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03/11/2014 - 3:53 PM


THERE MUST BE AN EASIER WAY?This is not difficult to do. There is an easy way.

Open the three images. Select the brightest one. Using the move tool, and holding down the shift key, drag the middle exposure on on top of the lightest one, - you now have two layers. The using the same process, drag the darkest one on top of the BRIGHTEST layer, so you now have three layers, Background is the lightest; layer one is the medium; darkest is layer 2.

Apply a layer mask to layers 1 and two. Fill them with black 9alt backspace)

You will now see only the lightest layer.

NOTE: IF elements has a photo merge option, (CS does_ you can use that to do all this).

The top layer, layer 3 has the sky you want; the middle layer has the river you want; and the background has the bridge you want.

Select layer 3. Paint white into the sky with a soft brush. THis adds the darl sky to the lighter image. If you darken any bots accidentally, just zoom in and clean up with a black brush to remove the accidental darkening. Remember holding down shift when you brush will bri\ush in straight lines.

The select layer 1 and do the same with the water. When satisfied, flattten the layers, The adjust the rotation for vertical, and the exposure and contrast as desired.

Thats what Ive done in the mod. It took 4 minutes.

Beware of Photomatix. Its function is not blending layers, but tone mapping to produce HDR images. The output of an HDR image will be quite different.

01/11/2014 - 11:15 PM

Enjoying the Sunset

Enjoying the SunsetHi James. Welcome to the Critique Gallery. I see its your first time here, though you have been around for a while.

This image has a lot of atmosphere, and connects with the viewer quite easily. Whats better than gazing at the setting sun, by the waters edge.

I dont see all of your exif data above, so Im not sure what mode you used, etc.

As it is, its attractive. You might guess yourself that the composition might be improved if theres more space to the left that the right. The stones on the beach are nice, - lovely light on them, so I can see why you would want them there. You can still have some, but somewhat less, with more sea. You will see the difference as I will upload a mod as you have composed it, and one recomposed as suggested.

Shooting into the sun has some issues. The subject can be a little underexposed, - often a lot underexposed, which is how you get a shihouette.

This is a little, and with exposure increased a little, the shot is improved. A little contrast, reduce a slight bias towards magenta, and were done!

So take a look at the two mods, and see what you think, and how the composition change affects the shot.

Hope this is helpful,


01/11/2014 - 7:49 PM

Sleeping Sumatran Tiger

Sleeping Sumatran TigerYoure are right to use auto ISO. It has done exactly what you needed it to do here. You are using P mode, and the chosen aperture and shutter speed are quite good. As you progress, you can take control directly over aperture and shutter so its less than a hit and miss affair.

Some cameras will perform better than others at higher ISO, and you will find the limit beyond which yours becomes tricky. Its fair to say that the more recent a model you have the more likely it is to perform better at a higher ISO.

You are shooting in JPEG. If you shoot in RAW, you will get a file that has had no noise reduction applied to it; then you can control the amount of noise is reduced, and detail is retained. The camera has a setting you have set (or not!) that determines how aggressive this JPEG noise reduction is. Check it out in your settings menu and you can apply a different amount of noise reduction for your jpegs.

In addition, if you crop the shot so its smaller (dont know if you did crop this one) what can happen is that noise is amplified (you essentially zoomed in).

Back to the shot. Its a sleepy Tiger, and its well focused. It can be made to look a little crisper, mainly by improving overall contrast, and applying a little sharpening selectively rather than all over.

I used Levels in photoshop to move the left and right sliders inwards to meet the graph, which improves contrast, Then the sharpening.


31/10/2014 - 9:32 PM

Asiatic Lion

Asiatic LionIts quite a decent shot. Light wasnt great, so you did well.

High ISO has had an effect on quality, but noting dramatic.

I think the main tweak here could be a crop to a square format. The face is more interesting than the main, which is showing the ISO noise.

Ive uploaded a mod like this. and also reduced the highlights a little.


31/10/2014 - 5:15 PM


GiraffeA little brighter would be perfect. Its a nice pose.

30/10/2014 - 3:08 PM

Sealed With A Kiss Colour

Sealed With A Kiss ColourIm a dissenter! Firts thanks for uploading the original.

I dont think you can compare colour and mono unless you first improve the basics of the colour shot, and crop in a similar way. Then you have apples and apples.

I have uploaded a mod in colour, and a soft mono. I dont think the choice is at all clearly mono.. Ive left that glass in, - for me it doesnt detract at all.

The original is flat; lacks sharpness; and the white balance id very cool; all addressed in the mod.

What do you think? Is it that easy to pick mono over colour?


29/10/2014 - 3:10 PM

Winning Strokes

Winning StrokesAnother nice shot Jo.

To add to what Tanya has mentioned above:

Not too may of us can pan with a 300mm lens with 1/50th shutter speed! Im not certain if this was a deliberate and thought out decision, 1/50th, or a fortunate accident!

With such a slow shutter, the camera was forced to use f.22, because of both the slow shutter, and ISO 400. This could have worked well at ISO 100, with a wider aperture, where the overall lens performance is better than f/22, and the same shutter, or a little faster.

But its worked quite well. It needs a little sharpening, as did the wedding kiss, but this may be due to the fact that you re sized the image, saved it, and uploaded it; what you need to do, after you save the smaller image, is open t again, check and adjust sharpness, and then save and upload.

Exposure is under somewhat, and the whole image looks better brighter.

Mod uploaded with brightness, contrast, and sharpening.


29/10/2014 - 2:58 PM

Sealed With A Kiss

Sealed With A KissIts a nice image Jo. Good timing, and a tender moment.

The exif data shows the focal length at 700, which has to be a mistake, so I will assume 300mm unless you say different.

At 300mm, the shutter speed is a little slow, unless you have a very steady hand. (1/450th is better).

The mode is not indicated, so I will guess its Auto, or P mode.

To get the shot more intimate, think about a closer crop, one that eliminates much of the left side. Along with this, some sharpening helps the image here, - your original may be sharper though.

Ive uploaded a modification to show what I mean.


29/10/2014 - 11:58 AM

Dublin City Marathon

Dublin City MarathonYou are shooting with the sky as a background. This requires deliberate overexposure to get the subject in front of the sky exposed correctly.

So in determining the exposure manually, set it to overexpose by +2/3 or +1; make sure your speed is high, like here, but use either aperture or ISO to obtain the overexposure. Since you wanted the aperture as you have it here (one stop wider would have been fine at 28mm), you needed to use ISO 800.

Also, since youve shot in RAW, simply increase the exposure in the RAW conversion process.

I uploaded a mod that has a +1 exposure increase applied in Adobe Camera Raw. Nothing else. One adjustment.


27/10/2014 - 3:39 PM

Summer In Bamburgh

Summer In BamburghWelcome to EPZ Matthew, and especially to the critique gallery.

We dont steal photos or mods to sell; image size would make such an enterprise quite foolish.

Its a nice scene. Youve done quite well as it is one of your first shots.

You are using the control modes of the camera, so I assume you have progressed to understanding what Aperture and Shutter priority are all about.

In this shot, you used Shutter priority; this is a doe you would use if the subject you were shooting was moving fast, and you wanted to freeze action; here, Aperture priority is the better choice, as it the depth of field you want to control primarily. Though speed is of course important, as long as its at least 1/60th you will be fine.

ISO 400, in bright conditions, is useable, but quality will be better at ISO 100. This should be your default ISO unless the light dictates you use higher; always use the lowest ISO you can.

So, ISO 100, at f/8, would give you 1/125th for your shutter speed, ideal.

Using +1 is a good idea when you have a lot of sky and sea in the image.

So how does the image look? Its quite bright, having low contrast; it not overblown, so perhaps +1 was a little too much, whereas +1/3 or +2/3 could work better?

That small piece of concrete lower left could be removed?

The horizon has to be level with a shot that shows it clearly, and in this you need a degree of clockwise rotation.

Then theres the overall tone, which for a bright, sunny day, albeit April looks quite cold, and blue.

Auto white balance will remove and warm tones that are present, so you cant try setting your WB to sunny for this particular shot, as the light is provided by an open Sun. Nikon, to their credit, have introduced a new AWB mode that retains warm colours, acknowledging that this can be a problem.

I have uploaded a mod that incorporates what Ive mentioned above. Scroll up, click the modification tab to view; view it large if you have the option.


27/10/2014 - 2:59 PM

Autumn Water Fall

Autumn Water FallThe subject doesnt suit HDR for me. As an experiment it fine. This is not real HDR which is comprised of a least 7 shots at different exposure, which are combined. Because of this the best HDR subjects will not have any moving elements.

The original shot I think would look good. Much HDR seems to focus heavily on the recovery of highlights, and this has most of the digital data in the right 2/3rds of the histogram, making it light, and low contrast.

Mod uploaded. As I say, the original shot is nicely done, just crop a little from the bottom.


27/10/2014 - 2:33 PM



A nice idea. It can look better with some tweaking, but lets look at what could have been done differently when you took the shot.

First, the image is underexposed; you applied a -1/3, and at the same time, the camera also reduced the exposure too much both because of the large amount of sky, and the fact you used partial metering. I would used evaluative for this, and use + 1/3 to +2/3 exposure compensation.

What underexpose does, apart from giving a darker image, is affect the density of colour, and the white balance. The colour saturation is too high here.

The very high speed is due to the use of ISO 400, - ISO 100 would have been the way to go.

If you used a picture style, like landscape as an example, it will also affect the result. It tends to overrule the white balance setting, enhance greens, and this might be an issue here.

Finally, when you re size and image for uploading, - you need to open the resized image and sharpen it before uploading; or, if you allow the site to re-size, make sure its sharp to start with, as the site wont apply sharpening.

Ive uploaded a mod with all this incorporated.

If you wanted a darker sky, this can be darkened independent of the rest of the shot.


24/10/2014 - 5:41 PM

European Horned Viper

European Horned ViperIts so brilliantly camouflaged its a challenge to show it up well.

Its a good dhow overall. The sun was close to overhead, to it loses the advantage of a low. raking light that would enhance details and shadows. But Im sure this is the safest time of day!

I would crop in a bit closer just to focus on the head, and the sharper parts of the body, add a little space on the left, in front of the snake.

The rest is a combination of white balance (warmer) and contrast, with some sharpening to try to separate the snake from its background.

Done in the mod Ive uploaded.


21/10/2014 - 7:51 PM

Coal Tit

Coal TitNice Maya.

I see some RAW settings embedded in the file, - did you shoot in RAW?

If you did, go back to the RAW file; set white balance to either to auto on the drop-down menu, or manually to 5000; set clarity to +12; dont increase highlights, - reduce them by that same amount; set black to -6; set vibrance to +12; go to the sharpening tab and set it to 40.

The result would be similar to the mod. Ive added some height to the frame too.

Well done, good high ISO performance.

21/10/2014 - 2:41 PM

Pebbles and rust

Pebbles and rustI think youve done well with the lens you were using.

Ideally this is the type of shot that needs to be close in, a lower down pov with something like a macro lens. Filling the frame some more with that rusty iron.

I cropped drastically in the mod to focus on the rust, with more contrast, it looks a lot different.

So, for me, either closer. or zoom in more.


21/10/2014 - 12:45 PM

Golden Girl

Golden GirlHi Mark.

Yes, the dress colour is better.

As Paul mentions, the model needs a bit more light. When I look at what you did with RAW adjustments (they are embedded in the exif) you reduced highlights a lot which had quite a darkening effect on the right side.

The reason you reduced highlights seems to have been to reduce light on her right hand, which worked there, and had too much of an effect elsewhere.

It would be better if she wasnt posed with the back of her hand facing the Sun, it will always be a brighter area.

I have two mods, both have exposure increased on the right; mod2 has the hand removed just to see what it would look like.

So, in post processing, if the highlight were left, and then in Photoshop, the hand was toned down on its own, the result would likely be better.


20/10/2014 - 12:48 PM

Front on jump

Front on jumpYes, well timed and composed.

It does need to be brighter, and Ive added a mod thats brighter and has a little more space added at the top.

When the weather is bright, and youre including the sky, and bright whites like this, theres a tendancy to want to "control" the light by stopping down with exposure compensation. This always results in a dull, or less bright/vibrant shot. This is because rather than apply negative exposure compensation, you need to either apply some positive exposure compensation, or none at all.

The camera itself is already dealing with the bright light, and will reduce exposure; then adding more negative comp. makes the image underexpose more. So doing the opposite, or nothing will work better to expose the subject.

The mod shows the difference. Its ok if the posts are bright, - they are supposed to be; what you want is the horse and rider to have the correct exposure.


Hey be careful. Dont get choke on your preyThis is really beautiful!

Great exposure, lovely soft de-focused background. The subject caught with great timing.

It will benefit if that blade of grass crossing the beak is removed. A small amount of tweaking sharpness, highlights and contrast will bring more detail to the head and feathers, - its small adjustments, but makes a big difference. Ive done this in the mod I uploaded, - the second and third mods, not the first one.

Excellent work.

18/10/2014 - 3:37 PM

Between you and me.

Between you and me.Welcome to EPZ Olwen, and to the critique gallery.

The timing is very good for this image. I also with it was sharper, and will try to understand why its not, and perhaps help along the way.

The camera has image stabilisation; the focal length used is 90mm as indicated here, which in 35mm terms is 540mm (multiply by 6); so without IS, and hand-held you would need a shutter speed about 1/600th. Since you do have IS, 1/400th should fine, and is not likely to be the reason the image is not sharp.

That leaves three alternatives, either separately or together; accurate focus, ISO, and how much the original image has been cropped.

If the original image is a lot larger, and you have cropped close, then the combination of a close crop, with what is a relatively high ISO for your camera, will produce a soft image; this is because you are in fact "zooming in" again on an ISO 400 shot which makes the noise (grain or spots) look larger. If you didnt crop close, then your original would look sharp IF ISO wasnt an issue. It is possible that ISO 400 is the major contributor.

Focus not being spot on will soften the image, but its something you would likely realise at the time you took the shot; if the camera allows you to select a single focus point rather than the default multiple points, its a good idea to select one that in this case would be placed on the terns.

To take the shot at a lower ISO, which would require a slower shutter speed, would likely require a tripod, but Im sure the birds were moving around too much anyway.

One last point, - setting the camera to the highest possible jpeg quality will provide the best images at higher ISO, and especially when cropping; make sure its as high as possible, or shoot in RAW.

The exif data uploaded doesnt tell us which MODE you used, P, Auto, A, S, M, so if you know what it was, let us know.

I hope this is of some assistance.

Enjoy the site!


17/10/2014 - 2:59 PM

Make way for me!

Make way for me!A really nice image.

The same settings youve explained in an earlier post.

I would process this a little differently than youve done with your RAW settings.

Ive uploaded a mod with the result. The colour temp is warmer; clarity adjustment removed to be less harsh; some use of the dodge tool to get a little more detail in the dust.