Expert advice and tips on improving your photography from Damien Demolder. He offers advice on Ferdinand von Korff's photo, The Speech.

Photo: The Speech

Taken by: Ferdinand von Korff

Canon EOS 400D, 17mm, 1/20sec at f/2.8, ISO 400

Ferdinand von Korff-before

Before.

This is a cracking picture. I’m not absolutely certain of all the details surrounding the occasion, the location or even whether the people in the scene are related, but there is plenty of information contained in the picture to help us make up the story ourselves. In actual fact, the story doesn’t matter, as it is the moment and the situation that we read and recognise – the old man making a speech after dinner, the men waiting for him to finish so they can drink their shots and the wee boy being a bit bored by the adult activity and losing his concentration.

From the angle that Ferdinand has shot this, we could be there ourselves (and I’d rather like to be) and we can feel a part of the scene. While we listen to the old man praising/ranting/celebrating/memorialising, we can use the time to look around the table to see what we have just been eating.

I love the background and how much we can draw from it: the bare light bulb, the depth created by the people at the edges of the frame, and the respect that the head of the family still retains that he can stand and make everyone wait while he says his bit.

Ferdinand’s original was a little contrasty and I thought we’d lost some important detail in the shadows, so I’ve created a new version that shows what it might have looked like had he processed the file differently or selected softer settings in his camera. A portrait setting would have worked well for this scene.

Ferdinand von Korff-after

After: The final version reveals a few more details in the shadowed areas.

  • chris

    I also prefer the original. It is much more atmospheric and moody. It’s an excellent image!

  • entoman

    The original has a lot more “atmosphere”. Yes it’s very contrasty but the blocked-in shadows actually add to the image. The final version reminds me of a scene that has been subjected to grossly excessive HDR treatment. Full of detail but lacking in ambience.

    What is left out (including shadow and highlight detail) is often more important than what is left in.