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Old May 25, 2011, 5:04 PM   #1
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I took this the other day and showed it to a professional photographer in my home town. He said it was poor work and very amature in composition. I posted it on another site and they thought it was pretty good. So what is up? can I have done this differently? Is it poorly composed? What is wrong?

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Old May 25, 2011, 5:22 PM   #2
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I would have to side with the "professional photographer" on this one (fyi.. I'm an amateur hobbyist).

The first thing i noticed was the lack of focus. I can't seem to find any part of the photo that is sharp, but i think the sharpest part is somewhere near the bridge of the cello (or is that a bass?).

The second thing i noticed was the composition: The scroll was cut off the bottom left side of the frame. The angle of the instrument is awkward and not natural to my eye. Also, its super dusty, which really detracts from such a beautiful instrument.

Third, the background: The bass drum and horn in the background make the entire photo seem more busy and cluttered. Always keep in mind what is behind your subject matter. A bad background can ruin a nice photo (google photobomb).

Lastly, the color temperature seems a bit off. Too warm for my tastes, but that could just be the stage lighting.


I'm sorry that I dont have better news for you, but that is how i see this photo.
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Old May 25, 2011, 7:20 PM   #3
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OK thanks,
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Old May 26, 2011, 2:10 AM   #4
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I'm certainly no pro, so this is all IMHO.

I like the atypical view point of the cello (or is that a bass?). This view gives a nice reflection of the bridge, a perspective on the instrument's hourglass shape that isn't often seen and a strong diagonal line. But the rest of the composition doesn't work for me.

The diagonal leads the eye right out the image.

The background elements (brass instrument and the vertical black thing to the left of it) break up the beauty of the cello curves and color, as does the sheet music lying on it.

Nothing is gained by making the instrument's neck out of focus and cutting off of the headstock. The drum adds nothing.

You selected a viewpoint that is difficult to compose. I suggest going to google images and searching on 'cello still life'. Most images are of the instrument leaning against a wall or lying on the floor. They're shown perpendicular to the point of view, or at a slight angle. Some use the extreme viewpoint of a foreshortened headpiece in the foreground with the neck and body trailing away.

If I had access to a cello and a music room, this is what I'd try for the same viewpoint. In my mind's eye it seems easier to build a composition by not showing the neck. I'd have to experiment with shadow, framing the subject or draping something over the neck to see what works, if anything. Give that strong diagonal something to stop the eye with a chair and music stand behind and to the right. Add bow and sheet music to the chair / stand, perhaps with something hanging off the chair / stand that gives a hint about the musician. I'd have the background so that the outline of the cello was against a uniform color or surface, which would highlight it's shape. Out of focus elements above the chair/music stand and across the top would draw the eye on a counterclockwise circuit of the image.

Two thumbs up for the Dave Brubeck reference.

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Old May 26, 2011, 3:28 AM   #5
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Hi again I am a keen amature and I do enter comps( first year ever in 45years of taking pictures). What I learned very quickly is to take your time and look at what you are taking can it be done diffrently. are there distractions and to me the brass instrument is a major one as is the sheet music, also no point of focus.
I think the idea is good but I would try and retake it from another angle. Good luck
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Old May 26, 2011, 3:51 PM   #6
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OK, Thanks everyone. I would like to point out a couple of things so you get a feel for the photograph. First, this was taken without any opportunity to set it up at all. The 8th grade class was playing for a graduation in a tightly constrained area. To avoid any interfearence from other instruments would have been impossible. I left the hint of other instruments in the photo to suggest other members were taking 5 along with the Bassist. Music stands, drums, brass instruments were lying all over the place so this is the best I could get on short notice. Mind you it was not a planned shot just happenstance. I could not get any further away from the bass as it was in a balcony and I just cant walk on air yet. Dusty instrument is a good observation however, I did not have time to clean the instrument as it wasn't mine to touch, and these are 8th graders and by the position of the instrument on the floor, it is obviously not very well taken care of to start with. I was really there to take graduation photos of my grand son's graduation, and thought this would be something of interest to try to take a shot of. I did take another shot but i did not like it as well as this. I was thinking the content, and the intent would overshadow the obvious simple flaws that could have been avoided if it was intentionally set up for a studio effort. Any way thanks for the critique, and I will use it in future attempts at off hand shots. Frank
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Old May 26, 2011, 8:48 PM   #7
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Personally i dont think i would have taken the shot for the reasons you state, such as:

- "To avoid any interference from other instruments would have been impossible",
- "instruments were lying all over the place so this is the best I could get"
- "I could not get any further away from the bass"
- "did not have time to clean the instrument"

I take photos of things all the time that i think could make a nice photo or an interesting conversation later on... but more often than not I just delete them once they're on my computer because life is rarely presented in a studio-like way to create a nice photo. It's just the way it is. Every so often a real world still-life will lend itself to photography... That bass is not one of those times, IMO.

Sometimes i'll get emotionally attached to a photo that i took during some sort of significant situation to me, and it's like I have beer goggles on when viewing the picture later on. I will think it's a great photo and everyone else will hate it.

For a comparison; I am helping my boss clean out his garage this week and if it were up to me I'd throw out 3/4 of the stuff (junk) that's in there.. but he wants to save almost all of it because he has some sort of emotional connection to it all. It's frustrating for both of us! lol.



BTW, i'm not just speaking to the OP here, I'm just talking/ranting to anybody who may or may not come across a similar situation with their photography.
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Old May 27, 2011, 6:48 AM   #8
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Frank, please don't take any of this personally. I had similar lessons to learn. As the photographer you remember the back story of the photo and the image gives you a wealth of emotions as you remember the event. It's what its all about for you. To the rest of the world though, all we see is a dusty cello with a cluttered background. When taking a candid shot, sometimes (often) there just isn't an opportunity to get that Louvre-bound shot.

The advice received so far is spot-on and is worth consideration for the photos that I myself still strive for: family photos with an artistic flair. But some of them are for the scrapbook, and sometimes I get a real winner to share. It's all good.
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Old May 27, 2011, 6:06 PM   #9
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Hey guys don't get me wrong I am feeling what you are saying, and agree with it. I don't take this personally, I guess I was just trying to state the condition thet the shot was taken in. Not at all offended, and appreciate your input. Kudo's to you all for your candor. It is helpful and I can apply it to future shots. Again thanks for your help!
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Old Jun 11, 2011, 1:39 PM   #10
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One thing, take the photo and use it for what you want to do...with something like this in the future.
I wonder, do you take notes of what you shoot? I mean like a journal? Even in the computer using comments in the exif you could say next time change angle, clean up the background, etc.

I agree with ewheeler in that we keep too much due to sentiment. I go back and have a tidy attack once in awhile. While looking for something I will delete files which I hadn't previously...either because of attachment or because I missed it. In part due to space and in part due to 'why the heck keep them if they aren't worth printing'. In other words I am Refining my Storage since I don't want to be looking through it all.

Last edited by lisalonewolf; Jun 11, 2011 at 1:46 PM. Reason: add second paragraph
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