The secrets of taking good pictures: Blur alert

Photography expert Tom Langford gives his advice on how to turn an average shot into the perfect photograph.

By TOM LANGFORD
May 8, 2012 23:27
3 minute read.
Blurred picture of two children

Blurred picture of two children. (photo credit: Mike Mayer)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website designer.

I feel very fortunate that I spent years making photographic prints the hard way in the darkroom. Although we could use special chemicals and papers to obtain different effects the focus of our efforts was always to bring out the quality of the picture we were working with.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


When digital photography and computers became available the task of creating and enhancing a fine picture became much more convenient. Photographers naturally took to photoshop and heaved a sigh of relief,  but it wasn't entirely a match made in heaven.

The problem with most digital editing software is that they cram in too many features and special effects. It's difficult not to be seduced by clever filters that alter your picture in "creative" ways. Your aim must always be to enhance a picture and help it to tell its story more effectively.

Blur Alert

Here is a picture from Chandra Leigh of the USA. The center is sharp and the rest has been blurred - I imagine the intention was to create some drama or interest.



Our eye is drawn to the sharp  center but there is nothing there to engage our interest - so the picture has not been improved using this filter. A photograph needs to have a focal point, a strong element that forcefully attracts our attention. Many devices could  have been used: A person leaning out of the window, a bird perched on one of the branches, a dramatic sky, a rear view of a person looking up at the tower, etc.



The picture needs to have a focal point when it is taken and then afterwards you can use the computer to enhance the picture. Blur looks natural and is best introduced photographically by using a wider aperture to blur the foreground while carefully focusing on the subject.

Blur Alert 2

This picture was taken by Mike Mayer in Vietnam. In contrast to the first picture it has strong focal points and is quite an interesting portrait of the two children. It would have been much better without the blurred effect which does not add interest to the shot and Is distracting.



The picture does not really need anything else, but if Mike wished to make it fuller then perhaps an extra element, such as a figure in the shadowy interior would help. If I were to use blur in this picture I would have probably shot the blurred eggs of a person walking by.

I suppose the moral is to try and add extra interest at the time of shooting. Use the computer afterwards to enhance the picture by adjusting the color, contrast, sharpness, light and shade, etc.

Of course this is harder to do since people do not lean out of towers or birds perch on branches just when you need them to. Creating a great image is a challenge and that's what makes it worthwhile and interesting, thank goodness!

Constructive Feedback

If you are aspiring to develop your photography skills, send me a picture and I may use in one in my articles with some constructive feedback. Send one picture only, at a small size to suitable for emails to jpost@langford.co.il.

Don’t know how to send a photo by email at a reduced size? See my Brief Guide to Picasa:  www.langford.co.il/courses/PicasaGuide.html

Tom Langford is an Event and Commercial photographer, website designer, and professional retoucher. He teaches photography courses for beginners and improvers. Details of his courses and field trips at: http://www.langford.co.il/courses

Related Content

Sarah Silverman
August 26, 2014
Jewish women take home gold at 2014 Emmys

By JTA