Expert advice and tips on improving your photography from Damien Demolder. He gives his appraisal of Horses in the Mist by Brian McDonnell and offers advice on how it might be improved.

Photo: Horses in the mist

Taken by: Brian McDonnell

Nikon D7100, Sigma 17-70mm, 1/60sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

photo appraisal

Before

There is something very appealing about this scene of horses being tended to on a misty morning. I like the sloping hillsides, the three significant trees in the background, and the position of the horses and the girls tending to them. There is a good deal of evidence, though, that the original exposure was way too bright, as the lighter parts of the horses and the hair of one of the girls has been burnt out to a white that cannot be recovered. It’s a shame, since those blank featureless patches stand out too much and grab our attention for the wrong reasons.

There is also far too much contrast for a misty morning. It gives the scene a crispness and harshness that is at odds with the soft atmosphere we’d expect in these conditions. I suspect the clarity slider is the offender, or too-hard a curve. I’ve tried to put some of the softness back by turning down the contrast and the clarity, and reducing the density of the black & white. The scene is much softer and more in keeping with a misty day.

photo appraisal

After: Turning down the contrast and clarity, and reducing the density of the black & white makes the scene much softer

We often strive to create impact such that we can forget to tune the manipulations we make in software to the conditions in which we shot the picture. Hence, it is important to remember how we felt when we took the picture, so we can make adjustments that reflect the reality of the occasion. Not all pictures have to jump off the page. There is great value in the soft and subtle, when they are called for.