Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Critiquing images from a group photo event, part of The Practicing Photographer.
- It's the very rare photographer, actually this type of photographer may not even exist, I think it's the very rare person who can really look at their own images truly objectively and understand that they've got something that really works, or not. It's the extremely rare photographer who just loves looking at their own images. This week on the Practicing Photographer we're going to look at a very important part of being a photographer and that is the process of getting feedback and critique from other people. I'm making a face when I say that, that's how, that's how difficult this topic is, I can't even say it without making this incredibly concerned looking expression, for some reason.
Critique is something that, if you've ever been through a photo class, or a photography program in a school, or even just in a photo club, you've probably experienced this. You get together in a room and you all contribute some images and you look at them, and you give each other feedback, it's usually under the guidance of a lead instructor, or somebody who guides the process. It's very valuable, if you have never experienced that it's something you should seek out. Now what we want to do here today is give you an idea of what that's like. Now we don't actually have a crowd of people here, instead what we've got is a collection of images that I have not yet seen, that have been gathered up from lynda.com employees.
There are a lot of really great photographers around here, and they regularly have photo contests and things like that, so they're used to contributing work. We asked for volunteers and some very generous people contributed some images. I'm going to look at them and just have at it and go through the types of things that I would do if I was giving a formal critique in front of a class. The big difference that you're going to have here is without another bunch of people here your only going to have my opinion. One of the great things about getting a critique in a classroom environment is when everyone else piles on.
That may sound terrible, but it's actually really interesting to, because someone usually will say something to you that you just hadn't thought of at all. So it's great to get a real variety of opinions. So you're going to be stuck with just mine for now. So as I said I have not looked at these at all. I've got a folder full of images here, I'm just going to open up the first one here in Bridge and take a look, and wow. Right away this is an impressive image. It looks to me like it's probably an infrared image, that is not a value judgment of any kind, I'm just letting you hit with what I'm thinking when I first see it.
And I say that because of the nature, the quality of the sky, this could be a straight black and white image. But what's really the telltale give away is it looks like the vegetation has gone white, so I think this is an infrared. I like infrared photography, I like the strong black and white images. This is a very well composed shot they worked with thirds very well. This is straight rule of thirds kind of stuff, you've got a strong graphic element here, on centered mostly around this third, but you've got this nice little balancing one back here. I think that's a really good choice. I can imagine a lot of other things they could have done, shooting this head on, things like that.
But I think lining it up this way really works. They're standing close to the image, and shooting with a wide angle lens. I can tell that because of the way that these lines are receding to a vanishing point somewhere up here. There's distortion because of their wide angle lens. I personally, I think I would try and fix that. And you can do that in Photoshop with some perspective correction. It would square this stuff off, and make this less pointy. Make it more like the way you perceive it when you're actually standing there.
It would be leaning less toward the center of the frame. I would like to see that squared off, though I still think it works like this. Tonally, I think this image needs a little bit of correction. If we were to print this I think it would come out pretty flat. There's very little difference in tone between the ground and these tones on here. There's also a lot of texture on the ground that I think could be brought up more which would create a nice symmetry with the sky, because the sky has some nice texture and I wouldn't do anything to the sky, I think it's exactly right.
The brightest point is right here, which is right where our eye wants to go, that's really nice. But I think there's tonally some stuff that can be done here to bring texture out. Same thing on the building, just to put more contrast into the image to make it pop off the page a little bit better. But all in all, a very nice image. This is a beautiful image, it's immediately got a lot of energy and a lot of power, very charming. The playfulness of the little girl, the beautiful flowers around. I think they nailed the moment, if you want to talk about decisive moment, this is it.
Everything from just capturing the feeling that she's got, I love the position of her arms. Even just working from a purely formal standpoint, this is really nice, just this is a great shape in here. Color of the flowers. Really, really, well scene and well shot. I'm frustrated by one technical thing, which is there's some kind of lens flare or something right in here. And I'm getting a weird rainbow out here, I don't know what those are and they'd be very, very difficult to remove, and I believe that this area in here is a little bit washed out because of that flare.
This was a case where while shooting this image, they probably needed to be shielding the lens some because it does look like there's a flare in there which is too bad because if that wasn't there this stuff would really be super saturated. Now it is nice that there's this play of light on her hair, I don't know, maybe if they added this flare to try and create it to make it look like she was in a shadow of the light, if so, I think that's a bad choice. But I'm hoping that that's just actually a technical flaw in the lens.
I also have one other question, which is this stuff up here, there's an empty space above the hedge. And maybe it's necessary, or maybe it doesn't hurt anything, maybe it's not. I would be curious to see one cropped without that so that it's just a wall of green with her in the middle because this bright stuff up at the top, I'm not sure what that adds. A great shot, a wonderful moment, well captured. Great use of threes, and repetition. I really like that they waited for something in here.
Just a shot of these things empty doesn't work. So to take the time to wait for there to be an actual subject in the image, was critical to this image working. This, without this guy here, is a background to something. There's nowhere for my eye to go. That's really nice. I think that there is tonally a few things that could happen. This as an, you're going to hear me say this bit a lot, this stuff in here is all too uniform of tone to get a good print, we need more contrast on it.
I would also put a heavy vignette on this image, darkening the corners in here and the edges because this stuff around here isn't serving much purpose and my eye will tend to fall off. So I would vignette it to get more focus into the center. I might dim this a little bit, and maybe even that a little bit, to really make that pop out more. And the last thing I would try would be, again, perspective correction, and I don't know that we can do that much, but I would like to straighten this up a little bit so that these lines aren't so diagonal, so that they're a little more square.
But again, really working a nice piece of geometry that they've found, and making sure that they got something going on in it, like the palm trees up here also. So they're really seeing, which I'm very glad about. One thing that I should mention here, if you're wondering why I'm not making more comments about color, this screen is very different from what I'm seeing down here, and which might be very different from the images that you're seeing when we go full screen. There's nothing we can do about that, getting monitors adjusted the same way everywhere is extremely difficult.
The images on my screen are much warmer, I'm taking that to be the more truth of the color. If you're saying, "Well, what about the green up here?" I'm assuming that green is not really there. Maybe it doesn't look green to you, to my eye this looks a little green but I don't think it's real. It's a very nice moment, very nice light and atmosphere. Great taking advantage of the fog and the haze to let things just disappear down here and I love that there's just barely a person back there lost in the fog, very pretty, very atmospheric. This is one where we don't want to increase the contrast too much because we'll blow the fog thing.
We could use a little bit more here in the foreground, if we were going to print it. This is very nice. I'd like to see other shots from this same thing to see how they worked it because there's so much geometry going on here. There's these diagonal lines going this way, there's the receiving perspective lines, there's the great repetition of the park benches and the light poles. I have one concern, which is, there's a whole lot of action going on over here, and not as much going over here, and I'm not sure if the image is a little unbalanced.
However, this big empty space is actually helping to keep it rooted, so actually now I think that's okay. It's a very nice shot. I would like to know if they shot any from any different angles and how the geometry from different angles played out. But great recognition of a nice moment. Wow, this is interesting. One of the first things that I think when I see this is really gutsy to go black and white on an image of a balloon festival. You never see that. Balloon festivals area always this super saturated images of balloons in sky.
As a big black and white fan I like seeing someone have the nerve to take the color out of the image and just go black and white. So that's very cool. The black and white conversion's a little aggressive on the sky. I've got big posterizing right here, strong black and just a few tones into this gray. That gives it a very stylized look, and if that's what you're after, that's fine, but this does not, it's just important to know that you're no longer in the realm of a realistic looking photographic gradient back here. So I think I might back off on that a little bit.
We could use a little more contrast in some of these areas. Compositonally, I'm not sure, my eye's not real sure where to go here, and I'm not sure why. There are a few different things competing for my attention. There's a draw into here, because there's brightness here and a bunch of balloons here, but there's this thing here which I'm getting hung up on, and I don't know where to go from here. But there's also something else that is really interesting and very pretty, which is, and I think they were trying to play this up, these lit up against the black sky are beautiful.
There might be just an image right in here. This is, I guess that's what I'm getting to, this image needs to be simplified, somehow. Now you're not going to be able to crop down that far and still have an image that's printable at any reasonable size. There might also be an image in here, I'm not sure that this is as interesting, at the moment I'm confused. There are too many points competing for my attention. But again, I really like that they had the guts to go for black and white on something that I never see shot in black and white.
Very pretty again, very nice, very nice moment. When I look at it down here I'm seeing a little more detail, I'm actually very confused as to what I'm seeing here. There's strange, like water spots, and things like here, and things like that up here. I don't know if this is a wall behind a tree, or something. So this is a very abstract image, and that's fine. It's just a, it's a piece of texture and tone. With that in mind, the tone needs to be a little stronger. The whole thing needs a contrast adjustment.
We need more pop here, I need to be able to see more of this texture. And I think I would crop this to a square. I think I would play crop that part out and play this round bit against a competing bit of texture back here. But for that to work again, we got to pull more texture out of this image and that's going to need some more contrast. Very nice straight documentary moment here. Some kids hashing something of great importance out.
This is a tough kind of moment because you've got all this activity going on, you're trying to find the one moment that works. Hopefully they were shooting a lot. I have one frustration with the arrangement of the kids right now, which is for some reason it's just bothering me that I can't see this kid back here at all. The action is all facing away from me. These guys are facing the other direction, which is a little curious to me, and yet at the same time it kind of works because most of them are facing away.
It makes a very anonymous abstract image, which is interesting. It's very interesting to keep this up here, also, I think that works as far as capturing just an environment and a time and a moment. This is a simple image. I think that there is some things that I I would suggest to make it a little bit less of a snapshot, and make it a little more presented as a work. And there's a little bit of vignetting here, I'd go a little bit more.
I think I would also put some kind of color treatment on this. Nothing aggressive. Maybe warm it up a little bit, just a white balance adjustment to make the whole thing a little bit warmer. That would pull it out of a straight cold snapshot documentary kind of place, and put it more into an interpretive place. But I think it would give it a little more power. I would also do a little work to fade this out in terms of exposure, darken this a little bit, to get my focus more down in here. Well I'm a total sucker for images shot out in the desert, as anyone who's watched very much of what I've done here knows.
So this, you know is great for me, I feel right at home here and very comfortable. You know it's, you can look at this and go, "Well, they just stood in the road." But there's a lot of road out there. Finding the right place to stand, finding the good shot from the middle of the road is something that you don't see all the time, and I think they found a good one here. I, they're working with the road as a graphical element in the frame in a way that really works. I like, I like the rhythm of it, I like the break here and the, this is just a really nice line, just as far as an element goes, and that's really great.
It's balanced well against here. I can't complain really about the composition of this, at all. I think the only thing I would do here, two things, exposure wise, be careful of the highlights. These are overexposed. So if this was a Raw image I have no doubt you could recover that, and we need detail back in there, especially since it's right in the center of the image, it's right behind the focal point of the image. Everything's leading to, "Look. I overexposed these clouds." So it'd be nice to pull that back a little bit.
And you may say, "Well, only a nerdy photographer "like you would notice it.", and that might be true. The last thing I would do is, God I feel bad about saying this because I'm sounding like it's just this stupid parlor trick that I pull out for every image, but it is, I'd vignette it a little bit. That would get me just a little more light in here, very, very subtle vignette, but a very nice shot. Oh, wow. Excellent use of slow shutter speed to blur water. And what's nice is they've found, they've found a perspective that's really abstract.
This is not just, shot of waterfall being smeared, this is some weird creature, or some other worldly place. So a great way to break up what could have been a very cliched image, they found a really nice angle. So real bravo for that. I don't really have much to say compositonally, I don't know if it needs it, I wonder about cropping it a tiny bit narrower. It's a little expansive.
This stuff out here isn't doing anything, this stuff here isn't really, either. This is where the action is. Let's get a little bit narrower to keep our eye in here. And with that in mind, brighten up this tree. A little more contrast on here to make this punch a little bit more. But this is a great shot. Probably could increase some contrast in here, and put some mystery in to this forest back here. There's some great highlights on the edge of trees. That's the kind of stuff you look for when you're looking for places to fix in an image, or to improve an image.
Playing up that contrast is going to add depth to the scene, because we're going to be able to see deep into that forest back there. And it's going to be, the play of light on the edge of trees is going to mirror very well the play of the lights on the specular highlights on the water. Very nice. Interesting, this is a good parent of the park bench shot that we saw earlier. I like this a lot, it's very pretty. Great use of shallow depth of field on this one. And that's something I didn't mention in the other image, I'm be, let's just go back to that, I'm not looking at anything that comes after this.
This image has very deep depth of field, all of these benches are in focus and I think that's the right choice for this image. If it was going shallow, we wouldn't be paying as much attention to the nice fog in the distance. So I think that was the right choice for here. Conversely, I think this was really the right choice to go shallow. I'm shallow in the foreground, I'm shallow in the background. Really nice use of working the repetitive circles. I really like the color treatment on this, the warmth is very nice.
Really adds to the atmosphere of the image, this is a very classical, New York street image that I think works well. Tiny bit more vignetting, but that's just because I can't help but say that, but that would, this is already has an antique look, that would pull it in a little bit more. I like this a lot. Wow. This is fun. Really dynamic with the splash. I've got slightly better contrast down here, but it still needs a little bit more to make these highlights pop out a little bit more and make it more pronounced.
Also, this image is about that moment of the water hitting right there. So what do I need the house for? I think this could go down square, because this is this shape in here would fit in the square nicely, and we could probably make that really the focus of the image. This stuff out here isn't doing anything. I like the color back here, so you can leave a little bit of it. But, well done in even capturing that. Very nice shot of a canal in Venice.
It's tough shooting at night, not because of exposure problems and whatnot, but for that decision of, what do you do with your white balance? How much of that red yellow color do you leave, and how much do you go to the way that your eye perceives things while your eye is aware of the red, your eye would actually see this as a little bit more naturally colored. So I'd do a white balance adjustment on this, not to get it back to perfect, I'd leave some warmth in there. But I'd pull the color a little bit cooler and make it a little more realistic.
But, not, realistic's not the right word, a little more naturalistic. It needs a little bit of a contrast adjustment. Things are pretty washed out, these windows should be dark and just to really make it pop and be a little more atmospheric. But I think the main thing this image needs is a crop. I get this big wall right here that's very imposing and tyrannical in the image. And this is going to be a difficult one to crop, because I don't want to lose this boat too much. But I think that you could probably come in here and here, and tighten it up and make for a more cozy space, also.
I would leave a hint of this wall, and maybe even leave that pipe, that's a nice moment, or a nice element. And I would leave this wall here. I think that's going to give you a more intimate space and help the viewers eye know where to go. All right, well given that I live in San Fransisco this is a, I'm a sucker for this image, also. I see a lot of pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a very nice one that I normally don't see. Really good use of, I'm sorry, I'm distracted by really trying to figure out where they were standing when they took this, because actually some of the places that I would think that they would be standing, you can't get to anymore there, they're closed off.
Great use of shallow depth of field. This almost looks like a tilt shift toy, kind of image, but not completely. So I'm really liking the blurring here. Just very pretty light. Part of me is tempted to go that, "We don't need this out here.", but actually, this all works fine. I could maybe lose a little bit of the sky, tighten it up a little bit more. It's a very nice just postcard type of shot. Printing is going to be a little bit tricky because you're going to want to keep, it's going to be hard to figure out how much color saturation, and that's difficult to do in a dark image like this.
My color looks great down here, it's a little washed out up there, but it's a very nice shot. As is this. Great moment. Very good treatment in black and white. I love that I can see I guess these is either snow or just very heavy rain. A, really nice. It's a busy image and I'm not sure if this person over here should be left in the shot. It's, and on the other hand I'm very intrigued by them, I want to know who this person in black was, and that might mean that it is a problem that they're leaving the frame.
We need, we need to reinforce this as the center of the image. Having a person right there is pulling me that way. So I think there's probably a crop in here, somewhere that it would be worth playing with. This image has some great geometry in it. I love this shape here, this big I don't know, rhombus, or whatever it is, with this great white square in the middle, but then we got that shape up there. There's a lot of cool geometry right in here with this woman with an umbrella right in the middle. So I think that we could, we could come in here and bring a lot more focus that I think would be helpful.
But very atmospheric, and really nice treatment on the black and white. Another very atmospheric moment of weather here. This looks really antique-y. Interesting, it's just weird how sometimes compositions work, and you don't know why. This one just works. It's very simple, there's just this kind of splash of trees across the middle, a slash of them. It's great having this set off here in a very different tone. Very, very pretty image. Very evocative of this type of landscape in this type of environment.
Because it's so stylized, I can't say much in the way of correction, it's already got a vignette on it, so. I don't, I think this would actually print okay. You'd be going to some work to be sure that you got the color treatment that you wanted on paper. But yeah, very nice. I wouldn't, I don't think I'd do much to that image. And here we are back to the beginning. All right, I'm, this was a lot of fun, I'm very impressed. There's some really good work here. And this is the kind of thing that you get from a critique, this is why you go to a critique.
You can try and find this kind of feedback online, you can go into photo sharing sites, and things like that. And a lot of times you can get a good discussion going, but it's never quite the way it is in real time, where you can really bat ideas around and throw them around, and get feedback right away. And talk about the different aspects, move quickly between the technical and the metaphorical, and the compositonal, and all those kinds of things. So I would really recommend either finding a local photography class, finding a local photo club someplace where if you never experienced you can go get involved in a critique.
It's terrifying, but it's also really exhilarating and a lot of fun.
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