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18/08/2014 - 4:41 PM

Back Home

Back HomeThe thing that hit me first was the lovely tonality. Reminiscent of a really good silver print.

The composition seems a little loose, and I want to crop, at least a bit. I might also have wanted to move a little left or right, to put the lady onto one of the thirds.

I've gone for cropping at the bottom, and removing the doorways on left and right. I also used Image/Transform/Skew to correct the verticals on the left (knowing full well that the building may have a genuine lean to it!)

Very beautiful indeed.
17/08/2014 - 10:25 PM

an interesting tree

an interesting treeAnd i want to add a thought about the EXIF data, and the camera settings it's showing.

Aperture priority is fine, as is 100 ISO. However, the aperture is set very wide, and the shutter speed high. There's no particular reason, for this shot, to seek shallow depth of field (which is the plus of a wider aperture), or an action-freezing shutter speed. The aim of aperture priority is that you can choose what to use, to get the effect you want - or just to have a middle-of-the-road setting, which works for a scene like this. (It's the mode I normally have set on my cameras).

Like Moira, I see some signs of a tad more sharpening than is good for the result. Get the sharpness in what you capture, and tweak it in processing - but you can't get sharpness into a shot that is blurred in the camera.

As you say, this tree is worth revisiting - I hope we'll see the results here.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), with morning dewThis is beautifully seen, and very lovely.

The key is in what you wrote about wanting the flower and the dewdrops sharp. The only way to achieve this is to make sure that the depth of field extends to cover both, which means a small aperture (larger number).

The shutter speed is probably around right for lack of camera shake and subject movement, so the only ways to get a smaller aperture are to raise the ISO, or use flash. Flash will destroy the lighting effect, unless you recreate the existing light perfectly, which will be difficult, with a capital "D"... Irrespective of sensor issues, I'd raise the ISO, and stop down more. In processing, you can do a lot to suppress noise with the right software (currently, for instance, Practical Photography is offering DxO Optics Pro 7 free to readers, and that seems to do well, as does the standard RAW converter embedded in Elements).

A tripod and a focussing rail will definitely help (the rail allows you to adjust focus by moving the camera, rather than the lens focus - believe me, that helps at close distances!)

Having said all of that - this is a really lovely shot, just as it is!
15/08/2014 - 6:17 PM

Queen Isabella Way

Queen Isabella WayMy mod just trims some distracting detail round the edges, and (as with the last shot) beefs up the tonality.

I like the idea of your series: I hope that you will garner any advice you like from what people say on here, and that you will then re-edit all of the pictures, incorporating the good ideas, and making sure you have a consistency of style in every single image. (I say this because I suspect that we'll be giving you ideas that mean that the pictures you take and edit in a month will be different from the first few in the series, in various ways, as you pick up ideas and techniques).
Ye  Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub  off Fleet StreetFirst, James, welcome to the Critique Gallery. I can see you've been a member for a few months, but this is your first foray into this area, where we hope to give you helpful feedback on your pictures.

This is a nice record shot, and it illustrates some of the problems with this kind of work.

First, how to compose and crop. A half-step back and all of that light on the left could be in frame, though I don't know what might go wrong in parallel! At the top, I would trim off that bright window right in the middle, though without losing too much of the surround to the window to the right. The finished picture need not have the same proportions as the sensor in your camera.

As Ian (pink) says, it looks as if the tones need more beef to them. In fact, the histogram shows a really full range of tones, so in my mod I've used the midtones input slider in Levels to darken the midtones, while leaving the highlights and shadows as they are.

I also burned in the very bright area through the arch, and very slightly round all of the edges. Subtle darkening works like a vignette to hold interest into the frame.

I've also used Image/Transform/Skew to straighten the vertical on the left. I realise that verticals are a matter of negotiation and agreement, but the white area on the left does look wrong, even if it isn't!

Compositionally, it might have been good to shoot from further to the right for an off-centre composition using the thirds - but this would have required negotiation with a property owner to get past a gate and up the steps on the right, which might have been time-consuming/impossible/just not worth it. A higher viewpoint for the shot wouldn't have hurt, though!

A final thought... A lot of shots seem to me to be like an empty stage at the start of a play. They lack one essential spark, usually in the form of actors, figures. This is one of those shots.

If you are making a strict architectural record, empty is best. But for historical or pictorial purposes, a figure or two - to give a sense of the time (and it can be the era the picture was taken, as well as when a building was put up), and to provide a visual counterpoint to the main subject.
14/08/2014 - 5:25 PM

Red dragon

Red dragonWhat can I say?

Effects processing means that it's a "Marmite" shot - love or hate it.

I'd go for more sharpening - and I'd also suggest placing less centrally, and at an angle. This looks quite static as it is.
13/08/2014 - 2:15 PM

Leading to Torc Waterfall

Leading to Torc WaterfallThe dogma for shots like this is that you should have it all sharp, front to back. I won't say that I think this is always right, but it's a good place to start.

Smaller apertures work better, of course. The other thing to consider is hyperfocal focussing - instead of infinity focus (which you may have used) or letting the camera choose, focus on a point that just extends depth of field to infinity, and brings it back to half the distance set on the scale.

There are tables on the web, and many lenses have scales marked either side of the focus index. And depth of field preview can give you an idea.

I like it simple: focus around ten or twelve feet for a wideangle, twenty for a standard, and seventy for a short tele, and stop down well.

The composition looks fine to me: there's something, which I can't quite pin down, about the shadows. Not that they aren't deep enough (my first thought), possibly a white balance issue... Given which, I expect that Willie will have an answer. There's just a hint of blue in some areas, I think, and maybe a touch of flare in places: subtle, and minimal, but it's there... Whatever it is.
13/08/2014 - 2:04 PM

the harbour at dask

the harbour at daskA lovely moment.

There's a definite slant to the original shot: I've rotated a degree and a half anticlockwise in my mod, but that may not be quite right... There are some subjects that really highlight any tilt, and water is one of them.

I've also used the Levels adjustment to deepen the midtones, so that I've moved the clock on half an hour...
12/08/2014 - 6:41 PM

the grid

the gridIt's quite hard to know what to suggest here.

The quality isn't great, given the enlargement, and the composition doesn't rock the world. If it was my shot, I'd either write it down to experience, and look for more compelling lines in the view, or do what I've done in my mod: choose an interesting bit, enlarge further, add noise, and sharpen.

A Marmite technique - you love it, or you hate it!
12/08/2014 - 6:11 PM


GrannyIt looks as if this is your first upload to the Critique Gallery, though you've been a member for a while. Welcome! I hope we can provide what you are looking for.

First: this is a marvellous portrait. It's the sort of picture that one looks at, and there isn't another one to take. The job is complete.

And your Granny looks like a person who is still a live wire: experienced, but young inside.

What to do to make this fantastic? As Willie says, it's underexposed: so a quick visit to Elements and a tweak in Levels, taking the highlights input slider to the left, and then - because the strong midtones are important to the character of the shot - taking the midtones slider to the right a little.

I then dodged the eyes, lightening the highlights, so that Granny is looking clearly out at the viewer.

Finally - and this is normally a bit of a no-no with female portraits - I sharpened with Nik Efex, to emphasise the lines and textures.

Does this work? Is this the view that you wanted to achieve?
11/08/2014 - 11:24 AM

Children happyness.

Children happyness.I remember sack races from school... They were never this much fun for me. Sadly!

You've chosen a really good viewpoint, with light from behind making the dust clouds they're raising look great.

Your timing is excellent, too - all in midair.

I think it's really important to have some space in front of them, but not quite this much. The amount that keeping the shadows intact requires is sufficient. I've also cropped the top, with the bright sky above the trees.
This puts the children more or less on the top third of the frame, which is better than being halfway up it.

As ever, your wide aperture makes focus really tricky: at f/2.8, you can't have all of the children really sharp, as they are at slightly different distances. But they're all reasonably crisp, and you've thrown the people in the background well out of focus, which is good. I am tempted to clone them out, as well, but haven't got time today to try it.

Overall, one of your best yet, i think. I love the expression on the face of the girl second from the right - a real jumping bean!
11/08/2014 - 11:15 AM

Test upload

Test uploadI can't compete with Janet's technique advice. I'm more of an "open jpg, crop, adjust contrast, dodge and burn" sort of a bloke.

I agree with Janet's suggestion on exposure compensation, which I use a lot. This doesn't look like plus two thirds: probably no exposure correction needed. And, as she says, that would allow lower ISO, avoiding most of the noise issue.

The grass and the bug are nicely sharp: and the background is beautifully out of focus. Just the right amount (insofar as a right amount exists!)

My biggest concern is that I'd like to see the stalks in the background to one side of the subject, instead of clustered behind it. A few inches to the right with the camera might have done it - or to the left, putting the bug in front of that blankish area on the right.

The background stalks definitely add context and interest - and would do it even better sitting in the opposite third to the bug!
10/08/2014 - 9:45 PM

Bodnant Flower

Bodnant FlowerTrev makes several good points here.

Most important, sometimes there's no way to really crop a shot well - though often, a s;lightly different viewpoint when shooting could have made all the difference.

In this case, there are several things interacting to make a really nice crop difficult.

First, the grey in the background - it's light, and distracting. A higher viewpoint would have let you set the lily against the flowerbed, and a lower one might have given you a dark hedge behind (or might not: I don't know what was there, but you may remember!)

The long red bud on the left is distractingly nearly inside the frame. So's the white lily at the top. Cropping so as not to have these drawing the viewer's eye away from the main bloom is quite tricky!

And, sometimes, it just can't be done: there's no really good composition or crop available.

I've had a try at a crop, and added some sharpening (though it's not too shabby anyway, especially at a moderate aperture and quite a low shutter speed for the longer end of your zoom). One thing that often works when nothing else does is going really close on one flower head.
Relaxing on the lounge settee whilst the sunlight shines through the window.It's the legs that I'd query. A knee pointing towards the camera isn't good for the overal sleek shape - though there's a clear sexual message from the pose. Might it work better, in terms of looking elegant, to have the lower leg straighter, and the hips turned fractionally away from the camera? Still the same louche sexuality, but more graceful?
07/08/2014 - 10:41 PM

Street B&W

Street B&WI'm intrigued as to whether you shot landscape or portrait in the first place.

I am pretty sure that i'd have shot with my camera on end, to allow me to have the top of the light in frame, to give me verticals that don't need correcting, and to really make the most of the strong vertical lines: longer would probably be better! (I suspect you shot landscape, and have cropped off the excess at the sides to go square...)

I have no problem with the settings: I will happily use 6400 on my Alpha 900, and live with the grain (and I still shoot Delta 3200 film, cursing Kodak for discontinuing their T-Max P3200, which was grainier than the Ilford emulsion!). You are relying on the IS a bit, but it's there for situations like this. If you wanted to spend money, you could get a wide-aperture fixed focal length lens, but most people don't want the bother, and can't justify the expense: I'll just say that a 35mm f/1.4 would have allowed 1/100 and ISO 3200! You might want to keep the ISO high for the noise, but the point is that there are extra options.
07/08/2014 - 8:02 AM

Picture in Picture

Picture in PictureThis is actually a very difficult picture to critique... It's tricky because it's such a quirky idea, and so well executed. I suspect some montage-ing (some of the cast members are lit from different sides, as well as more minor variations in lighting), but it is amusing, and I am sure that everyone involved loves it.

1,000 pixels don't do it justice, I reckon, and I think it's a brilliant shot. I just can't suggest anything that would make it better! (The lighting won't spoil it for anyone but the most uptight techie perfectionist, i would say. It's interesting to spot the inconsistency, but the power of the idea is so great... The use of monochrome for the print in the picture, and the different grouping of people in the colour and B/W versions are lovely touches.)
06/08/2014 - 10:22 PM

Backyard Bee

Backyard BeeAnd welcome to EPZ and the Critique Gallery from me, too. Post here for advice on technique, composition and so on - preferably with specific questions or problems. Alternatively, you can post in the main gallery, and just receive appreciation for your work!

Wildlife closeups are very challenging, and utterly beyond me!

You are pushing the limits here: lens wide open, and high ISO, at the long end of the zoom.

I think there's a decision to make about shots like this, between the motives for taking the picture:

1 I saw it, and I want to record it to help my memory and show my friends. No big issues over technical imperfection;

2 technical record for academic purposes - if you can't get it any other way, imperfect is fine, but a ringflash and tripod are highly desirable;

3 art shot: technicalities don't matter, providing it's beautiful - something to make the soul sing.

Only you know which category you wanted this to be in...
06/08/2014 - 9:53 PM

the sex hotel

the sex hotelOK. Technicalities first.

Excellent differential focus, and pretty sharp, given the very slow shutter speed.

You had scope to up the ISO, and step back, so that you could bring the signs a little closer together in the frame, making best use of the "thirds".

Possibly, reduce the saturation just a fraction, so that the result is garish, but not overpowering?

One of your best shots, I think.
06/08/2014 - 3:17 PM

A tradituional kitchen.

A tradituional kitchen.Hi, Wimpy -

Working with the lens aperture wide open gives the best differential focus - there's the greatest difference between things in focus and things out of focus (which most people call "bokeh" - though this is, I think, a term for the quality of the blurred image, not the fact that it's blurred).

Aperture isn't the only consideration, though. If, for this shot, you'd gone closer, the relative distances between the camera and the woman, and the camera and the background would be greater, and the background would be more out of focus at any given aperture.

There are disadvantages of working with the aperture wide open. First, it makes focus absolutely critical. You need to get it right to the millimetre: if you sway slightly between the moment you focus and the moment you expose, you lose sharp focus on the part of the subject you wanted sharp. This makes it a technique that's best for a subject that doesn't move, when you cna work very slowly and carefully.

I love wide-aperture differential focus effects, and I've been using them for twenty or thirty years. There's a problem, though: for every shot that you get just as you want it, you get several that are not quite right. I therefore only use the technique when it wil lbe really effective: that is, when the main subject is much closer to the camera than the background.

Here, I reckon that the woman was around 12 or 15 feet away, and the fence 30 feet beyond her - the background is 3 times as far away. If you'd been closer - say 5 feet from the woman, the background would have been 7 times as far from the camera, and you'd have had a much greater differential effect.

The amount of softness in the background is very predictable - there are tables on the internet to calculate it, and you can get a preview with the depth of field button on your camera. Or, come to that, you can take a shot, and magnify the image on screen to look at the details.

Having said all of that, for this particular picture, there isn't much wrong with having everythign sharper - and the pattern in the fence is too strong to lose it completely through sending it out of focus. In such cases, it's often best either to accept the background, or to move round the subject to find an angle that gives yo ua plain background.

I hope this helps. Please come back to me if you need more explanation, or if I've misunderstood.
03/08/2014 - 6:59 PM

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyNicely seen, and well caught!

There's always a conflict in closeups between the need to get the subject sharp, and the desire to throw the background reasonably out of focus. For my money, you've erred on the side of too shallow depth of field - and, given that you were using aperture priority, I assume it was deliberate.

From the central composition, I assume that this is the whole frame, and that the focus is on the back of the body, so that some of the near wing is sharp, and the more distant wing is all slightly soft. This looks a little odd.

Given that you were at ISO 200, and 1/640 second, you could easily have stopped down to f/8, used 400 ISO, and still had 1/320 on the shutter. (I suspect the closeup experts will suggest stopping down even further, and maybe using flash...) As the flowers catching the light look to be blown, dialling in a fraction more minus compensation would have given even more scope for stopping down.

I've done a mod, cropping to put the butterfly onto the thirds, instead of being slap bang in the middle. I also burned in round the edges, to throw interest more onto the subject.

I've been trying to do some closeups recently, and I've concluded that to do them well, and consistently, you actually need at least some of the gear that the experts suggest - tripod and focus rack, as well as the macro lens. Without these, life is a lot of hard work, and slightly iffy results most of the time, balanced by the occasional piece of arty blur. I struggle...