The Critique Thread

Discussion in 'Photography Forums' started by Brammers, May 7, 2007.

  1. Brammers

    Brammers
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    I've been really impressed with the standard on this forum recently - lots and lots of very good shots, but perhaps even more impressive are those from people just starting out who are managing to capture some really good stuff.

    One thing that pushes people on to better and better work is critiquing. This is the act of taking a single photo and really looking at it - taking maybe 5-10 minutes to write all your thoughts about every little thing that works or doesn't work, and delivering a small presentation on the shot. I have to say that I feel this is a failing point of the forum so far - we've got lots of discussionabout gear and a few posters' shots receive pages and pages of comments, but many go unnoticed.

    The poster should include as much info as he likes! For example, sometimes a shot is just pretty, and maybe all that needs to be said is a few words on technical settings. Sometimes a shot has a background that should be explained before anyone goes into it. A poster can also draw attention to specific areas of a shot that he'd like special attention paid to.

    A critique thread needs some moderation if it's not to become just another 'show my images' thread. Photosig is a critique website - people there are enforced to 1 image posted per 3 critiques made. I suggest the same thing here - post an image, then do not post another image before you have critiqued (at least!) 3 other peoples' images.

    Finally, a critique thread should not feature merely your best shots. Everyone pulls a stunner once in a while - we know it and these shots don't really need critiquing - we can just sit back and enjoy the praise :) Critiques are most useful when you know a shot can be improved but you're not quite sure how.

    I'll start off with an example shot in my next post. Hope this is sucessful - good critiscm is what really keeps me going with photography!
     
  2. Brammers

    Brammers
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    [​IMG]
    Xiao Xiao

    This is my ex, shot using natural light in the morning. There's definately flaws with this shot, but it also has its good points. I'm interested in hearing what you think of it :) I'm also looking forward to the first couple of submissions for me to critique.
     
  3. tryingtimes

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    Well I'm just starting out (4 weeks now I think), so take this with a pinch of salt, but I like the idea of the thread and would like to submit some something at some point - so here goes.

    I really like the shot. The model, the pose and expression all work well for me.
    I think mono suits it well and the softness of the conversion (if it was a colour to b&w conversion) is to my taste in that it suits the subtlety of the expression.
    In particular about the pose, I like the stripes in the cloth leading up to the window and also the amount of skin visible to catch some more of the window light.
    My eyes are first drawn to the mouth rather than the eyes, but I like that for this image as the mouth is quite communicative.
    I like the amount of window which is shown. Her expression suggests that she isn't really looking at anything in particular so I think it's good that we can't see what's out there.

    Could there be improvements?
    Well I find the little window catch slightly distracting - maybe the highlight could be reduced or it be cloned out all together.
    I also think that it might benefit from having the verticals straightened up - but I'd have to see it first to see if it removed some of the 'naturalness' of the photo.

    Hope that it the kind of comments you were looking for :) In general though as a beginner, I can't find anything to fault.
     
  4. Holowlegs

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    Hi ya

    Will give this a go but I am no expert.

    Two things that stick out to me.

    1 The window on the right hand side, its seems really blown. You could of croped this out or get her to move to the left a little.

    2 The light shine below her right eye is a bit off putting as well, think this is blown as well.


    As I said no expert here, only been doing it 5 months.

    Good idea for a thread, not only will the person who took the picture learn so would others like myslef.


    Cheers Holo:smashin: :smashin:
     
  5. Liquid101

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    Nice idea for a thread Brammers.

    The first thing that hits me with your shot is the blown out highlights on the cheek, underneath the eye. Not sure what this has happened because the lighting is quite soft. Perhaps some grease proof paper over the window, but out of shot might have softened the light some more.

    Secondly, I'm not sure about the composition. The face, and focal point is almost bang in the middle of the frame, making the overall composition a little unbalanced. The rule of thirds really does work, and a little more attention to this might have improved things. Perhaps the girl being right in the bottom left of the frame, with the window coming more into shot would be more pleasing.

    The window frame is also not straight. While this is a minor point, it's a touch distracting.

    I do like the way you have her profile nicely contrasting against the darker frame behind, and I liek her expression, deep in thought.

    Still, a nice portrait.
     
  6. Brammers

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    That's a great critique :) Thanks! It's nice to know that someone really delved into a shot and then talked through it.

    It was indeed a colour to B&W conversion, glad you like the effect. I see what you mean about the catch - I'll definately set about that with a burn brush soon. I may also straighten the verticals - I've honestly never thought about that!

    When you feel ready to post something I look forwards to reviewing it :) Now on with some revision...

    Edit - Liquid caught me :p

    I'll addressed a lot of those complaints and here's a 2nd version:

    [​IMG]

    Is it any better? Edited once more - sepia toning and more midtone contrast. The highlights aren't actually blown - just more prominant than I'd like them to be - are you on an LCD? I've straightened it and tried to take attention away from the latch, the composition I can't do anything about without some serious cropping, but that would bring more problems.

    So, is it worth persevering with, or is it one of those 'almost but not quite' shots?
     
  7. Liquid101

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    It was a nice shot as it was, just not perfect. Realistically, it's going to difficult to rescue the highlights, the second version just looks a little odd.

    I would say almost, but not quite.
     
  8. tryingtimes

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    Well I do think that the straightening of the verticals and dimming of the catch help, but I preferred the skin tone of the original myself. It's clear that there is some detail there by looking at your second version, so I guess it just needs teasing out of that one little area under her eye. Changing the overall tone has taken some of the charm away from the image.
     
  9. Brammers

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    Mweh - will wait til after my photoshop masters course.

    Anyway, I'm done with that shot. Someone else get one up before this turns into Brammers' personal critique thread!
     
  10. Liquid101

    Liquid101
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    I don't think photoshop could fix this. For me, its the exposure and composition that let it down.
     
  11. Radiohead

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    For me the face and eyes are a little too central and there's too much dark space above the head. I'd crop in tighter.
     
  12. senu

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    The critique thread seems a good idea in principle: In practice I imagine it will be a bit more difficult to work as you suggest

    It will need more moderation

    That is a lot more time consuming than seems apparent ( Zone ( perhaps) and I moderate in more than just this Forum, though I guess more can come on board) ..

    I think too that there are features which make all Forums unique, there is a danger of this one becoming a clone of some of the specialist photography forums if the critiquing aspect gets too formal.

    In some of those forums where critiquing is "serious business", there seems to be an attitude of disdain when kit is mentioned as if the poster should seek advice on kit elsewhere, That is not the case here

    I don't think every image can benefit from critiquing:

    In some way critiquing happens here in an informal way anyway , and sometimes folk at different levels of familiarity with their cameras and skill are contented to improve at a steady pace, or go for a course if they feel the need for accelerated formal improvement

    I'm all for high standards but I also think one of the things that attract people here is the knowledge that they don't have to know enough to critique or are unlikely to have their images analysed to the point of giving up early

    This is just my tuppence worth really and doesnt represent Forum opinion

    If you like i could make it a sticky for a trial period to see if it catches on

    Oh ...Nice portrait Brammers very skilfully captured,
    I think the before and after are different , not good and better
     
  13. denno75uk

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    Brammers,

    Just wondering why you think the current 'post and see' way of doing things here isn't sufficient? Why would you like a more formal approach to C&C here if it's offered at other sites you visit?:confused:

    Personally I like the way it's done here. Yes, it can be a bit disappointing to post and not receive a slough of comments but I accept it could be due to a whole host of reasons other than simply that the pics are cack.

    I'm not sure how many more people would post comments in a dedicated C&C part of the forum. AVF Members who like to critique will do it anyway I would have thought. Personally I'd suggest that the reason it doesn't happen too much is because most of us prefer the nurturing environment of this forum rather than throwing ourselves to the lions and getting a bit bummed out.
    It's all down to personal preference of course, but if you have the hide thick enough for receiving (potentially) harsh critique, then crack on. Advice on technique/composition/etc. is always welcome and something that I think members do pretty well, but with regards to actual critical appraisal, I prefer the 'if you can't say anything nice, say nothing' approach.

    FWIW, I thought your shot was sound as is :smashin: . Straightening did make a difference and perhaps releasing the detail from the highlights helped too, but I'm not sure it made a huge difference. The brighter first image seemed to work better for me, perhaps something to do with it making the skin appear smoother.
     
  14. Liquid101

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    I don't think there is anything wrong with a single thread which is centred on constructive critisism. I think there is plenty of virtual pats on the back going on, nothing wrong with that :smashin:, and thats part of what makes this forum great. However, sometimes it would be nice to have a place to really get peoples opinion, and advice.

    Constructive critisism is the key to improving your skills, whatever your level.

    One thing to avoid IMO would be submitting a photograph and then in the same thread submitting varitations. Perhaps just a link?
     
  15. denno75uk

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    The point I'm making (and if I may be so bold, I think the point senu's making too) is that this forum doesn't really hold to that level of formality that Brammers seems to be after. C&C does go on here in an informal way and from what I've seen since I joined, most members are content enough with the comments they receive. Surely the lack of serious C&C here is more due to the attitude of the members rather than the oppurtunity to do so.

    People seem to come here because of the relaxed ethos. If you want something more serious then why not just go and post on the forums that you know work like that? I have in the past and occasionally still do. But I spend more time here because for all the chilled out vibe of the place, it's a damn sight more helpful than most other places without being so uptight.

    Essentially I'm wondering why Brammers wants to be able to do here what he knows he can already do elsewhere? :confused: It seems to me to be a bit like asking the much cherished local pub to get a late licence and a DJ cause a few regulars like to go clubbing once in a while.
     
  16. senu

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    Im sure there may be a halfway house between a "serious" critique thread and the informal way it gets done here.
    There are practical considerations (Not insurmountable though ,as I highlighted in my post)
    However if enough people like the idea ,
    Im happy to make it a sticky and see how it goes , it may well work alongside the current method of virtual pats on the back:) and semi formal critiques to enable those who want it to improve quickly;)

    As an aside, I personally find it a bit off putting looking at some of the popular photgraphy magazines ( and certain unnamed other forums) who feel it is an injustice if there have been no attempts made to criticise any image ( which may not really need any improving TBH). This can lead to "improvements" being suggested for the sake of it but can also put people off.
    Also Some of the suggested improvements though well meant , reflect more on personal taste of what the critique feels the image should look like rather than actually making it look "better"

    There is a danger of removing the fun , relaxed bit if our tone here gets that way

    I remain open about it and as suggested happy to make it a sticky ( with a few Rules suggested) for a trial period and see how it pans out
     
  17. Brammers

    Brammers
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    I post on a few photography related sites, but don't really enjoy any of them truly.

    There's DPreview, where forums are arranged by brand with a brand inspecific 'Samples and Galleries' forum too. If you post shots in a brand forum they tend to get drowned out by the morass of people comparing SonyA100 to KM5D, or should I get the Tamron 28-75 or pay £20 more for the KM version. Posts on the samples and galleries thread tend to drop off after an afternoon with maybe one or two replies - generally on the lines of 'great shot!'

    Photosig should be better - they only allow you to post a new shot once every 3 days or once every 3 comments - whichever is sooner. In theory you should get 3 comments per image posted, but once more it's pretty hit and miss. People tend to shoot their comments off on the crackers and ignore those that really need commenting on - it's far easier to post 'great shot!' than it is to say 'good shot - but work on X, Y & Z' People are also scared of posting negative comments on bad shots - they tend to go ignored instead.

    On here I find it a little bit similar. It's easy to get a load of 'great shot' posts. But what I'm really after is someone to look at the ok ones, the ones where I was trying something but it didn't quite work.

    Personally, when I post a shot to a website I do want it to be really delved into. It's nice to see 2 or 3 pages of 'great shot' with a couple of more in-depth comments, but I'd far prefer 2 or 3 posts where someone's really gone into my shot, pulled it to pieces and identified exactly what does and doesn't work. This is what I try to do when I comment on other people's shots on here - you'll notice I very rarely post a comment without some negative point. I'm not trying to be entirely negative - just trying to suggest improvements. Then occasionally, when you do get that post where I really have nothing bad to say, you know you've really done well.

    As Senu says, it would be wrong to flip the entire forum around like this and could well remove some of the fun. So I guess if you do post in a thread such as this, expect your shot to be really looked at. If you just want to show shots of your latest outing, then stick them in a normal thread for us to have a quick scan of and pick out our favourites as normal, nothing at all wrong with that.

    So, who's up for some honest commentary on one of their own shots? I'm reluctant to keep posting my own (although I will if noone else does!), so if anyone's tried anything recently and wants some suggestions as to how they could make it better, get a shot in here and we'll see what happens :)
     
  18. horribleman

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    Go on then, I'll have a go.

    I'll also post two if you don't mind, since I'm after improving my landscape/building shots.

    Basically, I'm totally lost on composition on the following types of shots. It's a case of 'that looks lovely' but it's very difficult to get a decent photo :(

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Brammers

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    Good stuff Horribleman. Can I take just one though? I'm going to be going in some depth, and 2 is a bit much for me - supposed to be revising! :p

    Ok - your first shot.

    First impressions - punchy. Exposure is great. The stone glows, nothing's lost in the sky, there's a great variety of tones. The bluey/grey storm cloud is particularly forbidding.

    Sharpness is there - you've posted a very small crop but it appears sharp, which helps with that initial, punchy hit. Plenty of DoF, everything's in focus. Nice.

    The composition appears initially good, but this is where we get niggles. For starters, there's lots of objects invading the scene - at the bottom right there's a small black tower, there's a lamppost on the LHS and there's the grey roofing that breaks the line of the ramparts. The angle of view isn't the best - the interesting circular detail/window is cut off at the bottom by the ugly grey roof. Finally, the angles are going all over the place - the RH tower is leaning into the frame, the ramparts are leaning away from us, the main central tower doesn't seem especially straight either.

    However, the overall positioning of objects in the frame is successful. You've got a tower framing the RH edge, the central tower is about right for the rule of thirds, and you have other straight lines defining areas of the scene, some of which also follow the rule of thirds.

    Suggestions:

    Get higher. Shooting this from an equal height, or from a vantage point from slightly above would have minimised competing, distracting elements (lamppost - tower at the bottom) and left you freer to compose.

    Clone. Clone out the lamppost and the mini tower.

    Straighten. Play with the shot and see what looks best with regard to straightening. I'd guess it would be the RH tower, but maybe the central towers are more critical, or maybe one of the lines of ramparts.

    The sky. You've got a great definition between the light and dark blue, but you've hidden the line of that definition behind the main tower. By getting higher you should be able to make that split in the sky clearly visible.

    Maybe you can link to a website where you collect the various versions of the shot if you fancy reprocessing?

    Hope that was of help, might get round to the 2nd one later :) Back to the Han Dynasty now...

    Hope that helps!
     
  20. imcarm

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    I'll have a go at the second image then Horribleman :)

    First impression is how nice the sky looks, it does not appear to be over exposed and the building to the right seems to contrast quite well against the sky.

    If I'm to be picky then I would like to see more of the house on the right, perhaps a more central shot, oh and lose the big tree on the left hand side as it diverts the attention away from the house. I would of change the angle too as it makes me feel as if I have to look up at the house.

    Just my personal opinion of course, hope you don't mind the neg feedback. :thumbsup:
     
  21. Saracenn

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    Can't really do a full critique, but to address imcarm's issue, you can fix it in Photoshop using the perspective tool (I think it's within Lens Corrections too). By stretching the top of the image horizontally, you can make the perspective more natural. Maybe give that a try?
     
  22. netronelson

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    @Brammers (and Senu)...

    How about putting something in your sig that is reflected in the sticky about posting critism...

    I post in fan fiction sites too, and i agree that the critism that is best is often the harshest - but many people are put off by the honest feedback and just want to feel that people liked their photo's... at this stage of my photography, that's how I feel, but when I get a bit more experienced i'll open it up and want the detailed points to improve on...

    What works is to have a tag in your sig that other 'subscribers of the same thinking' know about, that way they join in and give appropriate 'honesty' and feedback...

    The tag can be anything, like 'serious crits welcome', or 'SCW' or 'Fishbat' - it doesn't matter, just so long as those in the know are aware, they may join in...

    RE: your image - Personally I think while it is a technically good shot (i like how the hair colour blends with the dark and the light coming in leads you out to the right of the frame) it doesn't make me want to know more, it looks like a quick snap of someone looking out the window - maybe lowering the hieght of the camera would create a more intriguing shot... Also the lines of the window frame I think would be better verticle... there you go!

    Nelson.
     

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