I was looking through my pictures yesterday for something I can’t even remember now, and this one from last year caught my eye. I have many, many, many photos of Winnie. And sometimes, when a subject is, um, overphotographed, I get really picky about which photos I do anything with or even notice. But I wanted to write a little about this one because while it would have been extremely easy to ignore or even discard, with some creative cropping and a tiny little enhancement, it became one of my favorite shots of her.
I don’t like to crop very much. Probably one out of four or five images you see from me have been cropped, and most of those not by much. But this image, taken from the couch for no reason good enough to get up and move my fat ass closer, is extraordinary in its ordinariness. The composition and angle are uninteresting, the subject matter as I mentioned is already prolifically documented photographically, and on this day she is a total mess. But there were two things about her here that caused me to look again: her front legs, and her left eye.
So I could find interesting things about it, but couldn’t crop it tight enough horizontally to make any of it work.A vertical crop, however, did the trick. This took a lot of the resolution out of it, of course, but there’s still enough remaining for a modest sized print if I wanted. I liked it. But it needed one more thing. I wanted to brighten the eye just a bit.
I’m not a professional photographer. I don’t know how other people do this. But here’s how I did it. In PhotoShop, I duplicated the image layer. On the underneath layer, I brightened the entire image until the eye was the vivid color lightness I wanted. Then in the top layer, zoomed in all the way, I took the erase brush with a soft setting and light opacity (maybe 40%), and lightly erased the front layer on her eye, revealing the brighter layer underneath. It’s subtle, but to me it’s enough to make that golden arc of color the focal point of the image. And the crop enhances the sense that she is looking up without wanting to lift her head up (which is exactly what she was doing). It also minimizes her mess of a coat and makes the wispy flags on her legs add interest to the image rather than just show a dog who needs to be brushed.
I don’t expect anyone who reads this to all of a sudden painstakingly edit and crop and squeeze a compelling image out of every mediocre snapshot on your cell phone. But for those of you who take a lot of pictures like I do, try to resist the urge to glance at the 80 images you just uploaded in search of the 5 or 6 gems that jump out at you. Take your time and really look at each one, in full screen, and make sure you’re not missing something special.