By Paul Marotta
Perfect Bokeh Photography
As an editor and curator, I look at a lot of images every day and, by necessity, have to look at them from the standpoint of their potential application. This particular contest, Famous Places, lends itself to that concept quite easily. So I thought it might help fellow shooters out there to look at their potential shots from that standpoint, and in particular for three specific applications: magazine, book, and CD covers.
Which means there are heavy technical considerations to take into account when shooting.
First of all, as I've been saying over the course of several of these contests now: Do no harm to the image in the camera; shoot as cleanly as possible.
Ultimately, a useful image requires that there be nothing in it that can't be undone, such as lens flare, lighting effects, color effects (i.e. HDR, noise, muddiness, blown-out highlights etc.). An image that is clean easily lends itself to a designer's conceptual thinking in shaping it to a particular need. One that is heavily stylized by necessity requires that it fit into a preconceived design concept, which potentially severely limits its potential use.
Second, and perhaps most important, is construction and composition:
Does it follow the Rule of Thirds?
Does it leave space somewhere in it, i.e. top, middle, or bottom for copy to be inserted?
Does it have a background that is either significant so as to make an impact, or insubstantial so that it can be dropped out to white?
Is the image vertical or horizontal, which means either a cover or an interior double-page spread?
Can it be cropped to square for a CD cover?
The question here is not so much that everyone of us will get published - we all want that - but rather, how to elevate what could be a mundane travel snapshot into the realm of a far stronger and more impactful image, including one that can transport us back to the moment we tried to capture in some faraway destination.
There are other concerns too, mostly around legal issues, such as logos, copyright protection of various items of content (designer furniture, iPods, public art, etc.), model and property releases, logos, etc.
Did you know, for example, that it's okay to use an image of the Eiffel Tower for publication without permission, except if it's taken at night, because the lighting display is copyrighted? There are so many considerations to take into account that to publish a full list here would simply obliterate the focus of this particular contest.
I hope this might inspire you to look at book, magazine, and CD covers more closely, both for technical considerations when snapping your next vacation shots at some fabulous destination, as well as for the impact these images would have in portraying the substance of the destination.
This, too, is ideally important; if the viewer can't feel the searing heat of the desert around the pyramids, smell the pastry shops on the streets of Boston's North End, or somehow sense the history and importance of the Taj Mahal, then they will not be transported to the place you enjoyed so much.
The Top 10 chosen here each have, in some way, captured the essence of the location, transporting the viewer to the scene and the moment. All have nice composition and structure, and all have quite nice emotional impact and go beyond being the ordinary vacation snapshot. Some have some technical flaws, which can often be overlooked in favor of content in some way. And yes, I know there are three of the Eiffel Tower here, but each are unique in their own way.
FIRST PLACE - $100
Photo by Mary Schiess of Duxbury
Beautifully done; as good as it gets.
First off, it's sensitively shot, with the face of the subject obscured by her head scarf. The light is warm, the capture is crisp and clean, it allows for a variety of crops if needed with lots of space for copy, its balance and structure is pleasing to the eye and inviting, and there is not a lot of clutter.
This, too, could be a magazine cover, or perhaps a cover for a book by say, someone like Manil Suri. This is location photography at its best. As a viewer, I've been transported there, I can see and feel the sense of beauty of the place and its majesty … and I want to go there.
Although the image is not bursting out of the frame, it is generous to the viewer in its own way, and the sheer beauty of the place is well-conveyed.
SECOND PLACE - $50
Photo by Paul Dandini of Somerville
Hello, Paris. I must confess that after my wife took a baguette-making class at King Arthur Flour last month, Paris and the yen to travel and eat good food has been much on my mind.
This particular shot has everything in it to grace the cover of, say, National Geographic Traveler. It's clean, beautifully composed, has space at the bottom, space at the sides, I can see the magazine logo at the top, and more importantly, it really makes me want to go there.
The photographer had a beautiful day to work with: warm light, blue sky, and wispy clouds. The photographer has a really good eye for composition, and did no harm to the image in the camera that I can see. I can imagine the photographer looking at this image every day framed in front of their desk at work and getting completely lost in the moment.
This image also fills the frame nicely and is generous in what it shows us.
THIRD PLACE - $25
Photo by Brian Heffron of Lynnfield
I once read that black and white is used to portray the soul of a subject, and Rome has a soul all its own.
This is a terrific conversion and immediately takes me there, and to the Rome of Federico Fellini. I can feel the history, the immensity, and the grandeur of the place with this image. It's much more than a vacation snapshot. And in the hands of a brilliant graphic designer, I can see this being used in some way as CD artwork for some stylish young retro band with acoustic string instruments and stingy brim Italian hats.
Yes, I love black and white, especially as well done as this. It's a faithful reproduction of the place and fills the frame beautifully.
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