Improving composition using shading and density

This is part one of a mini series where we will put forward some ideas to help make an image look a little more finished. Not every technique will suit every photograph but this month looks at a way of improving a photo after it's been taken. It can be applied to either a film or digital image using either traditional darkroom techniques or by using retouching software. The results speak for themselves and it may make the diference between a reasoable print or a great one.

Bright areas in a print attract our eyes

Our eyes tend to be drawn initially to lighter areas in a photograph: try this for yourself by holding a photo upside down or on its side and looking afresh at the print. Further to that if the light area is at the edge of the image our attention will tend to wander out of the picture, which is the last thing you want. To maintain interest, the composition and tones should allow the viewer to explore the image, making for a harmonious picture that "looks right". The sequence below shows how, by altering the shading in a print, the overall balance and composition is improved without cropping.

The eye wanders off to the left ot the frame

Darkening the left hand side helps to balance the image

Further darkening round all the edges bring our attention to the centre of the image

full size section image image balance image framed


deer photograph

This breaks two cardinal rules: the bright sky leads our eye out of the left hand side of the frame and as a result of the clouds being too bright, the deer becomes almost incidental to the photograph. No matter how bright the sun and fluffy the clouds might appear we expect to see some tone and colour when they are printed and not pure white


On the right is a slightly improved version but, because there is no detail in the white clouds, they have become a bit 'muddy' looking.

deer photograph

If you have software that allows you to make these small changes then hopefully, this may give you some ideas. We can always make suggestions or follow your instructions as an extra service.

Next month we will feature another small tip for improving an image but in the mean time, get out ther and have fun with your camera.

The Darkroom UK Ltd
01242 239031