Friday, March 18, 2016

A picture and fewer than 1,000 words

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words, which implies that all pictures can convey a story. Many can, some don’t, but sometimes a photo has its own story, aside from the story it depicts. This is one of those times.

The photo above is, at the time I’m posting this, my profile photo on Facebook. After I posted it, I said in the comments, “Look into my eyes—um, sunglasses… [wink emoticon]”, and that actually is the entire reason I used the photo, and the start of its story.

The story actually began earlier in the day. I was driving home from some errands, thinking about how it was a nice sunny day, and I should take a new profile photo (I like to change them from time to time). In my mind’s eye, I imagined a photo with me wearing my sunglasses and raising an eyebrow.

So, awhile after I got home, I went out on the deck and positioned myself in a relatively shady spot with sunlight reflected back me from the deck (for the lighting). I tried a variety of shots, as I always do, from a number of angles and varying the closeness.

When I loaded them into my computer, I scrolled through them fairly quickly and didn’t really like any of them. The ones with my eyebrow raised were particularly bad (I’m developing “old man” eyebrows, and it showed; I guess I have to learn how to trim them). I was about to give up, and then I noticed what was reflected in my sunglasses, something I hadn’t noticed when I shot the photos.

Next, I picked the one that had the best reflection, cropped it a little tighter (removed the pimple on my nose…), and then considered what to do with it. I wanted to call attention to the lenses, so in Photoshop I converted the rest of the photo to black and white and left my sunglasses in colour (the frames are actually colour, too, but since they’re black, the transition isn’t noticeable).

Having found the look I wanted, I uploaded the photo, made the comment and that was that. The original photo (unedited photo is at left; embiggen, if you must) wasn’t all that different, but the subtle shift to black and white for the main photo worked, I think, and I think looks much better than the original for what I wanted to emphasise. I also think the edited photo gets rid of some other things I didn’t like about the original, things that are kind of beside the point.

What this story is about, really, is how important it is to really look at the photos we take (I had no idea what was reflected in my sunglasses until I did), and also to not be afraid to look for ways to enhance whatever message we want to emphasise (again, in this case, the reflection).

I like talking about the photos I take, not just about how I take them, but also why. I did that recently with most of the photos in my Nature Photo A Day series (see? I gave them their own tag). But, really, we all mostly take photos to document something for ourselves and/or for others; the story of the photo is beside the point, and maybe just helps provide context.

This photo, like so many others, has its own story. Now, that story has been told—in fewer than a thousand words.

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