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Carisma Carisma 362 posts

I am experimenting again….I personally like this one quite a bit…..but I may very well be the only one to do so. I am concentrating on the comp.mainly. Any input please ?
Panasonic LZ7
Focal lenght 10mm
F/number F/9
Exp 1/400
ISO 100
Metering pattern
Feb.09 11am

Steven Pearce Steven Pearce 23 posts

Well Carisma, if you like it and can explain why you like it thats most of it taken care of.

I would have used a better quality of light late afternoon/ sunrise and maybe taken advantage of some longer shadows possibly cast against the wall. Try to use the same subject but make it more dynamic with something that might not be overpowering to the subject.

I’m experimenting with a similar stuff at the moment and if I had taken the shot I would really want something to balance the window. Take a look at my “Sand Extraction” post… it might give you some ideas and Byron gave it a real constructive critique that you might find very useful.


Mark German Mark German 5728 posts

Hey Carisma :)

First Impressions: Nice geometric and simple feel, but insipid.

I can’t fault your settings. This is a rather flat subject, so DoF doesn’t really come into play. F/9 would give you the sharpness you need, 1/400th would counter any vibration, and ISO100 is optimal. I can’t see what metering method you used, and although it may have made a difference, it’s not something that is big enough to not be able to do in post.

So, my technical critique and opinions lie mainly in the composition, framing and light.

I see windows – like just about anything I shoot, as having a ‘presence’ or a ‘life’ of their own. Windows in particular though, tend to be related to eyes. In this photo there is something amiss in how the ‘eye’ looks, and is positioned. Let me see if I can work it out.

Firstly, there is the positioning. The PoV ( the ‘direction of gaze’, if you will) looks to be towards the left of frame, due to the perspective. Yet the window is positioned left of frame, and therefore looking out of the picture. This is not necessarily an error, but the method is used for a purpose, and often implies a ‘question’. ‘What is being looked at’? But there is nothing that hints at this. In a portrait, an expression on the face gives a clue as to the subject’s emotion, and therefore looking out of frame can be a powerful tool. Here, the blank wall is featureless. Therefore, the framing feels odd and out of place to me. Should the perspective have been straight-on, without the diagonals, the positioning of the window in-frame would work for me, give or take a little (it is a little close to the left).

The image looks flat. This is largely due to the time of day the shot was taken. The sun is almost directly overhead, meaning the rays are passing through the atmosphere at the shortest route it can during a day. When the sun is at an angle to the subject, it is filtered by our atmosphere, ‘warming’ the light (yellow/red tone). It also brings out texture by casting oblique angles.

Light/metering – This kind of scene is one of the most challenging for an inanimate subject. Field of white, portion of black. Your camera wants to average out the scene luminescence, and indicates this through your meter. However, unless using spot/partial metering, this camera-decision is more often than not, incorrect. Why? Because the portion of heavy darkness outweighs in light-balance its actual presence in the scene. The reverse is true – for example, a white-gowned bride under a tree in the shade with a black-clothed groom. Your camera auto settings invariably gets that wrong, turning all blacks to grey. Snow scenes are similar, where just about all that you see render the snow grey, instead of white. We also have a tendency to steer away from anything bright white, since we have a natural fear of over-exposure. But white does exist :)
I would hazard that the wall here is white, not grey.

Simple, minimal images can be powerful for what they leave out, or for their geometrical attraction. The problem for me here, is that the geometry is thrown out by the perspective, with lines running at random angles.

Choosing the optimum time of day is not always possible – but makes a difference to any given scene.
Think of inanimate objects as having a ‘life’ – the same set of psychological rules apply.

Emotional Content:
As stated above in first impressions, this image feels a little bland. I cannot feel any story, message, or emotion from the photo. This is often a personal thing of course. But in general, I would say that the power in this photo is due to the geometry and simplicity. It is not enough, in my opinion, to provoke an emotional reaction.

You mention that you like this photo, and there must be a reason why. After all, you were attracted, and stopped to capture the scene. The white wall, dark window – the contrast and perhaps a little mystery of what was inside. The originality factor, however, is not one that I would consider ‘high’.

I can see, I think, what you were getting at with this photo. The contrasts, simplicity, shadow, lines. You attempted to place the window on a third line – you didn’t just snap away. But things like light, perspective and PoV, and metering has let it down a little, I feel.

There are positives. Knowing your previous work and submissions, this photo tells me you are considering your technical settings and composition more than previously.

Carisma Carisma 362 posts

Thank you Steve for lending a very useful hand – your input goes very much in the same lines as Mark’s!


Mark, I am so grateful for the very specific explanations; you brought to my attention things I did not know
…Your camera auto settings invariably gets that wrong, … where just about all that you see render the snow grey, instead of white….

That an inanimate object should also be treated as an animate one
….Think of inanimate objects as having a ‘life’ – the same set of psychological rules apply…..

The need to be consistent with the natural law of perspective
…the geometry is thrown out by the perspective, with lines running at random angles….

And, as always, you are quite right – I was experimenting with simplicity of lines , “negative space” and contrasts.

As you imagined there is always a reason why I post for advice – I liked the shot but something did not convince me …and I did not know what!
And you made everything so clear now! I have learned so many things with this post…Thank you for having used precious time to point me in the right direction!!!!

Mark German Mark German 5728 posts

You are welcome, as always, Carisma :)

BYRON BYRON 10879 posts

Mark has covered pretty much everything everything I would have said.

About the metering for large areas of white…

Your camera always tries to average-out the scene so that the predominant colour has a reflectiveness the same as “18% Grey”.

You can actually purchase (from any good photo store) a piece of grey card called “18% Grey” and you use it to get an accurate metering, especially outdoors.

Without an “18% Grey” card, the end result (if you are shooting anything white) is that white will turn out as grey. Snow is notorious for this.

Solution? – Over-expose by 1-2 stops. (or colour-correct in post-production)

Negative Space…

Negative Space is a tricky technique, It relies heavily on proportion and balance.

The reason for using Negative Space is that it gives our eyes somewhere to rest before returning to the subject.

For the viewer to feel comfortable looking at the Negative Space there needs to be a balance between the subject and the negative space. Ratios of 50:50 are intrinsically boring. Ratios of 1:2 where the subject takes up 1/3rd of the image and the negative space takes up 2/3rds of the image “feel” nice.

In your image the balance/proportion is not quite right, it feels awkward.

Look at this photograph by DANA DiPASQUALE.

The tree is 1/3rd from the left side of the frame, and the horizon is 1/3rd from the bottom of the frame. This has created a very appealing negative space on the RHS that follows the “Rule of Thirds” technique. It is a simple clean composition and the negative space enhances the feeling of calmness.

My main issues with your image are the POV and the Framing.


The POV has resulted in a rather unpleasant diagonal line which is rather distracting and does not add to the image. It has also caused exagerated the skewed shadow, which looks odd.

Because this is compositionally such a simple image, I think a straight-on POV would have suited better and would have prevented the diagonal line.


For something this simple, the window should be the same distance from the side of the (image) frame as it is from the bottom of the frame. This would mean that the bottom left corner of the window would point directly at the bottom left corner of the frame.

Also, the dimensions of the frame should reflect the dimensions of the window which would create nice proportions and balance.

Carisma Carisma 362 posts

Thanks Byron !!! I did not even know about the 18% card!! I am really trying to grasp this Negative Space, it intrigues me….Great input thanks!!!!

BYRON BYRON 10879 posts

Hiya Carisma,

Yep, negative space is a strange little technique.

It ties into things like the “Rule of Thirds”, Points of Interest, composition… It attracts your eye because it is empty, yet we are constantly drawn back to the subject. Moving around an image in this way can create long term interest for the viewer.

My little secret #2: “Over-shoot / Over-Frame” your subject.

Don’t crop your image in your viewfinder, do your cropping in post-production. If you use the edges of your viewfinder as the edges of your frame, you have nothing left for cropping later.

Doing this has made the single biggest improvement to my work. I now NEVER crop an image tightly in the viewfinder. I take a much wider shot so I can do multiple crops in post-production.

For example, both of these images are from the one frame, just different crops…

Mark German Mark German 5728 posts

Incidentally, Carisma – a large proportion of my work uses negative/lead space of some sort. I find it hard not to use the technique, and find myself automatically framing that way. Horses for courses, of course :)


Mary Campbell Mary Campbell 970 posts

I just came across this posting too. It’s for a lens cap that replaces the need for a grey card. Looks interesting it’s here

My digital camera also allows me to just take a white card and shoot it in the light, then using the custom settings on the camera, to set that as the white point and it automatically adjusts all pictures to that reference picture for accurate whites.

Another thing you can do to get accurate whites: They sell something like the grey card but it’s for digital cameras and it’s actually white, grey and black.

If you take this as your 1st picture in that light and shoot in Raw mode, latter in photoshop you can go to the curves adjustment and use the eyedropper tools for black white and grey to adjust the picture to that picture to the correct values by clicking on points in the picture that have those tones. (then save the change setting and apply it to the other pictures you took in the same light. (In Photoshop you need to set your reference points (of Black, White and Grey) first by clicking on the eyedropper tools and set the RGB settings for each depending on your preferences.) Scott Kelby describes the process in more detail in his book "The Photoshop CS book for digital photographers) perhaps your library might have it. It’s a good step by step type of learning book that has some easy to follow steps.

BYRON BYRON 10879 posts

Same here Mark.

Once you get into using negative space, you find yourself framing for it all the time…

Carisma Carisma 362 posts

Thanks Mark! You were the first one that made me notice I was shooting too tight!!….now I manage to remember – most of the time- to give myself space to crop! :)

Mary thanks for the PS info….I will try to use it …but I am still soooo green at postproduction work!!!

Now I may be saying an heresy……but, given my lack of expertise at ps, what if I set the camera at "snow"scene when I photograph large white surfaces……please dont shoot me !!!!! (I am quite serious)

Mark German Mark German 5728 posts

You could try that, Carisma. But without wanting to sound patronising, I think that to further your skills, you would be better off shooting in manual mode for these scenes, and compensating exposure.

BYRON BYRON 10879 posts

Hiya Carisma. Sure that would work, and you would learn zip.

Take a meter reading (press your shutter half way down, and see what your readings are) Then adjust your EV to +1 or try +2 or whatever you want. Its digital – extra frames wont cost you anything.

Using the presets on your camera isn’t anyway to learn.

Carisma Carisma 362 posts

That has put me off taking short-cuts! :)

Thanks guys – you both quite right…..on pre-sets I will learn nothing…
Thanks for the positive feedback AS ALWAYS ! :)

BYRON BYRON 10879 posts


Using presets is good when you want to concentrate on other things like learning composition and framing.