PHLEARN MagazineHow a Poem Inspired This Picture of an After-Hours San Francisco Psychic

Where professionals learn Photoshop,
Lightroom & Photography

How a Poem Inspired This Picture of an After-Hours San Francisco Psychic

Texas native Marcus Soriano only started exploring the world of fine art photography a year and a half ago, but already, the 22-year-old creator has released three consecutive collections of images from different cities around the United States. The images tell various stories, but perhaps none is more compelling than the image he titled Telling Me What I Want To Hear from the second series, She’s Just As Bored As Me.

The shot was a tough one for Marcus to get. He’d travelled to San Francisco to shoot his series of images and only planned to spend two days in the city. But after spending the first night exploring San Francisco’s nightlife with a group he’d met at his hostel and then spending the next day hanging out on the beach, he wasn’t left with much time to work on his project.

“When I eventually got back to my room, I went out to shoot – this photo was taken a few blocks from the hostel at around 3 a.m.,” Marcus admits. “I had actually been sprinting around the city, looking for shots, but something was wrong with my lens.”

He snapped about 25 ruined photos where the focus was off before grabbing a Lyft back to his hostel to switch lenses. He also picked up his tripod, since it was already past midnight and he was running out of time to get the photos he had in mind.

“I usually keep a strict exposure triangle when I have my tripod, so I tend to be more sloppy when shooting hand-held,” Marcus says. “I remember being stressed and upset I was running into obstacles and wasting time.”

With the right equipment in hand, Marcus wandered the streets until he found a scene that caught his eye – a neon sign lighting up a window in a second floor apartment. Through the viewfinder of his camera, Marcus composed the shot.

“I love how the fortune teller sign takes up the entire set of windows. It’s so neatly packed together – much like San Francisco,” he says. “I remember cropping it so the top left corners of the yellow window on the left and the window in the top right were meeting the edges. And I hate streetlights because they’re so obnoxious, so I always try to keep them out of frame.”

Camera & Settings

Nikon D7100

24.1 MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor, 3.2″ 1,229k-Dot LCD Monitor, Full HD 1080i Video Recording at 60 fps

View on B&H

Nikon NIKKOR 16-35mm

Aperture Range: f/4 to f/22, Silent Wave Motor AF System

View on B&H   View on Amazon

The image was captured using Marcus’ Nikon D7100 with a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm lens, zoomed all the way out. The settings are set at ISO 800, an aperture of f/1.8 and an exposure of 1/90th of a second.

“I rarely go over 100, unless I don’t have my tripod and I don’t really have a choice, but even then, I never go over 800,” Marcus says. “That’s where I draw the line.”

To enhance his image, Marcus used some of his own presets, adjusting for white clipping and highlights. His presets contain most of his typical post-processing workflow, including detail, lens correction and basic exposure/white balance adjustments.

“This preset is heavy in saturation and clarity,” he adds. “In the ‘before’ photo, you can see how dull the wall is and the colors are lacking life. There’s a lot of hidden oranges and yellow there that, when brought out, change the whole atmosphere and allow a story to be told.”

And to Marcus, the image does more than just hint at a narrative – the shot is accompanied by a poem he wrote while in San Francisco. The poem, which centers around a visit to a fortune teller where he asks them to only tell him exactly what he wants to hear, inspired the piece’s title.

“I had the idea of going to a fortune teller and saying, ‘No gimmicks, just tell me it’s all going to work out,’” he says. “In the poem, I tell the fortune teller my doubts about being an artist and ask questions about the future. I also had Eyes Wide Shut in mind, with Tom Cruise wandering about the city and that sense of magic and mystery.

I wanted it to be a sort of ‘I won’t look as high as heaven, but maybe this fortune teller will do,’ story. I like that summary.”


Marcus’ Instagram feed is full of dramatic, evocative images featuring the same vibrant, neon shades as in this series from San Francisco. His work can also be seen on his website.

Jessi Gowan

Jessi Gowan is an award-winning writer and photographer who specializes in rural landscapes and fine art abstracts, with a focus on form and composition. Her photography has been included in a variety of publications, as well as in exhibitions in Canada and the United States.

One Subscription. All of PHLEARN

Get Instant Access to Every Tutorial

{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}