Architecture, Melbourne, Photography, Reworks, Victoria

ReWorking the City Block

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing some critiquing for a person, going through some of her images and giving her tips on how to improve, well my opinion of it.  After the first lot she was quite discouraged, so I sent her some links to see some of my earlier work, to help put her efforts into perspective.  Some of my early work was crap. Then last Saturday I was teaching a class on Architectural photography and this image was among the lot I had chosen to show the class.

The Block in the City - Original

This image was taken just over a year ago on a trip to the city with a friend.  It was in the Block Arcade and taken with the camera almost on the floor.

The idea of the image was to show a different way of taking images, different angles and as I was looking at it, I was blown away by the colours.  True cringe factor here.  In past classes I have just shown the images on my laptop, but this time, I attached my laptop to the tv and so the images were huge.  I couldn’t believe how vibrant this image came out and I remember looking at the class and saying this has to be reworked.  So I reworked it.

The Block in the City - ReworkedThey are both HDR’s, and the second one was redone, right from scratch, so I redid the HDR with Photomatix again as well.  I processed it differently as well.  I tried to tone the people down, and bring out the features a lot more.  The colours in the rework are so much more realistic as well I think.  They are certainly more like the colours I think of when I think about the arcade.

I have added layers of blur and masked part of that blurring.  I think in images I am always trying to help you see what I want you to see.  I also played with the lighting a little.  It is a darker image, but I know you are not surprised about that.

I think it is important for people who are starting out to remember that no one starts being good straight away.  We all learn and slowly the work gets better.  It is good to look at lots of photography, I mean lots.  Look at what you like and what you don’t like.  Work out what works in an image and what doesn’t.  Look at photographers whose work you love and try to imitate it.  It is a fantastic way to learn.  Try and work out what it is that they do, especially what it is that makes you like it.  Think about why you take photos and what you want from your images.

Just a few ideas.  I don’t want to discourage anyone and think everyone should have a go.  I am going to be having a go this weekend, how about you?


  1. Really like the reworked image… masking and blurring the people, and the bright colors in the front really draws your eyes to the ceiling… and, darkening the celiling a bit too, really helps accentuate it — the first image is nice, but it’s just so bright, colorful and busy. The new version: really, really nice!

    • Thank you John, I agree, the original looks like it is part of a circus or something and the arcade is so much more graceful than that.

  2. I much prefer the first shot. All the bright colours make it more attractive to me. While I understand there are aspects that take away from the architecture, my perspective is of the busy entrance to a beautiful building. :-)

    • The colours are nothing like that though, the building is beautiful for it’s attention to detail and there are no bright colours, so I feel that the first image makes fun of a beautiful building. So I think the rework is more natural. It is always interesting to hear what other people thing. Thank you.

    • I love the first shot as well, because it gives me the feeling of vibrancy and energy. I think this is the interesting part of the subjectivity of art, I do not know the space, and now have a feeling of what it is like from the image, it seems you are trying to give an acurtate portrayal of the space, rather than a romanticised one. As always, love your work, and discussions from it!

      • I don’t know about accurate, but I don’t like really bright colours, I just think it makes it look unreal. I know the space well, and I feel like I should put sunglasses on to view it. Though I have to also understand that each person has their own ideas and tastes. Thanks Sophie.

  3. paul says

    Hi Leanne, nice article with some very good advice.
    Personally I prefer the vibrant colours of your “old” photograph to the latest re-worked one but then it is just as you say, we look at something in a year or two’s time and find our tastes have changed.
    I still find great inspiration from your works and am trying to get closer to being able to produce something even remotely as good.
    Have a great day

    • Hey Paul. I have had this happen before, I do a rework and I am the only that likes it. I am okay with that and I can understand why people like the bright colours. It is great to see, not only the tastes change, but also how much difference a year of processing and learning can make.
      That is such a nice thing to say, thank you.

  4. The best critique is honest critique. I hope your friend doesn’t get too discouraged, we have all been there. You are right, we don’t just start out taking great photos, it takes time and patience and learning from our mistakes. The fact is we never stop learning and that is exciting.

    • It is very exciting. I look at some many wonderful photos and hope to be as good one day. It never stops. I try to be honest, but I try to do it kindly.
      Thank you.

  5. Thanks for such good advice! I really liked the first one… isn’t it funny how we all have different preferences? It’s probably just my novice eye though. Anyway, thanks so much for being willing to share your expertise! I’ve always admired your work :-)

    • Thank you, that is so nice of you to say. I am starting to feel like the minority here, but it has happened before, and no doubt will have again.

      • HAHA! I didn’t read the other comments so I figured I was the only one who felt that way. lol You know, I started edited my pics the way you did the second one. I DO like the toned down more muted look (the color I mean) but for some reason the top pic, with all it’s color, I can see it in real life that way, I think …. just me though. But really you’re one of the bets photographers I’ve seen on WP so I ALWAYS enjoy reading what you have to say about photography. Thank you!

      • I think it is also because I know the building, my husband has an office in there on one of the floors and so I have been in there so many times and I know the colours aren’t like they are in the first image. So for me it is too crazy.
        Thank you so much, that is wonderful thing to say.

      • Don’t mention it :-) But what a wonderful, beautiful place to work! Lucky Hubby!

      • Yes, he is lucky, though his work doesn’t allow him much time in there anymore, which is a shame.

  6. The Arcade in reality is almost across between the two images,funny as a child i saw it like image one but as an adult it is more inbetween.. the frst image is incredibly busy with color and it tends to draw you away from the actual scene. Great pics :)

  7. I much prefer the first image, although i understand the toning down of the saturation of the people to bring the focus to the building, the darkening of the foreground to the heavy shadowing of the people is now more distracting.
    Everyone has different tastes though.

    Giving critique is hard, I hope your friend comes back and has taken the comments on board and has not been too disheartened.

    • Thanks Ben, that is true it really is a matter of taste.
      Critiquing is very hard, but she has come back and when I showed her my early work, she felt much better.

  8. To my eye the re-worked version looks more ‘realistic’ – though I wonder if the brightness could be lifted a dodge – the burnt highlights are burnt so a little brightening wouldn’t effect them?
    It’s interesting that you refer to some of your early work as ‘crap’ – I’m not sure that I would refer to any work which is, effectively, part of the learning process. At the time you made it, you had a certain mindset, now you have a different mindset.

    In certain respects, we may find our work less ‘free’ nowadays as we have become more assertive in what you are trying to achieve. I believe there is a danger that we start to adopt ‘convention’ as we learn more (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but we should be wary of it).
    I would absolutely support your views on reviewing the work by others, absolutely. Research of that nature may not have an impact immediately but some time in the future we may be faced with the bare bones of an image which is crying out for some particular form of expressive alteration and seemingly out of nowhere an idea will come – but of course it would not be out of nowhere because the idea will probably be an amalgam of things we’ve seen in the past.
    Explore, experiment, park, go back, I’d recommend all of these things. ‘I don’t know how to’ – well my advice is try. As you rightly suggest, we often create images that few seem to appreciate but for some reason they rock our boat – cool – because to my mind that’s where individualism is derived, not from the conformist approach.

    Having said that, I will get back to my conformist approach – because not all photography has to be great, some just needs to be utilitarian, fit for purpose.

    • Thanks Stephen, I like it the way it is now, but that is my taste. I think it is good to be able to call your early work crap, it means you have got better in your own eyes. I think if you always think that work is good then you may not have improved. I did the same with my drawing and painting, looking at the early stuff and then comparing it with later stuff is great.

      Interesting, I think to start with you have to follow the rules and then once you know them then you can break them, but then you understand more about composition and what works and what doesn’t. YOu can be more critical. Well I hope I can be.
      Your question of “I don’t know how to” is interesting, I would respond with this, then learn how to.

      Not it doesn’t have to be great, it has to be what you like. Thanks again.

      • If you have a picture that you have which you consider ‘crap,’ by inference if you see a similar image taken by another photographer is that crap? If you are teaching somebody, is their work automatically crap because it doesn’t meet the standards to be seen in your crap phase?

        I understand your point about the knowing the rules first – and to be fair, I admit that that is my path, learning the rules first – but it seems to me that before we know the rules we have freedom, we then promote/learn the rules which puts shackles on us and then we strive to throw the shackles off. I can’t help but wonder how much natural talent is lost because of the obligation to learn the rules. (For me, learning the rules is not about camera craft, i.e. exposure control, dof, these are simply camera control.)

        All the best.

      • If someone takes a photo exactly the same as one of my early ones that I think is crap, then yeah I think their image is crap. I wouldn’t say that to them, but I would tell them what I thought they needed to do to make the image better, how to improve it.

        Also I don’t tell people what I think of their work unless I am invited to. I will tell someone what I like, but I wouldn’t tell them what I don’t like, because I don’t think it is my place.

        I think once you learn the rules of composition, you do compose your images differently and you begin to understand how an image is put together. It is different. I think you make different decisions. I think natural talent is the beginning and that no one is that naturally talented that they don’t need to learn, otherwise why would we need art schools. Learning teaches you to refine and develop that talent.

      • “Also I don’t tell people what I think of their work unless I am invited to. I will tell someone what I like, but I wouldn’t tell them what I don’t like, because I don’t think it is my place. ” –

        In forums that I have been a part of in the past it was a natural event that people provided critique as a matter of course, largely because that was the culture on the predominantly photographic forums – these critique often quite robust. Since I’ve started blogging, which is a completely different beast, I’ve struggled as to whether offer critique/advice/opinion – for the most part I don’t – but your simple form of words here provides the principle that I was looking for, thanks. (They say ‘the obvious often stares in you in the face and you don’t see it’ ).

      • I stay away from the forums because I find that they are often dominated by people who like to think they know what is best and can’t acknowledge that their opinion is just that, their opinion.
        I am very careful offering any form of critique as I know what it is like when you get really harsh criticism. I have almost given up photography a couple of times because of it. I think it is important to remember that it is a very personal thing, your work, and when you tell people what you think you are criticising something that is very important to them. It has to be done with a great deal of respect for the work and for the person.

      • One of the reasons I don’t have a presence on forums now – that and being bored with seeing the same old advice – ‘the horizon should be level’, ‘the verticals should be upright’ – and almost no discussion of the aesthetics of a particular image.

      • I think forums could be like clubs, There are rules of composition, sure, they are called rules, but they should be more like guides, and sometimes you just have to put the horizon in the middle or the image doesn’t balance. I also think the rules of composition don’t always follow, when you are doing architecture, well it seems almost anything goes, but I think for landscape the rules should be followed as much as possible. They can be so frustrating, forums and clubs that is.

      • Clubs are like a whole other species, I was told recently that I should join one, no way, not ever, ever, ever, again. :)

  9. I also like the original, but I also think that you have done a great job on the reworked shot. They both have their good and bad points and it really is all down to taste. What I would like to see is a straight forward ‘snap’ of the building so that we can see the non HDR colours. Then we can really see if the rework is, as you say, closer to the real thing. I am not a fan of overworked HDR but I find your dark, subtle style very pleasing to the eye and I wish I could do what you do.

    • The rework is far closer to the colours, they are probably even more subdued than the that as well. Thank Ray.

  10. We all need critique – it opens our eyes to other perspectives and is the best way to learn. Sadly, it’s something I feel is generally lacking in the blogging world; people are happy to scatter ‘likes’ and ‘ooh’ over images but not offer any constructive criticism. A great opportunity missed …..

    • The problem with critique, as I find it is that once you open yourself up to it, then you are vulnerable and you have people who just want to destroy you, I know there are people who would be nice and say good stuff, but you have to weed out the people who are just mean. I think if you are going to take criticism you need to get it from people you respect and you know will give you an honest opinion without trying to bring you down. I’ve had those people doing that on my blog, the vicious ones and it is horrible, I almost gave up a couple of times. When I want a honest opinion I have a friend who is great and I really respect her opinion. We all need someone like that.

      • OK – maybe I’m a little naive in thinking that people will give an honest opinion rather than just being mean for the sake of it – or perhaps because they’re jealous?! Good point though – thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      • It is something you have to be very careful about, people love to bring you down. I am grateful that I haven’t had too many, two were really bad and made me feel horrible for days afterwards, and I think if you ask for an honest opinion you might not get it exactly, you might just be told stuff that is just mean. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what makes an image beautiful follows the same logic.

  11. Actually, this is an exciting illustration of how one can get an entirely different mood out of a photo. If one wanted a brash, in-your-face image to fit a scene or description of, say, a place for teenagers to hang out, the first one fits it perfectly. Then, as a place for the more mature to shop and meet, the reworked version sets just the right mood.

    • Is that your way of saying you don’t know which one you like?
      I do like what you are saying though, and it is an idea that I hadn’t thought of, thank you.

      • Relax! :) Actually, my first idea was how well done the reworking was – but then I got the second idea about the effectiveness of the original for another mood.

      • I am relaxed, haha I was having a go at you, I really like that second idea and it is really interesting, I also wonder if the age of the person has something to do with it also.

  12. So beautiful words photo,s , dear my friend, I wish u a wonderful day!

  13. it is like viewing the difference between las vegas and provence. beautiful

  14. Pingback: Super Sweet Blogging Award – 3 Nominations | Ajaytao 2010

    • Thank you Nia, I hope so. Sometimes I think I just ramble and don’t really say anything of quality.

  15. such a beautiful subject…what a great perspective this shot is…from so close to the ground! to me it is all about personal appeal…both are wonderful but to me the second is my favourite…constructive criticism can be a very helpful tool…when the person is willing to listen…I’d be thrilled to have someone with such wonderful talent pass along pointers/tips…you friend should follow your blog, she would learn a great deal I think…I find it very inspiring!

    • It is such a relief to hear people say they like the second one, there haven’t been many of you. Thank you Heather.
      I try to do it very gently and be respective. I have say it helps that she is paying me to do it, so I have to be truthful. Her work is pretty good.

      • again…it is all about what appeals to me…I’m not drawn to just one perspective, but I have to say I do like more subtle colours…I’m sure you are respectful…you come across as that kind of person…she deserves to be told the truth…I would want to be…have a wonderful weekend!

  16. Leanne – I like the re-worked image much better, for all the reasons other commenters have stated. I think it’s important for all of us to look back every now and then to see our progress – I have the same feeling from my first year of blogging, in 2009, that a lot of it was crap, even though at the time I thought it was great! And I hope in four years, I’ll look back at what I am posting now and see similar improvements. If there’s not improvements, I think that means I am taking the easy way out, as well as wasting a bunch of time!


    • Great point Melinda, if you aren’t improving you aren’t learning, and who wants to think they are already the best. I want to get keep getting better and better, you do too, I think. Thank you for that, it has been an interesting post and generated quite a bit of discussion.

    • This one is quite old, well old for us, built over 100 years ago and I think maintained because it is in a busy part of the city and people from everywhere go there. We have quite a few like this. Thanks Amanda.

  17. I actually like both, but I think that the reworked version is mysterious. I think as an amateur photographer, I would have seen the first one as “better” but I LOVE your thought process and now I like the reworked as well. I appreciate that you take the time to talk about your projects, and share the different versions. SO helpful and fun because I’m not only visually stimulated, but it gives me more to think about as a newbie.

    • Thank you Tracey, I like to write about it too because it is a great record for me for why I did it and how I did it. It is like a visual diary for me. If it helps others then that is great as well. I like your thought processes here too.

  18. You know I am a fan Leanne :) I like both but the re-work is out of this world, love the subtle coloring.

  19. I love the subtle tones of the reworked version. It looks quite delicate and ornate. Personally I would have increased the midtone contrast and saturation a little, but not by much (<5% or so). Regardless it's much better than the former iteration. Lovely colours. :)

    • Isn’t it funny, I was thinking of toning down the saturation, that it still seemed a bit over. :) Amazing how different we all are. It is a very ornate arcade and possibly one of the best in Melbourne. thank you.

      • I love how everyone has their own perspective. It makes life far more interesting. If we all saw things in the same way it’d all be rather boring! That being said, I do think that there might be some literal differences here, i.e Monitor settings. My saturation may be lower than the norm or yours might be well over average, etc. Who knows! Whatever the case, the composition of the photo itself is pleasing to the eye.

      • That is so true, I say that all the time as well. We do have different tastes and it would be boring if we all liked the same thing. Yes, monitors do vary and that is something we all need to consider I suppose. Thank you, I do like the composition, maybe I should go back and do it again, early in the morning when there aren’t too many people around.

      • That would be a good idea. You wouldn’t have to struggle with crowds, that way ^_^. I’m no scientist but I bet we’re even wired up differently when it comes to how we perceive colour etc. What I see as lime green may well be apple green for you!

      • I think you would be right on all accounts here. It would be amazing to see, I don’t how you would be able to tell though.

    • The colours seem to get a lot of people. haha. I find them too bright and I think it is because I know the building well and I know they aren’t that bright. The perspective should be the same for both though, they are the same image, though the second one was cropped a little. Thanks Gail

  20. Hi Leanne, I too like the first one because of the colors after all it is an arcade. Here in America I use to take my grand kids to arcades ,they were usually loud and with bright colors. The second one seems subdued but well done. That is only my opinion. A statement my instructor made about a print that I brought into class, that I was proud of, tormented me for many weeks. It was man who worked out in the sun day after day and had hard wrinkles from the sun. He did not want his picture taken because of that. I did end up taken his picture and showed to the instructor. He Said, “That is the wrong kind of lighting the that person”. The man was so happy with it he wanted to send one the his 90yr old mom. I sat the man in front of the picture window and exposed the picture for the side of his face oppposite the window, the wrinkles did not look as bad as he normally saw them. I was trying so hard to take good pictures the comment stuck with me for many weeks ,until I realized that was just his opinion.

    • Our arcades are sedate, and this one is quite old, well for here. It is full of very expensive boutique style shops, with some places you can eat. So the colours are also sedate, and in that first image it shows them as too saturated.
      I like your story about the man, it is so true, just because one person doesn’t like an image another will. I find that a lot. We do all have different tastes. I hope the instructor wasn’t horrible when he said that. I hate that, some people can be really mean when they are critiquing others work. Glad you realised it was just his opinion, as it always it.

      • Thank you for your reply and informing me of what you call an arcade and what we here call an arcade. That being the case I can see why you wanted to rework it. The first is a little flamboyant

      • Actually now that you have said I’ve just realised that a lot of people have probably thought the same. maybe I should do more images on the arcade so people can really see what it looks like.
        It is amazing how different things from one country to another can be.

  21. Wow, what a difference! I REALLY need to learn how to add layers. I’m not sure if I don’t “get it” yet cuz I don’t really have time to devote to it, or I’m just too much of a scatterbrain…LOL :D

    • LOL, I think the problem is you have too much on right now and it is hard work learning it, so you shouldn’t worry about right, when things are calmer you will have the time and be in a better headspace. Take care, and thenk you. :)

  22. The re-work is fabulous, Leanne! Nice to know that I’m not the only one who learns new things over the years…rules are rules for a reason, but that doesn’t mean certain rules cannot be ‘adjusted’ somewhat, especially for effect. I often ‘force’ the perspective in my images, and use Distort to make certain parts larger (for a subtle emphasis…it all depends on the original, and where I want to take it!

    • Thanks 1000, I agree, that rules are not really rules, but should be considered guides. I do try and follow the guides, but sometimes you do have to change them to suit your image.

  23. I really liked the first one ! it is funny how our creative desires change over time. Like Picasso and his blue period. I remember seeing his artwork in Barcelona when each room was organized by year. The year he moved to Paris the artwork exploded with color. it was really cool.

    • What a great way to show his work. I must admit the colours in many of my early hdr images were very bright, too bright, I am slowly going back over them and changing them to the right colours, and giving the images a different mood.

  24. I don’t have the skills or the patience for this, Leanne, but love the changes you have made here. There was no warmth in that first shot at all. I am constantly amazed at what you can achieve. No offence meant with the previous comment. I’m glad the lady was ok. :)

    • Thank you, it has taken me a lot of learning and much trial and error, but I also really enjoy the computer stuff almost as much as taking the photos. I love being able to turn an image into something else. I always love that line from Pride and Prejudice by Lydia, how she buys a hat, thinks it is ugly, but dare say she will pull it apart and make something out it. I find that a challenge.
      No offence at all, I got a lot worse. It has been a strange experience, I never take images of people in the street, well rarely, but it was only because I was with someone that wanted to do that. I am usually too busy looking up.

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