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03/07/2008 - 4:19 PM


OutsideThis is a good informal portrait that juxtaposes hard and soft. The brickwork makes an excellent backdrop to the soft white skin of the model. The skin in your rendition was fairly grey in colour and did not create an impression of feminine softness, for me, because tonally, it was too near the colour of the lighter bricks.

The amount of dark space, to the right of the model, would just possibly have been acceptable if she was very light in tone and you had created an effect of light within darkness (chiaroscuro). The window leading to the vignette where it fades into darker tones, is a competing area of interest and I opted to crop it. I also darkened the lightest brickwork a little because it is a competitive highlight that draws the eye away from the subject.

The heavy crescent-shaped shadow, under your model's chin, could have done with lightening. A reflector held just out of frame (possibly by your model) would have thrown some additional light into problem shadow areas and your model would have had a softer looking face.

The under-arm area needs to be minimised or made to look more attractive. Had the model placed her arm gently by her side (or at a less extreme angle) her armpit would have been less visible.

Overall... this is a very good documentary portrait. It contained a few distractions like the window, the large dark area and some competing highlights. You have used the wide aperture of your lens very well... to isolate the model from the brickwork and her eyes are sharp. She was rendered a little dark for my taste and the heavy shadow detail under her chin, needs to be addressed in future images.

Your portfolio shows that you have excellent skills with a camera. The darkening of images at the corners is one technique for bringing the viewer's attention to the subject. It will not suit subjects where there are too many composition elements in the frame. I really liked the image "*" and it demonstrates that you have no difficulty with 'seeing', photographically. I look forward to seeing more of your intriguing work.

01/07/2008 - 9:57 AM


portraitThis is a fairly flattering, relaxed and informal pose and it shows your model off to good advantage. The lighting is good and the exposure is fine. The plane of sharpness is also good. What is 'wrong' with this image is that the colour balance is incorrect and the result is that there is a strong red/magenta cast to this image.

While I can and do accept that the model's hair may be the precise colour which you have depicted, her face certainly wont be that colour. The iris colour looks to be veiled (obscured by the colour cast) and the whites of the eye contain rather too much red.

The models clothing looks to be far too close in colour, to that of the wall behind her, while the light coloured trimming probably ought to be much nearer to white. There is a clue in that all of the colours in your image appear to have been taken from the same portion of the colour palette.

In cases of colour problems, it is instructive to look at the relevant RGB histograms... not just the luminance histogram which shows you a brightness value for every pixel in the image. Looking at the histogram, separately for each of the RGB colour components, is a simple way to detect errors of colour balance.

You will see (from my modifications) that none of the histograms demonstrate that your image contains pixels that hold the full range of available tones. This is why the image looks as if the colours are all wrong. The existing tones and luminance values have been wrongly ascribed brightness and tonal values that did not exist at the time you pressed the shutter release.

it is likely that if your post processing addressed this single issue, that your posted image would have been excellent. I have subtly softened some of the lines that we see and interpret as signs of age and provided a little sharpening too. The lines that are the most difficult to deal with are the folds of skin on the rights side of the image frame at the model's neck.

When posing a model, it is important to put the body into naturally elegant positions. This lady would have had long and elegant neck lines, had you just stood on a chair so that she was looking up at you. A tilt of the head is also a visual cue for femininity and it would have help this composition to feel more complementary to your model.

The crop i have chosen is very similar to your own but I have removed the small amount of skin at the bottom left hand side of the image frame. It is one lest distraction and the observer has nowhere else to look other than your subject. Overall, it is a good image that has been affected by the suppression of the full tonal range. The false colour, once removed, was hiding an image that is a good view of the sitter and conveys something of her personality. Well done!

Your portfolio demonstrates your developing skills and I look forward to seeing more of your work. I particularly liked your framing of Jon and it demonstrates a good photographic eye.

28/06/2008 - 2:04 PM

Artist Place du Tertre

Artist Place du TertreThis is a charming image. It is rather low resolution and the pixels fall apart when adjustments are made so I have limited them to the single highlight/shadow adjustment tool in Photoshop. It has helped to balance the very bright highlights with the very dark shadows. There is far more shadow detail to be extracted from this image than your post would suggest.

Bright sunlight produces very strong shadow detail with lots of contrast. A flash unit is your friend here. It will lift the shadow detail and put catch-lights into the eyes of your subjects. Use a flash unit set to exposure compensation of -1 (fill-flash if you have such a setting) which is 1 f stop under the camera's own meter reading.

You've used a focal length of 35mm to create this image and that will approximate to a standard angle of view on a dSLR with a sensor that has a FOV crop. Nikon sensors are typically, 1.5 times the angle of view of the lens in use. The perspective is nice and natural and the tight crop works for me in this composition because it establishes and confirms the link between the artist and her easel, as well as the work on it.

The aperture was f7.1 (not far from the optimum for the lens) and it was sufficient for front to back sharpness for your subject matter at this size. The ISO of 200 is a little more than necessary, for the prevailing lighting conditions, but I believe that Nikon don't offer a lower setting on some of their dSLRs. the shutter speed of 1/200 was good enough for this focal length but I cannot address any sharpness or focus issues on this image as it is breaking down due to the very low resolution.

I love the documentary feel to this image and the typically gallic woman that is portrayed (complete with Gitane?) I commend the work of Robert Doisneau to you. If you can address the post capture processing issues, then this is, indeed, an image to cherish. More please!

28/06/2008 - 1:30 PM

Womans Work

Womans WorkThis is a delightful informal portrait. The composition is very good and the log that the foreground character is sitting on, makes for a feature that leads the eye into the frame, especially when combined with the large log at his feet. Having the tribesman's wife in the background says something about the relationship between the couple (albeit unintentionally) and it provides an insight into the local society and their social mores. It is a good documentary image and leaves me wanting to find out more and to see more images from the island of Siberut. Well done!

Photographically, I opened up the shadow detail with a little adjustment of the highlight and shadow tool in Photoshop. It helped to balance the tonal values between shadow and highlight, in my opinion. it also gave a slight lift to the colours, especially browns and greens and I was able to lift the contrast slightly. The effect of that small contrast lift was enhanced by a gentle application of some unsharp masking to sharpen some details. (see modified image)

Overall... the crop was perfect for my tastes. I like the documentary feel to the image and it was well composed. Good work! I look forward to seeing more in this series.

27/06/2008 - 11:02 PM

Sunset over Rutland Water

Sunset over Rutland WaterA good number of helpful comments here. Despite being late to the party, I am offering my 0.02 as well. Wink

It is a well seen image and sunset scenes tend to be a perennial favourite of photographers everywhere. I agree with sherlob and found the sky bringing a little too much weight to the composition. Central subject matter is not something I would recommend so I have to disagree with stevieasp. (sorry steve! Sad )

Most of the interest is in the right hand edge of the frame. The building, the jetty and the tree. The left hand side of the image frame adds very little to the composition and I judged that the image could survive without a chunk of the left hand side.

My modified image demonstrates the differences. YMMV Wink
Opened the shadows a littel so that detail in the building is more readily discerned. Lightened the weight of the shadow detail in the cloud-scape. Positioned the sun to a place we are all likely to be familiar with. It provides a natural point to rest... for the eye leaving the frame, after it has followed the foreground information into the scene. The clouds no longer overpower the image.

Please feel free to disagree. Smile

27/06/2008 - 10:29 PM

Old barn

Old barnThis is an image that has insufficient information and so it is very dark and lacking in vibrant colour or contrast. The tonal range is excessively compressed. (please see the histogram that has been uploaded) It shows that there were 139 points of tonal information that were available but could not be used because of the distance of the white point from the edge of the histogram.

More tones equates to a greater variety of detail information because of the ability of the pixels to take different colours. The pixels at the white end of the histogram hold many more levels of light than at the black end of the histogram so you are (potentially) throwing away far more information if you do not permit the image to use all of the available tonal information.

The first modified image after the histogram, is exactly what the image you had posted looked like with only the white point adjustment having been made. It is a vastly different image. It has the look of an old hand-painted image. Older images were all monochrome and had to be hand tinted. I used to enjoy using various dyes and building up layers of almost transparent colour, directly onto the negative or print.

The second modified image is my attempt to show you what a hand-tinted image felt like. The image is much smaller than I like to work with but I offer it as a starting point. Pastel shades and muted colours were much sought after. I used a method of simply masking the image and applying the colour in colour mode, directly onto the mask. I first draw the various selections with the polygonal lasso tool and saved each of the selections.

Your image is probably far too small to be an effective representation of a barn. There is too much sky, and too much foreground. You should not give the observer anywhere else to look but the subject. My final modified image is a suggested crop and it should help you to see what was important within the image frame.

Your portfolio shows that you are thinking photographically. I particularly liked your harbour image. Keep shooting because the more you learn, the more you will be able to bend light to your will. Smile

27/06/2008 - 1:52 PM

The Indians

The IndiansI really like this image a lot. The depth of field and the expressions on the faces has provided a huge amount of interest. The impression is that of being very close to a crowd... walking through a group of people who are walking in the opposite direction.

The monochromatic treatment helps to define and refine the graphic elements of this image. I am less sure about the tonal compression in the image. The beard is devoid of detail and the whites of the eyes of the tall, in focus face, in the middle distance on the left side of the frame, are not especially white.

The colour is dark enough to sit somewhere between zone 2 & 3 (red X) when in ought to be around somewhere around zone 8 (green X) on the provided modified zone system exposure scale. The clipping shows the values for RGB and the red box shows roughly the area used to measure the values. The box is drawn larger than real life so that it is easier to see. All of these RGB values would be far too low for the whites of eyes.

My frustration with this image is that as a composition, it is outstanding. As a technical work, it falls short of outstanding. I desperately wanted to see a more graphic representation so that is the modification I have chosen to produce. Please feel free to disagree. Smile

Overall... A really outstanding composition that required some additional technical twiddling. I would suggest that shadow detail should not (as a general rule) be purchased at the expense of the available highlight detail. In other words, try not to compress the tonal range... but give emphasis to the tonal values you want to draw attention to, by exposing correctly and placing them carefully. I hope to see more work of this calibre.

26/06/2008 - 12:58 AM


RuthI believe that semi-pro photographers will know what they are trying to achieve so I will begin, without preamble. You had set yourself a tough brief for this image. On balance, it does not work for me in suggesting the images of the Pre-Raphaelites. The provided web address is to an image by Dante Rosetti, who was one of the prime movers in the creation of the Pre-Raphaelite school of art.


How does your image stack up? The lighting has not assisted you to demonstrate a porcelain skin... rather it has washed out the texture of the skin and the delicate nature of this lady's complexion cannot be seen. Any change in the tonality of her skin, leaves her looking decidedly unwell.

The eye liner is too heavily applied and the merest suggestion of a liner would have accentuated Ruth's eyes. They look half closed and the obvious bags under them do nothing to enhance the notion that this is a delicate creature who has been sensitively portrayed. The shadows in the eye sockets are indication that you need to work to get your lighting spread evenly. Reflectors and gobos are your friends in this case.

The wide smile is acceptable for a simple portrait but it does not fit with the pre-Raphaelite idealisation of women. The hair, while very nicely trimmed, is not right for the scene you were hoping to re-create. Prop wigs or hiring the pros you need would have helped you address that issue.

The lighting on the right side of the image frame has illuminated the face to the point of highlight destruction. It has also placed a noticeable broad band of light along that entire edge of Ruth's clothing while a similar effect can be seen on the clothing of her forearm in the left of the image frame. the suggestion is that the light was too strong and more care with the pose and the lighting placement as well as the strength of illumination; would have eliminated the issue.

The jewellery (crucifix?) draws the eye and it would have been far easier to promote an image that had no distractions for the mind. It is the simple images that take the longest to set up. Anything that impinges on the integrity of the image (and the believability of the illusion created by the photographer) is likely to make your image harder to understand and by extension, we often do not like things that we cannot understand.

Overall, it is a pleasant enough image that suffers from a few technical issues. It is over-lit, in my opinion, and the model's face runs counter to what I would have expected to see, given your explanation of the image.

I would like to see you produce a better image than this one. If you shoot from above Ruth's eye level, she will tilt her head upwards, which will giver her an elegant swan-like neck and her eyes will show canals of white beneath the irises. This always looks very alluring in females.

This is a very good image but is misses the mark which you had set for yourself.

Dingle Tower at Night--Deep SepiaI have looked at both this image and the one you referred to. It's tough for the impartial observer to appreciate what you were hoping to achieve with this image (deep sepia toning aside). The title of the image gives no clue to people who do not happen to know where this object can be seen. Without additional information, the observer is left saying "I see" and moving on.

for an image to touch people, it has to have more than the personal connection with people you know as the subjects or places you happened to be. You ought to know what made you trip the shutter release when you saw this object? It is not obvious to the casual observer as to the reason for the very existence of this image.

To ask the question, "is this is a good image", is to miss the point of photography. whether we construe images as high art or transient slivers of time, is something that depends on the fashions of the moment. Within its own context, this is a really fine image... but I suspect that you wont see it as such. It may have sated a temporary desire of your own, to capture the moment, so you pressed the shutter release but the probability is that now you are not really satisfied with the image.

Why would that be the case? You say that you loved the shot "because the eerie light coming from the window gave it a gothic look." You have then posted a revision with the ascription tacked on at the end... "hope this version is better". Good photography derives from knowledge, skills and experience. Hope is not a weapon in the armoury of photographers.

I like the idea of framing the building with the trees, and to some extent they do provide some of that eerie atmosphere. The original image makes more out of the light of from the windows (being coloured it stands out from the lighter pools of light.) The blue background in the original image has created an apparent sharpness increase because of the effect of colour on differential contrast. Contrast is how sharpness is accentuated.

There is no ExiF info to be gleaned from the downloaded images and my suspicion is that the shutter speed was too slow for you to hold the camera. I don't believe that this is a case of an image that is wildly out of focus. Just about all modern cameras have implemented the AF trick really well. As nothing is sharp, it is safe to assume that the culprit of the blurring that is seen throughout the image is due to camera shake, no doubt exacerbated by a slow shutter speed.

Learning to hold the camera steady at the moment of exposure is essential skill for you, if more of your work is not to be compromised by camera shake. Without a clear point of focus, the observer can only guess at the purpose behind this image. The eyes rove around the image frame and do not come to rest because there is no sharp point for them to rest upon. This is exhausting for the viewer and your image will be labelled as bad, because of it.

Is there anything to that can be fixed in the current offering? The histogram points to severe tonal compression with 85 points of adjustment available to the right of the right-hand edge of the histogram. some selective and very extreme sharpening has revealed a bit of pattern in the brickwork. I have opened up the histogram to show you the full range of tonal variation that is available from this image.

I changed the colour of the building so that it would stand out a little more from the general sepia colour. and added some contrast to all of the objects in the image frame. In my opinion, you should revisit the scene and try to create better images than this one. This image will have you sitting in front of an image editor for at least 10 times the amount of time it would take you to go an re-shoot the image.

A good skill to develop is not to get too attached to an image, so that only you can see its inner beauty, harmony, ethos &c for that way lies the isolation that comes from enjoying your own work but being unable to get others to see what you do.

I had a long look at your portfolio and you are more than capable of producing excellent quality work, of which, the wild white rose image is just one good example. Revisit an image or a place where you were unable to capture the essence (this is one of those images) and ruthlessly cull images that will drain your time with no end result. This is one of those images. Your emotional investment in this image will be replaced by genuine joy when you capture what you wanted to.

Overall, the idea was good but the technical issues have pulled the image down to the point where I believe it would be more productive for you to re-shoot the scene. Your other work suggests that you can do a much better job than this one. The modified image will give you some sense of the words of the critique. Keep shooting because the best of your skills remains to be discovered.

25/06/2008 - 5:35 PM

Hartside Bothy

Hartside BothyYou have listed yourself as a semi-pro so I will dive straight in... all of the elements for a good image are in the image frame. Stormy skies, open country side, isolated house and none of the signs of modern living, such as satellite dishes, cars and TFV aerials.

The ratio of sky to land is about right. The land in the foreground is not especially interesting and does not lead they eye into the image. I would have chosen to exclude most of the foreground while keeping the stormy cloudscape.

The position of the building is not quite in harmony with the amount of empty space. The diagonal line is quite a good device to lead the eye to the house and I cropped the image in a way to achieve that end so that you could see what I mean. I have made the house more of a middle foreground item so that I could convey the threat inherent in the gathering clouds. (making the composition somewhat 'top-heavy', with more prominence given to the sky, is one way to assist that impression)

The line of dark hills may have served to separate the sky and the land but it is devoid of detail. I had a look at the histogram for the downloaded image and was surprised to see the fairly compressed tonal range. The black point was subject to severe clipping and the white point was 70 points away from the edge of the histogram. It would seem to have occurred because you wanted to get some shadow detail in the image, to suggest the impending storm perhaps?

It is a generally accepted maxim, that the easiest method of reproducing what you have captured, is to permit it to be expressed via a full range of tonal values. Compression of the available tones is a sure method of reducing contrast, detail and tonal interest. Images need shadow and highlight details to describe what we are hoping to capture with our fundamental tool - light.

1. histogram adjusted to reflect the whole of the available tonal range.
2. Image cropped to remove excessive foreground and to give the eye a starting point that will lead it to the house. Additionally, to make the composition 'top-heavy' so that the gathering storm assumed the most importance.
3. Highlight/shadow adjustment to put more detail into the hills on the horizon.
4. Selective darkening of sky to produce more definition and sculpting of clouds (improving the 3D quality in appearance).
5. Toning to provide interest as well as letting some tones become fairly dark, while still showing detail) and keeping a sense of lightness in the highlight details. (to accentuate the whitewashed house and produce a luminous quality, while preserving the lightness of open country.

Overall... I could not appreciate the very dark tones, while I found the scene to be evocative. The foreground was vying for my attention and the sharp grasses were begging my brain to try and make sense of what it was seeing.

The scene was capable of engendering thoughts about the spirit and strengths of men who live in such a location. The technical issues conspired to prevent me dwelling on the finer thoughts that would accompany a scene like this, if I was lucky enough to have this one outside my bedroom window.

I think that the most valuable lesson which you can take from this critique is that you should let your images breathe. Try not to suffocate them by restricting the range of tones, in an effort to create a dark, foreboding sort of atmosphere.

I think you do have a keen eye for an image and I would be delighted to see more work of this type, from you. It could well have been an outstanding image but the technical issues have pulled it down to very good. Keep shooting!
24/06/2008 - 8:40 PM

Brighton Pavilion

Brighton PavilionWhat a nice notion... an exotic looking backdrop, which can be found in Brighton, UK. Full marks for having the idea and bringing it to a conclusion.

Extensive image editing has left the image somewhat bereft of the things that photographers would, generally speaking, like to see. tonal gradation, a full range of tones, and light describing the shape of things and supplying the modelling and plasticity for us to turn a 2D medium into a good representation of a 3D scene.

The tones (which remain in this image) have been subject to heavy posterisation (reduced to a small number of colours) and much of the available detail has been lost in the process. Even at the dead of night, on a moon-less night, there is some detail in objects that can still be seen, once night vision has become available to the observer.

The inky blackness of the tops of the buildings in the image frame, suggests that this is a postcard that has been drawn, rather than a photograph. If it was your intention to create this look, then you are to be congratulated because it has been very well done. if you wanted an image that was more photographic than this one, then you could use less image-editing and more exposure control.

The composition is ok. I think the branch of a tree at the right of the image frame, is unhelpful and does not add anything to your composition. The Rest of the image needs some help to escape from the constraints of modern architecture, as defined by the stacks of chimney tops on the left of the frame. I would also crop the object next to the tower on the left of the image. Along with that, it is possible to remove the chimney stack at the base of two towers and the rectangular shape that is inboard of the first tower on the left. Finally, picking the centre of the large round tower as the right-hand edge of the image frame.

I have lightened the detail slightly (too much reveals the posterised details) so as to provide the audience with more to look at by adding a bit more interest. Is this a complete silhouette? What is that detail trying to reveal?

For a first posting, it is intriguing that you have produced a very good piece of work. With some attention to the technical production details, it would have been excellent. I look forward to seeing more of your ideas expressed as images.

23/06/2008 - 12:19 AM

colour balance

colour balance
Quote: I've played around with the colour balance and wonder whether to adjust the picture for either more cyan, more green or more yellow.

You are considering colour adjustments from two different systems. RGB is what you see on your monitor and it is a colour set that is vibrant and trans-illuminated. CMYK is how a printer deals with colour and it is viewed by reflected light. In Photoshop, press (CTRL + Y) on a PC or (⌘ + Y) on a Mac, to get an idea of what your image will look like when printed. (printing always uses CMYK colour set regardless of what is said)

As you are not sure about the colour balance of the image, can you say what you think is not right. when you use your camera, how do you normally set it. What is the colour temperature of the RAW image data file? (in degrees Kelvin)

Balancing colour derives from knowing what you want to achieve in the first place. Midday daylight has a little blue in it but for normal purposes it is reckoned to be 5500 K. All flash units are balanced for somewhere around 5500 K. This looks like a flash illuminated image so the correct colour balance will be found at 5500 K. If you are using ACR in Photoshop or Lightroom or any other well configured RAW developer (assuming you shoot RAW) it is trivial to move the slider for colour temperature until you reach 5500 K. All of the colours will look true then.

Your image looked a little too warm to my eye (look at the blue flower and the skin tones) The modification is cooler with enhanced greens and blues and realistic skin tones with darker hair. Both my web browser and my monitor are colour aware and balanced. You may not see what I do.

20/06/2008 - 10:49 PM

Fiery Sunrise

Fiery SunriseI love the idea behind this image. The yellow light of the sunrise and the near silhouette of the jetty. Great elements that work really well together. I think the image just missed being outstanding for me.

I feel that there are far too many elements within the image frame and the eye flits from the jetty to the tree on the right, to the sunlight just emerging through the cloud-scape then back again to the grassy bank, then to the tree on the left and on to the objects that jut out of the water and then back to the land-mass to the left of the image frame.

The composition needs a little more coherence, in my opinion. I cannot tell whether it was the light that attracted you to the scene or that you thought the general scene looked great in the early sunrise light. Perhaps it was the jetty that first caught your eye and encouraged you to press the shutter release. In any event, the lack of clarity has translated itself to the image and that is what appears to cause the impartial observer to feel little more than pleased to have viewed the image, in some vague sort of way.

If the imaging of the the jetty was your purpose, you could have been nearer to your target. It is reflecting the light very well and would have made an excellent study on its own. The bank is not adding to the composition and the trees don't really frame the jetty. I think that I probably would have been tempted to move to the left (avoiding the tree) but leaving an opportunity for a letterbox crop of a glowing sky and a slightly reflective jetty in a corner of the composition.

I have included a crop I would have considered, in your position. The image is weakened by not being sharp but it may give you a feel for where I am trying to go with the image. the plane of sharpness is in the middle distance and that indicates that it was the general scene that had attracted you to make the image. If the sky was the primary element that made you want to press the shutter release, I think you may have done it more justice by finding a clear part of the view to create the image as a fiery skyscape with some feature like a small land-mass, to the left of the image frame, included for scale.

Overall, despite issues of sharpness and there being a lot of disparate elements in the image, it is a pleasant image with really vibrant colours. It could possibly do with a little less sky and it just misses being really excellent. With some consideration given to the technical issues raised, it would would merit being called outstanding.

Full marks for being up at the crack of dawn, and with a camera. The sun rises quickly so you would have had to work fast to capture this rather special lighting. Good capture! I look forward to seeing more of your work.
19/06/2008 - 9:15 PM

Clumber Meadow

Clumber MeadowWow! A lot of mods here. A fine testimony to a beautiful girl in an idyllic setting. I like this treatment, where the soft plant life provides a context for the subject. I feel that there is probably too much of that soft background context although in one sense, it can be difficult to discern where it should start and end.

One has to look quite hard for the blue toning and i have my doubts about how useful it is, in the sense of is it providing any additional role, to this simple composition. This is an RGB image, rather than a monochrome image that has been given a duotone treatment... which may have made for a toning treatment that was more well defined.

The presentation of children's images with heavy black bars worries me a little. It can often appear heavy-handed (albeit unintentionally) and almost funereal in its application. I would usually favour a 2 pixel grey sight line around most images because it is just noticeable and provides a boundary to stop the eye leaving the image frame. It also lets the observer decide what to make of the image.

If this were my image I would lose the heavy black bars, which add nothing to your composition, other than the possibility of the image being a memorial. Such a vital and happy child deserves a presentation more in keeping with young hope, in my opinion.

This is a subject that could have used some additional light on the face to lift some of the heavy shadows under your daughter's chin and especially her face, which (on her right side) is rather dark. Using a digital colour meter I was able to measure the white of the eye that is most visible as 46 ~ 59 (white is 255) and the hidden eye at 9 ~ 14. This equates to tonal values equating to the 2nd and the 4th shadow tones from the right, on the grey scale at the foot of the page.

Fill flash at 3/4 of an f stop under your metered exposure would have assisted in preserving that which can properly be called highlight detail. The exposure is off in the sense of the burnt out highlights on the knees and the visible 'T' shirt sleeve. Incident exposure meters are very good at resolving this exposure problem. In the absence of fill flash, your daughter could have tilted her head upwards, enough to light her face more, and she would have displayed more full catch-lights.

The histogram displayed some clipping of the highlight and the shadow detail that fits with the burnt highlights and overly dark facial features. (see histogram mod) I have cropped the image to help the observer see the main subject more easily - I removed the competitive highlight of the grass on the hair to the left of your daughter's angelic face - lightened the image and changed the contrast, with the inevitable highlight destruction.

A raw image would be far more amenable to highlight recovery techniques than this low resolution jpeg image. I also added a blue tone to the image after turning it into a grey-scale image. You may not like what I have done here and you may disagree with the points I have raised. (see mod)

Your portfolio contains some excellent images and although the subject matter is undeniably worthwhile, the technical execution does not reach the standard that you can so obviously reach. Without a visceral connection to the person depicted, it is difficult for the impartial observer to derive the same degree of joy from the image. I do hope you will revisit this delightful child and this type of scene.

19/06/2008 - 7:26 PM


ClydeI love the atmosphere of this image. I am not so keen on the colour image because it adds nothing particular and distracts the eye from the graphic qualities inherent in the image composition. For my personal taste, there is just a little too much sky and I found the composition to the right of the lake a bit of an addition that was not essential to the feel of the image.

I cropped the image, having adjusted the contrast a tad, opened the foreground shadow detail a little, toned the image with a little dark brown and added some strength to the aerial perspective of the mound in the lake and the hills behind so that there was a clearer differential between the different object distances.

Good work and another excellent image that wont be lonely in your impressive portfolio.

18/06/2008 - 5:14 PM

There By The Grace Of God v2

There By The Grace Of God v2I was not too sure about the presentation of this image. I asked myself what it would mean to the impartial observer... without the title to point them to the context with which you wanted the image to be considered. Think about what you would think about this scene, if you saw the image for the first time and it had no title to influence your perceptions.

It would not be overstating the case if one were to say that this image is too dark. The white point was too far from the edge of the histogram. If the histogram of every element but the sky was taken, then extreme tonal compression was present with the white point being 110 points too far from the edge of the histogram. (see modification)

I selected the sky and saved the selection. I dragged the darker sky from your image into my lightened one (making the sky a little lighter) and increased the saturation to get some colour into the grass. All of the shadow detail in the trees and among the headstones has been opened in the image modification that I have posted.

I hope that you will revisit this cemetery and find another way to express the thought that you have embodied in the title of this scene. You have an intriguing portfolio. I really liked image '9 going on 16' (the 1st variation) which shows you have a really keen eye for a good image and some excellent skills. You can do so much better than this image, which is little more than a scene with the highlights removed.

17/06/2008 - 7:26 AM

corinne after school

corinne after schoolThis informal portrait was created with manual exposure, 55mm, f/4.8 and ISO 2500 and you list yourself as semi-pro. The tonal range is compressed to the extent that this image has clipped shadow details and it has not made use of 75 points of available detail in the highlights. (see histogram image) The resulting image has a surfeit of dark and heavy shadow detail that is not usually associated with female humans, unless portraying gothic, horror or theatrical scenes. The shadow details are merging with each other and it is difficult to discern where Corinne's clothing ends and sofa cushions and background begin. The hair is also not well separated from the background.

The highlight detail is burnt out on the brightly lit side of Corrine's face, to which you can attribute the loss of skin texture and detail. The high ISO setting has produce a noisy image that may have worked well with a carefully placed set of tonal values. Look at the shadow detail by your subject's ear and the noise is apparent. Having an ear that is not really visibly attached to the face it belongs to is something that does not belong in portraiture of children. The shadow extends from the ear onto the side of her face just below her cheekbone and leaves a diagonal line of darker shadow that looks very odd and suggests a lot of fat is hanging off her face. It is probably not the case but it looks rather unflattering.

Anyone with children will recognise the 'leave me alone' look of young people who are growing rapidly and hard to please. It is likely that when Corrine is grown up, she will not want to show this image to any other person because it does not portray her as an interesting person. Apparently bored and fed-up, she almost certainly did not want to have this image created.

The lighting is a bit of a puzzle in this image but given the location of a room with a TV, it is difficult to believe the light is natural. If the highlight was caused by sunlight then the strength of the light needed to burn out the highlights on one side of the face, should have produced very heavy shadows on the other side of the face. If one was watching TV, I don't think they would want to sit with direct sunlight on their face, to this extent. The double catch-lights, in the closest eye, suggest that artificial light was used here. It could account for the shadow detail on the nearest side of the nose being too light for the apparent strength of light on the burnt out side of the face. The notion is supported by the manual exposure, which is far easier to manage with artificial lighting.

The bracelet looks a bit odd and rather incongruous... almost as if it does not belong in this image. The dark line that is bordering the bracelet on its near side, the angle from the point where it changes direction and along the top, strongly suggests that it has been added afterwards because the line does not vary in density. The furthest portion of the bracelet appears to be too sharply defined against the clothing. It may just be a trick of the lighting you have here. The bracelet is rather obvious and does not look like the sort of jewellery that would be permitted at a school that has a uniform. Did Corrine put the bracelet on after returning from school just before settling down to watch TV? The bracelet ought to be casting some sort of shadow (given the shadow devolving from the first piece of ruffled sleeve on Corrine's arm) and yet, it doesn't.

All in all, the image is a bit of a puzzle. On its own, it is an image that Corrine wont thank you for creating. It can do with some additional attention to the technical details. Tighter control over the lighting and the choice of tonal range is likely to produce images that attract other people. If the observer does not know the subject, the image is unlikely to encourage a second look. This image could be greatly improved by separating the subject from the background. I am very careful not to depict people in this type of faux reportage style because it is a form of snooping and we have more than enough CCTV presence in the UK. As a single image, this one does not do anything for me. If it was part of a series of images that documented say... a week in Corrine's life then it would have a place as a composition but not on technical merit.

Your portfolio shows that you have an eye for an image and the technical ability to produce what you want. The Coniston image shows restraint, good graphic design awareness and a keen sense of colour. I look forward to seeing more of your images at that technical level.

16/06/2008 - 4:58 AM

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock CastleThat's a nice location. I like this image because it is steeped in history. It summons up images of builders looking at the water and working at solving the problems that go with choosing to build a castle in that spot.

It is good to see that you made the main subject dominate the image frame. That wide angle lens has distorted the building if you look at both of the towers on the edges of the building, you will see that they appear to be leaning inwards. Try to ensure that the back of the camera body is vertical with the subject and you can avoid the problem. If you look through the viewfinder when you have that wide lens attached and zoomed to the wide end, as you tilt the body of the camera forward and backward, you will notice that the alignment of verticals in the image frame will change.

My solution was to crop the image in Photoshop, CS version, which has a perspective tool that can be used when cropping. This tool was able to straighten the two leaning towers that had offended my eyes. I also removed the grass in the foreground because I felt it added nothing to the composition... we all know that dry land surrounds water and there was not enough grass to lead the eye into the image frame.

The histogram revealed some clipping of the white point and your cloud detail bears that out in that much of the white parts of cloud contains no detail because it is burnt out. I was able to recover some of the detail and I have no doubt that the RAW file will give up some more detail if you reduce the exposure value by up to an f stop.

My suspicion is that the camera was biased towards the vast expanse of sky, when you had metered this scene. I would not use a camera meter with a wide angle lens mounted. It is including the whole scene within its 'vision' and then averaging what it sees to approximate to 18% grey. If you do not have a hand-held exposure meter or a spot meter (often selective area metering of 5% in a camera body is referred to as 'spot') then metering off of a surface like grass will get you an approximation to 18% grey. Alternatively, fit a telephoto zoom lens and then you will, effectively, have spot metering.

While recovering the highlights to a small extent, I used the highlight/shadow adjustment tool so that I could open the shadow detail areas a little more. Some additional contrast was applied and a small amount of sharpening added to bring out some detail in the brickwork. The modified image is provided for a comparison. There is a second modified image where a converted monochrome view of the same scene is presented. It has a slight sepia tone to assist the suggestion of age.

Overall... this is an excellent image. The viewpoint is interesting and it gives a good sense of what this building must be like, even for observers who have never visited the area. Had the small technical details been attended to, it would have been an outstanding image.

15/06/2008 - 3:45 PM


***This is a well seen landscape image with an interesting sckyscape. The indistinct stratus clouds in the foreground are not quite as clean looking as I would expect and it looks as if cumulonimbus formations in the background are not quite as bright as they could be. the colour in this image is a bit muted and I lightened the image by moving the white point to the edge of the histogram. It needed 35 points of correction.

The water was sloping from up on the right to down on the left. Put the bottom edge of your browser window against the image at the water line and you will see it very clearly. Water is always straight so the image was rotated clockwise by .8 of a degree. The first modification is a straightened and lightened image with nothing else done to it.

The second modified image is provided to demonstrate how colour has an effect on our perceptions. You image looked quite surreal in some senses and I sought to heighten that sense of a not quite real landscape. Only you can be the judge of whether it was a useful demonstration.

The final modified image is used to demonstrate one technique for cleaning up all of the disparate elements that make it difficult to know what you intended the observer to view as the main subject. The sky has been removed, leaving just the cumulonimbus formations that were far more interesting and evocative than the stratus clouds. The light competing highlight (roof of a building?) that was showing from behind the bush on the left of the image frame was also removed.

The very heavy shadowed area to the right of the image frame was also removed as it was an area of competitive interest. I have moved the boats to one corner of the image so that they can be included in the image as an integral part of a scene depicting life around the river Danube. I had wanted to crop the image into a thin letter box frame but the competing areas of interest prevented that. I thought that the image was suitable for a very wide-angle view of that beautiful area.

Welcome to ePHOTOzine, Sturbu. I hope to see a lot more of your work. This image was a good first post and it shows that you can create a good image. with a little more attention to detail, this image would have been excellent instead of very good.

15/06/2008 - 10:47 AM

Square light

Square lightA monochrome image that tends towards shadow tones. Some blurring of the image that looks like it was most likely due to subject movement (possibly camera shake?) so the image is not really sharp. The bright highlight next to the nose is not square so I guess you were referring to the highlight seen in the subjects eye.

In which case I would lose the distraction in front of your subject's nose. It overpowers the model and reduces the viewer's ability to focus on the highlight in the eye of your model. Without the guidance from your title, the observer would not know what to look at and the eye does not easily rest on the eye of the model.

Opening up the shadow detail would help the viewer to see the eye and sharpness of the eye is critical to this composition. I offer a crop that may help to illustrate my words. I have lightened the image and sharpened it slight and cropped hard to remove the light in the background. I would probably crop so that only the eye is shown but I wanted to reduce the strength of the competitive highlight to lead you in that general direction.

Your portfolio shows that you have a good eye for an image. I think that the technical execution of this image does nothing to underline your obvious skill with a camera. I would be very interested to see the result, if you were to rethink this concept again and then present another version.