Photography Critique Part 1

First of all thanks to everyone who submitted work to get critiqued, I didn’t think we would get that much response, thanks everyone! It’s a hard thing to put your work out there for someone to view and critique so you all are awesome for taking that step to grow your work and improve your art! I wish I had time to do a critique on everything submitted but unfortunately never have enough hours in the day. I had to result to a quick random.org number pulling to get the person that I am going to critique today but this was a good exercise so will try to get a few more people critiqued in the coming weeks.

The random pick for the critique is Joe Dyndale who sent over 4 images. To keep this post somewhat short I am going to focus on 3 of the images he sent over, 2 wedding images and one landscape. First i’ll start with the wedding images which is my main specialty and love.

This was Joe’s first wedding so I have to give him props for shooting his first wedding and also putting that work out there for a critique and everyone to see! My first wedding I think I will keep where it’s at (buried at the bottom of my closet for my eyes only). The first shot here is the bride and groom in what looks like maybe the church or a reception hall.
Lakmini and Suji's Wedding

First let me start off with a good point for this image, the contrast and tone of this image are very nice. It has a richness to the image with the deep blacks and stark whites. The lighting adds to this, it seems like there is light from both sides which really creates a nice depth to their face. Now on to the criticism, and remember its always from the heart meant to make us all better artists (and it’s also just one persons thoughts). First when viewing an image I always like to start with asking myself “what is this image really about, what is the idea behind it and the message the artist is trying to convey”. And I don’t think this image really serves much of a purpose. The main couple is looking at the camera and although they look happy and have great smiles it seems like its a shot during the reception and at that part of the day I want to express what the reception was all about. I want to document and showcase the joy and fun of the reception. I want to see all of the things that are distracting in the background (all of the people) and use them in the shot to help to tell the story. Instead of using this time to get a straightforward shot of the bride and groom its the perfect time to take a step back and document some of the moments going on.

Also from a technical level watch out for what is right behind your subjects and not just what is behind them but the brightness and tone. Your eye is drawn to the lightest part of the photo, here the eye goes right behind the groom and to the large white shirt behind him. Also the trellis on the sides of them since they are so bright also distract your eye and take your attention away from the main subjects. A nice dodge and burn here to darken the edges would be perfect. (see our quick tutorial on non-descructive dodge and burn) .

The 2nd image sent over is another wedding image from the same wedding. Here we see the wonderful joys of photographing in a church that was probably extremely poorly lit. I always say that wedding photographers do really have to have some amazing skills. You photograph in the worse settings normally and have to make everything look amazing.

Lakmini and Suji's Wedding

Here there are two things that don’t work with the image. One is the exposure. Even on the main subjects it is a little dark but the background is very underexposed. I am sure that just by seeing part of the stained glass in the background there is much more beautiful detail in the church that I want to see. A couple things come into play here, one your lens and how large the aperture is. I generally shoot a church ceremony at ISO 800-1200 and at f/2.8 or lower. The other part is the shutter speed, although you want the subjects to be as sharp as possible sometimes you have to sacrifice a little sharpness by slowing down the shutter a bit to capture more of the detail in the background. Try going down to 1/30th of a second if you have steady hands or a little lower depending on the lens.

The 2nd part I think can be improved here is the angle and composition. Although the image is centered there is so much to the left of the center is really has a weight to that one side. Then on the right there is a big space and the few people cut off on the edge of the frame. I think by taking a few steps to the left, a few steps back and getting a little bit lower you could have a much more intriguing composition.

And the last image he sent over was a landscape. The color here is great. Beautiful rich tones and so much detail in the foreground of the image.

Ă…lesund

The composition here follows the age old rule of thirds that creates a pleasing composition. Having this expansive sky really makes you focus on the main part of the foreground and since there is so much detail in the foreground your eye really wants to wander around and explore this little town. However while exploring around this town you get an abrupt feeling when the town is sharply cut off by the bottom of the frame. I am not sure if there is any more water in front of the image where it currently cuts off, but if there were and you could pull the camera back a little to include just a bit of water to frame in this town that would really perfect the composition.

Thanks again Joe and I hope this critique gives you some great things to think about for your next shoot. Remember to keep sharing your progress and some of your work on our Facebook wall. I also hope this gives everyone some things to think about and am going to do a few more of these from the submissions we received so keep watching out for a few more to come.

If you have anything you would like to add lets start a discussion, leave a comment below.

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Author: Mark Stagi

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi there! Just wanted to respectfully disagree about the first photo. This image definitely serves a purpose. It is a great shot of the bride and groom and it told me about them, the subjects of the wedding. It made me think about what kind of people they are. I’m sure the photographer had plenty of photos of the reception to tell about it. The couple looks happy and beautiful and I loved the first photo. Technically there may be things that could make it better, but sometimes you just capture a moment and the composition isn’t perfect. Of course, I am a more candid photographer, so that is just my opinion. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for the input Lyndsey! Some great points you make

  3. I disagree with Lindsey. I portrait of a couple smiling at the camera doesn’t say a whole lot about the couple. So many people want pictures of people looking at the camera, so it sells. As a photographer, I’m not interested. There are always exceptions to this, but the images I’m thinking of typically show more of a simple background so you are FORCED to stare at these people. The background in this image shows too much to really do that and implies there’s more to the image that he wants us looking at. I love the detail in the couple though. Wonderful tone creating such a rich image.

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