Photoshop with your feet

I may have emitted an involuntary little squeal last month when I happened across this scene in Paris: a Citroën deux-chevaux in front of the Place des Vosges. Could it get any more classic?

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But that wasn’t the first frame I shot.

My first frame was an unimaginative, wide-angle snapshot. I take a lot of these as rough drafts, because sometimes I’ll notice things in a photo I didn’t see with my eyes.

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To capture as timeless an image as possible, I decided to keep these distractions out of the frame. And that meant trying different approaches.

This one’s OK, I guess — though the Place des Vosges is completely absent. Next!

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And while this shop-window reflection shows all of my intended elements, it’s not really about the car or the place. Next!

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Then I tried to squeeze the full car and façade into the frame, but the composition was a little off. And anyway, now there was a SCOOTER in my frame. Aaarghhh. Next!

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So I approached it from an angle …

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… and knelt on the ground …

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… and moved in closer …

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… aaaand maybe a little too close …

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… before I noticed the time, and ended up running through the streets of Paris like a deranged person.

I almost missed my breakfast date, but at least I got my shot. And I must say I like it even better in black and white!

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The moral of the story is that, while Photoshop can be useful for cloning out unwanted elements from a photo, sometimes the best approach is still to use your feet.


    • Thank you, Cindy! It did occur to me (only afterward) that the owner would have been rolling on the floor with laughter, had he/she spotted me ogling the car. One of the great things about Paris, though, is that they’re pretty accustomed to tourists with cameras, so I don’t get a fraction of the weird looks there that I do in my home town. It’s wonderful to be able to let me photographic freak flag fly! 😉

      • It sounds like so much fun- it really does. I have’t been there since college- don’t think they even had lights on the Eiffel Tower back then..those were the dark ages- for real! 😀

        • I love your definition of “the dark ages,” Cindy. Perhaps I’ll edit it into a textbook at some point. 🙂

          • I wouldn’t have lasted a hot second in the real dark ages..bathroom situation was no doubt way too sketchy.. and I’m not into eating those big turkey legs- not sure if they “served” them, but somehow I see that in my mind’s eye.. dirty hair, general mayhem and huge turkey legs for dinner..ugh. The Eiffel Tower without lights..I can manage that.

    • I was undecided as to my “final photo” choice, because none of them was quite perfect. But I did my best in the few minutes I had, and that’s the way life works. 🙂 Thank you so much, Terry!

  1. A nice expression of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” An awesomely vintage style photograph! (Although let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong in Paris 🙂 )

    • You are so right, Beth: You really can’t go wrong in Paris. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. Brilliant. I don’t know why, but since ages – Citroen and France especially Paris just go hand in hand. Really enjoyed this picture post and where you edited picture to say fancy hotel – brilliant.

    • Thank you so much, Bella! I agree with you 100%: France and Citroën are two peas in a pod, unlike any other country-car match I can think of. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

    • It’s a rather haphazard process for sure, but occasionally it yields passable results.

      PS: I was trying to figure out the other day why a comment from my good blog-friend Jim would get held for moderation. Then today I noticed that the little coffee cup next to your name had been replaced by a camera. (So cute!) I guess every time we change how our name displays we essentially become a “new” person, eh? Thank you for helping me figure out a mystery that has long plagued me. 🙂

      • Oh how interesting! I got invited to test (on a volunteer basis) future WordPress stuff. One of them is a version of the iOS app that lets you edit your profile — with full iOS emoji support. So I’ve been playing with that to see how it behaves! That’s why the coffee cup appeared, and now the camera. It’s cool how the emoji carry fine onto the Web, and also onto the Android app (I also have an Android phone I use for testing).

        • That is cool indeed, that the emojis carry seamlessly across platforms! I think we’re rapidly approaching the reality of a consistent, universal UX. (I can’t wait … I’m so tired of testing usability and functionality on seven devices! My office looks like it’s staffed entirely by pickpockets, ha ha.)

  3. great post! I think photoshop can fix things but the best pictures start off as a good photo. so many people forget that aspect of traditional photo taking in the new trend for filters etc etc.

    • I didn’t want to sound condemning of the fancy new Instagram filters — or Photoshop, for that matter — because they can yield interesting results. And anyway, someone else’s process may be completely different than mine. But thank you so much for making the excellent point that it all starts with a good, solid subject. And thank you for stopping by!

    • So wonderful to see your beautiful smiling avatar, Pollyanna! “Process” is a funny thing — because it seems oxymoronic to creativity, doesn’t it? But it can be a useful frame through which to approach our art, whatever it may be. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  4. Great post H. I too rarely find that my first take on a subject is the best one. As photographers we need to learn to cover a subject from multiple perspectives to find the best one and you’ve given a good example of that. Well done (and great final photograph)!

    • Thank you so much, Joe! As you know I’m a HUGE fan of your work, so I’m really honored you liked mine. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. It’s really helpful to have the time-line and the choices of your 2CV photo deconstructed. Thanks for that. The results speak for themselves, but it’s intriguing to see how you arrived at your photographic destination. And, like Cindy, I can imagine the owners watching you from the window. Expect their time-lapse video of your knee-level choreography, set to music, to go viral!

    In the meantime, I think you’ll enjoy this practical picque-nique scenario:

  6. Love the sequence! And it’s something that we can all try to do (at least try), so great advice as well! I don’t know if I’ll find an awesome landscape as this one any time soon, but I’ll sure have this in mind just in case.

    • Thank you for your very kind comment! Sometimes when I’m bored I try the same exercise at home with an everyday object (the last one was a beer bottle, and before that I shot a radish!). I’m endlessly surprised by how different things look when you really study them! All the same, I’m grateful to have the privilege of traveling to these awesome landscapes. Hope you get to someday, too! Thank you so much for stopping by …

      • You’re right, sometimes is about finding the moments in every day scenes, otherwise the days could get a little bit boring, just waiting for another time. I’ll try that too.

    • I’m honored this post sparked some ideas! I’m also glad that smart, thoughtful, artistic people are still drawn to cinematography — it’s one of the most potent forms of storytelling we have. Best wishes to you, and thank you for stopping by!

  7. Loved this story! Made me chuckle at the thought that this is what so many of us go through when we’re trying to get that ‘perfect image” or at least trying out various angles to get the desired shot we’re looking for. I appreciate your patience and determination in sticking with it until you got what you wanted. Nice one!

    • This is something only a photographer would understand, right? At least once I’ve (accidentally) rolled in poop while trying to get the shot. 😀 Thank you for stopping by, Sóla, and for your kind words!

  8. Recently I came across a website that is offering free pictures. I browsed a bit and they were so slick, dripping with this plastic kind of perfection that the poor things seemed to be like the Barbie dolls of the photo-artist world.
    Your pictures are all alive. A great shot indeed.

    (P.S: there are padded knee-pads for gardeners)

    • WHAT A WONDERFUL COMPLIMENT! I am overjoyed that you find my pictures full of life … and you have simply made my day. Thank you!

      (As an aside I sometimes wonder about falling short of that plastic perfection, because it seems to be what people enjoy looking at. But then I remember that — since I’m not doing this for a living — I’m free to shoot whatever and however I darn tootin’ please. 🙂

      Also, thank you for the tip on knee-pads. I might get some stares in Paris if I walked around in knee-pads … but as I get older I seem to care less what other people think. So yes, knee-pads! I think I’ll get some. 😀

    • Welcome, dear newbie! 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

  9. The photographer nerd in me is tickled by this little step-by-step, workshop-like story. Great idea, H. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned nearly all of the images you shared warrant plenty of merit but it’s easiest for me to like the black and white picture best of all. The idea of using my feet more is a timely one for me because I could end up indefinitely loaning my most heavily-used lens, a midrange zoom, to a friend who recently lost his over the edge of a cliff (he can’t afford to replace it right now but he’s so talented that I can’t stand to see the lost lens crimp the upward arc he’s been on). I’m a little apprehensive about what I’ll use for my new mainstay but I’ve been thinking I might try to go with an in-between prime. It has been seeming like a good thing to try.

    • What a sweetheart you are, to lend out your midrange zoom indefinitely! You are a true friend, Jason — and I’m sure it’s a huge consolation to your friend. I can’t imagine the sinking feeling of seeing your gear fall off a cliff, though I suppose he must be at least a bit relieved he didn’t follow it down.

      And thank you also (as always) for your kind and encouraging words. If I may try to repay the encouragement, yes! An in-between prime! I just read a great post on “traveling with a fixed focal length” yesterday I found downright inspiring:

      Talk about *really* having to Photoshop with your feet, eh? 🙂

    • I truly hope you will get the chance to go someday — you see the most amazing things there every day. Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

  10. wow, I never have the confidence to get down on the floor to get the best angle! but I suppose these days nobody bats an eyelid…

  11. Such incredible post! Congratulations! I felt like I was taking the picture while I was reading because I have also all this “problems” to take the perfect one. Really interesting post…

    • ¡Me complace muchísimo que te haya gustado esta entrada! As a friend once told me, “there are no problems in photography; only solutions you haven’t yet discovered.” I’m not sure I agree with him in all situations, but at least he was right in this one. Muchos saludos.

  12. I feel that I am still a novice with photography but I enjoy looking at things from a different angle and from different distances. One of the reasons my wife and I picked up a nicer camera instead of just using my phone for everything. Now if I could just remember to bring the fanned thing on trips.

    • No matter how many photos i take, i think i will *always* feel like a novice! But that’s ok, because as you say, a big part of the fun is trying to find ways to see things differently.

    • Merci infiniment ! C’est super gentil … your comment has absolutely made my WEEK. Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind words.

  13. Wow. I guess photography really is all about experimenting. That picture looks worth the struggle!

    • How kind of you, John … thank you! It’s a lesson I have to remind myself of again and again, because I’m fundamentally a very lazy photographer who would rather just rely on her zoom lens. 🙂

  14. And I thought I was the only one. I feel like I spend a lot of time reviewing photos I’ve taken and deleting the ones that are not worthy. I often wonder too, if my husband thinks I’m crazy. But I’ll tell him, I’m not the only one who takes 20 shots of one scene! Thank you for sharing!

    • Ah, no … I can promise you with 100% certainty you’re not the only one! It may not be of comfort to your husband to know that there are legions of other crazy photographers out there, but know that you’re not alone. 😉 Thank you so much for stopping by!

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