the photoshooter's journey from taking to making


This Tanglewood rehearsal photo was at least 2/3rds bigger in the original, but a severe crop highlights a relationship between these players that the bigger image buried.

Reducing is remixing: this Tanglewood rehearsal photo was at least 2/3rds bigger in the original, but a severe crop highlights a relationship between these players that the bigger image buried.


HERE’S A SENTENCE YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HEAR ANYWHERE ELSE THIS WEEK: Being a club DJ can actually give you a fresh viewpoint on your photography.

I’ll let that sink in.

I know what you you’re thinkin’: did he drink six shots or only five? But I’m kind of sober, and rather serious. In a club setting, the mix is often more important than the song, or, more correctly, it allows the song to have an infinite number of alternative lives, depending on what you do with the turntables. Record companies recognized this in the heyday of disco, remixing hit tracks for more thump and bump, longer edits, brass overdubs, etc. As time went on, DJs interspersed their own random elements in the moment to create their own signature blends.

The original.

The original.

So what does this have to do with photography? Pretty much everything. In the digital era, post-production software is nearly half of some shooters’ workflow. So much emphasis is placed on what you can fix after the shutter is clicked that, for many, actually planning and taking the picture is the least important part of the process. Let’s lay aside the fact that I personally believe that this can get out of hand…..the point is, by allowing yourself the flexibility to revisit and remix a photo many times over its lifetime means you are not limiting yourself to one interpretation of what you originally created.

However, don’t keep merely to a reprocessing of the exposure or tone elements in the picture, that is, boosting color, adding filters, converting to monochrome. Think of compositional space as a remix element as well. Did you need all the real estate taken up in the original picture? Would that landscape shot work more effectively in portrait or square format? Did you originally include information in the frame that just adds clutter, sending your viewer’s eye wandering around aimlessly? In short, does your first reading of the “idea” of the picture still seem valid?

See the “after” picture at the top of the page and its “before” equivalent to the left. Did the picture gain or lose from the changes?

Another musical musing: George Gershwin personally played Rhapsody In Blue like a snappy jazz piece, not the stately symphonic standard that’s re-created by most modern performers. Does one rendition sound better or worse? Who knows? Who cares? What matters is that the process reveals different traits within the core music with every new mix. Your photographs will benefit in the same way. Just trust yourself to tinker.



2 responses

  1. Very true, a single photo contains many stories depending on how it is cropped.
    I think the feeling in the top photo is one that does convey a sense of possible tension and the serious nature of the rehearsal. With the expression of the man in the rear left of the photo ” I assume he is possibly the conductor” which gets a bit lost in the larger image. The larger image conveys more of the I was there and here is what I saw.

    January 19, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    • Thanks, Steve as always for following THE NORMAL EYE. I really believe that many images that fall short do so because they are not “asking for the order” loud enough. A photo needs to be able to convey its message instantly and unambiguously, and we often leave things in photographs that compromise or block that message. I think that’s why to be an effective photographer you also need to be your own best editor. Thanks for the commentary.

      January 19, 2015 at 7:39 PM

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