Half-week homework: Doors

Hello out there, photographers getting inspired! For those clicking through for the first time, the half-week homework is a challenge, every Wednesday, meant to provide direction, bring people together as shooting buddies, and help you grow as a photographer. The most important part is to make sure you’re sharing your results, even if it’s only with the aforementioned shooting buddies. If you’re willing to take them public—and you really should be—please share them on our Facebook page or on Instagram tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework.

Sometimes the challenge is to explore a certain part of the process (say, your aperture setting), sometimes the challenge is to create a certain mood or illustrate a certain concept, and sometimes it’s a good ol’ fashioned concrete subject assignment. This is one of those times. Your subject: doors.

On a purely physical level, doors are great subjects. They’re mostly perfectly rectangular—and a human-sized rectangle, no less—so framing them and incorporating the shape with others surrounding it can scratch a certain geometric itch for the engineering-minded among us. They’re also, in a manner of thinking, the way the building’s owner can shake hands by proxy with the world. Not wanting their wooden faces to the world to present an unattractive welcome, many of these folks have gifted us with elaborately decorated pieces of art, just waiting for your camera to catch the perfect angle. Clean, modern lines; colorful Tolkein-esque swirls; intense bursts of color amidst drab stone; there’s a doorway for every personality.

Of course, nothing is purely physical. I already touched on the fact that those inside may want to physically represent themselves, but even a plain, weather-beaten door can take on deep emotional significance for those outside, simply by association. This phenomenon doesn’t have to be prohibitively personal, either: how many people do you think are instantly transported to their grandparents’ farm when they see a shot of an old barn door? Use a door to tell a story about what’s happening inside—people and things surrounding the scene will help with this.

For the really ambitious storytellers, consider how you could extract and freeze a crucial moment in a dynamic journey by using a door as a symbol of a turning point. What if it wasn’t what’s inside or outside the door, but the act of going through the door that matters? The sky’s the limit! Get out there and get shooting, friends. Picturize your life, then make the pictures palpable.

Here are a few more examples to get the wheels turning and, for your post-processing edification, a quick lesson on fixing the perspective when you don’t get it quite dead-on. Don’t forget to post your photos on our Facebook page or Instagram tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework!

Hot tip: how to fix your perspective

Geometry is extremely important in all architectural photography, but clean, straight lines can be especially important for regular shapes like windows and doors. If you’re building a collection of “door-traits” but one of your favorites is at an angle instead of straight-on like the rest, what is there to do? Fortunately, most fully-featured editing programs make this easy. I’ll use Adobe Photoshop CC in this example.

The red man paired with the red door was too good to miss, but a quick shot meant a crooked photo.
Click on “Lens Correction” from the Filter menu. If you’re using Photoshop Elements, the same tool is available under Filter > Correct Camera Distortion.
There are many ways to fine-tune your correction, but you’ll need to start by clicking the Custom tab. Make sure “Show grid” is checked to make life easier, then correct away! My process is to correct the angle of the picture first, then play with the Transform parameters until the image looks more or less dead-on. Remember that you’ll need to account for the vertical or horizontal distortion correction when setting the angle, so it may not look exactly straight. Experience will provide you with an intuitive sense over time.

Note that this is a great tool for a variety of corrections. If you have a “bulge,” like one created by a wide-angle lens, this will take care of it easily!
The final result! What is this man’s enigmatic mission? Photo by Macey Sigaty

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