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24/08/2014 - 4:21 PM

Critique please.

Critique please.You definitely need a backdrop, especially for full length shots. Half length and head shots can be worked around, but distractions like the floor and uneven backgrounds affect the picture quite a lot, and it's not an environmental portrait!

If you have softboxes, they would give you better wrap round and less harsh shadows, plus moving the model away from the wall will help too. You could double diffuse flash heads and shoot through brollies.

Comparing to K4RLs shots, his light is softer and more even, and slightly higher. You need to diffuse your lights more, and perhaps get them closer to the model, or perhaps move your model closer to them. One effect of the hardness of the light, is the prominent shadow under her rib cage, which unfortunately isn't very flattering. I'm not convinced about the sharpening either, as her look is quite stark anyway, but that's more subjective, and I find the pose a bit clichéd. However, it's often the case you need to run through the basics before the session really gets going, and there's nothing inherently bad about it. She looks a little detached, like she's saying "cheese" rather than interacting with you, but again, it might be the moment of the shot rather than the general feel of the session.

Studio work is less about the camera and mostly about details really, and tweaking the lighting and things like untidy hair will make all the difference, as will making it a dynamic process rather than a set of static poses.

Nick
23/08/2014 - 1:31 AM

The calm

The calmWhy shouldn't you? The sea horizon is a constant absolute reference, and if it is out of true, it makes the rest of the picture out as well.

I'm sorry to say, I think there may have been a picture here, but you haven't got it.
The horizon cutting through the centre of the picture effectively divides it into two, but in a way that is quite uninteresting, compositionally. The two halves are not exposed well enough, everything being over dark, and whilst I appreciate you wanting the sky brooding and stormy, it doesn't have any real drama to counterpoint the flat sea.

It would be interesting to see the original, but the b&w version is a bit flat and muddy, tonally. I'm not convinced you've got the most out of it in your conversion, but the lack of any subject makes the viewer search for something, shape, form, even localised contrast. Here it finds nothing.

Your camera settings are ok, though you don't need such a small aperture....most of the picture is effectively at or near infinity, but the shutter speed is high enough not to cause any major problems. I think part of the problem lies with the processing...it doesn't look like you've done much apart from convert and try to bump the contrast. To make anything out of this, more localised work is required, but really it needs drama: towering clouds, full of interesting shapes, and something small as a subject to emphasise the grandeur of a stormy sky.

The time of day is also a factor. Early or late, so the clouds are lit from the side or even underneath, will help define them, but the middle of the day is the worst time to shoot, and here the clouds just aren't lit well enough.

If you have the chance, I'd revisit, try to find better conditions and some subject to attract your attention. And I'd level the horizon.

Nick
29/06/2014 - 2:13 PM

Historical Hall

Historical HallIt's a step up from a record shot. You've obviously thought about how you are going to process it, and how you want it to appear, and the HDR is competently done, but not overdone like so many others.

Just a personal thing really, I don't like it being "just out" of square. Either square it up in post processing, or make it obviously distorted. Another way, is to get further away if possible to get the camera back vertical, but you may not have had room in there.

Here, with a classic view of the window, I think it deserves to be righted. Someone will come along with a mod before I get to it, but otherwise a pretty good shot.

Nick
18/06/2014 - 12:41 PM

Silky way

Silky wayWhatever your intentions with the sky, I'm afraid it just looks overexposed, and as a result, somewhat dull and uninteresting. The peak would look more imposing if it was exposed better, and most of this is due to the flat lighting. There is no real drama, nor majesty in it, and looking at your exif, the overexposure isn't deliberate, more a byproduct of the high dynamic range between the sky and the shadows.

This isn't 'high key'...for that you would need to lighten everything, including the shadows, making the scene predominantly pale and reducing the dynamic range. By making the grass dark and the sky white, you are effectively increasing the dynamic range, ie the opposite.

The foreground also looks so much sharper, if you wanted the peak to be the main subject, you'd be better making it the sharpest thing in the frame, unless the filter effect has affected it. I'd be wary of using effects for the sake of it, as they rarely improve an image unless you want a specific look.

Sorry, but I can't think of many occasions when a featureless white sky would look good in a landscape, and the person's shadow looks more like a mistake than deliberate. As above, a more recognisable shape would be better , but this scene would look so much better in more dramatic light.

Nick
20/05/2014 - 11:46 PM

Ignore The Cameras

Ignore The CamerasI'm going to have to disagree about the black and white, and in fact, about the figure contrasting with anything.
I like the idea, but the problem is that there is so much going on, and the wall is so bold, the guy gets a bit lost in the clutter. If he had been wearing bright clothes, he would have stood out, but as it is, my eyes wander around the frame looking for a definitive subject. He competes with the door, the lower window, the writing, the white square, the cameras and cables.....you get my point.

I tried cropping various ways, but none were really satisfactory, and I couldn't make the figure more prominent without losing what you saw in the scene in the first place.

The b&w mod still has the conflict between all the "different bold shapes", unfortunately there are too many. I think black and white can work well with this kind of image, but the boldness should be in the simplicity....paring down to basics to enable you to concentrate on a single subject, juxtaposition or composition. There is just too much detail to take in.

That said, there is a lot of street photography like this out there, and it's a perfectly valid shot, but you have to ask yourself what you are trying to say? What is the subject, the background, or the figure? It can't really be both.

Nick
04/05/2014 - 3:34 PM

Emily

EmilyA fairly standard pose, fairly well executed.

The shutter speed is not particularly important if you're using studio lights, as the brevity of the flash should freeze most motion, but it's the lighting which let's it down a little. The light on her near arm is way too bright, causing an almost posterised effect, whereas her hair is blending with the background. Unfortunately, the background is lit slightly and you can see different areas of tone, perhaps the edge of the backdrop?

Even if you want a dark feel, you still need to bring the model out of the background, usually by adding a small hairlight, or a reflector to add a very small amount of hair detail.
From the shadows, it looks like a large harsh light to the right at chest level, with a weaker fill to the left, and also the same height. The ratio is a bit too much, hence the blown arm in front, but nice shadows behind, so with this set up I'd suggest dropping the aperture to f/8-f/11, perhaps more. It's easier to tease out shadows than blown whites. You might also consider dropping the power of the key light by a stop too.

The background can be sorted in ps, but lighting more carefully should obviate the need. Just by turning the light away from it can make a big difference, especially with softboxes, and you also get to use the 'feather light' near the edge of the light's coverage, which is softer.

Little details are the key once you have the basics. Eg the creases in her skin behind her shoulder...easy to clone out, but that's one of the things that good models learn, to make the shapes but still keep the skin taut. It might feel slightly uncomfortable, but it looks better, especially around arms, shoulders and neck. Just by rolling her shoulder forwards slightly, those lines are eliminated, skin and material are stretched and the shoulders have a strong line across, rather than the slightly hunched shape you so often see.

Small details, but a good effort.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
12/03/2014 - 8:03 PM

FORK UP

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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
04/02/2014 - 11:58 PM

Sunrise...

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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick
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.

Nick