Which is the best photo?

Hints and tips from Philip Grosset

Both the photos below show the old fort in the harbour at Paphos in Cyprus. But which is the better photo?
Old fort Fort
I prefer the picture on the right. It avoids all the clutter of the harbour in the foreground, and the gentle evening light brings out more attractive colors. It also suggests what the fort must once have been like, without all the visiting tourists. It really doesn't look like the same place, does it? It all goes to show the importance of choosing just the right viewpoint, and just the right lighting .... but can you think of a way of making it more dramatic?

Here's the fort again, but this time silhouetted in the sunset, with the masts of a sailing ship rising up on its left. This is my favourite of the three photos (even though you don't see much of the fort), but it took much more time and effort to set it up. Once again, the most obvious view isn't necessarily the best!

Old fort at sunset
Now here are three more pictures to compare:
This is a very boring photo of the harbour of Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife - and, anyway, what's it meant to show? No attempt has been made to create an effective composition - and one poor person has even been caught part in and part out of the picture!
Harbour with boat
Include relevant foreground objects like these boats, and not only is there an added feeling of depth, but the whole picture becomes more interesting.
Harbour with fisherman
Wait until a fisherman resumes work on his boat, and you've added human interest too. Notice how I've been able to position both man and fort near intersections of thirds (see the foot of this page for an explanation of this). The result seems to me to be by far the most effective of these three photos.
Girl b&w
Girl in color
Which of these two versions do you prefer?

For a family record, I'd much prefer the colour version. However, there may be times when you might feel that a picture would be better without distracting colors.

B&w can be good for bringing out contrasting tones and patterns, as with these very old stones in Cornwall. Shapes become more dominant, as there is no color to divert the attention.
Some cameras provide a monochrome setting, sometimes a tinted one too, or, better still, you can always remove the colour later with the aid of a photo editing program, as I have done in the photo above and on the far right. This allows you to keep your options open!

Snow scene
B&w can be effective at communicating mood, so snow scenes (and misty landscapes) can turn out well.
But having said all this, I'd still go for colour for all everyday photography

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