Two weeks in a row...I'm on a roll.
Periodically, I'd like to end off the week by critiquing a photo submitted by a past student of The Photographers' Workshop.
I'll be critiquing each photo in the same manner and using the same criteria I use when evaluating photos in my workshops and that includes composition, camera settings, exposure, focus, white balance and lighting.
My evaluations will be written in a manner that my past students can follow (since they've taken the course) but my hope is that all of you will be able to follow along to some degree as well, depending upon your current level of photography knowledge.'
This week's photo is from Tammie Olson. (Hi Tammie!)
Canon 7D, Canon 50mm f1.2 at f5.6, 1/180th, ISO 800.
Composition: I love the simplicity of this location, and the colors she's wearing, and the soft expression on her face here. You also did a nice job of keeping the strong background line nice and straight.
Several thoughts compositionally, that I think would make this stronger:
1. Here, she's not really centered, but she's not really off-centered either, so I'd do one or the other to make this composition look and feel more intentional. Here, because the chair is facing towards the right side of the viewfinder, I'd off-center her to the left, leaving all of the open space on the right.
2. I'd like to see more of the chair to make its inclusion look intentional. If you choose to include something (like the chair) in an image, you want to include enough of it that it doesn't leave the viewers eyes wondering 'what' the object is. So here, I'd just want to see the seat of the chair and a smidge of the chair legs as well.
3. The tree merging with her head ends up being a distraction here, so I'd:
- Reposition her.
- Move to your left, which would allow you to place the tree at her right, so it wouldn't be merging with her.
- If the above two options weren't possible for some reason, I'd crop into the top of her head to avoid the tree merger. (In this situation, you COULD apply one of the above options, but occasionally, when I'm shooting candidly and I have a head merger like this, but can't change my position for some reason, I've resorted to cropping into the top of my subject's head to avoid the unwanted merger.
I attached the shot the way I might compose it - the black area indicates where I'd leave more open space (to show more of the chair and to more strongly off-center her.) I didn't want to crop into the top of her head in this shot (because I didn't like how it looked) and though the tree merger is less noticeable, I'd still clone it out in editing (but preferably, I'd have repositioned her or myself to avoid it like I mentioned.)
Camera Settings: Of course, there will be situations where you have no choice but to increase your ISO to 800 or higher, but here, if you opened your aperture by ONE stop (from f5.6 to f4 is ONE stop), you could then cut your ISO by ONE stop (from 800 to 400 is ONE stop) and you'd have better settings, but with less noise. So your final settings would be f4, 1/180th, ISO 400.
Exposure: This is about ONE stop underexposed. I increased the exposure in Adobe Lightroom by one stop in the attached shot to show you where I'd want the exposure to be, but anytime you increase your exposure in editing, you ADD digital noise, so your goal has to be to get your exposure correct SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera.)
Focus: Looks like the focus fell on the bottom of her dress rather than on her eyes.
White Balance: Overall, this is pretty good. It is a bit warm for my preference, so in Lightroom, I adjusted the Temp. Slider to -10 in the attached shot.
Lighting: As photographers, we often hear that we should be shooting during the Golden Hour (an hour before sunset) and while this lighting IS quite pretty for experimenting with more candid, artistic shots, there typically is NOT enough light at this time of day for 'traditional portraiture' unless you happen to find a really good natural reflector.
The problem is that anytime the eyes are prominent in an image, there is an EXPECTATION for tack sharpness, catchlights and proper illumination and if you can't meet all three of those expectations (and you couldn't here because there is nothing bright in front of her to illuminate her eyes) then you need to AVOID the eyes, going for profile shots, candid images, artistic photos, etc. - basically, any kind of shot where the eyes are not prominent.
So if I wanted portraits, I'd have started shooting earlier in the day, saving the Golden Hour for my artistic images, where I could feel free to experiment with lens flare while avoiding the eyes.
As for the flare, I think there either needs to be MORE of it (to make it's inclusion look intentional) or NONE of it (to make it's exclusion look intentional) and typically (not always) I'd recommend keeping it OFF of your subject (like you aberration you see on her right jacket pocket) UNLESS it's a REALLY cool looking aberration. (This aberration isn't very 'interesting' looking and therefore, it looks accidental rather than intentional.)
Love the way her hair is lit up here and how golden the sky is in the background - the background bokeh is really pretty as well!
Again, the shot below reflects a ONE stop increase in exposure, a slight cooling of the White Balance, and a slightly different composition. (The black areas indicate where I'd leave more open space.)
Have a great weekend.