Portrait Photography Critique

by

Hi!

My name is Andreas Perminow from Norway and I would be grateful for any guidance I can get to improve my photography and retouching. I currently enjoy taking pictures of my kids and family and sometimes take photos of friends and family as well.

Lately I’ve considered taking paying jobs as a photographer, but I´m still uncertain if my skills are at the level they need to be for me to be confident enough to charge someone for my work. It would be great to get an online photography critique in order to help strengthen my confidence. 
Sincerely, 

Andreas.

EXIF INFO: Canon Eos 6d, 50mm, 1/100, f1.4, ISO 200

Aaron

Welcome to Professional Photo Critique Andreas! It’s good to see our online photo critique site is reaching people all over the world. I’ve never been to Norway but it’s been on my bucket list for years. Let’s dive into your beautiful image and see if we can’t give you some sound advice.

Let me begin first with where I think you could improve. While I appreciate your use of a warmer tone, I really like the original background. I’d love to see what that would look like if you warmed it up. I understand that there’s a dark pattern in the background on the shadow side of his face. It was a good decision to remove this because it takes depth away from the shot. Light on light and dark on dark generally flatten an image and the exact opposite help give the image depth. So I appreciate the change you made.Another technique that gives the image depth is having a complementary color contrast – this means if you have warm tones in your subject, to have cooler tones in your background.

I really appreciate the organic patterns in the original capture. The locations you find make your image unique (unless of course someone finds the locations where you like to shoot!) and anyone can purchase a digital background set.

The last element of your image I think could be improved is the wardrobe. As photographers, it’s understood that everything that we present in our final image is intentional. Your subject is wearing a white shirt. As a rule of thumb, anything that is brighter in tonality than the subject’s face attracts the viewer’s attention first. It’s best to have your subjects wear something that is less interesting than their face; avoid abstract, interesting designs, lines, patterns and bright colors. What saves your image is that the shirt isn’t incredibly white and you didn’t blow out your highlights.

Your light is fantastic. I love the beautiful catchlights in the little boy’s eyes. They are situated at 10 o’clock and provide an aesthetic lighting pattern on the boy’s face. I really appreciate your choice of warming the color up instead of leaving it colder as in the original capture. I think your depth of field is used to perfection. I enjoy shooting wide open, especially in environmental portraits like this one. Your crop has also improved the image by eliminating unnecessary information and forcing the viewer to engage the portrait’s eyes. The last, and probably most important aspect of this image is your connection with the portrait. The little boy’s expression is fantastic – it’s mischievous and engaging.

And finally, to answer the question posed in your email, I would not hesitate to pay you for your portrait work. You are producing a quality product where you engage with the client, use good light and have a set of Photoshop skills that compliment your photography. You are more than ready to begin making money with your photography. We’d love to see your growth and see some of your work you produce for your clients! Please keep in touch.

Megan

I really like a simple, shallow-depth-of-field portrait. The post work on this image has strengthened this portrait in many ways, such as the added warmth and the elimination of distractions in the background. Adding the warm tones makes the image have a much different mood than the original. So depending on the client and purpose of this portrait, one style would be more meaningful than the other. Eliminating the various shapes and tones in the background creates an even background that makes the focus stay directly on the subject, and the nice sharp focus on the eyes.

As for the other post work done on this image, such as the skin retouching and color choice of the background I have some considerations. I happen to prefer a less retouched skin. That is a personal preference that I have. Many clients want that work done, and will choose you as a photographer for that work. The background, I am not drawn to that color. The background tone is too similar to the skin tone that it blends all together. In addition to that, since the background is so clean and now warm, it makes it look like a backdrop instead of an environment. I don’t know your intention, but I prefer having a sense of separation between the subject and background as well as a sense of space/environment. If I was shooting on location, I may in this situation moved my subject slightly so that I wouldn’t have to face as many background distractions. Then from that point forward I would have approached the post edit of the background differently. I would have left the uneven background, if subject was place more methodically in the environment, as well as keep the tone similar to what it is now. I am drawn to the warm skin in a cooler, cyan background. The two colors work together very harmoniously together. Again this comes down to personal style and what your client is interested in.

David

Jason

Hi Andreas and thank you for you submission. I don’t spend much time post-processing opting for getting it in camera, but I do appreciate someone with a good skill to improve the look of an otherwise bland image.

I think you’ve done a lot to this image to improve it. I really like the decision to warm the image as it adds a bit a life into the youth’s smile. The warmer tones adds a more elated feeling toward the subject. This matches with the subject’s expression as it does not reflect a more dramatic and thoughtful style.

There has been a lot of work done to remove the distractions in the background. This brings focus back to the subject. There seems to have been a lot of cloning used to removed these distractions. This appears to have caused a bit of blotching in the background. You can see the blemishes in the gradient on the right corner of the frame as well as the top left corner and left side. The transitions are not as smooth as they should be and the pattern is not as uniformed as it could be. You may consider shooting a smaller section of the wall that can be used as a background plate and then overlaying the subject on top of that image. This would alleviate some of the banding issues while retaining the same lighting aesthetics to the image.

The original image appears to be lit only by a nice window light. The natural light is nice and soft. If you are paying attention to details as a retoucher then you want to understand the locations of the bright and dark areas and their relationship to the viewer. The highlights are pulled forward while the shadows are pulled back in the attention for the viewer. What this means is the brightest spot of the image is what you give attention to. For this image, the brightest area is located on the side of the face to the left of the subject’s eyes. The darker area to the right of the frame pulls the focus from the center of both eyes to the left. Consider brightening just a little bit of the right side to bring back the focus. Or darkening the cheek to draw the attention to the eyes.

Overall there is little that really needs to be done to this image. It’s a great photo in the original that was only improved by the editing. You should consider taking paying jobs as people would be happy to have this type of images of their own family. There are many people who pay for photography with less skill. Having a client see several images from you allows them to make the decision if the price matches the quality of work.

2 comments on “Portrait Photography Critique

  1. Andreas Perminow

    Thank you for the good feedback!
    I’ve gotten a lot better since I submitted this image for the critique and can understand the constructive criticisms given. Your comments will surely help me become even better. If you’re interested you can check out some of my newer photos on 500px.
    https://500px.com/andreper

    Reply
  2. Gabriele

    I don’t agree, David, when you say you want to capture the moment in time. The photographer may not care about it and that is perfectly fine, because, honestly, I think that “catching the moment in time” comes from the boy itself (age). I think you are trying to add something to the photo, more than the photographer missing something.

    Megan says she doesn’t like the background color as it blends with the skin tone. I think this is actually something good, because… look at the boy’s eyes…! The picture really focus on the eyes and I think a different BG color could have been an element of of distraction.

    If anything negative we can say about this picture is that the head is taller then the original (it’s a cropping with “content aware” enabled in PS), which I think it’s a pretty bad mistake, but visible only if you have the original shot to compare.

    I personally think it’s a superb picture and I also think that Andreas is not the amateur he’s trying to sell himself for, here. He’s pro level and he knows it. Nice try pal! 😉

    My first visit here and… very cool project. I was googling for “professional photo critiques” to see if there was a website already and BAM… I guess I am too little too late. Compliments for the project, guys! I wish you well because that would drastically improve the quality of photography out there. The world of photography needs you! 🙂

    Reply

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