness has a huge impact. He brings life to a photograph.

I often call this light "the shine of life”. I think it's also very cultural. When we learned to look at and analyze painted portraits, painters always add this spot of light to catch the eye of the viewer. When we look at a living being, we seek it systematically.

Much more than sharp eyes, we seek the shine of life to identify ourselves with a living being.

There is no real trick to add it to an animal's gaze because you cannot change the position of the sun or the subject for obvious reasons. But anyway, it is absolutely necessary to avoid having the head of an animal in the shade if you want to see this small light appear.

For me, if the day light or the sun is present in a photograph, the catchlight in the eye is an indispensable element. Otherwise the picture is missed.

In post-development, I accentuate its effect to make it even more visible.

If you are a little curious, try using a development software to remove this spot of light. Immediately you will see that your photography does not have any impact. You have black eyes. You can no longer identify yourself with the living being photography. I assure you that this is a test to be done to understand the interest of the catchlight.

I am so obsessed with this shine of life that when I take a photograph of an animal and my eye is looking thru the viewfinder of the camera, I always wait for the right moment to detect it. Only then do I trigger.

Some Examples of Looks of Underwater Animals

One or Two Eyes: Everything Depends on the Scene

Must you show one or both eyes of an animal? This is a question to which I have no definitive answer. It all depends on the scene and the message you want to convey.

For an off-camera photograph, seeing only one eye is perfectly justified. You will follow the line of gaze that is directed line. It is this virtual line that guides the photo. If the animal is facing you, it is essential to have both eyes to create the connection immediately.

Tight or Large Plan

There is no absolute rule for choosing the plan. It is above all a question of style and personal approach.

I rarely photograph tight shots because I really like to breathe in the pictures. I like freedom, movement, wind, space. The tight shots enclose me and compel me a lot. I created collections on African felines in tight plan, but it was mostly because of the environment that was not adequate.

If you choose a tight shot, place your eyes in the middle of the photo to ensure a perfect balance of masses. The animal must be well centered.

Whether in underwater or terrestrial photography, for mammals or birds, I prefer wide shots because they allow me to highlight the attitude of the animal and enhance the message transmitted in the photo.

Everything will depend on what you want to transmit and create through your photography.

Natural Light or Flash

The use of flash is a necessity in underwater photography. It allows you to easily create the catchlight in the eye and revive the colors of your subjects.

In terrestrial photography, the use of flash is interesting in the case of the photo of passerines. By using a Fresnel system in front of the flash, you can easily create the spot of light in the eye. The birds are often distant, and the catchlight is difficult to capture. By adding an artificial light that will bring to 50 or 60 meters (150 to 180 feet) with the Fresnel system, it is the guarantee to obtain a photo that will have impact.

Some Examples of Looks of Birds


Photographing the eyes of animals is an extraordinary technique for making interesting animal photos because it allows the viewer to create a link directly with the main subject of your shot.

There is no miracle solution, no magic formula to succeed in creating inspiring photos because you do not have control over the position of the animal and the light.

You have to experiment again and again. By developing your own style and technique you will apply some of these points.

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Why and How Photographing the Expression of a Wild Animal – Part 1

Do you want to create interesting wildlife photographs that impact your viewers?

Focusing on the expression terrestrial or aquatic animals is one of the techniques that I use.

In this article, I'm going to explain a few techniques that I use to create photos that have an impact on viewers.

The look of this young ibex with the catchlight in the eye is very evocative.
The look of this young ibex with the catchlight in the eye is very evocative.


All the points I am going to discuss are not a set of rules, rather they are guidelines and suggestions which have formed as a result of many years of photography and especially of experience in the creation of photos that interest my art collectors or my buyers of beautiful art prints.

Our suggestions have many benefits, even if they are not exactly replicated by the photographer. You may not agree with certain points stated. I understand this perfectly, and I do not intend to hold the absolute truth.

The Eyes Reflect the Soul

It is often said that human eyes are the mirror of the soul. I think that this is generally true for the animal world whether the photos are taken on land or in water.

The eyes convey the expression of an animal, which communicates emotion more deeply than the animal’s attitude through actions.

With time, I learned how to better understand the expression of animals. I believe that animals convey feelings very differently than humans. Animals communicate on a more primal level. However, it is still possible to decipher curiosity, anger, fear or even tenderness.

It may seem exaggerated, but, when you have the chance to encounter deer or birds, you must understand the animal world through a perspective of emotion. I cannot count the times I've seen the eyes of a doe who is gazing at her fawn with tenderness. That gaze is no mistake.

The eyes of a red deer stag when he discovers your presence hidden a few meters away from him, often translates into an astonishing disbelief that gives way to curiosity and ends with fear, because he beliefs you to be a hunter.

If you have had the chance to photograph from a floating blind, you can observe the look of a grebe that is capable of carrying its offspring on its back to conserve the little ones’ energy. Like all parents, he wants the little ones to leave the house, but he also wants to protect them. I assure you that we see these parental feelings through our viewfinder.

Similarly, the majestic gaze of a cat looking across the great African plains says a lot about his state of mind.

I believe that it is important to always observe and understand the gaze of an animal before taking a photograph because the animal’s expression is captured in the image. I often wait for the right moment. It takes countless hours spent on the field to acquire the ability to pinpoint the perfect moment to shoot.

Analyzing the look of an animal also allows me to calculate if I can take a good photo.

A Big Moment of Loneliness: My Personal Experience

Recently, I experienced a moment of great loneliness which left me speechless.

I took a trip to the Yellowstone in the United States to create a collection of artistic photographs of the bison in the snow. At one point, I found myself in a snowy plain with a group of 20 bison standing and facing me from 100 meters (300 feet) away. Before installing my tripod, I analyzed the group with my binoculars. Despite the wind and snow, I watched the bison stare me down. It was absolutely eloquent. Their eyes told me clearly that I was not welcome in their territory, that I was a foreigner. Body language confirmed what I read in their gazes. I left without further ado and retraced my steps.

I often analyze the eyes of animals before triggering my camera because one second can project a great depth of emotion onto a photograph. I analyze animals differently than humans:

  • When the eyes of a mammal fold a little, it is the translation of happiness and relaxation. In this case, the animal is content. I often observe this in deer or in fallow deer.
  • When a mammal's eyes are wide open, it is attracted to something or to you. In this case, it is essential to analyze body language to see if this attraction is curiosity or fear.
  • When a mammal’s eyes start to bow, it means that the animal is angry. If I observe this type of look in a boar, I remove myself from his danger zone. If I stay, he may charge at me.

The number of expressions in an animal’s gaze is limited. It can be difficult to detect emotion, but I truly think that their eyes communicate authentic emotions that do not lie.

The Strength of the Animal’s Gaze: A Focus Point as an Anchor

For me, photographing an animal is the best way to capture the animal’s gaze. Over time, I learned that it was absolutely necessary to integrate the eye (s) in an animal into an artistic photograph to be interesting to a viewer or a client.

During photo workshops, I often tell trainees that the animal’s eyes connect the viewer to the focus point.

If the animal’s eyes are not captured clearly, the viewer cannot grasp the depth of the photo. I think that this is probably due to our education. Since our early childhood, we are trained at school, in public, and by looking at paintings or photos, that eyes carry strong expression. In magazines, the eyes of photographed human beings are apparent. I think that as soon as we look at a human being that is photographed or painted, we automatically look for the eyes.

This is what I often refer to as the “anchor”. This focus point is what we naturally are drawn to first to better understand the meaning of the photo. This is a cultural behavior that we have acquired.

Creating a wildlife photograph that has impact is very difficult. Many animal photographers are content with a specific attitude or just the animal in its natural environment. We look at this type of photography only once. We do not return because it lacks zeal for our eyes.

In the world of illustrative photography for magazines or for identification books, the capture of the gaze is less fundamental because often it is the attitude or behavior that prevails such as a fight or a flight.

When I create an artistic or meaningful animal photography, I always try to capture the animal's eyes. It is an essential condition for creating an interesting photograph.

Controlling the Line of Sight

In my opinion, it is necessary to master the concept of "the line of sight” to effectively create different and high-impact photos. The utilization of the line of sight allows you to create powerful photos.

The line of sight is an imaginary line that begins in the eyes of the animal, regardless of whether it is underwater or terrestrial. This is an important guideline because this line will guide the viewer's gaze.

Two cases may arise.

The first case is that a line of sight is directed to the viewer. In this case, there is a very strong exchange between the main interest and the viewer. During this moment, the spectator begins to question himself. It is a strongly personal interaction because there is an exchange that happens as if outside of time.

However, this technique of the line of direct gaze has a disadvantage. The interaction between the main interest and the viewer is so strong that nothing else exists. Décor, attitude, background matter little in this scenario. Often for this kind of photo, I choose a tight and square framing.

The second case is that of the line of sight that directs the viewer to one direction within the photograph.

  • This line may rest on a particular point within the photograph. In this case, the photographer creates a second point of interest in the photo. Creating a connection of points between different interests of a photo fascinates the viewer.

    For example, this may occur in the look of a doe that is directed towards her fawn. The message sent by the maternal gaze of the doe is that of protection, peace, and comfort.

    Another case is that of a lioness who looks at an antelope with intense hunger. In this case, the message transmitted is more primal: it is that of survival in the species, that is, to eat and not be eaten.
  • The line of sight may not point to any particular spot captured within the frame of the photograph but may lead out of the scene presented. This is called the off-camera perspective in photography. I really like this technique because the spectator asks questions and wonders what the animal could be looking at. This technique allows the viewer to dream, to imagine. Indeed, it is the field of dream photography. In this case, it is the attitude of the animal that determines the nature of the scene. If the animal has a defensive attitude and physically displays muscles, it is because he saw danger. If, on the contrary, body language is relaxed, his look contains mere curiosity. Off-camera is a technique that I use often because it allows me to transmit many messages depending on the situation.

Controlling the line of sight is essential, however, its implementation in the composition of a photograph depends completely on the messages or emotions that you want to convey.

Some Examples of Mammal Looks

Breaking the Rule of Thirds

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Why and How Speaking in the Language of Photography - Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Landscape photography requires great mastery to use photographic language (bisons in a meadow under a cloudy sky).
Landscape photography requires great mastery to use photographic language (bisons in a meadow under a cloudy sky).

Artistic Photography Has Two Dimensions

Artistic photographs have two very distinct dimensions:

  • The vision: here, we focus on visual sociology. Works created in time, space, or in a given environment can be placed in a certain order. For example, photographs created in Dombes are identifiable by the medium because the species and environment are so unique. The vision is an approach that focuses more on ethnography because we identify the scenes.
  • The look: here, we focus on the sociology of the gaze. We focus on the effects of perception, reception, and production of content. The content itself is not analyzed, rather, it is the effect produced on the viewer that is interesting. The look is an approach that is more psychoanalytical because both photographer and viewer are included in the analysis.

By considering these two dimensions, one can easily set up a language to express oneself with a given writing.

However, the photographic language has the distinction of being understood in a multitude of ways. Each viewer can decrypt photos in multiple ways. I encounter this problem as soon as I create a new artistic collection. I propose them to a circle of very close acquaintances. I trust their judgments. They know me. They know what I expect from them. However, their impressions always vary from person to person. Next, I propose the photos to our family circle, which is smaller. The meanings and reactions are always more figurative. Often, people in the family circle take precautions before giving me their comments. They know my requirement and know that the words used are very important. However, these individuals’ perspective is always from a descriptive point of view, and each judgment given may be very different. This does not bother me, because some collectors who buy my photographic works do so from a criterion. They are present in the register of thought more than in the register of emotion.

During all these years, I learned that the photographic language is not universal but that it challenges each viewer in a different way. The important thing is the language used by the photographer. We must not forget that photography is an artistic discipline. The author feels the need to express messages and emotions, but he is limited by a given writing and his own language. Time will tell whether this language has been decrypted correctly or not by the author.

I think it is the viewers who ultimately make the photographs come alive.

The photographic language is in no way scientific. It is not like a spoken or written language that has specific rules. The photographic language is spoken both by the photographer who creates the work and the viewer who contemplates the work. This process is complicated and complex, which illuminates the beauty of artistic photography.

A Universal Photographic Language Does Not Exist

Over time, I came to understand that a universal photographic language did not exist. Even if we wanted to create one, it would not be possible, mainly because it is not scientific, due to its psychoanalytic dimension. The photographer symbolically places his neuroses, his emotions, and transmitted messages into his image. However, these symbols are uniquely characteristic to him alone, and thus can be interpreted differently by his viewers.

The construction of a photograph relies upon the experience of the photographer. Reading a photograph also appeals to the viewer's experience.

Concretely, this means that the photographer will be in phase with some viewers because the language used will be the same. But it will be rejected by others because the language and interpretation will be totally different, due to a collection of different experiences.

Is this even important? I do not think so. It is impossible to achieve unanimity in an artistic discipline. If an artist chooses to be unanimous in creating his works, he will no longer deliver messages because his artistic activity will be watered down, smoothed over. Mediocrity will prevail. This is a general rule when one wants to address the masses. The messages are so different that ultimately, the authority does not know what else to deliver to the people, and the people may not even know what it is that they want. Thus, platitude reigns in general consumption. We as professional photographers strive to veer from this dangerous path, by delivering art that is different.

Although I do not believe that there is one universal photographic language, I do believe that there are several photographic languages. I will not go so far as to say that there is a language only understood by photographers, but that this is almost entirely true. Real photographers have the gift of harmoniously organizing the signs of writing to allow true sentences to flow smoothly without ever being spoken orally.

Creating your own language takes a very long time, but when you have found the codes, the words will fall into place. All that is needed after this stage is experience and practice.

But how can one write in photography? What tools are available for photographic writing? How can you prepare to develop the photographic language? These are the questions I will answer in the next blog posts.

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Why and How Speaking in the Language of Photography - Part 1

As I said in this article, photography is a means of artistic expression. It has a language. Like with any language, the author must be able to precisely wield the grammar rules.

Underwater photography requires great mastery to use the photographic language (goby on a hard coral).
Underwater photography requires great mastery to use the photographic language (goby on a hard coral).

Photographic Writing Has Its Own Language

Mastering the photographic language allows photographers to write easily but especially to be well understood by those who will look at the photos.

By definition, a language is the function of the expression of thought and communication. Language is a system of signs that allows communication to occur. One method of communication is writing.

Previously, we saw that photography presented a number of signs through photographic writing. For a photographer to express himself through his personal photographic style, he or she must perfect the photographic language.

The language of photography involves aligning signs, which, when assembled together through photographic writing, allows the author to express his desires and purpose of the photograph. This process opens the door for the viewer to understand the photograph’s meaning. The photographic language allows both entities –the author and viewer – to understand each other.

However, everything is not as it seems. The main reason for this is that photography has a very important psychoanalytical dimension.

From my experience, I have come to believe that the photographic language can be broken down into four very distinct points.

First of all, this language considers the aesthetics of photography: the harmony of colors or shades of gray, the different balances between masses, exposures, shapes, and etc.

Next, this language must consider the technique of the exposure, sharpness, depth of field, noise, etc.

This photographic language must also consider the elements used to compose a scene. For example, in a nature photograph, it is unwise to include a city, or houses, or any sign of human presence. If this were to be done, it would not make sense.

Finally, this language must contain certain tools for translating messages, especially for the emotions that the author wishes to convey to the viewer. For example, we would not use the same tools to translate tormented, restless emotions as we would for a peaceful, tranquil spirit. This would be what is called a counter sense. For example, a photo that reflects a tormented state will most likely be created in black and white with strong contrasts. An image translating a happy state will most likely include soft and cheerful colors.

If one of these points is not utilized properly by the artistic photographer, the sentence will not be complete, and the viewer of the photograph will not understand it.

For example, a photo could be technically perfect. It may be sharp, well contrasted, well exposed, and manages colors and shades creatively. However, that same photo’s elements might fail in defining the state of mind, causing the photographer’s intentions to be overlooked by the viewer.

Another example is that of a technically perfect photo which only contains good aesthetic qualities, but whose photographic items have no connection with the main subject of the image. This would not be an interesting picture, as it would fail to convey messages, except that of confusion, to the viewer.

Adeptly Wielding Semantics of the Photographic Language

The knowledge of the photographic language is not enough.

Indeed, let's take the example of learning a foreign language. We learn vocabulary, grammar, and the rules of conjugation. We will then visit the country associated with this language.

We may decide to talk to someone. If we repeat the words we have learned while respecting the grammatical rules, but these words have no semantic meaning in the context of the discussion, certainly our native friend will not understand us. The same applies to the photographic language. If you wish to address an audience with your photographs, you must define the subject of your message or the emotions you want to translate. Then you must use the right semantic elements, or you will not be understood correctly.

I met many photographers who made photos, but only considered the technical aspect. Their photos were excellent from a technical perspective, but no semantics emerged.

Knowing the photographic language is an essential first step for a photographer wishing to create beautiful nature photos of landscapes, underwater scenes, or animals. Knowing how to speak the language correctly is certainly the most difficult step to master.

Wanting to show a personal perspective of the world is quite commendable, however, this cannot be improvised. It takes time and patience. Nevertheless, a strong focus for learning will result in the improvement of personal qualities and a good dose of general culture, both of which will encourage the individual to continue to learn, thus creating a cycle.

Artistic Photography Has Two Dimensions

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Fine Art Print Collections (Photographic Art Prints) Dedicated to the Wonders of Nature

Enhance Your Differences and Be in Harmony with Your Environment:

  • Reveal and affirm your passion for the wonders of nature.
  • Surround yourself with elegant, unique, and timeless photographic artworks.
  • Collect artwork prints that will gain value in the future.

Click on one of the photographs to consult the content of a fine art collection.


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Why and How Photographing Yellowstone in Winter – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
A landscape of Yellowstone in winter.
A landscape of Yellowstone in winter.

A Special Atmosphere Because of the Snow and the Cold

Winter is an extraordinary season to discover Yellowstone.

The very low temperatures discourage many visitors from attending during the winter months. It is often between -5 and -20 degrees Celsius (which is between 23- and -4-degrees Fahrenheit), and which is very bearable with adequate clothing. However, when the north wind begins to blow, it becomes almost impossible to stay outside more than 15 minutes. I cannot tell you what the temperature is, but it is freezing cold. These weather conditions are normal because Yellowstone is located at more than 2000 meters of altitude (more than 6000 feet). Rangers told me that the record to date was -54 degrees Celsius (-65 degrees Fahrenheit). Nevertheless, it is considered to be exceptionally cold once the temperature falls below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the other hand, the snow that covers the park creates a very special atmosphere. The snow depth is variable depending on the year. On average, it is about 3.5 meters a year (10 feet). The trees and the meadows are enveloped by immaculate snow that creates a cozy atmosphere. The silence is incredible.

As there are few people and snow covering the entire park, winter is the perfect time to create photographs that are out of the ordinary.

Yellowstone is not only a paradise for landscape photographers but also for wildlife photographers. Indeed, finding the animals is much easier in winter than in summer because they are more noticeable on the immaculate snow. It is therefore easier to photograph them.

Snow is certainly the best asset to create minimalist and very creative nature photographs.

Landscape Photography

When you arrive in Yellowstone, the first thing you see is the landscapes covered with trees, meadows, and rivers. Yellowstone is characterized by distant mountains of high altitude and by immense wooded plains.

The first photos are quite difficult to make because the snow flattens the landscapes and decreases the contrast. The trick is to journey on paths to try to find points of view that are a little elevated, which then creates scenes with reliefs and volumes. I use my 200-400mm quite often to capture the atmosphere of snow-capped peaks. At this time of the year, they are almost inaccessible and must be photographed from afar.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the image.

How to Photographically Capture Yellowstone in Winter

But photographing Yellowstone in winter is quite complicated, as only one road is open to traffic. Only the northern part of the national park is open to cars. This route represents 4 hours of travel back and forth. This may be a good distance, but if you are going to take photos for a week, the time will seem a little long.

Other methods are available when discovering treasures to photograph. We use the snow mobile a lot. It allows you to move on already marked paths or in snow-covered areas but without risk. For us, it is a means of extraordinary freedom even if the noise is sometimes a little overpowering in this universe where silence reigns. But the primary use of the snowmobile lies in its ability to move from one point to another. We also have snowshoes and sticks with us.

Indeed, in my opinion, snowshoes are the best way to create photographs on snow-covered terrains. With snowshoes, you can walk in snow depths that reach 1.5 meters (3 feet). You sink very little, and the sticks help you stay balanced and move forward.

When a landscape or animal scene arises, you must prepare the photographic equipment, which is tucked in the backpack, before capturing the photos.

Often when we go snowshoeing, we take a food and drink supply for two days. Even if the ride lasts only four or five hours, you never know what may happen in the hostile wilderness.

We always walk in places we know from either previous winters, or spots in which we explored in prior summers when the snow was absent. If we arrive in an area we do not know, we do not venture there. The main danger in Yellowstone is the pools of water that are covered by a thick layer of snow. Walking on the layer of snow causes water to surface, and we easily become wet. This can be dangerous in such severe temperatures. We do not recommend walking in these areas when it is -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).


The Yellowstone in winter is a real paradise for photographers in search of thrills and difficult conditions. Wildlife photography is spectacular because animals can easily be spotted against the white snow background. They also move frequently to find food.

Personally, every year, I leave my normal life for a week to recharge my batteries and to find the energy to return to my year, fully refreshed.

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