Story of a badly taken photo


Today I’d like to share with you something different than my still life images and that is a story of a badly taken photo and what it taught me.

Unless you are always ready and prepared when holding your camera, you must have experienced a situation when you were shooting something and suddenly something else happened which you wanted to capture quickly and oops, you found out that you forgot to change the last camera’s settings which turned up to be utterly wrong for the desired capture and the moment was irretrievably lost. This is how I took the photo that you can see below, it’s straight out of the camera.


I liked the scenery and was playing around with my camera’s settings when I noticed a man with children walking along the path. They were quite quickly disappearing from my view so without further ado I took a photo only to find out on the camera’s screen that it was enormously overexposed. Normally I wouldn’t have kept such a messed up photo but I sort of liked that haziness and I might have wanted to preserve the memory of that moment so I left it alone and waiting for me to come and see what I could do with it.

Now, I’m quite sure that if I had the photo just in jpeg format, there would be no remedy for the overexposed parts but fortunately I was shooting in RAW (as I’m always now) and when I processed the photo in Lightroom to my liking, I got this result:


Not perfect but interesting, no lost highlights or whites, all pixels nice and neat inside the histogram. I wouldn’t have believed that. But this was just a starting point for the two resulting images that I love. The first image you could see at the opening of this post, it’s a triptych made just from the photo above, and the second image is the high-key image below. I find both of them so simple and yet so effective…


They say that by means of processing you can create an excellent photo from a very good one but you can’t create a good photo from a bad one. In other words, you can improve a photo but you can’t change its (lack of) worthiness. I generally agree with that philosophy but my experience has taught me that you can make an interesting photo or image even from a bad capture and that you can have a lot of fun with that process. Creativity stops at nothing.



  1. This is a very interesting post and you make a point…. an 'interesting' picture might be the result. Wrong settings happen over and over and always on the most inconvenient times 🙂 Love the pictures though, they became 'quite interesting' 🙂

  2. Such a great story, and always a reminder about changing camera settings. However, I am IN LOVE with the last one so much! I love how you were able to recover the details in LR and make the photo just right. I like your perspective of "salvaging" something that might have been trashed by someone else. Very Beautiful, Petra!!

    1. Sandy, thank you. Lightroom is great software and there are many free tutorials available on the Internet that are great for learning. I’d accentuate the RAW format again, in my opinion (and experience), jpeg wouldn’t manage such transformation.

  3. I'm amazed, Petra! I've trashed some of my own photos that were overexposed like your original, never thinking that anything could salvage them. You've created really beautiful images from that bad capture. The last one was a total surprise. It has a haunting quality to it.

    1. Linda, thank you, I’m pleased that you find the last image interesting, it feels quite special to me… I’ve trashed many photos like the original too and don’t regret that but this one felt different, quite surprisingly I guess. I was happy to have it in the RAW format which I’ve learned to love. It offers so much more than jpeg!

  4. Petra, I love the idea of the triptych. It proves, that you just have to think out of the box and be creative and adventurous to create art and be rewarded with such a great photo! The way you arranged the tree, and did not split it up the "panoramic" way, but putting the right side to the left and vice versa creates a stunning tension.
    Talking about "thinking out of the box". When worked with the Hamburg-collection, that you know, I wanted to create a PDF, that contained medium-sized thumbnails of the photos (4-6 on each page) to send out to friends to choose the copies they wanted more easily. In Lightroom, you can easily do that via the print module and the print templates. I was playing around with the settings of the layout of that page and out of curiosity chose the one, that creates 4 photos per page in a what I would call supercinemascope panoramic format. Width is about 158mm, height about 58mm. That is almost 25:9! Of course, with such a format, Lightroom crops a lot of the top and the bottom of the original picture, but the results were stunning at times. I never would have dared to crop my photos in such an extreme way. So I went back to the Hamburg collection and tried out "extreme" formats. What a joy, what results with some photos…

    1. Joerg, thank you, I’m pleased you like the triptych. Such a small change and yet such a great effect, right? Thanks for sharing your experience with that super panoramic format in LR. Lightroom’s print module is a wonderful tool, it’s so creative and smart and offers so many possibilities, I love that you can not only print from it but also create jpeg or pdf files, that’s super useful. One of the photos that I loved in your Hamburg collection was that extremely wide-angle image with the grass on the left, it might be one of those extra panoramic images you’ve mentioned…

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