party watcher

by Ivan Huckerby

Party Watcher

Party Watcher

This was a shot taken at my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. The girl on the fire escape is a second cousin, Sophie. I was actually shooting with my back to her.

Aware of my fondness for taking candid's, it was my partner Karen who saw the shot and made me aware of her pose, I just turned around focused made a quick adjustment in either shutter or aperture and fired about 3 or 4 shots before she turned and descended the staircase.

This was the only one that had something about it. She was looking down on to the outdoor party, whilst facing the setting sun. The pose was natural and even the balloon was there by coincidence.

As I shoot in predominantly manual, and had but half a second to take the shot, I think I was quite lucky to get anything worth keeping. I figure that shooting in manual will ultimately give me a deeper knowledge of camera setting manipulation than letting shutter or aperture priority modes do half the work for me.

Bearing in mind that the only things I know about Photoshop, is how to clone out dust marks and small objects, and how to increase the dpi for printing, the results have been quite pleasing. I used the software that came with my camera to tweak some of the more basic elements. The original was slightly on the bright side where the sun catches Sophie's skin. But other than that it is pretty much how it came off the memory card.

I have printed this photo on A3 and it does look great; for a snapshot. The laymen's (friends and family) feedback has been great too, Sophie's mum cried when she received the print. The biggest critic is me, as I know it could have been much more.

My question is: If this had been a posed shot, what could I have done to improve it. I have access to the venue any time I like. And think perhaps I'd like to recreate the shot at a similar time next year, when the honeysuckle blossom has died back a little to let the light through.

Technical info; Sony a700 - Carl Zeiss 16-80 lens- @70mm focal length - Manual mode - ISO-100 - F6.3 at 1/50 and no flash. Shot as a JPEG

It's so refreshing to get so much detail on the submissions – thanks Ivan!

Ivan did well to spot this shot (or rather, his partner did!), and I think he's made a pretty good fist of it!

But if we're looking for how a good shot can be improved further – read on . . .

First of all, I would look at the crop used again. With photos like this, when someone is looking at something, it is best to leave more space in the scene where they are looking. It gives them something to 'look into'.

I also think that a crop could remove some of the photographic dead wood on the right side of the photo.

I would also try, if possible, to leave all of the girl in the photo and not cut her feet off. But I appreciate there may not have been much time to zoom out in order to achieve this.

If you struggle on choosing which bits to leave out, have a read of this tutorial on how to crop.

Once you have the knack of what to cut out, have a go at it using software. There's a digital photography tutorial on using the crop tool here.

The other suggestion I have is to go further with the post processing.

This photo lacks some warmth, and I think a little saturation would bring some of that warmth back.

I would also sharpen the photo just a touch. It can really brings a photo to life! Don't go too far with sharpening though, otherwise strange 'halos' will appear in the image.

I've made some changes to Ivan's photo (based on the submitted image only) and you can see these changes here.

Thanks for the submission Ivan – it really is a lovely shot! And I hope there are a few useful tips here for you.


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Nov 30, 2008
Thanks for the pointers
by: Ivan Huckerby

The time and editors feedback on my photo is much appreciated.

I feel slightly silly now though, because my master copy is as bright and colourful as the AFTER shot, but I desaturated it slightly because I thought it was maybe too bright and may be critised for it.

I like my shots to be vivid so I feel good about the saturation comments & changes made to my photo, including the new crop.

I had to crop from the left because there was an ugly fire exit sign on the wall.

I cut the feet off because she was wearing trainers, and for me they spoiled the shot. Bare feet would have been nice I guess.

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