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 Deanna Makas, who had twin boys (Oliver & Greyson) since taking the workshop!
Nikon D90, Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 at f9, 1/320th, ISO 800.
Composition: I love that you shot this candidly (rather than asking them to pose and smile) and you managed to capture this at just the right moment (when their bodies were not merging together.) I also love the sticks in hand and the overall simplicity of this shot.
Looks like you were pretty low to the ground, but I think getting even lower yet would make this composition really dynamic. Also, getting lower (and moving a step to your right) would allow the greenery to completely cover the background house, which I think would look great, as it would simplify the image even more. Additionally, getting lower would make the strong shadow lines in the lower right corner of the viewfinder less noticeable.
Camera Settings: It looks like you shot this at 18mm (the widest focal length on this lens), but just remember that longer focal lengths are always more flattering to human subjects, so I'd back up as much as you could to use the longest focal length possible (then, as they walked towards you, you could zoom out to wider focal lengths.) Also, using a longer focal length here would result in a more blurred background, which would look good as well.
Other than that, I'd open your aperture wider (probably to f5.6 since that is the widest this lens will open to when zoomed at 200mm) and by doing so, you could also set a lower ISO setting for better image quality, while maintaining the same shutter speed of 1/320th.
Exposure: Tough call here. If you properly exposed for their faces (which are a bit dark) then the greenery would be totally blown out. If you properly exposed for the greenery (which you did here) then their faces are too dark.
Since this is kind of a moody, candid, golden-hour image, I'm totally ok with their faces being a bit dark and think it's more important that the greenery not be blown out in this situation, so given that - I think your exposure is fine.
Focus: Focus is pretty good here for this large of a camera to subject distance, though a lower ISO setting would result in less noise and more apparent sharpness.
White Balance: It's just a little yellow/green on account of all the greenery (and from my experience with Nikons, they shoot a little yellow/green anyhow and that has to be corrected for in editing.)
Not sure what White Balance setting you were using here, but for candid, outdoor shots at this time of day, I'd use the Daylight or Cloudy setting.
Lighting: The lighting works great here with none of it hitting their faces in a distracting way. (There's a sliver of direct light on your son's face that is closest to you, but that totally works for me.)
As you can see, the face of your son that is in the background is more warm and illuminated because he is looking towards the bushes on the right side of the viewfinder and those bushes are acting as a natural reflector. The face of your son in the foreground though is not warm or illuminated because he is just facing a shaded area that provides no illumination for his face.
Of course, with planned portraiture, you have control over where you place your subject (and can place them in a way that they can benefit from natural reflectors/ideal lighting/etc.) However, with candid subject's you don't always have this luxury.
If you had captured this shot when they were still a few steps back, then both of them would have been illuminated by the natural reflector (the bushes) on the right, but at this spot in the path, your foreground son has passed those natural reflectors and his face is not illuminated as a result.
So capturing him a few steps back or waiting to shoot until you were further down the path and in a location with another natural reflector would have been ideal.
And...You could always get them to move a few steps back by saying something like, "Hey boys, I think you passed by some really cool rocks back there on the path!" And that's a win/win because they are excited to go back to look for some cool rocks and you're excited because you get a second chance to get this shot with them both illuminated by the light reflecting off of the bushes.
As for the lens flare, I think it looks interesting and works as a great leading line that draws the viewers eyes to your foreground son. Had that same flare landed on his face, it would be a distraction, but positioned where it is, I think it looks great!
Thanks for sending in this shot Deanna!