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Camera Class 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 abode.

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 the dry.

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

Everyone 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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