The Challenge of Flag Closeups

Shooting images containing flags is a thankless task; a dozen good compositions may all be rejected because the flag is not in a photogenic pose. Shooting flags by themselves presents other challenges: everyone knows what the subject matter is, and finding a unique way of framing it is important. Macros of just a portion of a flag will produce interesting images with all the needed content, without all the usual real estate. Adding further elements such as motion blur and selective focus can function to abstract the image, while still leaving the colors and forms clearly visible. One such example is shown below, offering a more poetic, less literal flag image, which would be a good seller for stock image use.

Flag Closeup-1

C. David Tobie


Color Over Detail

When, and how, should a photographer sacrifice detail and focus to color? Its important to determine which element of an image is key, and decide how to strengthen it, even if that means sacrificing other elements that we usually consider important to an image. Here we are looking at a shot that would be all about the classic car, if it was a full focus image. To make it more about form, and especially color, the choice was made to use a LensBaby lens to create a selective focus image. This way the user has little choice but to view the overall forms, and especially the colors, of the image, as there is little else in the frame to distract from them.


C. David Tobie

The Challenges of Selective Focus

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of focus in an image. Today, the only images a photographer is likely to trash from a session are those that are out of focus, or focused in the wrong plane. Selective focus, using a specialty lens or software effects, can produce very powerful images. But the intent of the image must align with the focus of the image, or the intent will be significantly weakened.


In the image above, if the goal is to move the eye up the spire, then that is working nicely. If it is to stop at the top of the spire, perhaps with a “which way the wind blows” reference, then the image has a real problem: the clouds above the weathervane are significantly sharper than the weathervane itself. However, if the image is intended to point to heaven, or to the blue sky breaking though, or some similar intent where the sky and clouds, not the spire, are the final goal, then it will succeed. For stock use, producing multiple focal point images of such a shot, would be wise; as the designer, not the photographer, gets to decide where the emphasis needs to lie.

C. David Tobie

In Search of Artful Motion Blur

At times, we all shoot with settings too slow for the lighting and motion of our images. And, at times, we find a few of the resulting images to be artistically pleasing. The question that arises from this is: how best to improve the likelihood of getting a pleasing shot, from a somewhat random process?

The first step, is to optimize your blur settings, by being sure they are not so slow that everything turns to mush, but also not so fast that the blur does not have time to become pronounced and artistic.

The second step is center the shot on the critical element, so that the focus is most likely to be sharp on the key components of  the image.

The final step is to pan the camera in the direction of the target option’s motion, at a speed to approximate the motion of the object.


The shot above shows a New York Taxi speeding through the streets at night. This method of shooting enhances the sense of speed, while reducing detail in most sections of the image. One factor to pay attention to with street shots at night is LED lights, which cause strobe-like effects that may, or may not, be to your liking. Another factor is unintended faces; in many of my taxi shots, the driver’s face is clear as he looks at the camera, and wonders just why he is being photographed. Here the face has been darkened and reduced in contrast to assure that the viewers eye focusses on the cab, not the cab-driver.

The shot below shows a Gull taking off from its perch. Here luck assisted, along with some discreet editing, in getting the head sharp, along with the fringe of the tail and the legs, providing just enough sharpness to the otherwise extremely blurry image, to make it readable, and pleasing.


C. David Tobie