Thursday, December 9, 2010


You've all seen the outtake reels as the credits roll after a movie or on DVDs in the "Extras" section. They include the scenes that were cut because they weren't as strong as the rest - or because the film would have been too long otherwise.
And you may remember the scene from Amadeus in which the emperor told the young Wolfgang that he thought the piece of music was "wonderful except that there are too many notes."
"Well," Mozart asked, "which ones should I take out, Your Majesty?
As a writer - and particularly as an editor - I am constantly confronted with this question. What part of the text can we do without? Where will a cut make a piece stronger?
During the process of putting together my photo exhibition this past year, I had to make some difficult decisions, too. The selection was, on the one hand, made a bit easier by the fact that the exhibition had a theme: Halloween and autumn. Furthermore, my photographs were to complement Tiffany's illustrations and, I reasoned, should therefore have something magical or mystical about them. And yet there were also other restrictions. For example, we were using borrowed frames and matts, several of which housed pairs of pictures. And we had only a certain amount of frames and hanging space. So the decision process began.

This picture was taken in the early fall and the punk with the spikey hair looks like he is dressed for Halloween, but the picture - despite the nice late afternoon lighting - hardly makes you think of autumn. Rejected!

This photo was in the final selection, but the picture of Lilith, the witch, showed a very different side of Halloween, a more playful and exuberant one, so this calm and cozy scene was rejected and banned to the outtakes. The picture accompanying Lilith showed her and her friends trick-or-treating at a neighbor's house.

I had thought about hanging pairs of pictures to show a certain scene in two different seasons, but this idea did not quite fit our main idea, being autumn, nor did I feel it would have been a good use of the wall space. Rejected!

The same goes for the pictures below, in which the automatic white balance went crazy when I first pointed the camera into the woods. The warm orange color of the leaves overwhelmed the camera's computer, causing it to compensate and turn the gray trees cool blue.

A click of the white balance adjustment button resolved the problem. This is what the woods really looked like.

The harvest of the grapes all around my part of town is a big part of fall for many people. The new wine and the colorful vineyards delight the senses in November. This picture, however, is missing something (besides grapes!).

Perhaps it is the composition. The eye is not led left-to-right through the picture as we westerners are used to. So we can flop the negative:

And we get a much more pleasing composition, but still nothing I'd necessarily want to look at for more than two seconds, which is, according to some experts, the sign of a good photograph. Rejected!

Part of the trick of making your pictures look good, of course, is the presentation. This picture did make it into my exhibition catalog, but the rule of thirds was blatantly ignored here and the grapes appear to want to fall right out of the picture. I should have taken more care in framing the bunch of grapes when I took the original picture. Rejected!

Another one of my favorite photographs (OK, I can do without the heavy vignetting in the corners now) didn't make it into the frame on the wall. It was certainly a finalist as a candidate to hang with the following shot, which I took the same day:

But again, I had to make a decision and after post-processing both of these (admittedly a bit too much), I chose not to use them. Rejected! By the way, the picture of the bird in the tree shown here is not edited to death but fairly much as it looked straight out of the camera.

The gas tank near the Neckar River is another one of my favorite photographic subjects, being so omnipresent in my field of vision. This picture, taken out of my bedroom window at dusk, shows it in all its glory. But does it look like fall? Is there anything magical about it? Rejected! 

This picture, also taken from my bedroom window, shows the risen moon over Rotenberg. Certainly a nice shot, but compositionally not as strong as the one of the rising moon that was included in the show. Rejected!

Sycamore alley in the Schloßpark was a beautiful sight in early November 2009. But the picture of the old man walking his dog in the deep leaves suited the feeling of the season better, I felt. The athletic activity going on here reminds me more of a time for rejuvenation than hibernation. Rejected!

Finally, we come to the pictures of fowl in ponds. Beautiful light and nice compositions made them strong candidates, but the contents are a bit trite. 

Haven't you also taken pictures just like these? Rejected! 

So when you are making your final selection for your portfolio, a photo book or and exhibition, remember these rules:
1. The picture should turn you on. You should thrill when you look at it - even a year later. Create your PC wallpaper with it and look at it every day for a month or two if you aren't sure.
2. The pictures should serve the purpose intended by the project. If your topic is leaves, ask yourself if you really need a picture of the tree, too. (You may say yes; that's your decision!)
3. Choose pictures with strong compositions. If you haven't developed your artistic eye yet, you can stubbornly use the rule of thirds or, if you are lucky, you can ask someone else for critique.
4. Avoid trite pictures or clichés. This is a tough rule because we are fed trite images every day: the resolute politician, the airbrushed model, show-covered trees, the smiling baby, etc. There are certainly times when you will want to capture a cliché; for instance, when you want to measure yourself against other photographers. But is that the essence of creativity, the best you can do?


  1. Hienoja kuvia sinulla blogissa, ei voi oikein kehua mitään yksittäin, kaikki ovat erinnomaisa. Näin blogin välityksellä on hieno tutustua muiden maiden kulttuuriin ja ihmisiin. Tule sinäkin katsomaan Teuvon kuvat blogi ja kerro myös kaikille sinun kavereillesi miksi kannattaa käydä katsomassa Teuvon kuvat blogi. Samalla saadaan teidän maanne lippu nousemaan korkeammalle minun blogissa. Jouluterveisin Teuvo Vehkalahti Finland

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad you liked the pictures. I'll take a look at your photo blog now!

  3. your pictures are absolutely wonderful, dear Jim, I do enjoy so much browsing through the pages of your site... marvellous delight...

  4. I think this is the most interesting post so far. I learned more about taking pictures and composition from this than all your other 'good' posts. Never thought of the left-to-right thing as applying to pictures, but it does!! So cool to see the difference. More 'deleted scenes/extras' posts, please! Elin