Monday, July 19, 2021

Colours and Biases

It has been a while since I talked about photography ‘properly’ on this blog. What with all the pandemics going around, who has the time to photograph anything pleasant. Apparently one of my brothers (cousins) does. He sent me a few photos of roses and a hibiscus with dew drops all over the place. They were nice photos but I felt that the colour profile of every photo could have been tweaked a little to make the colours pop. That would have given them a vivid, vibrant feel. (Some may have even benefitted from soft focus giving them a dreamy feel.) Let me demonstrate what I mean. Here’s the original photo of a hibiscus:

Dull Hibiscus

The colours in this photo feel flat and muted. The pink petals are borderline white and the background elements – dark green leaves and red flowers – appear to take over one’s attention that is intended for the main subject. To remedy some of these aspects, I fiddled with the colour warmth, saturation, highlights & shadows and contrast to get the following photo:

Vivid Hibiscus

I was happy with how the pink and orange hues now attract one’s attention more than the background elements, which somehow don’t stand out too much. As is often said, it takes one flower to know another, so I asked my 3.3 years old daughter Sakura what does she think of the two photos. She at once picked the original photo! I was shocked, to say the least.

After regaining my composure, I asked her why did she pick the original? She said there are green leaves in the original. That is true, but that’s what I felt were the distracting elements. That's why I had ‘turned’ them to ‘black’ so as to be the background and the flower could be the center of attention (which every kid expects to be)! Not convinced by that reason alone, I asked her again for anything else she thinks is better in the original. She said there are red flowers [pointing at the background]. Again that is true and I felt those were distracting too (like bold and gold colours on kids’ garments)! I was really confused now and asked her explicitly about the flower in the center, “Don’t you like the pink and orange colours popping out in the center [pointing at the photo with my edits]?”. She answered, “No, the orange & pink are better here [pointing at the original one]!”. And made a face/gesture/pose that seemed to articulate: “Enough with the dumb questions; I like what I like! Why should there be any reasons for that?” and ran off to play Tic-Tac-Toe with her mother. [She figured out the 2-pronged tactic to win by her 5th game against Her! “Was that a fluke or deliberate?” is a question for another post.]

Let me also share some of the photos I clicked in recent times from the verandah. As you might expect, they have been tweaked a little to make the colours pop as I prefer:


Green Coconuts

Gulmohar petal

Gulmohar flower


Thus, it seems beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. What felt distracting elements to me in a photo were the precise reasons for my daughter to like that photo. Or maybe, to her young eyes, the colours are already vibrant and don’t need help popping out unlike my decades old eyes that do. It sounds weird but that’s how life is: unpredictable at the best of times, and unprecedented pandemonium at the worst of times. With that thought, I leave you with

The Hibiscus Photographer