Image Control in Photojournalism

Photojournalism, or Reportage as it is called in Europe, is the art of choosing what to shoot, and how to shoot it. Since such images cannot be manipulated after the fact, photographers tend to control them in advance instead. The image below shows such a technique. With the goal of making the beach scene look crowded and unpalatable, several techniques have been used. The first was to compress the crowds by waiting for high tide, when the beach is at it’s narrowest. The next was to shoot with a very long telephoto lens, to compress the scene in a second dimension. And the choice of processing in black and white further aids the efforts by depriving the scene of the bright colors of a summer beach. It would have been possible to tell a very different story by shooting an idyllic scene of children playing in the waves, and digging in the sand, simply by using a wider lens, and shooting out to sea, leaving the clutter behind the camera.


C. David Tobie


The View, Denied

Its easy to offer your viewer a broad panorama. But with the loss of the third dimension in photographs, such a view often, so to speak, falls flat. Layering foreground elements into the composition is the simplest technique for adding depth to an image. But a variation on that technique is to deny the viewer the bigger view, to force them to peer, in a sense, through the keyhole to see it. While this may seem a contrary technique, the result can be quite compelling. Below, one of the Porcupine Islands off the Coast of Maine is viewed through the gap between the gunwales and the boom of the sail. Yet the result has more flavor for the compression of the scene, and the addition of the other elements.

C. David Tobie

Black and White for Delayed Recognition

Some images are just too easy. If the subject matter is instantly apparent to the viewer, then techniques to make the image more interesting should be considered. Black and white is one such choice. It strips away color recognition, and forces the viewer to recognize the subject matter by form and texture. In the image below, the puzzle of the cracked, curving walkways is extended by not having green grass be instantly recognizable. Those few extra seconds are valuable in an advertisement or other “eye catcher” use. Including both a color, and a black and white version of such an image in your stock image library will give designers the option to have the more lyrical effect of the curves against the green grass, or the more eye capturing effect of the black and white version.


C. David Tobie

Unique Gravestones for Stock Images

Old cemeteries contain some interesting stone carvings. Its worth a walk through a promising graveyard to see what surprises it may contain. A carving of a lamb. A human arm, aiming skyward, holding a torch like the Statue of Liberty. Or, in this case, a carven book. While the intended symbolism is likely to be Biblical, the stock photo value of such an image is high, since web designers and digital publishers are always searching for new images to illustrate such ideas as the demise of printed books, or e-books, which don’t have much physical presence, or many other such subjects. Keywords such as #StoneBook, #MarbleBook, #DeathOfTheBook, or even #PetrifiedBook would be good starting points for marketing such an image.


C. David Tobie

The Mirror of Your Soul

…or at least your artistic intent. Mirrors provide a creative opportunity for photographers to make a statement, by allowing them a choice of what secondary subject matter is added to an image. Here the line of Harleys created a nice repeating pattern, but, by capturing the flag in not one, but all three mirrors, it ties in with the red and chrome blue tones of the bikes, as well as making a clear patriotic statement. ReflectedGlory-1

C. David Tobie

Freeze Motion Shots of Night Fountains

Fountains are designed to please the eye, but they often produce disappointing images when shot during the day. However, many are dramatically lit at night, and are better isolated from their background in the dark.

There are basically two types of fountain shots. One type has a pleasing soft blur from the water motion, which require a long exposure, and thus a tripod; this type of shot is excellent for including both the fountain, and a lot of detail about other elements in the image, such as architecture in the background.  The other type of image is ones that have sharp water detail. Digital cameras have improved to the point that a tripod not actually necessary for the freeze-motion fountain shots; after all, to freeze the water, the shutter speed much be quite fast, making hand-held shooting possible, though multiple shots are a good idea, so that the steadiest shot can be selected.

The shot below is a handheld image of a fountain in Zurich, with lots of very satisfying frozen water detail. The image was actually darkened a bit from the default RAW settings, to reduce the emphasis on the background, and noise in the darks. With the latest DSLRs, there would be even less dark noise, and other processing options opening up the background further would be possible.

Night Fountain-1

C. David Tobie

Telephoto Lenses to Compress a Scene

It had been a longtime goal to shoot the fields of sunflowers in Tuscany. But trips there in June were too early, and trips in August were too late. Then, one summer, on a drive to Cortona a field of perfect sunflowers appeared, at a time when all the others were far past prime. Apparently the farmer had been late sowing that plot. The field was in a flat area, efficient for farming, but without the hilly beauty typical of Tuscany. So: how to take advantage of this opportunity, when the “hillside of flowers” archetype was not possible?

The first images shot were with a standard length lens, and results, as shown at the bottom below, were unimpressive. However, switching to a long telephoto lens, and using the car as a shooting platform for height, produced the top image below, a simple field image, with no sky, no horizon, no foreground, or any of the other typical landscape elements. And yet this image is one that is so evocative for people that it remains in the portfolio year after year.


200mm lens shot of the sunflower field, compressing the scene from above.Sunflowers40mm-1

40mm lens shot, up close, producing much more emphasis on the flowers in the foreground.

C. David Tobie