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What makes a picture a success?


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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What makes a picture a success?

17 Nov 2020 10:48AM   Views : 1434 Unique : 1233


Now, for reference, I’m going to use the nude I posted yesterday: as I write, 25 hours after posting, it has 83 votes and 8 user awards. By my standards, that’s successful. You may want to go and have a look at it, in between paragraphs if you aren’t offended by nudes, and haven’t seen it already.

The straight image, which I appended as a version, is in colour, with vibrant green plants vying for attention, and distracting from the subject, Misuzu, who I interviewed for Ephotozine a while back. I’m pretty sure that monochrome works, partly because it unifies the colour scheme, and partly because it puts some distance between the reality of a woman lying on an old wooden sleeper and the image. Most people who commented also prefer mono.

The sepia tint fits with an old railway, and also works well for Misuzu, who has beautiful olive skin and dark hair. For several viewers, it had hints of a silent film with the heroine tied to the railway tracks, but that would be a whole different image: maybe one day… But the hint is there, certainly.

There’s a strong triangular structure, with Misuzu across the bottom of the frame, and the rusty rails converging towards the top of the frame, though the ‘vanishing point’ where they would meet, is well outside the frame. Learning point for me: maybe the triangle doesn’t have to be entirely within the picture!

One line heads right into the bottom left corner, and the other into the top right: so the structure is neat, and fills the frame. However, unlike a recent shot of Kirstie Black, there was enough room for me to step back and include both Misuzu’s feet and her left hand, reaching back past her head to touch one rail. Filling the frame, but not cut off…

Mt lens mattered, I think. Like around 80% of my pictures, this one was taken with an 85mm lens (on full frame): I’d be using a 50mm on crop frame, or 45mm on micro four thirds. This gives good perspective, and suits my style really well: a slightly distant, vaguely academic perspective on the model. A forensic eye, rather than the up close and personal view that a wider lens tends towards. I use this sometimes, as a deliberate tactic for exaggerated perspective, but I like the more distant view.

The Nik Silver Efex mono conversion includes a rather olde-worlde frame, because I like it, and a slight vignette/edge darkening. It’s not big or very intrusive, but just holds the eye in at the edge of the frame, I think.


And choosing the model – I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past. An experienced model is great value, because she knows how to pose herself to make the most of her physique, and because she will also exploit the location. Steve (who had proposed the shoot, on waste land near Hanley) and I had only asked Misuzu to lie down on a sleeper: the rest was her pose. What you pay a model for is their ability to ‘throw poses’ – not just for getting cold and dirty, and taking their clothes off in front of you.

A couple of people have pointed out that there are stalks of grass in front of Misuzu’s face, and suggested cloning them out, or a little wild gardening before taking the shot. Well, yes, and no. In the best of all possible worlds, I agree they wouldn’t be there: but in the flow of making pictures, stopping to flatten them (and in the process to look over the model, quite close) would possibly have meant that the image didn’t happen, and might have shattered the creative mood for all three of us. If you’re really offended by the grass, feel free to do a mod, and I will thank you for it.

I’m currently reading a William Gibson book called ‘The Peripheral’ which involves the idea that being able to intervene in any way with the past splits history, creating a different timeline, where different things happen. And it’s like that working with a model: choosing to perfect a shot will alter the whole course of proceedings. And that’s fine: it’s how some people work, emerging with a few beautiful and perfect images frozen in time. It’s not how I work, though – there’s a constant movement, a developing professional relationship between two people that depends, I think, on that sort of constant moving on.

By the way, if you’re into Sci-Fi, read a Gibson or two. His grasp of the Twenty-First Century is considerable, if worrying!



dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1734 England
17 Nov 2020 10:57AM
Misuzu is an art nude model who specialises in location work. She's a firm favourite with everyone who's worked with her, and can be found on Purpleport, as can the majority of my current models.

My interview with her is HERE, and she also features in my interview with Dave, aka mistere, who has taken a lot of wonderful pictures of her, and you can find that interview HERE.

By the way, the right music for viewing the picture is the soundtrack from a musical called The Knotty - you can find it on YouTube. That was the nickname for the North Staffordshire Railway Company, whose line that will have been, I think. It was a convoluted and bendy network, serving the Potteries conurbation and surrounding towns and villages, so actually very different from the prairie railroads that most songs about railways involve!

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