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The Evaluation of the Potential of a Photo

A doe and her fawn in a wood. Photo in color by Amar Guillen.
A doe and her fawn in a wood.
 

The Evaluation of the Potential of a Photo

In one of the previous paragraphs, I mentioned that you should evaluate the potential of a photo before you release it to others or preserve it for yourself.

I would like to clarify my thoughts because this is an especially important concept.

When I am in the field and I discover a scene to photograph, the first question I ask myself is: if I take this picture, for what will I use it?

This question does not define the purpose of my photos. Indeed, in my case, I know that it will come to complete one of my collections of art photos. For you, it may be for a contest, an exhibition, a book, a newspaper, or website article.

The real question I ask myself is "What will this one add to all the ones I have already made? How will it interact with the stories I tell?"

I ask myself the question of its potential. By raising this fundamental question, I set up a creative process that will lead me to ask myself other questions concerning the choice of the point of view, the composition, the framing, the management of the light, the management of the color, etc.

Let me illustrate my point with a concrete example. Recently, I told you the story of my encounter with a deer during the slab. This encounter was not only emotionally rich, but it allowed me to propose a different framing for my wildlife photos.

The deer that came to me was so close that I shot it in the form of American shots. That is, the framing went from the deer's knees to above its antlers. When I took the picture, I realized that it would be impossible for me to crop my photo to 16:9 or 2:1 like I sometimes do for my wildlife photos.

I realized that the American shot was perfectly adapted to the 3:2 format. I had always wondered what purpose this format could serve in animal photography.

Finally, while evaluating the potential of this photo, I found a new creative avenue. I decided to consider this 3:2 format for a future collection.

I hope that this anecdote has helped you understand what I mean by the potential of a photo.

 

Case Study: An Animal Photo

For this first case study, I chose a photograph of an elapid deer taken during the deer slab. It is a simple photo. It is not difficult to realize when you know the field. It is within the reach of many wildlife photographers. It is enough to know a little about the wild animal world.

The first image is from my camera.

The second image is the final photo that I included in a collection of art photos.

Raw photo a red deer stage during the rut of the deer. Photo taken in Charente-Maritime in France.
Developped photo a red deer stage during the rut of the deer. Photo taken in Charente-Maritime in France.

To construct this photo, I chose a clearing that is a slab place. It offers a clean environment that is conducive to highlighting an animal. The background is a wood that offers an opening in the middle. It is a breathing space for the viewer.

Right in front of the deer, I have a bunch of gorse. These are yellow colored flowers that can create a nice focal point.

It is 8 o'clock in the morning. The day has just begun. The sun will not rise until 8:23. The scene has a medium tone. This is what I am prioritizing in my search. I am on the lookout. I am hidden in a bramble. The deer came in from the left. He started to bellow. Despite the noise muff around my camera, he heard the shutter releases. He turned in my direction with a suspicious look to understand the nature of the noise. This is the moment I chose. I used a 500 mm telephoto lens.

It is a 10 pointer. The dewlap (also called mane) is very dark and visible. I am lucky because the drip line is visible.

Symbolically, strength has many evocative assets. The stag's attitude is haughty. It is well camped on its 4 legs. It is curious, but his look has something bellicose about it, as if he is ready to fight those who cross his path.

To create this photo, I crop slightly to use a framing based on the golden ratio. The foreground was a bit wide.

After managing the noise, improving the sharpness of the image, I decided to apply a black and white high-key processing. It will allow me to remove distracting elements like the trees in the background. I will then rework the contrast on the deer to make it stand out better. I took exceptional care of the eye and the dewlap.

Finally, I created a photo that perfectly highlights the animal. It evokes its beauty, power, grace, and magnificence.

 

Case Study: A Landscape Photo

For this second case study, I chose a photograph of a landscape. This photo was taken in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the state of Colorado in the United States. It is the month of August. It is the right time for a phenomenon called the monsoon to occur. Violent storms can occur suddenly. In a few minutes, the violence of the elements can be unleashed.

I rented a cabin. For the last 3 days, I have only been scouting because the sky is purely blue without any clouds. The weather is genuinely nice.

Finally, the weather forecast announced a thunderstorm. It is expected at the end of the morning. I left early. This is the day for which I was waiting. After climbing a dune of more than 200 meters high, and a long walk after that, I placed myself on the stage that I had chosen during scouting. I waited under the sun all day. The storm did not arrive until 5 p.m. But it was beautiful.

The first image is from my camera.

The second image is the final photo that I included in a collection of art photos.

Raw photo of a landscape of Great Sand Dunes in Colorado state. Photo in color by Amar Guillen.
Developped photo of a landscape of Great Sand Dunes in Colorado state. Photo in color by Amar Guillen.

I think this photo perfectly illustrates the concept of a photo's potential. If you look at the original RAW photograph, you see that it is flat, without any real interest. I am even sure that many photographers would delete it without any regard. And yet, its potential is immense.

To construct this photo, I chose a huge expanse of dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. I have a smooth foreground with unmarked sand. The middle shot is chaotic with intricate shapes. The background is a mountain range that creates contrast. I chose a simple and balanced composition to highlight both the land and sky elements.

To create this picture, I choose to keep the original 3:2 format. It is the most dynamic to highlight the scene. I use filters adapted to each area of the photo. My goal is to show the power of the natural elements and to suggest the strength of the storm and the threatening clouds.

I find the results evocative.

 

Case Study: An Underwater Photo

For this third case study, I chose an underwater photo. It is one of my 3 favorite fields.

This picture was taken during a night dive in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. This spot is one of the two places in the world with Hawaii where it is possible to photograph manta rays at night. The principle is simple. The dive boat is moored. A powerful spotlight illuminates the surface of the water. The plankton are attracted by the light. Thousands of small organisms are jostling in the water. Large manta rays come to execute large salto's to feed on the plankton.

You simply must be on the periphery of this aquatic ballet to capture extraordinary pictures.

Raw photo of a manta ray taken in Maldives during a night dive.
Raw photo of a manta ray taken in Maldives during a night dive.

To build this picture, I chose a depth of 5 or 6 meters to benefit from the light on the Manta ray. Near the surface, the reflection of the lighthouse is too strong.

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The main difficulty comes from the particles that reflect the light. The placement of the flashes is crucial. Moreover, I only wanted one ray. It is frequent that during these night feasts, 5 or 6 rays may come to share the fine food circling the light beams. I waited for the right moment just after a back flip. The Christ position is very dynamic. Moreover, I am lucky because the remora are visible on the back of the manta ray.

To create this photo, I chose the low-key black and white. It was the only way to highlight the grace of the manta ray. The color photo is rather gloomy and bland. I also chose a 16:9 framing to better focus on the eye.

 

Finally

I hope this article has helped you to better understand the two concepts of making and creating a photo.

While technique in the field is essential to master, knowledge of software and computer use is also necessary to create impactful photos.

Building and creating a photo is a method that will give you indisputable results to make interesting and creative photos which will have an impact.

Above all, do not forget to practice your eye for identifying the potential of a photo. As you have seen with the case studies, this is an essential learning process.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

 

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