Back in D-Photo no. 55, Mike Langford looked at three different images submitted for critique that could best be improved with a panoramic crop:
1. Lindis Pass
There is great atmosphere in this image, helped by the mist rolling in from the corners. All the same, two things are very distracting, the cyan colour of the sky and the brightness of the sky itself.
If we crop out the sky altogether both problems are no longer there. What we get instead is this wonderful rolling valley, with mountains that are as high as your imagination wants them to be. I have added a little contrast just to increase the visual drama of it all. Great shot.
2. Glacial Pool
What is distracting in this shot is the commonplace inclusion of the side of the road and the people walking. Take these away and your eye starts to explore the unusual. The rock and its reflection now becomes the dominant part of the image, and the fluoro green of the algae in the water becomes more obvious.
By using a curves layer in Photoshop, I have increased the black point so there is now black in the image, which helps create more visual depth. I have also reduced the mid point in the curves, making the overall appearance of the image just a little bit darker while leaving the highlights where they were.
3. Tekapo Road
I love the simplicity in this image, with the obvious shape of the road being the key element. But again the grey sky just isn’t necessary. Take it out and the landscape becomes stronger, and the shadows from the clouds more interesting. I have used my dodging and burning tool on a layer mask with a 50-per-cent grey fill in Photoshop, so as to highlight the road and darken down the shadows without degrading the print.
The way I always work when making an image, is to describe to myself what it is I’m photographing. The first word in that description is always the subject, followed by the other lesser elements. If I haven’t mentioned an element in my mind, such as the sky in the cases above, they aren’t included in my picture.
I have three chances of getting this right. Once when I take the image (sometimes I leave things in the frame at this point, as I know I’ll crop it into a different format later, in the computer). The second time is when I process the image in the computer. The third time is when I print the image and put it into a frame.
If it gets to this point and I still haven’t cropped out all the things that weren’t in my mind at the time of shooting, I have failed myself three times. Remember, just because the shape of your camera is a certain format, it doesn’t mean your final image has to be that format. Make your images the way you think them.
Mike Langford, of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography, is here to offer you free advice to help you take a better picture.
Mike has been an international awards judge for over 20 years. He has twice won Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year as well as New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year.
If you would like to submit a photo for Mike to critique, simply email your image (around A5 size at 300dpi) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Critique’, along with any information or queries you care to include