One Subject – Seen in Two Different Lights

Summary – If an image has a subject (it needn’t), it’s important that the viewer knows what it is. There are many aspects to how this is accomplished, but they all start with the maker’s “seeing” – sometimes literally seeing things in a different light makes all of the difference in the result.

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9-17-2013 4-34-45 PM

One subject

Two totally different images

Color 30 minutes before sunrise versus infrared at noon


The main subject is the same in both images

More obvious size-wise in the IR, but nevertheless….

The bright (high contrast) glow of the lamp against the warm sky immediately grabs the eye even though the lamp occupies a proportionally small area

In this case, placement of the street light

Is the most important factor in

Letting the viewer know what the subject is

The critical factor is contrast

This is what captures the viewer’s eye

Placement must enhance the contrast


Colors & tones are different in color than in B&W – obviously

What may not be obvious is that

Infrared tones are much different from B&W tones

Just as you must “learn to see” in B&W,

So must you learn to “see in infrared”

Since IR foliage is light & blue sky is dark, I knew immediately

The black street light had to have

Foliage and not the blue sky as a background

Similarly, in the pre-sunrise image with black silhouetted trees

The street light had to be placed against the sky

This all seems obvious – after the fact – but

It takes seeing, understand and moving your body

To bring it all together

That’s the difference between making & taking photos


Here’s what happens to the IR if we don’t see in IR

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The right hand image is the better, by far, in color

Black lamp, silhouetted against blue sky, green foliage background

Wow! Very striking and eye-catching

That’s what I saw in my view finder

and what I’d have shot in color

It’s anything but eye-catching in IR though

As the dark lamp & dark sky merge together

The eye sees very little contrast to capture its attention

Bottom line – you have to be able to visualize your final result

Before you release the shutter

(IR is a great medium for forcing you to practice “seeing”)


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