Save & earn with MPB; trade-in and buy pre-loved

Idle observations from inside the Critique Team


I make no great claims for my photography. But I do try very hard not to be boring.
Thanks for calling in. Moira
...Read More

Idle observations from inside the Critique Team

7 Jan 2015 11:39AM   Views : 635 Unique : 386

I've been on the Critique Team nearly two years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It's wonderful seeing people's enthusiasm blossom as they gain greater confidence and ability particularly new-comers to photography.

We do see a lot of the same problems repeated time and time again. They are part of the learning curve... I'm not a blogger by nature but I thought I would list the main problem / advice areas that I see. There is some overlap between these items!

So here are some of the things that I type regularly in the Critique Gallery... In weeks to come I shall go on to give some thoughts on the different subjects in question.

Take control! Your camera has a good brain but absolutely no imagination or initiative. Don't rely 100% on it to take the decisions. Get to understand the settings available, and use them to get the effect that you want.

Shutter speed: When hand-holding and / or when photographing a subject that isn't guaranteed to be static, keep your eye on shutter speed. It matters! It needs to be fast enough to prevent camera movement, and to prevent subject movement. Remember for example that if there is the slightest breath of wind, a flower on a thin stalk can travel a long way in 1/30 second. A young child can move even further...

Light is everything. Study it, understand it, work with it not against it. And accept that sometimes it just won't co-operate with what you want to do.

Black & white conversions: I'd advise against taking in-camera b&w; much better to convert later - it leaves all the options open, allows you to control the colour channels. Never assume that a perfect colour image will convert automatically to perfect b&w, in particular check the histogram afterwards.

Adding toning, eg a sepia effect, will always reduce the dynamic range - lighten blacks, darken whites. Check after adding toning and adjust light as needed.

Don't try to run before you can walk. Get to understand the basics how your camera settings work and what they do, and how to read and use the histogram, how to adjust the light in post-processing, before you start launching into special effects, filters, stitching panos etc.

Auto-focus: Never, ever, use a setting that gives you multiple focus points dotted over the screen. They should be banned! Use one point and use it carefully. Practise manual focusing when you have time to take it slowly and carefully, don't rush it.

Think about format / frame shape. I've read that 95% of pictures are reckoned to be taken landscape (horizontal) format. Don't forget portrait (vertical), think about the different ways the two work. And think about square crops.

Take time, don't rush the shot. Most subjects aren't going away in a hurry, and if you are waiting for a subject to appear in the frame (eg a passer-by), use the time to get prepared. If hand-holding, brace yourself solidly, feet a bit apart, elbows tucked in, holding the camera rock-steady. Think about your composition, your settings, what you want to achieve, before pressing the shutter button.

Allow space for your subject, think carefully about placement in the frame (don't just automatically plonk it down in the middle), think carefully about what cropping can add.

Composition isn't a pretentious arty-farty idea, it's vital it's about how the photographer communicates to the viewer. How we get people to actually look at our images.

Careful focus is always important. The shallower the depth of field, the more precise you need to be. Remember that when using a large aperture close up, just pre-focusing and then moving the camera slightly to recompose will knock the focus.

White balance isn't really my area but here goes: The disasters that I see, arising from inappropriate customised white balance settings, are far harder to sort out than auto white balance. Unless you understand manual white balance settings and monitor the results you are getting very carefully, I reckon it's safer to stick to auto and adjust later. Which leads on to...

Raw: If you are not using Raw, aim to get to grips with it. It's worth it for the additional data it gives you to play with - particularly when you are coping with difficult lighting conditions.

Beware of over-sharpening. Get the image sharp in the camera to start with (careful focus plus adequate shutter speed); add a bit of sharpening after down-sizing for uploading to the web, but keep it discreet. Watch out for textures that start to break away from the surface, little lines that look too hard, diagonal edges that acquire a stepped edge.

And enjoy what you do. It's not actually a matter of life and death...

Tags: Critique Critique gallery Critique Team

Recent blogs by mrswoolybill

Litter - the community can fight back...

Discussion on a recent upload reminded me yet again that if there is one non-photographic subject guaranteed to get people agitated here it is litter. It's a problem that is constantly evolving but never improving. We live in a throw-away culture...

Posted: 28 Jan 2017 5:31PM

Community Photography

Bear with me for a bit, I'll come to the point eventually... Some years ago, a Newcastle businessman called John Moreels, last in line in the old family firm of Ward Philipson Printers, was in the process of retiring and selling up the business prem...

Posted: 17 Jan 2016 11:24AM

Long-sightedness and a steep learning curve

A New Year, a new toy. I have been thinking for a long time about getting a compact camera, something neat and convenient, to fit in my handbag. I've seen Bill with his Emergency Lumix, and how he gets pictures that I miss out on. The D7000 is ser...

Posted: 1 Jan 2016 9:23AM

Idle thoughts addenda...

What seems like an age ago, but was actually less than a fortnight, I listed some of the things that we find ourselves typing on a regular basis in the Critique Gallery. I managed to omit quite a lot. Here are a few more, in random order: You we...

Posted: 18 Jan 2015 11:04AM

7 The Notorious Rule of Thirds....

Photography has its Rules. Do a Google search and you will find lists... The most frequently quoted is The Rule of Thirds, which says - Divide the frame up into nine equal rectangles using two horizontal and two vertical lines, and aim to place your ...

Posted: 16 Jan 2015 3:30PM


JJGEE Avatar
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
7 Jan 2015 12:29PM
Excellent Blog Moira. Smile

Even though I have been around a few years I found it interesting and look forward to picking up a few tips / refresh my memory with your blogs over the coming weeks.

There are a couple of points on which I have different thoughts / approach, I guess that is to be expected, but one thing is for sure and we all agree on is your closing sentence.

If you are not enjoying the photography then that WILL show up and be obvious in your images Sad
mrswoolybill Avatar
mrswoolybill Plus
17 4.9k 2655 United Kingdom
7 Jan 2015 12:35PM
Thanks - hey, this is a whole new area of the site that I've scarcely ever looked at!
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
7 Jan 2015 10:52PM
From nearly as far inside the Critique Team, I know just how heartfelt some of these points are!

I've been on the Team less than a year, but I've formed some terribly solid opinions based on an awful lot of pictures. And a lot of awful pictures.

Sometimes, the posters read what we write, and learn: others... Don't. Sometimes I wish we could issue photographic ASBOs...

We all try to be nice, really. The question that comes into my mind, sometimes, is why someone posts something in a gallery that is very similar to what they've put there before, and appear not to have noticed that several people (both Critique Team and others) have bothered to share thoughts which they have blanked completely...

It's fine that people disagree with some or all of us. But plaease (if you're reading this!) say why, and accept that if you do the same again, we will probably think the same again. And possibly type it into a comments box.

The world is a big place, and EPZ is quite an extensive site. There's room for softness and sharpness: for the Tone Range Police, and the minimalists. We're willing ot go on learning: but not to be told off for doing our (voluntary) job. For the time we put into this we get... Free E2 membership!

Good stuff, Moira! With Willie's blog of technical stuff, this covers so much of what we type.
JJGEE Avatar
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
8 Jan 2015 8:27AM

Quote:With Willie's blog of technical stuff

I do not recall seeing any blog of technical stuff.... where is it ?
mrswoolybill Avatar
mrswoolybill Plus
17 4.9k 2655 United Kingdom
8 Jan 2015 8:44AM
Link to Willie's blog. It was a one-off to give advice to CG newcomers and we sometimes point people towards it. We should do so more often.

Quote:Photographic ASBOs...

I like it... Wink
TanyaH Avatar
TanyaH Plus
20 1.3k 411 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2015 9:51AM
This is good, solid advice (for all levels); it's well written, clear and concise with a hint of humour (okay, maybe more than a hint, and that's good too Smile). Being someone who is slowly working my way into the depths of the critique team from the perimeter and only having been doing it for a couple of months, I do sometimes find that I'll look at an image and hit a wall as to what to say. Sometimes, I can't see anything wrong with an image presented in the critique gallery and think "yep, I'd have liked to have taken that one myself" ... so find it difficult to 'critique' something - particularly on the technical aspects where I don't feel that my own knowledge, such as it is, can contribute much for the original photographer. But, being on the team makes me feel as though I have to say something ... and I have been known, on the odd occasion, to actually say that I wouldn't change a thing! It kind of feels wrong saying that, but that's the honest truth!

The advice above is valuable, basic stuff that I think everyone needs to keep in mind. Having the techniques in the back of your mind when actually taking photos is one thing; putting them firmly into practice in a disciplined, thoughtful and creative way is sometimes harder. I get so excited sometimes with the actual creative soup that is my brain, when faced with something I'm trying to capture, common sense can go out of the window Grin

"Light is everything" ... so very true. It'd be pretty dark without it and this is probably the one most important line for me in the above.

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
9 Jan 2015 5:25PM
"Drawing with light"...

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.