Monday, September 1, 2008

Shooting Tip - Density Range

In true blogging spirit, I want to pass along a comment I recently heard at a photo seminar I was working. It was one of those "Why didn't I say that?" moments.

The speaker was Stephen Johnson. If you don't know Stephen's work, check out his website. Stephen is a respected landscape photographer, author and instructor. You'll be amazed at his images of our national parks.

I was able to sneak into Stephen's presentation while he was discussing proper exposure. At one point, he commented that "there's no rule saying that an image has to include the entire density range". Meaning a good photograph doesn't automatically mean it contains densities from pure white to pure black. Neither reality nor a photographer's vision is constrained to taking pictures that contain a full range of densities.

Although I've never been guided by the belief that every picture must contain pure whites and pure blacks, I have never said it to my students. I revisited many of my pictures to find a couple that would illustrate Stephen's point.

Neither of these pictures contains pure whites nor pure blacks. This shallow range of densities only adds to the emotional feel of the images. (Again, check out Stephen's website and see how he approaches density range in his own work.)

So the tip is: Don't be misled into thinking your pictures MUST contain the full range of densities from pure white to pure black. Pictures need a density range that's appropriate for the mood, subject and conditions -- and no more.

My thanks to Stephen for reminding me that what I take for granted isn't necessarily understood by others.

I hope this is helpful to you as it was for me. If you have any questions or comments, you know where to find me.

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