Discussion in 'Seeking Critique' started by dcstep, May 9, 2019.
Any and all comments or suggestions welcome:
Closing Shop by David Stephens, on Flickr
I appreciate how difficult it can be in this scenario to avoid blowing out the exterior lights. Even so, the blown lights, particularly the one directly over the canopy, are the only negative I can find. Perhaps a very (very!) mild fill flash would have allowed a shorter exposure, thus diminishing the very bright lights, but that would have risked underexposing the restaurant interior. Not a good trade, in my opinion. Otherwise I really like the image. It conveys a sense and feel that is familiar, and easily identified, even if it is a venue foreign to me.
I tried playing with it a bit in LR and could not yet come up with a version that overcomes the blown light. Still, love the image.
Good pointers, nonetheless. Still, a very good shot.
Here's a little bit different take. I'm not sure it's any "better", but it pulls attention away from the area over the doorway and canopy, even though the lights are still blown. I think it better acknowledges the out-of-frame light source coming from the left of scene, as evidenced by the shadows off the cornice over the doors on the left. Just another option in what remains an wonderful image.
Just for giggles, here's a version of the above with the big light cloned out (poorly, in measure with my PP skills). It's only purpose is to show how much that big light impacts the overall image. Someone more skilled than I could surely do it better justice.
Thank you David, and others.
I'll admit to not worrying about blown out highlights, so long as there's no important information in the highlights. If there were feather detail missing on a white bird, I'd worry about it, but details of a bright light are not important to me; however, I see how they might be distracting to others.
That said, I like your second sketch the best. When I get home, I might do something similar, with a recrop and bringing up the Blacks in the awning, but leaving the lettering at the EV it is in my original. If you simply scroll down to about half way up the awning between the letters and light, you get the idea of what I have in mind.
If it's good enough for Brassai --
Photographed lights at night burn out all the time. Making them look gray just makes them look gray, false, and tampered with.
dcstep's exposure is just fine. The lights look like lights and have that atmospheric glow, energy, and a bit of harshness bright lights often have at night. Balancing the light more across the photograph creates a too-balanced and staged look. The street is alive and we're forced to look through shadowed atmosphere at the people, which draws us into the scene instead of perfecting it. I could see making very minor adjustments to the original, but that's it.
Good image. OP version is the best, 'blown' highlights are irrelevent as nothing lost. The tonalities offer (quite marvelous, actually) sensuality. Every element works with each and the whole to provide the story and the mood.
Thank you Sam. I wasn't even thinking that the light might be an issue when I processed this.
I'm pleased that "blown highlights" came up as an issue. In nature photography, I commonly see photographers present white birds as grey. That's what happens when you try to eliminate every last blown highlight. My practice to not to blow out "important" highlights. Even then, I'll have photographers (not average viewers, who never seem to care) tell me that I have blown highlight. I'll look with my RAW conversion software and it's usually well under 5% of the image and often it's some cloud, off in a corner of the image.
I think that some of us get too hung up on looking at our images with the "Blown HIghlight" warning on and focus too much on trying to eliminate every last blown highlight. I think we're better served by getting the overall EV right and only worrying about "important" highlights.
White birds should look white:
Untitled by David Stephens, on Flickr
I’ve seen a lot of otherwise very good photos ruined by blown highlights, particularly clouds. When a big blotch of sky is burned out, it’s usually awful, though there’s always an I-don’t-care crowd on hand to make those who do care feel like they’re being prissy. I agree with you, dc, that a little bit of blown area is not often a problem. And, sometimes, the right kind of blowout is expressive, depending on the context. When lights are blown out into a big blotch of white, it can be bad and will especially catch the eye in a print. But when lights are blown out where there’s still a haze, it’s often more realistic and feels natural. In certain edgy work, blown highlights are more common and more commonly effective.
I agree that the linked Brassai image is excellent. The light fixture is a major, contributing, compositional element. As such, the relatively small, blown component is both apropos and not distracting. In Dave's image, in my own and lone opinion, the third light above the canopy is distracting rather than a primary element. If this were my image, WHICH IT IS NOT, I would choose to diminish or remove the distraction, if possible and only with adequate PP skills, in the interest of focusing attention on the more meaningful components. As I explained previously, I find this image excellent and engaging. I particularly like the texture of the stuccoed walls, the clear view of the interior juxtaposed against the exterior street environment, and the effects of the out-of-frame major light source coming in from the left side, acting as fill light for the people in the street.
The light over the canopy is, for me, problematic in two ways. First, it adds a major point of attention that does not include any explicative detail. It's just a big, white blob (sorry, Dave) in a dark field. Second, it does not contribute any light on any of the visible surfaces except the street pavers. (The light on the pavers could just as easily be from inside the restaurant, so, again, no direct visual linkage between the light and the rest of the scene.) The two sconces on each side of the entry are clearly the defining light sources for the stuccoed walls, etc., and so are critical elements. They are complemented by the off-frame light which provides some meaningful fill light.
I am in total agreement that blown highlights can be meaningful and acceptable, even useful (see the Brassai image, and the two sconces in this image). They can also be distracting or otherwise detract. The degree to which either is true is a very subjective issue, and will vary greatly. I've shared my take on it in this case, and willingly accept that others think differently. It has been a very engaging exercise to play with possible PP techniques in LR/PS, and I hope I can apply the lessons learned to my own work. Thank you, Dave, for sharing this wonderful image.
You're welcome David, and thank you.
I think that the central light is a major contributor to the light on the awning and the restaurant name thereon, as well as the pavers. Look at your two sketches, for contrast, where you have the light on the awning at a much lower EV. I'm not sure if you intended that, but I prefer the higher EV in my original interpretation. That said, I would be as comfortable as I already am with cropping out the light, if it's too distracting.
I'm not sure that it's at all distracting to non-photographer viewers. Too bad this site is close to 100% photographers. In every aspect of processing images, I try to imagine how an average viewer (and potential purchaser) might react when deciding what to do with each element.
One of my issues is that I'm not totally convinced of this. As evidence, note that "DA....FRANCESCO" has an essentially identical white value as "RISTORANTE". My thinking is that if the central light were such a major contributor, then the white of RISTORANTE should be much brighter than DA....FRANCESCO, which it is not. That left-side light is providing a very beguiling effect on all of the vertical surfaces. Now, looking at the larger version linked on Flickr I could be convinced otherwise. I still wonder what the possibilities might be...
I do as well. If I were to work this further I would want to maintain as much detail in the canopy as possible. I need to find one of my own images with full raw data available to experiment on. This has really piqued my interest. Thanks, again.
I'm not going to post the Original JPEG, but here's a larger version, making it a little easier to trace the light source on the awning:
Closing Shop by David Stephens, on Flickr
Looking at the Original JPEG, I see that I might have recovered some detail on the edges of that central light, that might have given it more form, without making it the center of attention. At the time, I didn't think that it was an important element, or distraction, and I'm still leaning that way, but I don't see that recovering that bit of detail would be harmful.
I see that this file is only marginally larger. Sorry.
you’re not alone, I agree as well. in fact, i would crop out all but the left most blown highlight (and get rid of the large wall with the menu in the process)
Interesting. I can see where it might apply when sales are a concern. While I imagine a viewer at times, I don't imagine them as either laypeople or photographers. I just imagine a generic objective viewer who's not me so I can stand back and not be influenced by what I know of the situation in which the shot was taken and try to step back from being too close to recognize certain things in the image. I will do that to be more objectI’ve but not to tailor my work to a given viewer or type of viewer. My work is meant to be what I want to express. I want to make sure to some extent what I express can be seen by a viewer (meaning I'm not too subtle or obvious, etc.) but I'm perfectly content for some viewers not to understand what I'm doing and not to like what I'm doing. No photo will appeal to everyone and I’m fine when mine don’t as long as I’ve been true to my own vision. I use my eye as my guide.
This one was not submitted for sale, but only because I didn't get releases. I would have submitted it as shown in the OP. After all the discussion, I might or might not crop out that central light. I might evaluate with the fixture edges of the light recovered, which I see as possible in the original and RAW.
My perspective and expression is what sell an image; however, as I look at the work of others in galleries and finding which ones sell, I have increased the Saturation in my color images. Not so far as Magelson and some others, but further than what I view as natural.
All of the above are very valid comments. Unless I've missed something in the responses so far, the main question for me is what your vision/intention is with this photo. If it's only highlighting the ristorante, maybe it's fine as it is. If the people also play a role in the photo, then you might want to bump up their 'presence' in the photo. If the people are the main subjects then you'd need to bump up their presence and reduce the presence of the ristorante.
Depending on your vision/intention, there are are various ways of achieving this in (for example) Photoshop. Blown out highlights can be replaced. Different exposures can be merged across different areas of the image. Most things are possible in PP but the starting point of any editing is your vision/intention of how the result should (ideally) look.
I like this approach and want to add something to it.
For me, making a photo, especially on the street, is a conversation between my intentions and what the world is offering or showing me. It may be my intention to make the people the subject of this photo, but the world may not be giving that. I may impose my intention (I mean that creatively, not pejoratively) if I can figure out a way. But I can also impose it by trying to force something and then I'm at odds with the world. Maybe I can change my position relative to the people to get more light on them or in some way suggest they're the subject. But maybe it's just not happening, in which case I may want to adapt my intentions to the scene before me and not try to intend the people into being the subject of the photo.
While I love being in the role of maker of the photograph, I also like the balancing act I am in with the world I'm photographing which sometimes imposes its vision on me just as other times I impose my vision on it, and of course there are times when the two are in perfect harmony.
Also, how one bumps up the presence of the people can be crucial. If one does it by artificially increasing the lighting on them relative to the lighting that's obviously there, it could feel staged or downright wrong. People in shadows don't necessarily mean they're not subjects. There are an array of ways to bring attention to what a photographer sees as a subject, and bringing up the lighting on them is not the only way. (I'm not saying you suggested this, Mike. You just said bumping up their presence which I think is important.)
In the photo as taken, the perspective from which the photo is shot provides an overall view of the restaurant rather than a focus on the people. A different angle and perspective might have made the people more subjects as opposed to raising the level of light on them in post. Also, shooting at the moment of a particular or standout gesture could attract attention. The main noticeable gestures here are of the woman placing the tablecloth, a seeming conversation to her left and another worker busy with something unknown in the light of the doorway. All these are not particularly standout or attention-getting gestures but rather "restaurant business" gestures that go along with the restaurant as scene rather than the people as subjects idea. I took the scene and not the people to be the subject, which is why it worked for me as is.
This is closest to what I had in mind. It's about an element of the restaurant business, per se. I see the restaurant itself, including its menu on the wall, a waitress clearing a table, a cook leaning against the counter thinking about something and two guys, maybe partners, talking about how the night went. Another night of business is over and they'll be going home soon, but, first, there a few more things to tend to. Another part of the story is that this is a very simple restaurant, with harsh, simple lighting, tables out on an old cobble stone street and a very small staff, yet, it's supporting four people and maybe a dishwasher in the back, out of sight. To me, I captured that, yet, as pointed out by Sam, I'm intrigued to see how others interpret.
I love it. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback and discussion.
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