Image selection and Scene Building

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I have been asked on many occasions to help someone pick an image as their best image. I still find this very frustrating to say the least however it’s worse when someone asks me to give my views on their image, they tend to get very defensive !

I do offer critique but I have never asked for it and I never will. My personal journey is just that,  mine. I only ever give critique by email if asked and never in open social media.

Apart from working with clients I always make my own decisions good or bad and stand by those choices because my images are mine.  It’s great to be able to self critique and I know it takes quite a while to become comfortable with doing this but by working it out for yourself it’s very refreshing when it all starts to make sense. It will take a lot longer to make sense if you always ask other people, it’s like starting a new job after a while you just get on with it and learn as you go, if you are still asking questions a year later there must be a problem!

I shot landscapes for a long time before I realised that my horizons were not straight! From about 10  to 14 years old I had some horrendous landscapes but every one told me I was a great photographer !  The day I worked it out for myself I started to look deeper into my own work and study some of the past Masters, not to copy them but to learn about composition and try to work out what else I was doing wrong. I see it still to this day on facebook, someone will post an image with an horizon that is obviously not straight and 45 people click like and say WOW! Whilst photography is your own personal journey, those comments are not helpful.

People go out and shoot 400 images on a day out, then go home and post 375 on Facebook or flickr because they can’t decide what images are the best or because they like them all. The best way to decide what are the best image from your day out is to make a book of your day out with 20 images you soon will start to see how unimportant 15 shots of the same tree are or 30 shots of your dog.

So what is this blog post about ?

Well it’s going to be very subjective, my choice, my journey. Lots of people will disagree with me and that’s great, it would be a boring world if everyone agreed.

I will not be getting into a debate with anyone once this is posted I just don’t have the time and life is too short but I will give you a quick look into how I think, when out on the street and how I choose an image from a sequence. I delete all images I don’t use so I had to go out and shoot these images so I could show you how I work. The images in this sequence were shot on a Fujifilm X-T10 with 35mm f/1.4  and shot at RAW files, I shoot single shot and not continuous.

I was shooting in London and found these two guys on a bench and quite liked the interaction and started to work the scene, for me these two were interesting but I needed more, the guy on the phone was added interest.

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So I stepped back and started to wait but did not take my eye off the two guys or the benches. I did notice the yellow flowers and the empty benches. As a girl walked past from the right I noticed a girl coming into the frame from the left with orange hair that went quite well with the flowers.

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_DSF0019 As the girl came into the frame a guy who was not with her sat down on the bench and admired the girl as she started to put her jacket on. I liked the shapes she was making with the jacket. The scene was now starting to build and lots of elements were coming into place for me with my new interest in colour. I was so pleased she had walked into the frame adding more of a story and more subjects to make a much more interesting scene.

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I liked the guy under the Cheapside sign but the guy with the bike helmet came into the frame and the woman in the white jacket far left was distracting me, so I made one more exposure by moving the camera to the right and waiting for the guy to be behind the girl, a personal choice based on the fact he was distracting from the guy looking at the girl.

_DSF0021

At this point I was sure that  this frame frame was the one I wanted to use but would leave them all on my memory card until I got home to make my final choice.

It’s bad practice to delete from your card as this creates gaps in the data and when the card fills up this can cause card corruption, as well as accidental deletions.

I had waited for the scene to build and let the subjects all take up their positions in the shot, all the time I was standing only feet away just watching the expressions. The girl picked up her bag and walked off after this shot and the guy at the end looked down at his phone.

I could have stood here for hours just shooting these benches and the people that came and went all day.

My normal method of selecting  and editing my work is harsh and involves the deletion of all the images I don’t use. Its worked for me all my life and I am happy with it. The main reason I do this  is to force me to go out and shoot and look for new images every day. I can’t sit indoors in the winter and look through my hard drive for images that could have been, I have to go out and look for that image that amazing image that is out there somewhere.

So when I got home from my trip to London I quickly chose the main image in this set and the only reason the others are still around is this blog post. The only edited image is the main image and last image the rest are RAW files.

I am not a prolific shooter but I do work a scene just like this when I find some interesting subjects.

I was in London for three days and shot about 100 images a day and in my London file now sits 35 images, but 10 have been kept for using like this on my workshops. So I have have 25 keepers but out of the 25 keepers I only have 4 I like and nothing I would call great or amazing, that one is still out there.

This is just a little insight into how I work and to help you guys that email me and message me on facebook about how I work that don’t get a chance to come on my workshops.

I do manage to get some quite good single shots but most of the images I have I like have been part of a sequence where I have allowed the scene to build whilst shooting and observing.

I used to wait weeks to develop my film and still do but once developed I follow the same route, if I ever get stuck in a sequence I will print my images out and put them on my wall until one jumps out at me, but most of the time when I do that I just delete the lot !

4 thoughts on “Image selection and Scene Building

    Anthony Hutchinson said:
    October 18, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Nice write up Matt. Thanks for this. It’s given me a few things to think about. I like the idea of deleting images you will not use. I tend to keep EVERYTHING but I’m beginning to realize that 99% of those images I haven’t used will never be used. So why keep them? As you say, why not force yourself to get out and just shoot more?

    I have a couple questions for you that may be a little off topic but follow on from the overall premise. Basically I was wondering if you could give more insight into how you worked this scene. More specifically, how did you work this scene without imparting yourself into the scene and therefore distracting those elements in the scene? Some time ago I watched your video where you gave a lecture on your techniques and you had mentioned that one of the techniques you use, particularly in the case of a window shot, would be to pretend you are taking a picture of something immediately above your subject and then pretend you are looking at the result of that image on the LCD screen while pointing the lens at the subject and taking the picture. Is that the technique you used in this instance in order to avoid being “sold out” and thus ruining the scene itself, particularly seeing how long you must have been standing there in order to capture all these images?

    And the other question is, after capturing each image, are you examining each immediately on the LCD screen in order to make the sort of assessments that you talk about above? In terms of what you laid out in this post, is this the sort of thinking process you actually go through after each image capture? Or do you more or less just shoot a bunch of shots and then look at them all later?

    Thanks for the insights.

      matt6t6 responded:
      October 19, 2015 at 8:29 am

      To answer your last question first, no I don’t just shoot and hope all my images are shot and calculated. I very early shoot like this, this set of images were shot for this blog. I normally wait for a scene to build as I observe and then take possibly one or two shots. The way I get close to people is to not stand out from the crowd and by using camera skills that I have learnt over the years I just don’t draw attention to myself. I have been teaching workshops all over the UK this year and will also be continuing the workshops in to 2016 if you go to http://www.lighttraveler.co.uk the link is in the top right hand corner. The workshops are designed to teach you some of my techniques and ate all at a reasonable price. Thanks for your comment and questions.

        Anthony Hutchinson said:
        October 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm

        Thanks Matt. I would love to attend one of your workshops but I live in Toronto, Canada. Please accept this as an open invitation to fly over the pond to present one of your workshops here. I have no doubts it would be well received.
        All the best.

    matt6t6 responded:
    October 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks for the invite, I am aiming to wind down my teaching and talking over the next few years to concentrate on my personal photography work. If you have any more questions feel free to email me matt@matthewhartphotography.com

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