What Makes A Photo Work?

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Subtle Exposure Differences Matter

The original image as presented for feedback.

Our Anonymous Photographer has presented a wonderful splash of autumn colour and of course we know the colour balance is true based on the whites in the snow and clouds behind. The front lighting is a little flat on the trees at this time of the day, but all is forgiven because of that amazing colour!

However, is the photograph a little bit too light? Is it missing out on some of the drama by letting the eye escape out of the edges of the frame, top and bottom. 

The following are very minor tweaks to the photograph - and hopefully your computer monitor is up to the task of seeing them. 


The first adjustment (above) is to darken down the bottom of the frame. Note how the clouds have been darkened just a little. 

Next, the bright blue sky bottom left has been de-saturated. We don't want the viewer distracted by the edges of the frame.

The top of the image is also darkened a little, using the line of clouds clipping the top of the mountain range as an edge. Note, rather than using a circular or oval vignette, I have just darkened a strip on the top and the bottom. These three steps have combined to contain the image, but still it's quite bright - at least to my eye.

The final adjustment is to darken the entire image. On my Eizo monitor, this slight darkening increases the colour saturation, but more importantly, puts a little more detail into the white clouds. It won't be a perfect edit as I have started with a JPEG file, but this type of adjustment to a raw file works a treat.

Compare the top photo with this one - it's subtle, but I think it can mean the difference between a Bronze and a Silver award.

Check out our e-book on How To Win Photo Competitions - you can find it here.

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