Zach D wrote:
Looking for some input on one of my favorite photos that I took while in Rome. It was kind of a throw away shot but I really liked the way it came out. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions or opinions on what I did right and what I can do better in the future. Please let me know what you think. Thank you.
Normally I would agree with Nick about cropping because the background is bright and busy, but there are a few issues here that make me question whether my instincts to do that are correct. The main issue is that she is looking to the viewer's left. Some room needs to be included on that side or she will be looking directly out of the frame. Cropping with some room on the left would leave an image consisting of the subject and the bright patches next to her. I don't think that would be an appealing composition. Secondly, this is a travel shot along with being a portrait. Even though it doesn't show any big landmarks, it gives a little taste of the life on the streets. Granted, the life on the streets is out of focus, but there's still enough of it to bring back memories of the day to anyone who was on the trip and give a hint of it to other viewers. Particularly if the photo's main use is as a personal memory in a collection of photos from the trip, the background is worth including. For other uses, cropping the background might be preferable.
I do think cropping a little off the top wouldn't be a bad idea. It cuts out some of the busy scenery without losing the street life. It also puts the subject a little higher and larger in the frame which helps with another issue, that issue being that the subject is somewhat camouflaged in the photo. She's mostly in the shadows, her shirt blends (not perfectly, but close) with the street and her hair blends with the tree. I don't want to sound like she's hard to spot or anything, but cropping a little off the top of the photo would make her more prominent and I think that would make the image stronger.
The OP asked what could be done differently. I think putting her in the shade and using a narrow depth of field were both good ideas given the strong light and busy scene. Certainly paying a little more attention to the background is something just about everyone should do. Even when using narrow depth of field, try to frame the subject nicely within the background scene and try to position the camera to minimize the contrasty, busy patterns that distract from the subject. Also, how about instead of being straight on in a "pose for the camera" position, get a little off to the side so her shoulders aren't square to the camera and have her flash that glance at the camera instead of away from it. That fun interaction directed at the viewer would be engaging vs. wondering what she's looking at off to the side.
Having picked at some issues, the bottom line is... does the photo communicate her personality and give a feel for the location? My opinion is that it does that very well and I can easily see why you like it so much.
Hope this helps,