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17/09/2014 - 8:40 PM

little 'n' Large

little 'n' LargeAh yes, it's that time of year.

Fungi do look better against darker backgrounds, because that's the locations we see them growing in most often.
However, that's not to say they wouldn't look ok against a white or pale background, like on a book illustration.

To that end, it's useful to have a light and a dark card with you so you can try them when you're out in the field. As you are close to the mushrooms, you should be able to hold the card at arm's length. I often do this with flowers, so a similar approach.

That would also avoid the messy strands of grass in the background. Alternatively, make sure you look carefully before you shoot so you can tidy the background. A moment doing that can save hours trying to rescue the shot later, if it can be done successfully at all.
Use the depth of field preview if your camera has one, or take a shot and look very carefully at the image on the screen, make adjustments and reshoot if necessary.

Using a wider aperture than f/16 would also reduce the influence of the background and help the mushroom to stand out.
You may sacrifice a little depth of field on the subject but the overall image can be more pleasing. You don't have to use small apertures, sometime f/8 can be the optimum. Experiment!

17/09/2014 - 8:27 PM

low key

low keyLow key images are predominantly dark, but there should still be a full range of tones, albeit few lighter ones.

Looking at the histogram for this iamge shows the tones tail off around the mid-tone area. This means that image can lack 'bite' as the contrast is lower. I shall upload a mod. Adjusting the Levels means the image may appear brighter, but you can reduce this using the mid-point slider, or use Curves which offers finer control.

The white top isn't the neatest, but to keep in with the low key effect a darker coloured top would be more in keeping anyway.

The light is positioned well, and having the model look into the light rather than at the camera is ok, we don't always need eye contact, it depends on the mood you want to create. You can have great low key images with or without eye contact.
Focus on the eyes, at least at the size on here, looks fine.

This is also suitable for mono, and I'll upload a version.

02/09/2014 - 9:02 PM


willow3I like the fact you set yourself a task and worked through it. That's a good way to concentrate on your photography.
It's also good you've uplaoded the full original but as John and Ishan say, you can still upload your editied version. Not many upload a before and after to the Critique Gallery, which is a pity as it's useful.

This would suit a square or squarish crop, even a portrait format (more conventional) but whateve you choose, remove the flower on the right. It is a distraction from the mqin flower and that diffuse background that sets it off. And as it's cut through by the frame edge it looks more mistake than intended.

I was intrigued by your comment on V4 that that was the result of aperture priority, then you later commented about the sun bleaching the flower out. That's the crux of the matter, the harsh light on that shot, nowt to do with exposure mode.

I have no problem with shutter priority and your logic is fine in that you wanted to stop any movement. However, the resulting aperture chosen by the camera will have a marked effect on how the background is rendered. As this can make or break a picture, that's why most photographers in this field (no pun intended) tend to use aperture priority. For example here, going for a smaller aperture than you did would render the details more obviously so the flower would tend to blend in, which would not work so well.

Your +7/3 (on this original) did not have the effect John indicates because the lens couldn't be opened any wider to give that much compensation at your chosen shutter speed and ISO in those lighting conditions. When the sun was out, and conditions were brighter, it would do that.

There's some good advice re spot metering and manual exposure from others here.

Beside the Seaside in Southwold, SuffolkThe softness could be exacerbated by overexuberant noise reduction. The right hand side of the sea wall is particularly soft. I can't see why (and I doubt you did) applying noise reduction using only ISO 200.
Another possibility is high jpg compression settings. I don't know what your camera was set to, but the file size of this image suggests little compression here. The site will resize images quite aggresively if you haven't resized them yourself.
Either way, I'd expect to see more clarity in the image. It does have a look as though a watercolour effect has been applied. Indeed that is something worth trying.

The image could be better balanced if the steps were less central. However, that's where they were, the architects aren't thinking of our photos when they come up with there designs! Nonetheless, it's always worth trying a few different compositions at the time to give you more options later. There is only so much you can do with cropping.

Talking of which, I'd trim the left a little to get rid of that half roof, as has been done in the mods. I'd also correct the lean of the buildings using the perspective or skew tools. The lean is created by tilting the camera up to get the subject in the frame and is much more noticeable with lines near the edges of the frame.
It's a strange thing that a small lean looks bad (or a 'mistake') whereas a strong deliberat lean such as with very tall buildings can often work well.

01/09/2014 - 7:56 PM

beggar and the blonde

beggar and the blondeThe curl doesn't add anything to the image. Not this image anyway, some subjects would be better suited, perhaps a shot of a modern building, a flashy car or a still lie of metal and glass objects.
The subject here is more gritty, so maybe a dog-eared corner rather than a perfect curl woud be more in keeping.

I can see what you intended to show, and why you've given it that title.
The mono works better in that sense as the viewer concentrates on the girl and the crowd and beggar behind, whereas the colour has more distractions, or at least places the eye is drawn to in the crowd, thus reducing impact.
06/08/2014 - 9:05 PM

Backyard Bee

Backyard BeeYour timing is very good, capturing the bee in flight as it approaches the flower.

However, the insect isn't completely sharp, and i suspect focus is out slightly. It is very critical at such close distances.
Your shutter speed isn't bad, you've chosen well to try and stop the action. There isn't really a crisp part of the flower - I'm looking at the sharpest part just in front of the bea which shows what looks like a very small amount of camera movement. It is perfectly possible to have camera movement showing even at 1/640, often in the edge being taken off the image. Been there done that etc.

Perseverance is the key, and a nice way to do it sitting in the back yard!
The position of the bee and flower make for an attractive image, but I'd crop this square to remove the distraction on the far right.
You can always position a neutral or non distracting background behind the flower (for example a small fence panel or part of a panel, it doesn't need to be large, just big enough to fill th eframe at this close range), then sit and wait.

05/08/2014 - 10:58 PM

Alternative Palm Tree

Alternative Palm TreeIt is hard to show colour as the intense brightness of the fireworks can lead to burned out detail. Aperture and ISO are the only important parameters, shutter speed is not so relevant as you're recording the trails of light. Looking at this, the settings look fine, and I've used similar myself in the past.

As you shoot in RAW it is worth experimenting with colour balance. For the golden fireworks, something around daylight will enhance the warmth. For white, and any blue or green colours, something lower around the tungsten balance area (3200K) would help their colour rendering (as they effectively burn at at 2000 to 3000K, I'll spare the physics/chemistry lesson!).
The point is, just move the sliders to see what you like.

17/07/2014 - 8:35 PM

X Marks the Spot

X Marks the SpotThere are another couple of approaches you can take.
As you shot this in RAW, you can make two different conversions, one for the land and another for the sky and blend them together using layer masks. As you have quite a defined horizon with nothing sticking up into the sky this should not be too hard to achieve.
The second approach is to take two images (so you'll have to use the tripod) at different exposures and blend them as above.
The benefit of this over using two conversions from one RAW file is that you optimise the exposure and get the best quality for each part of the image.

15/07/2014 - 8:53 PM

Susie at Glendalough House

Susie at Glendalough HouseSometimes in flat lighting the image looks less sharp, especially with a RAW file. Using the lens at full aperture doesn't help that perception.
As Willie says, it sharpens ok.
I have been through this myself, thinking an image is not sharp, but applying a little sharpening to the final image works wonders. That's different to trying to sharpen something that is unsharp as such an image never looks right.
A soft looking RAW file that has been well taken will sharpen up fine and the detail and clarity will be there.
When you convert your RAW files, do you apply any sharpening on output? Applying a small amount is often beneficialespecially on flatter images taken at wider apertures.

15/07/2014 - 8:12 PM

Milford on sea, lymington

Milford on sea, lymingtonThe line of the beach and wave make a good diagonal.
i would expect this to be warmer in tone. Did you set Auto for white balance? If so, the camera would remove much of the warm tone of the setting sun. Next time, try setting Daylight balance to keep the warm tone.
I shall try a mod, putting the warmth back in using software.

The sun is very central. Positioning it halfway between the centre and the edge, on an imaginary line a third of the way in to the image would give a more pleasing composition.
However, if for example you find a symmetrical foreground, a central placement could work very well.

14/07/2014 - 8:43 PM

Snake V2

Snake V2This is one of those images that is very subjective, so it's harder to give critique.

However, you've asked specific questions which can be answered, albeit from a more personal perpsective.

V1 does work for me, for the feeling of mystery, the unknown and infinity that has been mentioned.
It also reminds me of a day with sea mist, where you wouldn't see the horizon, and again that appeals to me. If the mist was in the distance then the end of the breakwater could still be in bright sun. So John is right, but there is also the case of abnornal weather conditions.

V2 looks mundane in comparison, especially with a central horizon and a large area of mid-grey sky. Mod 2 I see adresses that with a crop. Perhaps better if the sky were darkened.
I shall try a couple of different mods myself.

08/07/2014 - 11:42 PM


ArcsA slight crop would remove edge distractions. Mod uploaded.

I'd try for something like this at the time of shooting, or make more of the arches.
One or the other works best.
Just having a little bit in looks careless, even though you may not have been.

27/06/2014 - 7:19 PM

Green on Red

Green on RedThis is effective.
As an abstract image there is little to suggest for 'improvement'.

There is a remnant of some background behind the glass which spoils the illusion. This needs to be erased or masked out using a layer mask for a clean white overall backdrop. I take it that you still have the layered psd file so that you can go back and make adjustments.
Alternatively a textured backdrop across the whole image. Either way at the moment it's a halfway house.

I've roughly cleaned it up using the clone tool. And I used the Hue/Saturation tool selectively to change the colours, I couldn't resist a play!

25/06/2014 - 8:49 PM

Shades of mountains

Shades of mountainsYes they are bith very nice shots with tha mist and the way the hills fad as you see further into the distance. This has a different mood. No two days will be the same.

Using f/5 here is fine, there is nothing close to the camera, and the hills are essentially at infinity focus so are all rendered sharply.

This suits a panoramic image.

So the next question, is this an image cropped from a single shot?
This is such a great location and one you can easily and regulalrly get to, it is worth trying to stitch several images together.

If you hae a short telephoto lens, taking say four or five images with some overlap between them and using software to stitch them together. Affordable programs such as Photoshop Elements can handle this. There are others, so the technique is accessible and not prohibitively expensive.

23/06/2014 - 9:17 PM

Sunset over Rio de Janeiro

Sunset over Rio de JaneiroHi Mile,

Thank you for your feedback and questions for the Critique Team, it is appreciated and we like to know if we've been helpful!

Photography books, and online resources too for that matter, are good places to learn, but it is also good to interact with fellow photogrpahers such as here.
You only need small apertures for landscapes where you need large depth of field from a short distance from the camera to the horizon. Nothing is so close here, so wider apertures are fine.

Even so, I rarely go below f/11 or f/13 as any extra depth of field for very close objects is not worth the loss in lens performance over the whole image. I must add, we are only talking small differences.
All lenses differ so it is worth experimenting yourself.
Getting to know the capabilities of your equipment is an important aspect of your photography.
And we're always here to help,

22/06/2014 - 10:26 AM


BelgradeInitially I thought this ws not level, but the verticals at the edges of tyhe image are fine and the lamp posts are vertical, so well done for that.
It's the obelisk that looks odd, and those (water outlets?) do look like comical piggy faces! Sorry but once I saw that I had to mention it.
Talking of which, as this is a strong foreground feature it would have been better to see the complete feature rather than cropping in so tight.

I see another image here too. Moving to the right and waiting for that couple with the umbrella in the middle distance to become larger in the frame and create a bold semi-silhouette against the wintry backdrop.

Checking in Photoshop using the histogram in Levels, and holding down the Alt key while clicking on the white point slider reveals it's only the edges of the structures that show oversexposure clipping, so your exposure isn't so wildly out.
I selected the burn tool at 3% opacity set to highlights and ran it over the edges. This has improved the density of those edges. I then created a mono version as it suits the wintry scene quite well and there is not a huge amount of colour there to start with.

20/06/2014 - 8:05 PM


THE CHAPEL IS OPENWell done for venturing out at night and trying for images without a tripod. It's good to try something different now and again, and you will learn something.

I'd just like to have seen the whole of the building in V1. According to the exif you could have gone a bit wider, but maybe that risked getting extra elements in that you didn't want?
Nevertheless, you've captured the dramatic lighting, and that colour is striking, whether that was the colour of the floodlights or not.
Quite spooky. If you could have got your fellow student to cast a shadowy figure, that would have been great!

It looks like there is some noise in the shadows in V1. Did you lift the shadows any in post processing? I don't know how well your camera handles higher ISOs, and this excursion would have been a useful time to experiment yourself so that you gett o know its capabilities. You may not need such high speeds often, but it's good to know what can be done.
You can apply some noise reduction to jpgs but you'd have more control over it if you shoot RAW images.

Having said that, the noise in mono images can often add to the atmosphere, like grain used to in film days.

16/06/2014 - 8:34 PM

Barbadian Sunset

Barbadian SunsetWelcome to the site Adam, I see you've joined today. I hope you like the site.

This is an attractive image, as the warm oranges of a sunset are always appealing. Your exif data says you used auto white balance - it is better to set this manually especilally when the scene is predominantly of one colour, as the auto system will try and correct for that 'excess' of colour.
This doesn't seem to have created so much of a problem here, but is something worth bearing in mind.

There is some lens flare (the patches visible against the sea) which is inevitable when shooting directly at the light source. These can be darkened down in software to make them less of a distraction.
This is less of an issue when the sun is diffused by thin cloud or mist. again, something to be aware of.
More importantly is the risk of sensor damage when pointed directly at the sun, even when low in the sky.

Having said that, there is some very nice rim lighting of the cloud and the ship does provide a good focal point. It is very central and a better balanced image would have the ship placed to one side, on one of the image 'thirds'. I shall upload a mod to demonstrate this.
A portrait format image would work with a central composition. I shall upload a mod.

It's a good idea to try several different shots at the time.

It is hard to see the fishing boats, and they are quite small in the frame that they add little to the overall image, as the sun and ship are so dominant.

02/06/2014 - 4:32 PM

Skin-rice cake.

Skin-rice cake.You've timed the capture very well, with the position of the hands, the rice cake and the expression on her face. The lighting is nice and soft, not harsh, allowing plenty of detail to be seen.

There is little you could do about the bright orange plastic bag in the background without interfering. It's part of the scene and although I'm aware of it my eye goes straight to the person.
Converting this to monochrome would remove that issue, but the colour in the rest of the image is important, so I'd rather keep this as it is. I'll upload a mon version anyway, just for a different presentation.

I've also cropped a small portion off the top of the image. It doesn't add anything - we can already see what the background and location look like - so it doesn't need to be there.

29/05/2014 - 5:17 PM

Libertia grandiflora

Libertia grandifloraThis is a nice group of flowers. The narrow crop is gives a bold presentation. Personally I'd have left a touch more image room around the subject, but it also depends on what you want to do with the image.

The image is dark and lacking some contrast. I looked at the histogram in Levels and there is a lack of lighter tones. The edge of the histogram ends three quarters or so along the baseline. I moved the end white point slider back to meet the edge of the histogram.

This gave a fuller distribution of tones, but it was still dark, so I used Curves to lighten the image further. You could adjust the midpoint slider in Levels, but Curves gives greater control.