by Harry Flashman
Put your masterpieces on your walls
Great images do not just “happen” - they are “made”. But when I say “walls”
I mean the walls in your living room, not some ether-inspired Facebook
creation. Your masterpieces deserve a permanent place in the décor of your
One way to “make” great wall art is to follow a theme and display the images
as a diptych or even triptych. (Fancy words for two or three pictures
mounted side by side.)
Now for your walls, consider a study of opposites. When you were very young,
you were taught ‘opposites’. Hot and cold, big and small, young and old,
black and white and so on. Thank you, Mother.
One very good way to give extra impact to your photographs is then to ‘pair’
your images by use of opposites. The first, and one of the most obvious
contrasts is to take the same subject, but at different times of the day.
The old phrase “as different as night and day” is crying out to be used. Doi
Suthep by day and night is an obvious example. The Night Market by day and
night is again extremely good.
Now there are a couple of tricks here that you have to watch. The first is
that you must take the shots from exactly the same position, even if you
have to camp there all day! What I do is to mark the spot where the shot was
taken in the morning, so I can come back and find the identical spot later.
The second factor is to make sure that if you are using a zoom lens, that
you use the same focal length setting each time. The idea is to ensure that
the only item of change is the lighting.
Another contrast is to use the weather to give you a different look to the
same subject. Even a street scene with pedestrians taken in daylight and
then again with umbrellas in the rain tells a very different story. So next
time it is teeming down with rain (and that seems every day right now) go
outdoors with your camera and get something pleasing and then recreate it in
What we will do now is to exercise our minds (yours and mine) and come up
with some opposites - then work out how to present these on film. As I have
said so many times, a good photograph is “made” rather than just happens.
The way the pros work is to build on a concept and then work out the way of
showing it on film.
There is ‘young and old’ that springs immediately to mind. A shot of a very
old person with a young child is always an attention grabber. Now, how many
times have you seen big advertising companies use just that shot?
What about old and new? The range here is as big as your imagination. A
shiny new car parked beside a wrecked one, a new beach umbrella beside a
tattered old one, a shot of a workers corrugated iron and packing case
‘house’ beside a bright, spanking new mansion. Or even a photo of a box
Brownie and a new Nikon.
There’s even more - hot and cold, rough and smooth, light and heavy - there
is really no end to what you can portray when you start thinking about it.
But it doesn’t end there either. Think about the different ways you can do
things. Digging a trench with an old shovel, to watching a huge mechanical
ditch digger at work. How about a sundial with a watch hooked on it? A light
bulb and a candle, a horse and buggy and a new Mercedes. Again, just let
your imagination run riot and go from there.
Now presentation of contrasting images is important too. This is where you
should finally select the best two shots and get enlargements done. 10
inches by 8 inches (called 8R by most labs) is a good size and then get them
mounted side by side using a double matte. With the cost of framing being so
cheap in Thailand it is very easy to produce great wall art. All that is
needed are your images and some original imagination.
Crop and enlarge for impact
would like to take photographs that make the viewers go, “Wow! Wish I’d
taken that.” Well it is not so hard, once you understand that all
photographic images are not really 5x4, 5x7 or even 10x8.
The size you get back from your friendly photo shop is related in most
instances, to the size of what a 35 mm negative used to be. The photographic
printers are preset towards those sizes, and those sizes will suit the
average weekend photographer. However, you are not the average weekend
photographer, or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
The 5x4 print is very roughly of the same proportions as the 35 mm negative,
so what you could see on the negative could be reproduced on the
photographic paper. This is great in theory, but does not necessarily
correspond to the subject you want to photograph. Not everything or everyone
fits neatly into a 5x4 format.
Take a look at the photograph this week. This is a long tailed lizard, taken
by my keen amateur photographic friend the late Ernie Kuehnelt. This is a
great shot and was one that Ernie had to use all his stealth to record.
Lizards are not renowned for responding to exhortations to “keep still,” but
he kept going until he got the shot, with the head framed nicely contrasted
against the light background.
Now look again at the photograph. Long tailed lizards are not 5x4 or even
10x8 (same proportions obviously) or 6x6 or 6x7. When Ernie first brought
the lizard pic into my office, he had cropped a little off both the sides to
produce an elongated print. We sat and looked at it, but in the end we both
decided it needed even more cropping to both sides to get the best from the
photograph. We laid sheets of white paper down both sides, and suddenly the
lizard became more and more powerful as the subject. The blank spaces either
side had been taking the impact away from the subject. Cropping severely
brought it out. So now Ernie was left with a long skinny print. Instead of
10x8 it was now more like a 10x4! But that did not matter, when you see the
impact in the final print.
The moral to the tale (or the lizard’s tail) is that you should look very
critically at some of your better shots, and then sit down with four sheets
of paper and begin to look at how you could crop the shot, to give the
subject more “oomph”. Pro shooters use two “L” shaped pieces of card, moving
them around to find the best cropping situation, but four pieces of A4
printer paper are just as good.
To bring your prints into such that they will look good hanging on your
wall, my suggestion is to get an 8R enlargement done (generally less than
100 baht in most photo processors) and then begin the visual cropping
exercise as detailed above. Be bold, even cropping right close to hair
lines, or even into the hair sometimes looks better. Don’t be afraid to crop
into elbows when framing up portraits, for example. The idea is just to make
the subject stand out.
When you have the best crop lines, then using a guillotine (most photo shops
have these too), carefully finish the cropping exercise. It is this final
print, no matter what proportions it ends up, that you should have framed
and hung as wall art for your home or office. It should also be remembered
that the frame requires careful consideration. It is no good to spend all
this time on making the subject stand out, and then dwarfing it with a huge
ornate gold frame! Don’t let the frame dominate the subject!
Since you are probably storing the images in your computer, crop these
images before saving as well.
Do all this and then people will walk in and say, “Wow! I wish I’d taken
that!” They will, believe me. The different shape is an immediate eye
catcher, and with the subject matter now being the definite “hero”, you have
that powerful head-turning shot you have always wanted.
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