April 24, 2018

Decisions on Composition

Decisions on Composition

Coronado Bridge Aerial View

Coronado Bridge Aerial View

This photo was recently shared on Facebook, and only afterwards I realized that it will serve as a great reference to illustrate the decision-making process in composition.

I think I have mentioned this before: The science of composition is a subject that can be studied, and anybody can learn how to apply the rules of composition to his/her own images in order to enhance it, and make it more pleasing and understandable to the viewer. A long sentence, but powerful content!

The bridge, with its natural curve served a triple purpose:

In the first place it forms the lead-in to the photograph. It leads the eye from the left bottom of the image, right through to the right, and then stretching into the upper half. Because the bridge goes from left to right, filling the width of the photo, there is very little negative space towards the right-hand side.

It is used to frame the photo at the bottom, and the right.

Most important, it is the main object. Everything evolves around the bridge. The more purpose a subject has, the stronger it becomes, and the more the eye will focus on it.

The city-scape in the background subconsciously becomes an object in itself, but sub-ordinate to the bridge. The bridge leads the viewer to the city. If I would have excluded the sky from the photo, the city would have become the background, and the bridge would just disappear in the background. Now the bridge fulfills a purpose by leading the eye to the city-scape.

In western culture, we read from left to right. Therefore the eye is trained to go from left to right. That is why the bridge is used to lead the eye from the left to the right, and up. If the bridge was flipped horizontally, i.e. lead-in from right to left, all the water would have formed a negative space. Now it is not.

The anchored sailboats, forming a diagonal line, forms an imaginary line, starting from the top left of the photo, and leading to the bridge.

The boat in the middle left, heading towards the bridge also tends to lead the eye in that direction. If the boat was going the opposite way, it would have had a negative impact on the composition by leading the eye from right to left, and away from the bridge.

The arch formed by the top of the helicopter’s dash (bottom right) replicates the arch of the bridge in the opposite direction, thus mimicking the flow. If it wasn’t there, there would have been a negative space.

By splitting the photo in three horizontal lines (water in the front, city in the middle, and sky at the top), a setting is created that is much more pleasing to the eye. People, by nature finds uneven numbers of objects more pleasing than even numbers.

Diagonal lines, parabolas, and horizontal lines were used to support the composition as a whole.

Submit your own photos for critique

I want to extend an open invitation to everyone who wants me to comment on the composition in their own photos to send it to me. It will then discuss on this blog-site. In the process we all will learn from it. Photos can be sent to photos@fcschwartz.com. Just a few rules, it must be family friendly, and by submitting the photos you grant permission that the material may be used for training purposes, digitally, in print or any other media.

The Recommended Color Space for Online Posting

The Recommended Color Space for Online Posting:

I saw a post in the Lightroom Help Group on Facebook where a person mentioned that there is a color differentiation from the photo on his computer to the photo he posts in Facebook.

This is normally the issue when you edit your photos in a different color space than Adobe sRGB, which is the recommended color space for posting your photos online. I must stress, don’t edit in sRGB, just post in sRGB. The color gamut in sRGB is much smaller as i.e. Adobe RGB, but sRGB is the only color space that can be handled by the Internet. Colors out of the sRGB gamut will just be lost.

I spent some time to find the best possible way to do the conversion from Adobe RGB to Adobe sRGB with the least amount of color change.


Top Image: sRGB conversion using Photoshop. Bottom Image: sRGB conversion using Lightroom.

I found the biggest color change happened when I converted directly from Lightroom.

The bottom section of the photo was done with the Lightroom conversion.

The least amount of color change takes place when I do the conversion via Photoshop using the following workflow:

When you open Photoshop (without opening any photos, change the color space to sRGB. This is done on the Mac by using the following shortcut keys: Shift+Command+K.

When the Color Settings open up, click on the RGB dropdown menu and select sRGB.

I also select the “Ask When Opening” options under “Profile Mismatches”, and “Missing Profiles”. This reminds me afterwards to change my color space back to Adobe RGB.

Open the photo(s) you want to convert.

Resize your photos. If you are interested, I can send you my Photoshop Resize Actions for a 1024 x 768 pixel, 72 p.p.i. (Landscape), and  768 pixel width portrait photo. These sizes are ideal for online posting.

Black & White Photography: Converting your Photo


Rock Creek Lake | Photographer Francois Swart

Rock Creek Lake | Photographer Francois Swart

My first blog post for 2014! A new year and my quest for photographic excellence continues. My wish is that you will take the journey with me.

Black & White photos has a unique place in the art world, and also in photography. It allows more room for interpretation than the color photo.

Earlier today Kevin La Rue (V.P. Marketing for MacPhun Software) and I discussed black and white photography and the ways of converting your existing photos to black and white. I immediately decided that this is a good topic for discussion.

There are several ways to convert your image to black and white, but let’s first start with what NOT to do. NEVER capture your photo in black & white in camera. The color channels will be lost, and that will limit your ability to get the best possible black & white photo – and isn’t that what you want?

Not all photos will grant itself to black & white. When you capture the photo, you may visualize this phenomenal, mind blowing, black & white image. And when you look at it afterwards, you realize that you misjudged the opportunity completely. Maybe it is a great color image, but it is not the same in black & white. If you took the photo as black & white, you cannot convert it back to color afterwards (unless the photo was taken in RAW). The opposite is true for a color photo.

Another advantage of converting the color photo to black & white, is that all the color channels are still available for fine tuning. I.e. you can darken or lighten the blue sky by adjusting the blue channel, or dramatize the contrast in the clouds without effecting any other color (i.e. greens, reds, and yellows) in the photo.

How to evaluate a scene for a black and white photo is a subject to be discussed on its own, and I will get to that in a future post.

I randomly selected this image for conversion. I deliberately did not use Photoshop to do the black & white conversion, as the software is not readily available to everyone. In the stead, I used MacPhun Intensify Pro. It is quite powerful and is available at $59.99.

I have been testing it for some time now, and I must admit that I stand amazed at the possibilities.

It comes with a preset bundle, and then you can use the adjustments to tweak the settings to perfection. If you like the adjustments you made, you can save it as a new preset. How cool!

The photo was taken up above, from Rock Creek Road at Rock Creek Lake in the Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Lakes.


Gone Fishin’

What attracted me to this night scene on the Ocean Side beach in San Diego was the abandoned chair. With nobody in site, it was the lead-in to an almost vertical line to the end of the pier.

The shore-line left to right, the line from right to left with the anchor poles penetrates the water surface and then the pier itself from left to right forms a an s-curf.

I just loved it!