Expert advice and tips on improving your photography from Damien Demolder. He gives his appraisal of Mosque and Pigeons by Abhilash Surendran and offers advice on how it might be improved.

Photo: Mosque and pigeons

Taken by: Abhilash Surendran

Canon EOS 550D, 11-16mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

I believe this very impressive building is the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, India. It looks stunning and the colours are fabulous. 
It is one of those places where there is a definitive picture to be taken – and in this case it is the pigeons taking off from the plaza in front of the mosque. I’m all in favour of this type of shot, and love a silhouetted bird in flight to add something extra to an urban landscape, but my appraisal is that in this instance they’ve taken over.

Abhilash Surendran before

Before: There is too much going on in the original, making it a confusing scene for the viewer

For a silhouette to be effective, the object being silhouetted needs to have a clear and clean outline. It shouldn’t overlap anything else and needs to be shown against a background that allows it to stand out. While many of the birds do stand out, some are in conflict with each other and are also fighting against background elements.

Birds busting out of towers and brickwork don’t have the same effect as those flapping away in their own space. When there are as many birds in one place as there are here, it becomes distracting.

This is actually a very difficult shot to get right. It takes patience to wait until there are just the right number of flying friends in the sky and all are in the right place.

Abhilash Surendran after

After: By removing some of the birds, their clarity against the background is increased

I’ve humanely removed about half the birds from Abhilash’s original image, concentrating on those protruding from the building and those conflicting with others. The result is that we still have the impression of many birds in flight, but without the chaos of the masses 
that appeared before.

I’ve also cropped out some of the sky and lightened the whole image to direct more importance to the location, and to show the grandeur of the building. The picture isn’t just about the birds – it is about the birds in this specific location.