Web Page Photography
by Joe Gillespie
A friend of mine, whose first language is not English, once remarked about 'making' pictures with his camera. At first, I thought it was just down to his lack of proficiency with the language but then I realised that my concept of 'taking' pictures and his of 'making' them were not at all the same. You 'take' snapshots but you 'make' photographs there is a world of difference.
A snapshot is what happens when you point a camera at something or someone and press the button. Given that there is sufficient light and the subject is within the focusing range of the camera, something will be recorded on the film. What has happened is that an event in space and time has been captured and frozen for posterity.
A photograph, on the other hand, has to be worked at. You have to compose the picture, get the exposure and shutter speed right and hopefully make some sort of statement other than 'this is what was in front of the camera when the shutter clicked!'
Most photographs on Web pages are just illustrations rather than 'statements of self expression' but it is reasonable to expect a certain degree of competence nevertheless. The medium is fairly undemanding because of its low resolution. A picture that would be unacceptable for print reproduction can usually get by in the form of a small Web image and, with a little bit of tweaking in an image editing program, serve its purpose admirably. A little colour correction here, a little sharpening there, make it into a JPEG and that's it!
Well, not every picture is rescueable with Photoshop, nor deserves to be, but there are some things you can do to improve your Web page photographs before you even get that far.
Don't use flash!
It's funny, one of the biggest boons to modern photography is also its biggest problem the built-in flash. Nothing kills a picture more than the flat lighting, hard shadows and glowing red-eyes produced by on-camera flashguns. Right beside the lens is the worst possible position for a light source yet millions of such snapshots are 'committed' every day. Yes, it's convenient. Yes, it's easy. But if you want a decent picture and it's not an absolute emergency, switch the flash off and find a more sympathetic natural light source. See this month's