Ohhh…Nice Picture, You Must Have a Good Camera……..

National Theater

This phrase is guaranteed to piss off any photographer, professional or rank amateur who tries to make good images. Just for grins, this post is about how I create an image. From capture to approximate final output, this hopefully shows the process I went through for a “nice picture” and I hope it show that just having a good camera is only a part of the story of trying to make an image. While it’s true that having a “good” camera helps, it’s not essential to making an interesting image. So, I need to get a picture from Beijing for my cities project. After a lot of research and scouting, I decide I really want to get an image of the National Theater building. This building, for me, is probably the best icon of Beijing. It is instantly recognizable and for me, on of the worlds most beautiful buildings.

So I turn up at sunset and with my “good camera” (note the dripping sarcasm) take the first image.

Nice Picture, innit! National Theater

Not very pretty is it? That’s what a “good camera” gets you. Spend $5K on a lens and body and you too can take this picture!

OK, so that’s crap. but I know how to get something distinctive.

More after the jump…..

I spend some time in the rapidly diminishing light scouting around the building. I’m checking the angles and the background. There are some cranes that intrude on some angles and some ugly buildings that will break the curve of the building in others…..selecting the viewpoint and sorting the composition is my priority at this point and I’m trying to previsualize what it’s going to look like in about 1/2 an hour or so.

Another Angle - National Theater

Note the buildings at the edge of the curve…kinda spoils the composition.

step back.....National Theater

Step back a bit, but the plastic chain kinda distracts and those building really do bug me…..

Getting close.....National Theater

Now this is getting closer….I’m getting a warm fuzzy feeling about this composition. I’m not thrilled about the concrete coping in the bottom of the picture, but the security man is eyeing me with disdain so I’m not crossing the plastic chain to challenge his kung-fu…

Now I wait. The light drops and I switch to tungsten white balance. This balances the tunsten lights in the building and gives an overal blue twighlight cast to the image…..

Blue it down National Theater

Not bad, but I wait a bit longer to improve the richness of the colour, plus it gives me the opportunity to put the tripod onto that coping, improving the composition while the security man isn’t looking. He’s busy harassing another photographer down the line…..

Evading security!!! National Theater

I really like this composition, but it’s late and I’m loosing the saturation…..I wonder what it looks like with a cloudy white balance??

Different Look.....National Theater

Now I’m much happier. I’ve tweaked the white balance, cropped the distracting elements, cloned out the annoying LED flashing kites, cleaned up the tiny bit of noise. This may not be the final image of the shoot, but it’s pretty good, at least I like it.

I hope this demonstrates that it isn’t having a “good camera” that matters. I could have gotten almost the same image on a P7000, but it would have been a much slower process and I wouldn’t have gotten a picture that will go to 20×14 without effort. I would not have gotten the angle of view I have here and would have had to make some choices that would have compromised the image.

Yes, I have a good camera, but the camera takes pictures while I try to make images. Subtle difference, but please try to understand it, so that next time you see and image you really like, you don’t insult the photographer by assuming camera does all the work. Remind me to complement Michelangelo next time I see the statue of David with “Oh, nice sculpture, you must have a good chisel!”

I’m no Michelangelo, but I would like at least a little credit for pushing the button at the right time……..

More to come………

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This work by Jason Pitcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.jasonpitcher.com.
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1 Comment

  1. nnacygerges

    love it

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