Altared State
Taylor Miller, Lawrence, KS

The Problem:
We thought that the real subject in this photo was the angled beam of light, slicing through the frame diagonally. A few too many picture elements distracted from it, as did the overly bright floor and altar railing.

What now? We cropped out much of the floor, but kept much of the columns and ropes because they provide a good framing element. We yanked Curves around in Photoshop to boost the contrast in the church interior, emphasizing the shaft of light. We then burned down bright highlights in the background and the altar rail, to further increase the sense of light breaking into dark shadow. Last, we straightened the picture-it was shot slightly off-kilter.

Next Time: Try different framings (read, in-camera cropping) whenever you have a distinct type of lighting in the scene, and try to avoid clashing bright spots. We thought the decision to make the picture monochrome was a good one, but it never hurts to try different contrast levels or selective dodging and burning-in other words, darkroom experimentation.

Tech info: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Canon EF-S lens. Exposure at ISO 800 not recorded. Monochrome conversion made in Adobe Photoshop 5.5.

Just Deserts
Daniel Gratton, Chandler, AZ

The Problem:
This is one of those photos with a couple of pictures in it. To the left, the lone plant against the jumble of desert vegetation; to the right, the dirt path following an S-curve to the horizon. We decided we’d go with the picture on the left.

What now? We did the obvious thing and cropped to a vertical, but-oops!-we ended up with the horizon line plunk in the middle of the frame, which more often than not makes a picture very static. We needed more sky! So we cropped the bottom off, then cut-and-pasted more sky on top, smoothing it out with cloning. We vignetted the edges slightly to strengthen the center of the picture (and we don’t mind the vaguely Olde Tyme Look it gives, either).

Next Time: Cluttered landscapes present a challenge in getting a strong picture composition.

Try this: Look for a distinct element-a lone tree or rock, or a road receding into the distance-and work to isolate it. Frame it so that there are distinct layers, foreground to background. And keep the horizon away from the middle of the frame.

Tech info: Canon EOS 20D with 17-85mm f/4-5.6 Canon IS EF-S lens.

Exposure: 1/80 sec at f/16, ISO 100. RAW image processed and sharpened with Adobe Photoshop CS2.

Floating Element
Gareth Cox, St. Augustine, FL

The Problem: Actually, we don’t think there is a problem with this picture; it’s a nicely done dramatic silhouette. But, noodges that we are, we couldn’t help noting that the plainly visible shore works against the impression that the boat is floating in a vast open sea. We also thought that the stark black-and-white-while highly effective-gave an icy feel to the picture. We also wanted to see how it looked with the large black areas to the sides eliminated.

What now? We cropped out the shore, and further cropped the picture to a vertical, reducing it to very basic elements. We did some sharpening on the figures in the boat, as they were slightly fuzzy on close examination. Then we added color-the equivalent of a number 85 heavy warming filter. We think the sunset color makes the picture more inviting and satisfying-do you agree?

Next Time: Don’t forget to take a vertical after you take a horizontal-you never know when a Pop Photo editor might look at your pictures. Take cropping variations on the foreground-sometimes less is more.

Tech info: Nikon F5 with 28-80 f/3.5-4.5 Rokinon macro zoom. Exposure not recorded; aperture probably f/8 or f/11.

Film: Kodak T-Max 100.