Photo Fridays! Take 12: lantern on a street in Kyoto – what would you change?

On our way to the train station to go to Kobe for a day trip from Kyoto, the shadows inside a lantern caught my attention. I thought the colour and contrast were gorgeous. My family was long gone by the time I played with the settings and took several photos.

This Photo Friday post irks my comfort level by sharing the process of my photos. WordPress Blogging University’s Photography 101 starts soon and this post celebrates the starting line!

My top question for the class and for other photographers is about contrast. Is it okay to fiddle or not? Where do you draw the line? Is it up to the photographer or the viewer to decide what is superb or crass? Are there any rules or is it more personal taste? Does the photographer’s skill result in a photo that’s so good that no changes are necessary? (I am chuckling inside but perhaps I shouldn’t be??)

  • Which photo do you prefer and, if possible, why?
  • What do you think about the “fixed” photo 5? I fiddled with the contrast. Should I have left it alone or is there more I could do?
  • What would you have done differently to make any of these photos better?

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Have you played with contrast or do you leave it alone? Thank you for your feedback!

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31 thoughts on “Photo Fridays! Take 12: lantern on a street in Kyoto – what would you change?

  1. Those pictures are spectacular. Love the shadows inside the lanterns. Personally, I love photo 5 – the lantern stands out more against the background and the shadow is more ‘defined’ (for lack of a better word)!

  2. I like #5 because the lantern (which is what you seem to want to be focusing on judging on by your text) is what stands outーboth due to color and positioning. I’m sure there are many other things you could doーin the end it’s up to what you want to show the viewer.
    I think every photographer has their own style and perspective, and it’s important to learn the rules before breaking them. I’m still a novice myself, but I work with photographers daily through work and other projects. Some people argue that post-editing isn’t real photography, but I think that’s unfair and not true. The other side argues that you need to edit to create the best photo possible. Definitely two completely different camps. 🙂 One of my side projects is a music webzine: http://trickrock.com/ One of my personal favorite photographers is Julenphoto. He is an amazing photographer and has a very special styleーpeople either love it or hate it. If you scroll down a bit you can see how he plays with color and contrast to really make his images pop. Other photographers stay more “natural”, which is also fine, but they may instead lose that chance to really showcase their subject.

    • Thanks so much! I really appreciate your comments and it’s great to hear your thoughts based on who you work with. Julenphoto’s work is my kind of thing. Thank you for the link! I think his style fits the subject matter, too.
      I agree with you – tweaking photos is normal. Before digital, professional photographers fiddled in the dark room (and some still do!) so to say that no editing is the only true photography is a narrow view. I could argue that the ability to take hundreds of digital photos of the same scene and choosing the best one is editing!
      Back to your first comments, you are right. It does depend on what I “want to show the viewer”. This is something I think I don’t necessarily keep in mind. I have a photo I like and I remember the circumstances surrounding it and I share it for those reasons. However, and I’m learning this with my writing too, once your work leaves you, your viewer/reader/listener/etc. is part of the picture and deserves some reflection. 😀

      • Ohh, very nice point about once your work leaves you, the receiver is part of the picture! That’s a really good way of putting it. 🙂

        Yeah, Julen has a great eye for these thingsーand as you said, his style really fits harder bands that are all about raw power and energy. I think his work really showcases that well. 🙂

        I hope you enjoy the course! I should probably take something like that too one day… I rely too much on others’ work. ^^;

        • Thanks! Well, courses are one way but learning through exposure and experience is valid, too. The WordPress classes/courses/uni thingies are open to anyone with any kind of blog (i.e. don’t have to be a WP blog). You can get access to the course content through the WP Reader if you want to see what’s going on. WP has, as I’m discovering, a lot of pretty useful posts on photography, too.

              • Ooh! Thank you! Instantly bookmarked. 🙂
                Yes, manual settings *glares at them* I need to get back into learning how to make the best use of them.

                • ha ha ha! Yes, me, too. Not that I was ever very good to begin with since I didn’t have much experience. All my picks for a post on mabudon that I was going to put up today are now classed as *awful* due to my new photography class knowledge. 😀 We’re making eggplant miso soup tonight so I’m going to use it as manual setting practice.

                    • Thanks! We skipped that and made something else. I can’t remember why. My brain is in a fog! I’ve been feeling sickish the last two days. 😦 Get well soon to me, to me, to me! 🙂

                    • Indeed, get well soon! ^^ I’ve been sick on and off for what feels like a couple of months and it’s quite frustrating. Hope you feel better soon! 🙂

                    • Thank you! We’re going to take it easy this weekend and hopefully be on the mend. That sounds tough to be sick for so long! I hope you stay well longer, too! 🙂

                    • Thank yoooou! It was mostly stress-related (and not being able to remove myself from the cause of the stress) that made it stick around I think. Made changes and am much better now, though I think I’ve become overly “chicken” in some ways. ^^;

                    • Hmm, probably more in the sense that even though I know I should change something, I’m too accustomed to the status quo to dare make the move? “Better the devil you know” and all that. All (well, mostly) good now though. 😀

  3. Hi there. I am also joining the photo 101 course on Monday, though I think I will start another blog to do so. Otherwise I am kind of limited to plant photos! Anyway to answer your questions: I think it is perfectly fine to fiddle. Obviously get the best picture you can so less fiddling is necessary, but at the end of the day you want to reproduce what you saw. Photos rarely do that without a bit of adjustment. I also think cropping is essential to get rid of things that just add distraction to the photo, unless of course the surroundings is important. So for those reasons I prefer photo number 5.

    • Great! Plants are quite amazing and I think they can be interpreted in different ways.
      Thanks so much for your time! I agree about cropping. Sometimes I have cropped until nothing is left and other times, I keep everything. It’s a bit of a game to try and see smaller pictures within the larger frame. I struggle with this sometimes. I wonder if literally holding my fingers in a box over the photo on the screen or cutting out a little paper window would help me. Hmmm… why did I never think of this before?! It’s a technique I’ve used teaching reading. 🙂 And yes, trying to capture what you want as well as you can is probably ideal. The big picture photos gave me a sense of where the lantern was overall, even if they weren’t the greatest images. I also thought I could digitally zoom in on the lantern after. The zoomed pics were what my camera was capable of. I would love to go back to the same spot with more time and a telephoto lens!

  4. I think I like photo 1 and 4 best.
    But I have to admit I am looking at it from a purely non-photographer perspective (I can only do point and shoot photo’s myself)

    Photo 1 because it gives me a view on the street, and I’m always curious about daily life, so I like to see as much as possible
    Photo 4 because it’s a nice close up of the lantern, still within the building/street context but without the “ugly” sockets

    Can’t really tell why I disliked photo 5, except maybe the contrast felt too harsh on my eyes….if that makes sense?

    • Thanks much, DB! I’ve been keeping you in mind with some of my photo ideas over the next while to do more, as you said, “daily life scenes.
      Ha ha ha! Yes, those sockets are pretty eye catching! I like this sort of gritty, ugliness sometimes but other times, yes, it distracts. I agree with you about #5. I think I may have overworked it. This whole series is not really my favorite. I still love the lantern and my memories of the moment, falling in love with the light inside the lantern but I didn’t capture it how I saw it. I was hoping that fiddling with the contrast would help but I think it’s made the trees look weird and distorted things a bit too much. That said, I’m really happy to hear what others think. It reminds me that art, writing, images and your bentos can be appreciated and adored by the person who created them but value, in the public sense, is ascribed (or not) by others.

  5. I think I prefer #4 or even #5 – the cropping places the lantern in one of those golden-rule-positions to make for a nice composition and draws my attention to the shadows inside of it. I like how picture #5 is more minimalistic because the grey sky does not have that yellowish tinge to it that competes for attention with the lantern in #4.

    I don’t see anything bad in playing with the contrast after you took that picture. After all, every manufacturer makes a choice about contrast, saturation, color temperature etc for you. Why you should have to live with the number of choices that is given to you by the number of camera models you could buy? If you had a preference to always increase contrast a little, you could try to do that on your camera before shooting. But otherwise, I don’t see at all why you shouldn’t edit your pictures later.

    • Thank you for your feedback! I appreciate your observations – things I didn’t notice or focus on. And great point about the manufacturer! I never thought about that. And I never thought about adjusting contrast or other settings on my camera. Hmmm… while I don’t think I would like to go that route for everyday use, I think it’s worth learning about for specific situations and understanding the many features of my camera that I have no clue about. ! 😀

  6. Hi ! Personaly, I prefer photo #5. I like the contrast better than number #4, it catches the eye. Compared to first pictures, I enjoy more close look to the lantern rather than centered in the middle of the street. Especially, electric wires disrupt attention from the lantern. Hope this helps 🙂

    • Thanks much! Yes, those pesky wires are a common feature in Japan. The only place I’ve been where they aren’t is Tsukuba, but the city was built more recently and was designed with very wide streets and no wires. Hubby can’t stand them but I like the rats’ nests above the streets. 😀 I like the closer view of the lantern as well for the details. It doesn’t get lost in the street. I like having the big picture initially to remind me of the total scene. I haven’t tried zooming those big picture photos yet. I wonder if they would be better zoomed and cropped?? I’m going to have to give that a try.

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