Monthly Archives: May 2015

“Dissonance” | Fine Art Photography

by Jonny Trimboli



When I see images like this, and pretty much anything with a fine art aesthetic, it makes me incredibly grateful that Professional Photo Critique has a panel that has differing strengths. My strengths have always been geared toward critiquing the more technical aspects of an image. While technical acumen is important, in today’s day and age where many people can create fine images and everyone with a cell phone is a content provider, ideas will always trumps technical execution. Many can copy what’s already been done, but few have original ideas coming out of their heads and onto our screens. Of the many images I see on a daily basis, Jonny delivers a provocative, tense image that makes you stop and think. If you took a couple of seconds to ponder this image, then he accomplished his goal.

The arms are taught and mimic the tension in the rope and the bag on the face makes me feel as if I can’t catch my breath. The fact that the bag is tight makes me feel like the person is gasping underneath. The lighting helps reinforce a dreamlike aesthetic. I find the watch distracting. These are small details that speak volumes, especially in such a stark image with few hints about the identity of the subject. The shirt is also distracting. Generally, the human eye is drawn to two things in an image, the brightest point and patterns and words. Like a fish seeing a lure, our eyes are attracted to the bright spots in an image. And interesting patterns give our eyes somewhere to go. I think dressing the subject in a dark shirt, much like the color of the pants would have been a stronger decision.

The tension in this composite really works. This concept can be applied to so many of the themes of humanity: we are our own worst enemy, the idea of free agency (being the master’s of our fate), the blessings and consequences of our actions and the happiness and depression we sometimes feel. The lighting was soft and subtle and doesn’t detract from the subject and its message. A very good image that inspired a lot of thought.


The image “Dissonance” speaks directly to the title; a inconsistency between one’s actions and one’s beliefs. You have illustrated that in this piece with two different actions in oneself. Overall the mood and treatment of the image works well together, the muted palate, and the film-like imperfections. The integration of the two sets of arms is well done.

I like the location, being out in remote, desolate area, but protected by trees. When I see the trees in this landscape, it draws a parallel to some of Frida Kahlo’s work. Kahlo often painted greens and other aspects of nature into her background as a symbol of life and to convey the idea of being rooted, even though she contemplated death. Whether these parallels are intentional or not, every aspect of a image should be contemplated for a deeper meaning for yourself and the viewer.

Having masked your subject made me read the image as a non specific person. If that is your intended direction, I would consider simplifying the wardrobe. When seeing the watch, and a distinct styled shirt, I felt conflicted about wanting to know more about the subject, because it felt like those were deliberate details included in the photo.




The visual impact of this image is apparent in the direct haunting themes associated with its concepts. It’s meant to disturb the viewer with the centrally focused subject matter. The composition has the subject centered, but offers a symmetry to the frame. The title of the image, “Dissonance”, suggests the tension in the duality of the hands’ gestures, symbolizing the asphyxiation and attempt to free one’s self from strangle of the rope.

The choice to hide the face provides for better symbolism instead of actual death. The subject becomes an everyman and evokes thoughts of the struggle, rather than the individual. With the symbolism being a significant abstract of the image, I would have rather seen the watch removed and a less fashionable shirt. This two items distract from the symbolism that the action is suggesting. The other thing I was wanting was the gesture in the head. I was hoping there’d be more struggle between the two opposing forces. The arms, while grasping the rope, fail to sell the tension.

I couldn’t help but see the outstretched arms and think of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man. The Vitruvian Man symbolized the ideal human proportions. To me, this image offers a twisted view of this ideal human, to possibly represent the imperfections of the human psyche. I’m not saying this was the photographer’s intent, but this was the themes that I was imagining. There may be a bigger theme to explore within that context.


Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

Photo Critique #5: “Fall Wedding” | Wedding Photo Critique

by Kate Holtzen



I admire anyone who can photograph weddings and do so in an aesthetic way. Events, especially weddings, are difficult for a variety of reasons. You are asked to be creative without any time to be able to think and process. Your subjects often run late. You don’t get to choose much about your location or time you shoot. And you don’t get to choose your models! Basically, everything that a commercial/lifestyle photographer would have meticulous control over – a wedding photographer has next to none.

For those reasons, critiquing wedding imagery is a difficult task simply because I’ve been there. And it’ so easy to armchair quarterback a wedding shoot! Here are some suggestions for improvement with this image and most of them are very subtle but are also entirely within the photographer’s control.

The direction of your light is coming from the right, as evidenced by the highlight on the bride’s hair and the shadows on the ground. The hair looks great illuminated like this, but I always try to remember to put the darkest object close to the light and the lightest object away from the light. This position helps even your exposure and helps avoid overexposing the white dress. Black suits can take the sun hitting them directly; light dresses have a harder time not losing the detail in the highlights.

The rest of my suggestions deal with how your clients have been posed. There are a couple of things that just might help out the mood of this romantic image. The groom’s hand is in a fist and isn’t holding the beautiful woman in front of him. I tell all my grooms that it looks odd to have such a divine creature in front of you and you aren’t holding her like you care about her. I would also recommend having her bend her arm that’s closest to camera. This eliminates the fatty spot between a woman’s breast and armpit and it also follows the famous photographer, Patrick Demarchelier’s advice, “Anything on a woman that can bend, should bend.” ( The bride’s hand on the back of the groom’s head is a great idea, but have her flatten her hand and her thumb. Her thumb sticking up in the air is a little distracting. I think the tree would also made a nice framing device if you’d included more in it. It looks like that branch hanging down would have done the trick.

The way you chose to warm the image up was a great call. I love the warm tones. I also really like the way you softened the background a little to help the subjects claim the center of interest and not have to compete with a busy background. This can also be achieved by using an extremely shallow depth of field. You composition is strong and I appreciate how you placed the couple along the path line. Your ability to handle the exposure of the sky and the dress and still retain detail in your shadows is also impressive. Great image Kate, I’m sure your clients were pleased!



The post work on this image has made an ordinary wedding day look slightly surreal in its warmth and glow. I really appreciate your stylistic touch to this image. This image has a bit of a cinematic feeling to it, with that said, I personally would love to see some of the foreground cropped out to take it that much further. The leaves in the top of the frame I would take out of the image if you are sticking with this crop. There are a few other tiny aspects I might edit out if this, such as the leaf in the foreground of the shot which is right on the edge. I would also address the highlights and shadows in the tree. As the image was warmed, the focus changed and the bright spots start to catch my attention.

The couples gaze is lovely along with the light that catches their faces. With an embrace like that I am really wanted the guys hand to be open and holding her, instead of his finger tucked into what looks like a fist. As for her hand positioning, I would like to have her hand embracing him a bit closer, so her hand doesn’t look like it is giving a thumbs up. These are just a few of the aspects I would consider during the shoot and in post.




This wedding image has some really beautiful light. Seeing the original file, the enhancements were good adjustments. The skin tones could have been a bit muddy and cold, but it was adjusted well to bring back the warmth in the image. The photoshopped softer focus helped bring the attention back to the wedding couple, which could have had a more distracting background if left at the original depth of field. The adjustments really improve the image to make it pop.

One consideration is the placement of the couple. While they rest on the rule of thirds, they seem to sit mid frame. The horizon cuts the center of the image and I’m left wanting more sky. It’s a battle of attention to the bouquet and the bride’s face. Giving just a tighter crop loosing a bit of the grass could help the couple from floating so high in the frame and give more attention to the interaction between the couple. To me, while the background is an amazing location, there is a bit too much grass on the bottom.

This image has a lot going for it. The couple should really love it. The right moment, the right light, the right place. The adjustments are small, but that attention to detail is what makes this photo shine.

Photo Critique #4: “Gold Country Blacksmith” | Portrait Critique

by Greg Waddell


Greg, what a great submission this week. I’ve looked at this portrait and the first thing I thought was, “Man, there isn’t anything that I would improve here! What am I suppose to tell Greg??” I feared something like this would come up eventually and it’s my job as a critic to offer you suggestions on how to improve the image or give you ideas on approaches that you might not have considered. Photography is grounded in techniques that foster visual communication, the more of these techniques you execute, the stronger the image. With all that being said, this image communicates wonderfully. But I wouldn’t be a very good sounding board if I couldn’t come up with idea for you to consider.

I noticed that you photographed the image at 800 ISO. This is a pretty high ISO for the lighting conditions. Then I saw that you were holding a 70-200mm and you were all the way out at 200mm. I’m thinking you might have done this so that you could keep the shutter speed high so that you wouldn’t get any lens shake. Now, in the original, I see such a small amount of noise that I think it enhances the texture of the man’s face. But in your edit, I feel like the noise competes with the texture of the man’s face. I also really enjoyed the rich color in the original image. The only color I didn’t really find appealing was all the yellow in the man’s face. You might have been feeling this too and it’s possible that is why you chose to desaturate the image in post.

The lighting appears to come from the bottom left. In general, lighting coming from the bottom of a face gives a ghastly or creepy feel to an image. Because we are terrestrial beings and are top lit all day, catch lights coming from the top of our eyes are the most natural. Ten o’clock and two o’clock are good positions for these. The only problem I see with lighting him like this would have been a shadow that would have been created by the brim of the hat. So I think getting light into his face from the direction you chose worked.

I’ve had times when I’ve captured an image and it was so clean, I couldn’t wait to get it home and enhance it. The problem was, I was trying to enhance something that needed no enhancement. In fact, I only ended up making it a less aesthetic version of the original. I’m not saying this is what happened here, but I do prefer the original image out of camera. Sometimes you just nail it in camera!

I appreciate the relationship you built with your subject. The man is looking right at you with an intense gaze. Whatever you said to him, he trusts you to meet your lens’s gaze. There is a definite talent to helping subjects feel comfortable and directing them to get the image you have in your head. I think you were very successful with that here. I also like the fact that your camera is even with his eyes. You aren’t shooting down on him or up at him. This establishes a very even relationship between the viewer and the subject.

Your composition is solid. You’ve utilized the rule of thirds to place his eyes on that upper compositional line and it works. We are held by his gaze. This is so important for a portrait. A powerful portrait is one where the viewer has nowhere to go but the subject’s eyes. The depth of field is really successful and I’m so happy you didn’t just stick him against the wooden background you’d found. So many times, photographers find an interesting textured background and place their subject directly in front of it. This destroys any sense of depth you were hoping to create. They way you left a hint of the textured wall in the photo to establish the scene but used the open space to suggest depth was brilliant. This gives us somewhere for our eye to go, it gives us a sense that there is something beyond the subject. Great portrait.


What a strong and simple portrait of this man. His eyes gaze right at the viewer and have a nice catch of light, this engages me right away. His expression and texture in his face lead to the viewer to understand more about the character in this portrait. The tight crop and shallow depth of field is a skillful way to bring the viewers attention to his face. The color palate is very cohesive as well.

One thing I noticed from a technical perspective on the image is the amount of noise. I am guessing that since the original image was much darker, that your work in post created the all of the noise. Be aware of your exposure when shooting, its valuable to “shoot to the right” on your histogram without over exposing your highlights. Slightly overexposing a RAW image will give you more to work with in post.




I was drawn in to the eyes of the subject, which speaks about the photograph’s strength to connect with the viewer. This image has a lot of grit to it. There is a lot of texture in the face, clothing and background that all work toward telling the story of this person and the raw intensity that he holds. It’s really great.

I really enjoyed this photograph, until I saw the change from the original image. I do appreciate burning down the lower left of the frame, because it does work to keep my attention at the face. However, I kept feeling that there may have been an over adjustment to the brightening of the shadows. I really enjoyed the light in the unedited shot and how it had a more defined transition from highlight to shadow. There was more depth in the image that was taken away when the shadows were brightened. Brightening the overall light intensity also gave the feeling of the subject being additionally lit in the shade, whereas the original can clearly be seen as the subject in the ambient shade light. This effect makes the eyes appear more squinty than pensive. I also like the low key light in the original because there was more color in the face. The brighter image seems to have washed out the face.

The photo is a striking portrait, so I’d advise from overworking it in post. Less is more and enjoy getting some things right in camera. The light is great and keeping those shadows in play will keep the noise level down. It’s a tough balance to get it right. Either way, the composition, lighting, and content of this image is great.

Guest Evaluator – Seshu Badrinath

I am happy that you chose to include the .dng file with the final version of the portrait in .jpg form. It gives me an easier way to see where you started the process and where you chose to end it.

From looking at the portrait, I can tell that you were easily a stop or a stop and half under-exposed. Was this intentional? It’s always easier to work with a raw file that is well exposed than one that is either under or over exposed. Just imagine if you had shot JPGs! That would have been challenging for sure.

Compositionally, I feel you could have moved to your left a bit more to avoid that glaring hot spot in the lower left. That detracts from the image. Almost always, a pure white space or object in an image will be the first thing a human eye will be attracted to. We are wired that way. So, try and avoid these patches of white (or light tones), especially if they don’t contribute to the photograph.

All that said, I love how directly you have chosen to engage with this man. His eyes are looking right back at you (and there by at us), so it makes not seeing him nearly impossible. It’s an engaging portrait.

Looking at the final jpg, however, I feel very strongly about perhaps making this a black & white portrait instead of color. The textures and grain that you have added, would truly pop a lot more if it were monochrome. I see that you took care of that hot spot in the lower left. The burn looks natural and satisfactory. The finished jpg also reveals more of this man’s left ear; something I would have left dark to give this portrait even more character and drama. The finished JPG looks like you introduced a reflector from camera left. The punchy light works for me, but as I said, my thoughts are this would look stunning as a black and white print instead.