Two Takes: A Pair of Photographers’ Constructive Critiques.

In a world of social media platforms, most concentrating on popularity and achieving likes, comments, and followers, receiving and offering healthy or constructive criticism is not common. Specifically, critiquing photography. But it is very useful and when given in the right way, it helps both the critiquer and the artist.

I am going to share critiques of four of my images below, separated into my own critique and then what my professional photographer friend Daniel shared about the same image afterwards.

The Dock

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Silence

My take: There aren’t many elements in this picture so it simplifies focus quickly. I could have used dehaze and revealed a bridge in the upper right corner as an echo to the dock. Perhaps I could have gone wider with the shot to see the dock even more lost or swallowed by the fog. I love the simple power of this image and it does invoke a silent atmosphere when I look at it.

Daniel’s take: The image works because it tells a story, has a compelling composition, good contrast, clear subject and interesting lighting with the fog. The edges are good. One thing I would be curious about is how to go with even a wider angle, to make the effect of the dock disappearing into the fog even more dramatic, and do the shot from the dock. I see a couple of minor black dots on the dock that are somewhat distracting, but can’t tell what they are. Overall, I love this image, and it is very compelling.

The Path

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Moody Path

My take: This was a color shot that I converted after seeing the contrast between the yellow leaves and dark tree trunks. I like how the path leads you into eerie trees and is framed by the white leaves. Perhaps I could darken the leaves and brighten the path to help the eye flow from foreground to background without being distracted too much by the right side of the photograph. I could crop in from the right side as well to aid that goal. There is also a light trap in middle left that I could darken. A friend of mine said it reminded him of Ansel Adams. True or not, I”ll take that compliment!

Daniel’s take: The image works again well because it has a clear subject and a very compelling story. The lighting is great as my eyes are drawn from the initial high contrast leaves back to the path and back and also onto the path. The edges are good although I might have cropped that little light area on the left so that the left edge is purely dark and the eyes really wonder to that mysterious end of the path. I think an issue might be one of balance. The leaves to the right, while initially drawing us into the picture, might be too much/high contrast. Another detail that does bother me a little bit is that some of the brighter leaves go into the path and left side of the image, although in a way, they are also leading us towards the path. 

The Cascade

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Gooseberry Falls

My take: I love the giant flows in the three main sections of the waterflow as well as the small flow in the lower right, as that is more intimate with great contrast with the large boulder. I wish that very lower right rock wasn’t there and I could have stood higher to shoot downwards. The left side of the waterfall is cut off a bit. Perhaps I could have added more contrast in the upper left and popped the small trickle of water. I do enjoy the middle where you can see details of the rocks quite well.

Daniel’s take: The image works because it has a clear subject. The story is also clear. The lighting seems also fine, although it seems we are losing some of the shadow detail in the bottom right dominant rock (perhaps this bigger rock in the waterfall could be dodged some more while retaining some of the contrast within the rock). I think the issues are the edges of this image: with falls cut off at top, and also I don’t feel drawn into the image. I would also like to see more of the image to the left, and maybe we don’t need to see the big rock to the right (bottom right edge of image). I think that rock with the little water is really interesting, maybe going really close to that with a wide angle lens could draw the viewer more into the image?

The Tree

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The Tree and the Cloud

My take:  I love a good isolated tree. I waited for a cloud to pass over it (albeit small) and clicked. The tree itself is not terribly interesting. I could have added more contrast in the grasses to pop the yellow and increase shadows. I like the scale from dark to bright though maybe I would dark the foreground more to get the eye to go to the cloud even quicker.

Daniel’s take: This image works again due to a clear subject and a story. The lighting also seems good. The composition is very clean and this is a successful image. Two things distract me: the shape of the tree which is very rectangular and also the clouds around the tree (although one could argue that this little cloud broke away from the other clouds as part of the story). One minor detail is the right edge with the top right little cloud being cut off which causes a minor imbalance.

Look for critiquing opportunities.

I absoluely believe when done gently and honestly, especially with practiced experience, critiquing is a benefit to both parties involved in the process.  Find a trusted peer or ask a professional photographer to critique your photos. You have my welcome permission to critique any photo you see of mine on any social media platform where you may encounter my work.

My goal is to grow with you.

Finally, a large thank you to Daniel Siggs for his kind and thorough critique of my images. Please check out his website!