C. David Tobie Image Critique: Umbrellas on the Promenade
Jan 2013 31

This is part of a series of image critiques. Each article describes a selected image based on a similar series of criteria. The goal is for the reader to become familiar with the critical concepts involved, in order to apply them to other images, developing a set of critical terms that can be used to analyze images, and make decisions about how best to process images, to provide the strongest result.


Square and near square images are less dynamic then more elongated forms, and are best suited to single, central subject; and perhaps for still, inactive subject matter. Here the heavy frame enhances the static nature of the image and assists in further isolating the image from it’s surroundings.


This is a relatively controlled and consistent palette, without a lot of color manipulation during editing. The image contains a lot of near blacks and near whites, producing strong contrast. The dominant color is an autumn yellow, in the trees, the fallen leaves, and fortuitously in the architecture as well. There is a secondary series of greens, and a series of cool, light gray tones. The warm accent color is the red of the bench. The main subject of the image is the gaggle of people and their umbrellas, in high contrast black clothing and white surrounding elements. None of this was by manipulation, though such manipulation can assist in strengthening an image with a weak pallette relationship; in this case it was just there for the seeing, and triggered that “I must shoot this” response. Given the fleeting nature of the scene, the only option close enough to hand was the iPhone.


This image contains a very strong one-point perspective, with the convergence point on the center of the image, further reinforcing the square format and heavy framing. The rail and curb converging upward, and the buildings and bridge converging from the sides form key elements of the image.

Eye Movement

The movement of the eye in this image is controlled by the dominantly square shape of this image crop, the powerful one point perspective, and the strong forms of the trees. The eye is drawn towards the center by the perspective elements, takes in the subject at the center, arcs back out on the curve of the trees, and spirals around the soft edges, until the gravity of perspective Pulls it back towards the center again.


The primary theme here is the people writ small in the center of the image, with their white umbrellas. Their centering and location near the convergence point as well as their high contrast helps assure their importance, despite their small size and lack of detail in the image. The similarity of the color of their clothes and their umbrellas, package, and shoes, and their orientation away from the camera produces an anonymity, which keeps them from becoming individuals, and distracting from the quiet, impersonal nature of the image.
The secondary theme of autumn foliage, above and below, and the strong forms of the trees surround the people with a powerful, colorful riot that contrasts to their calm walk down the promenade.

The tertiary theme is the lovely architecture surrounding the trees and the promenade. It reinforces the perspective, and reinforces the color scheme of the trees, blending these two themes into a powerful, colorful environment contrasting well with the tiny monotone group, shielding themselves with their umbrellas. Finally, the cool gray of the sky and water bleed nicely into the architecture and trees, due to the fog, and the increasing blur towards the edges of the image. The blur strengthens the focus of the composition, and the mood of the image.


This as a pastoral image, calm and quiet, but it plays on the classic theme of the smallness of humans against the scale of nature or of the city. Like many pleasant images, it has that “oh, I wish I was there” effect. The viewers are drawn into the image by the promenade at their feet, and can almost smell the decaying leaves, feel the mist, and hear the babbling stream. This combination of safe, nostalgic, inviting elements can create a very powerful emotional response in the viewer, which is particularly useful if the goal is the sale of images.

Technical Information

Shot with the Apple iPhone4. Processed with NIK Snapseed for the iPhone. Published the same day, directly from the iPhone.

C. DAVID TOBIE has been involved in color management and digital imaging from their early development. David has worked to see affordable solutions put in place for graphic design, prepress, photography and digital imaging, and then taught users how best to utilize them. He has consulted internationally for a wide range of color-related companies, and is best known by photographers for his writing and technical editing of texts and periodicals for the photo industry such as Mastering Digital Printing, and Professional Photographer magazine, and his seminars on color and imaging at photographic workshop around the globe. David is currently Global Product Technology Manager at Datacolor, where he develops new products and features for their Spyder line of calibration tools. His work has received a long line of digital imaging product awards including the coveted TIPA award, and a nomination for the Spyder line of calibration tools. Much of David’s recent writing can be found at his photography blog: cdtobie.wordpress.com, and his samples of his photography can be seen at: cdtobie.com.