Landscape Photography Critique

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“Mountain Landscape”

by Melanie Jones

Aaron

I enjoy landscape pictures and constantly trying to figure out how to improve my own. If I had captured this image, there are a couple of things that I would have noticed once I sat down for an evaluation. Landscape photography critiques are not my forte, but I do have some small suggestions.

The first thing I see is that the horizon line appears to dip to the left in the background near the mountains. This can be adjusted in post with the “transform” tool. Under this heading, “warp” is a tool that can be used to selectively adjust portions of a photograph while leaving other elements untouched.

Ansel Adams was a landscape photographer who changed the way the world saw landscape photography. He pioneered a system for achieving dynamic range, called the “zone system”. This system advocated a wide tonal range of grays ranging from pure black to pure white. Besides this tonal range that he encouraged, he had a personal artistic vision of how Yosemite looked to him. This wasn’t always how Yosemite actually looked in reality. Here is an image that shows the original capture of “Moonrise” next to the final image after it was manipulated in the darkroom. Notice that the original capture looks quite normal and nothing we would recognize as a work by Adams. The final image has more contrast with punchier blacks and brighter whites. It also appears to have more depth. The final image is what Adams saw in his head and he used the darkroom to realize his vision.

ansel-adams-with-straight-and-fine-print-of-moonrise

Ansel Adams with his image “Moonrise.”

I would encourage you to push the boundaries of the file a little more. Try and see if you can get more tonal range in the shadows on the right side. Your edit looks far superior to the more dull, original capture but I think you can go further in your interpretation of the scene. Because landscape images are considered fine art, there is no limit to your artistic limits and vision.

The way you accentuated the different hues in the mountains on the left was an excellent choice. You did this as well in the green foliage on the right and it really worked to bring out texture. In fact, it worked on the stones as well. This is an excellent choice and looks like it’s heading toward an artistic vision that you can surely call your own.

Some of the things I tell my students about landscape photography are: watch your horizon line (don’t be boring with your placement of it by placing it dead center). I tell them sometimes it’s nice to direct the viewer to the most important element of the scene – either the foreground or the sky by including more of one or the other. I think you did a great job with that! Another tip I tell my students has to do with time of day. You chose to photograph during a time of day that allowed you to capture detail in the sky and in the land. This is essential when trying to replicate what the eye saw.

Your composition is extremely strong. This is another hallmark of great landscape photography. You have a great diagonal line coming out of the bottom left of the image. I also enjoy how the image is divided into an area of blue hues on the left and an area of green hues on the right. This division of color also adds a sense of depth, which I think is extremely important in landscape photography. You have a beautiful image here and I think with just a few tweaks it could be something spectacular.

Megan

We live in a beautiful world, and there are many photographs documenting its majesty. As a photographer of these landscapes it is your job to show the viewer which aspects to focus their attention on. In this image I get lost as to what is most important. By visual weight I see the land, the trees and brush as the focus. The heavy side of the image is duller in color and busy. On the other side of the image I see the water and sky, with a very monochromatic palate and it seems more intriguing and interesting yet it feels cut off and hidden by the other half. It is so crucial to have a decision of what you want to capture before you even add the camera into the equation. Once you know, then play and adjust your framing.

The other tension in this image for me is the horizon line. It appears to be unintentionally leaning downward to the left, which is problematic for me, as this looks to be a straightforward landscape. Very rarely are landscapes going to have a tilt in the horizon line. Make sure if you are going to have it tilting in a specific direction it is intentional and serves a purpose to evoking an emotion or telling a story.

The edit of the image is an improvement, but not significant enough. The post work should be bringing this landscape back to what time human eye saw (which I imagine was more vivid than what is pictured here) on the moment of capture, or an edit that sets a mood or tone. It still has a snap shot feeling for me. Making several selections across areas of this image will elevate the look and feel of this landscape.

David

 

Jason

The first thing that catches my eye is the titled horizon. You generally want a straight horizon when it is visible in the frame, unless it’s your intention to create a sense of uneasiness about the scene. The titled horizon makes it feel as if the water is shifting off the frame. Your mind is wanting to correct it and I cannot see a good reason as for the horizon to be awry.

But it was that shift that kept pulling my eye back to the distant mountains and I really liked the layering effect that they had. Each mountain edge was fainter than the next showing it’s distance from each other. There was something interesting in just that section and I would have really liked that given more focus. The repetition is appealing and the subtle color changes are calming. Even if there wasn’t a zoom lens available, a tighter crop on that area would have strengthened the composition (see example). Leaving the right tree structure would still provide some scalable elements, foreground features, and contextual vegetation of the environment.

It would have also been nice to have a subject in the landscape. An animal or person could provide that subject, even a closer view of an interesting rock or tree trunk. Something that was intending the viewer to see could add new concepts to the location. Otherwise it’s a conventional landscape.

I do like the feeling of isolation in the scene. Not only to the location, but the trees in the from being stripped of their foliage. There is something unique about the way they look. I’m just not sure they were photographed in the best way to explore that concept.

There are a lot of interesting elements in the photograph and as I stared longer I began to like it even more. It’s quite a beautiful location and such an banal, yet curious perspective of the scene. I would have loved to have seen this location photographed with film on a large format camera. The detail in the scene would have been one to get lost in.

Wedding Photography Critique

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“Happiness”

by Bogdan Condor

 

Aaron

This is a great capture of a couple on the beach during their engagement session. There is so much going right in this image but first, let me address some of the areas that could strengthen the image. I usually handle a photo critique in the exact same way that I would if I were looking at my own image. This doesn’t mean I’m always successful at generating error-free work. I happen to find mistakes or things I could have done better in every image I’ve ever taken. Unfortunately, my level of execution doesn’t equal my ability to spot areas for improvement. It’s one of the things that keeps me creating images – always looking for perfection.

One of the first things I think can be improved is the couple’s pose. I appreciate the genuine expression and the way that the couple is wrapped up in an intimate and non-awkward way. Where you could improve the pose is the position of the woman’s feet. Her knees and legs look nice, but having one foot point vertically downward and connect with the other creates a tangent. When most people talk of tangents in design or photography, they usually refer to the most obvious tangent – horns, antlers or growths. An example of this would be trees that seem to appear out of the back of someone’s head in a portrait. A tangent is basically the connecting of two objects in an awkward or ambiguous way that causes tension.

foot tangent

Fused edge/Hidden edge tangent

I cropped in tight to the feet so we could better see the ambiguity of the two foot shapes. Having her move her foot slight away from the other foot would have eased the tension by giving each foot their own distinct shape. In this image they look like the two feet are connected and it’s difficult to see where one foot ends and the other begins. Because of this, the two feet can actually appear as one, interesting-looking appendage.

Below is a small chart that displays the many different kinds of tangents that can be found in visual communication such as drawing, painting and photography. According to the chart, your feet would represent a fused edge or hidden edge tangent. Here is a link that provides more information on tangents and design. Tangents.

tangent-chart

 

Another element I’d like to address in the image is the use of lights and darks and their relationship with each other to create depth. In lighting, we commonly refer to this as chiaroscuro. In the image above, the stacking of lights and darks can create a great sense of depth. Photographing a white shirt against a dark background is a perfect example of how to achieve this separation and render a two dimensional photography more three dimensional. But in the instance of the woman, she’s wearing a black shirt and she’s photographed against a black reef. This causes her to get lost in the background. As soon as her black shirt meets the sky, we see that separation.

The lighting is the last area I’ll mention in the critique of this image. Off-camera-flash (OFC) has been used for many years by photographers and as lights and modifiers became lighter and more mobile, they’ve been incorporated into wedding and portrait photography as well. I see a lot of mixed light photographs (mixing strobes with ambient) and if you aren’t careful, they can end up looking like you just pointed the light directly at the subject. I don’t usually ever light just for the sake of adding light. There always has to be a direction to my light. Just as when I’m using available light, my light source is generally the open blue sky and my hair light is usually the sun. Even when I’m not having the sun hit the couple and they are in open shade, I still use the big open sky as my main light to illuminate their faces. So even when we’re using available light, it has direction. And this is what brings me to the lighting on this couple – it doesn’t look to have direction. The couples faces look as if they had a light put on their faces solely to balance them with their ambient light. It almost looks as if they are being lit by the sun, but I know the sun is at their back, sinking into the ocean. I would try to diffuse this light a little more, to give it the impression of a big sky lighting their face, or I would put the light off to a 45 degree angle and let the light cross their faces and create some drama. These are just other methods of illumination that might create a more subtle balance and more importantly give the light some direction.

Your composition is very strong. I admire your vision and the fact that you followed it by putting the couple out on the rocks. The strong sense of the ocean gives a nice metaphor to the couple’s connection. How the couple are embracing is also a great strength in the image. Many couples look awkward when showing affection and it’s up to photographers to “teach” them how to hold each other in a way that doesn’t look like they’re playing vertical twister. The way you lowered your camera angle was a great call. You placed the heads of the couple above the horizon line and avoided created a tangent with the horizon going through their heads. To the left of the woman, there is a pair of rocks that resemble the couple. Wether intentional or not, I think this repetition of shape is really nice. I also appreciate how you cleaned up the rocks in the water and warmed up the entire image. I think that was a great choice.

I happened to go to your website and you have a bunch of really great work on there. Many of the images displayed there show expertise in many of the areas that could have been stronger in this image. Thank you for your submission and I hope you enjoy the commentary!

Megan

In this image you have a beautiful location and looks as though there is decent texture and light in the sky. The couple is lit, which really separates them from the background in an slightly unpleasing way for me. I will probably sound contradictory since I understand they are the focus of the image and you want them to stand out but there are ways to light them that makes them more cohesive without being lost in the scene. Perhaps it is because the lighting seems a bit harsh making more contrast between the subject and its environment. I really appreciate adding artificial light into portraits, but I think it is a delicate line on how to pull it off when including it into the landscape. All of the elements of a strong image are here with the location, natural light, composition and subject. Your edits from your original cleaned up distractions and made the scene warmer showing your attention to detail. Overall nicely done image.

David

Jason

While the location may be stunning, it appears quite muted and dull compared to the power of the couple. I’d like to see a tighter crop of the couple to bring them more into the emphasis of their passion. Bringing them closer provides a closer look at the details they have in their gaze. I’m sure there are other options that were taken on the photo shoot, but the landscape in this photo isn’t powerful enough to warrant the distance away from the couple.

I really enjoy the connection I make with the couple in the photo. The embrace of this couple is really relaxed and authentic. There relationship is seen as a loving couple. They are well lit and the focal point of the image. Placing them in the rule of thirds helps strengthen their significance. A key eye pays attention to the detail having the ring finger wrap around to be see in the shot.

 

 

“Farm With Clouds” | Landscape Photography

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by Marc Thomas

 

Aaron

Thank you for sharing your work with us Marc, it’s always nice to get a variety on the Professional Photo Critique and you are our first landscape submission. There are several things I think could improve your image. The first suggestion I have is to photograph at a different time of day. I know that 4:30 p.m. in August will give you the great contrast in the blue sky and puffy clouds (especially effective in the black and white conversion) but it doesn’t do anything for the landscape. The landscape looks flat although this is helped out a little by the tonal variations between the light hills and the slightly darker ones.

Instead of using a wide angle, which pushes the background down away from you, I would suggest using a 50mm lens and then stitching the landscape together in post. This is a technique that many of my friends have tried with landscapes and it works to achieve beautiful results. Your use of composition is interesting. The land is such a sliver that it makes the viewer’s attention focus on the dynamic sky. This makes me wonder why the landscape is included at all. As I referenced below, Alfred Stieglitz did a study on cloud formations. He believed that the line, shape and forms of clouds reflected the individual’s emotional state. I think this is a fascinating idea and one that is never overdone.

Your black and white conversion is spectacular. It definitely enriches the original capture. I also looked pretty closely and didn’t find any sensors spots in your sky. Either you skillfully removed them, never use your camera, or are meticulous about never changing lenses in the elements. Whatever the case may be, your sky looked great. In your email, you mentioned you read Ansel Adams. Your familiarity with him is reflected in your ability to capture and represent the various tonal ranges. The zone system is on display here with many variations of grey between your white and black extremes. It’s a fine piece and I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

Megan

The most captivating part of this image is the sky, the contrast in the cloud shapes and the sky make for a beautiful and calming image. Your choice of composition and the way you edited the image helps keep the focus on the sky making it the subject. Having the sliver of land at the bottom gives a sense of scale and context. The choice of black & white I find strengthens this image because of the contrast and textures in both the land and sky, drawing attention to shape, form and space. With landscapes the quality of light is a an aspect that can elevate a image dramatically, so shooting at sunrise or sunset is the optimal time. I would recommend in approaching a shoot to aim to capture at those times of day to bring another dimension to your work.

David

Jason

I really want to read more into this photo, but there’s just not that much after you realize it’s just clouds. Even the title “Farm with Clouds” doesn’t offer much more narrative than that. While the literal representation of clouds is achieved quickly, once you’ve achieved it, there’s nothing more memorable after that.

Don’t get me wrong, the clouds look great, but it leaves me as just a stock photo… ordinary. Adding a person or animal can add to the scale of the photo as well as bring a new narrative to the image. It could assist with the grandeur of the sky. The landscape is quite bland to me and doesn’t offer anything to support the sky. I’d almost crop to focus on just the clouds themselves. That could allow the photo to be supported by a bigger project on cloud study. The formation and flow of the clouds would be the visual and the titles of each image could become a stronger narrative of the photographer’s feelings.

Note: Alfred Stieglitz was a photographer from the early 1900’s. Stieglitz did a photographic study of clouds. The photographs were supposed to represent the photographer’s feelings, emotions and thoughts. His, as well as other photographers of his era, were influenced by Kadinsky and believed that colors, lines and shapes reflect the inner “vibrations of the soul.” Here are some photographs from the series titled “Equivalents.”

Stieglitz-Equivalent1839+

Alfred Stieglitz 1926

Stieglitz-Equivalent1840+

Alfred Stieglitz 1927

Stieglitz-Equivalent1841+

Alfred Stieglitz 1929

Stieglitz-Equivalent1842+

Alfred Stieglitz 1929

Stieglitz-Equivalent1843+

Alfred Stieglitz 1929

Stieglitz-Equivalent1844+

Alfred Stieglitz 1930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Dissonance” | Fine Art Photography

by Jonny Trimboli


dissonance-definition

Aaron

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.

Megan

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.

David

 

Jason

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-vitruvian-man

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

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

by Kate Holtzen

Aaron

 

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.” (http://www.demarchelier.net/) 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!

Megan

 

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.

David

Jason

 

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.