What Makes A Photo Work?

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The original image as presented for feedback.

Our Anonymous Photographer has braved the depths of the ocean to bring back a strongly composed image. The colourful fish sits off-centre, there are strong diagonal lines leading the eye to the centre of interest, and the background is clean and uncluttered. In all ways, this is an expertly framed and captured photograph.

Unfortunately, our cameras have no idea what we are photographing and so it is up to us to help them along from time to time. Accepting that this is my interpretation of the Anonymous Photographer's image, I think the colour and light is a bit dull. I'm positive it didn't look this flat when she was there, so let's jump into Lightroom or Photoshop and use a little extra contrast - lightening the highlights and darkening the shadows. 

Instantly the corals (the green things!) come to life. It's a much stronger image, I think, although the colours are quite strong. But I like that, especially for this type of photograph.

Now, how about darkening down the top a little? It is a bit challenging to do this with the JPG file, so you may have to use your imagination, but I don't want the water at the top of the frame to be so bright it competes with the fish.

Okay, if you like this, how about adding in a little extra light in the middle? I want there to be no doubt what we're looking at. Using an adjustment layer in Photoshop or an adjustment brush in Lightroom (etc), I have lightened up just the tops of the green corals/anenomies/leaves - see the next photo...

This looks a little like a splash of sunlight and I think helps the photo along a little more. So, three simple adjustments and all can be done in Lightroom, Capture One or Photoshop. Does it work better?

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