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11/04/2014 - 8:40 PM

60007 Sir Nigel Gresley

60007 Sir Nigel GresleyI see what you mean, and I see that the composition I mentioned is what you wanted.

The main reason for blur here, is that you held the camera (fairly) still and allowed the train to pass through, while shooting. You can see the background much sharper than the train. A better way would be to follow the train at the same speed, shooting smoothly as you go whilst trying to keep the train in exactly the same place in the frame. That's panning, and you can practice it anywhere. Just use a slower shutter speed than you would normally use and shoot a moving subject, trying to keep as smooth as you can. With practice, it's not a problem to go down to as slow as 1/15, 1/8 or even slower with the right subject.

11/04/2014 - 7:03 PM

Megan in Catsuit

Megan in CatsuitTo me, the pose doesn't suggest disengagement, but a confident and perhaps feisty young girl.

The problem is not to use a more adult pose and potentially sexualise the image, which I think is pretty good considering limited space and a 28mm. There is a little evidence of her nearer arm being lots larger than the other, but the pose minimises this, and the direct look and slightly confrontational feel typifies teenagers doing their own thing.

I would prefer a slight crop from the bottom, and a tiny bit of off-centre, and the background slightly brighter, but it's all fixable.
I would also suggest you get her to lift her chin slightly, it stretches the neck slightly and lightens the feel a little.
You could try props, because it gives her something to do with her hands without making it an adult-style pose.

I'm sure she'll be pleased with the result though.

06/04/2014 - 6:40 PM

Fort st Elmo

Fort st ElmoIt's pretty good, more than just a record shot, and has a nice graphic quality to it. The main problem for me, is that the Mediterranean sun can be very harsh, causing high contrast, and it really needs to be grazing across the brickwork to bring out all that lovely texture.
I'm not sure of the orientation of the fort, so I'm not sure if there is a better time to shoot, but it looks like later on in the day, the sun will move round towards the right, there may well be a time when it grazes across the face of the brickwork at a very acute angle, showing the textures off better. If the sun is lower in the sky too, it will have a better quality to it than the harsher light around midday.

The horizon is fractionally off too...I know it's going to impact on the angles of the brickwork, but the horizon is always level and is the best reference point to work from. If you need slight adjustment to the perspectives, it will only be a small amount, easily done in ps.

12/03/2014 - 8:03 PM


FORK UPSorry but, for me, neither works compositionally.

Not sure why you needed such a high ISO and f/22. The quality is pretty poor considering the light, though I'm not sure how much is due to your processing or shooting through dirty glass. It all needs to be....brighter. And less noisy, and sharper.
There are several compositional devices here, yet none really make the picture. I think cutting off arms, legs and heads weakens the picture immeasurably, and all the 'devices' seem to be the wrong way round. All the things that should tie the group together (clothing, purpose, cups, direction) actually make them look like four individuals walking together.

It would be better if the group was contained entirely within the frame...if only you had turned the camera vertically....

I've said it before, you shoot so many of these opportunities, yet so often there are many points that bring the quality down, and processing is usually one of them. You need to optimise the image at the taking stage, to leave yourself more options and less work later on. This includes composition. I know street shooting is less than ideal, and I know it's hard to get a clean image, and that this is a grab shot, but you need to pick your viewpoints carefully, and your framing. When in doubt, frame looser. If your quality is better, you can afford to crop later. If your quality is poor, all you do is magnify mistakes.

Don't stop what you do, but fine tune your methodology.

05/03/2014 - 12:05 AM

Skala beach

Skala beachA pleasant enough beach shot, that to me, cries out for something. Not sure what, but a figure, a bright sailing boat, just...something.

In a situation like this, it is often worth moving around, trying different angles, heights etc, and I'm not sure a step to the right wouldn't have helped a little. That would have brought Kefalonia into the centre of the visible horizon, hidden the dark rocks further along the beach and created a "Z" shape to guide you through the scene.

Exposure and settings are ok, but the midday sun has made the light very harsh. Unfortunately, waiting would have meant the sun going down to the right, increasing shadows in the rocks RHS.

There is a very slightly sloped horizon too, easily remedied. It makes me want to be there, but I feel the image just needs something else to raise it from a holiday record shot.

04/03/2014 - 11:51 PM

Dead Tree

Dead TreeHi Antony. I can see why you took this, and maybe what you were aiming for, unfortunately it's ended up a bit of a "nothing" picture.

The skeletal tree against the sky is lost among all the other foreground clutter, in which there is little interest. And that's the real problem, not enough interest in the shot. There is no real composition to the shot either...the foreground bushes and earth add little but clutter, and the "horizon" cuts the shot in half.

The exposure is in between...too dark for the foreground unless you wanted a silhouette effect, too light for the sky which has washed it out somewhat. That means the ground is very dark and the shadows heavy, typical of midday shooting with a high sun. Better to shoot with the sun lower in the sky, as it reduces contrast and is more directional, which you can use to advantage dependent on its position relative to your subject.

I think you need more impact, for instance, getting closer to the dead tree and cutting out the foreground, then silhouetting the branches against an underexposed sky to really bring out the colour. Have the "horizon" low in the frame and really make the tree dominate. I'd also try different times of day to see if you can get better light too.

Maybe you wanted both sky and ground exposed well, but with the high contrast here, it is virtually impossible. The only way is either take two shots and combine them, or work the RAW file hard to eke out as much as you can, unless you have a nd grad filter to reduce exposure in the sky. Otherwise you have to shoot according to light conditions, which here have too large a dynamic range.

16/02/2014 - 11:25 PM

So long....

So long....There are two main issues for me.

One, you are not in the centre...if you're going to distort the image, yet retain some symmetry, you need to be scrupulous in your placement of the camera. Here, you are just to the left of centre, and it spoils the effect.
Second, the excessive vignetting (deliberate, I suspect, to focus attention down the corridor). The tones of the lights either side jar, as they are obviously darkened and would not look like this without OTT manipulation. They need to be brighter, as you would expect them to look, not hdr'd.

I like the colours, and I don't mind the attempt at dynamic composition, but this would look great taken with a shift lens, where you could look up yet retain the rectilinear features' squareness.

12/02/2014 - 7:30 PM

Scream Not

Scream NotApart from the comments and mods above, the main problem is that the flash has eradicated most of the lines and texture of the skin. In an attempt to bring some texture out, the sharpening has exaggerated the lack of detail, so that it actually looks like a lo-res picture in some places.

My suggestion would be, if you have to use the camera's flash, to hold/tape a layer of tissue as a diffuser over it. Better still, there are commercially available diffusers for just this kind of thing.

For the b&w conversion, you might get more effect from increasing the blue and lowering the red channels. In the old days, we used a blue filter with b&w to increase shadow contrast with male portraits. The texture that filter could elicit in the right conditions was stunning.

11/02/2014 - 8:36 PM

Feathering around

Feathering around
Quote: not bad for an amater.

A matter of opinion, I'm afraid. One end has been cropped, a third of the feather is textureless black, half isn't sharp and you have a moire pattern all over it. In addition, the edges of the background are visible top and bottom (a light box?) and there are black spots all over it.

Your metering has been fooled by the bright background, and even the +2 compensation isn't enough. It can probably be helped in processing by upping the exposure, but you need to be careful of bleed around the feather's outline. You could take different exposures and combine them later to avoid blowing the background, whilst exposing the feather more to reveal extra detail.
The moire pattern may be a residue from resizing or a digital artefact, but it is obvious.

You might be better shooting with a light above the feather, or better still a reflector to bounce light back onto the top, opening up the shadows and improving definition. A tripod is a must, and I'd close the aperture down more to get as much sharp as possible. Shutter speed is immaterial with a tripod, but either getting as much in focus as possible or as shallow a depth of field as you can get, would probably be the best options.

Whatever you do, take a second to scan the edges of the frame for intrusions, and look carefully at the finished article for imperfections....the black edges and spots could easily be cloned out.

07/02/2014 - 8:02 PM

Frozen time

Frozen timeAs above re the straightening. The only other thing I'd do is get rid of the 3 birds at the left edge of the frame to make a distinct group. Hopefully in your original you haven't cut off the front bird's feet.

04/02/2014 - 11:58 PM


Sunrise...The main problem for me, is the blue grad filter altering the balance in the sky...it's just too cyan, and using such a small aperture clearly shows the transition just above the centre rocks. Also, the top is a bit heavy, otherwise, a pleasant enough seascape.

27/01/2014 - 7:32 PM

The library

The libraryI like the idea, and the clarity of the colours (I have no idea what they should look like, and I'm not bothered). My main issue is that I think it should be symmetrical. As is, it looks like a snapshot, but I think symmetry would lift it to a more "deliberate" level. Especially as the wideness of the lens causes uneven distortion when not centered.

09/01/2014 - 12:13 AM

Blue boat

Blue boatI think the foreground stones a little uninteresting too. I think I'd have tried to get closer, yet separate the boat from the cliffs. Closer with a wider angle would have done that, and the boat would have had more prominence in the frame, thus the colour would be more obvious too.

Standing up on the same level as the boat would have enabled you to angle the camera down slightly too, then the sky would be less prominent, though it looks like there is something there to work with to the left.

It all looks overall a bit dark and brooding. It might be worth revisiting it, lightening it slightly and subtly changing the white balance, but I like the isolated feel.

30/12/2013 - 12:25 AM

Air Force Memorial - Tradition

Air Force Memorial - TraditionI'll have to disagree with you on that one. Any day is a black and white day, not just the grey ones, which are often dull and low contrast. The light is most important, and more great b&w pictures have been taken when the light is good than taken on grey days.
Those days are better spent shooting other things more suited to the conditions. I'm not saying don't do it, just don't expect a picture to work in mono just because the weather and light are poor.

If you want to do good mono work, you have to remember that colour is gone and tone is everything. Different colours may have similar tones, and you will usually need filtration to separate them. Shape, form, lines and other devices become more important where colour is absent. You need to look at it differently....not as a colour picture you can convert, but as a b&w image from the start.
If you set your camera to raw+jpg, you should get a b&w image on screen, but you have the raw to work on later. That will give you a good idea if the mono image works, and the basic tonal relationships.

I don't think you need to darken the monument. I think if you want it to stand out, you need to lighten everything else. It doesn't stand out as everything is too dark.

29/12/2013 - 9:54 PM

Air Force Memorial - Tradition

Air Force Memorial - TraditionFirst of all, why does winter seem a better time for black and white than any other time of year?

Black and white, in common with any other image, should contain what it needs to succeed in portraying the subject as well as it can do. Whether that is "soot and whitewash" or a full range of tones, or even greys with no blacks or whites. The subject and your interpretation of it will determine which.
As with most photography, light is the key. This image doesn't pop because the light is poor...in fact it's almost abstract. You have deep blacks and bright highlights, but the majority of it is dark silhouetted and hard to make out. Not sure why you needed such a long exposure in order to show sky contrast...it has blurred the clouds reducing definition and contrast.
More exposure might have helped, but judicious processing might bring out the contrast between the monument and the sky. It looks like it should be quite striking, but it's all a bit dark at the moment.

21/08/2013 - 10:23 PM

River Dart

River Dart
Quote: if its also in your original is very likely to be refraction due to the very small aperture.

Diffraction, not refraction. Refraction is how the lens focuses in the first place! Tongue

In these conditions you would struggle to contain the wide dynamic range without recourse to HDR, however, as mentioned, any small mismatch between the images will result in unsharpness, and with moving water, trees, grass etc, there will likely be mismatch, added to the long shutter speed and a lens that diffracts at small apertures, you are on a hiding to nothing as far as sharpness goes.

As Willie says, a mid-range aperture, a steady tripod and trying to get exposure spot-on will be the best way.

14/08/2013 - 9:43 PM

Yum yum ,or not?

Yum yum ,or not?As above - its too untidy for a magazine shot (unless the article is about transport cafe food)!
It also looks like it was shot under tungsten light, as its all a bit orange. You need to adjust the white balance, then the lasagne will look more appetising, and will contrast with the salad more. Plus, more salad, fewer chips and the dish will look fresher and healthier which is the aim of food photography.

On a slightly pickier note, the background (edge of the plate and work top) needs to be neutral and not intrusive...maybe show more of the plate, on a plain dark cloth. Also, it needs to be either pin sharp all over, or selectively shallow focused on the main subject. This is a bit in-between.

09/08/2013 - 12:48 AM

Harefield Peak

Harefield PeakLooks like the sun is just out of frame to the right, which has caused the flare spots across the image.
There is no real subject, as Paul says, and half the image is taken up with sky, which is a bit bland, tbh. The horizon virtually bisects the image, and this much sky has little to offer above the coloured stripe, so aiming a little lower and cutting out some sky would aid the composition here. I'm not an avid 'rule of thirds' proponent, but here the distant landscape is the real interest, so more ground less sky would fall into that arrangement. That would make the image more harmonious and peaceful, somewhat making up for the lack of main subject.

Great conditions to be shooting in, but maybe you haven't made the most of it this time. That lovely raking light will show up every contour, tree, hedgerow, boundary etc you just need the right subject.

09/08/2013 - 12:36 AM


il TENEBRASIn my opinion, a much better image than the previous. It could bear a little work on the contrast - ie dodging the face and eyes to increase their impact and bringing back some detail in the highlights.
I like the direct contact and the uncompromising expression on his face.

It might be worth checking your camera jpg settings: it looks like it's set to increase the contrast which won't help in bright conditions like this. If you can, set the contrast control lower, you can always bring it out in processing later, but you can't recover lost data if the highlights are blown.
I'm sure there is much more in the original image to bring out, and shooting RAW will also help by not discarding any info like jpg compression does.

I'd also shave a small amount from the top, it increases the impact of the eyes by not giving you as much surroundings as a distraction.

07/08/2013 - 10:44 PM


IN FOCO TENEBRASI think the real picture here would have been the guy's weather beaten face and hair.
An old trick to concentrate the attention, his hands cover all the information and I find myself looking at his beard and fleece. The reason is that his eye is so dark, you can hardly see it - some selective lightening would bring it out, and perhaps a tighter crop getting rid of the sharp fleece would help too.

Something you can do if this kind of thing occurs, is to laugh at the joke, which relaxes people and they drop their guard, enabling you to grab other shots as they laugh with you.

Otherwise, good use of differential focussing and the base exposure isn't at all bad.