Need honest criticism (Updated: retakes of #5 added)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Everythingisnt, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a

    Everythingisnt

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    #1
    I am planning to submit some photos as a portfolio to a fine arts program that I am applying to.

    While I'm still uncertain about which of my photos I'm going to submit, I am seriously considering the following shots and would seriously appreciate some honest, unadulterated criticism about them.

    Please be as honest as you can be.. I'm not looking to have my ego stroked, and would appreciate things I could improve on more then compliments.

    Thank you all so much! :)

    #1
    [​IMG]

    #2
    [​IMG]

    #3
    [​IMG]

    #4
    [​IMG]

    #5
    [​IMG]


    Edit: See the second page for a series of re-takes of photo #5
     
  2. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

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    #2
    The first and third images remind me of Unreal Tournament, there is a video game quality to them, of course both would have been constructed by engineers of some sort. I'm on a Photography course at the moment and some students are doing their personal work about hyper reality and how video games are getting ever closer in their depiction of the real world. I like them a lot, and it isn't because I like photographing car parks either.

    I'm not sure about the Umbrella though, if you're trying to be ambiguous thats fine but I cannot get any reference from the images with the inclusion of the umbrella or the man holding it. What is the intention behind it?

    I like the 4th image simply because of the complimentary colours though it looks slightly HDR, care to comment on that as well?

    The fifth image is the weakest I think and apart from the colours (favourite colour is blue) I don't know why its included.

    Do you have more of the car park? A portfolio's main strength is in its consistency, showing you're capable of repeating your abilities with a given subject, it isn't about showing lecturers all your cool images. I'm speaking in general terms now so that wasn't a final opinion of the work you've presented here.
     
  3. Everythingisnt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Everythingisnt

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    #3

    I completely agree about the resemblance to UT with the 1 and 3..

    The look I was aiming for with the series of pictures from the carpark was a surreal, yet believable one.

    All of these images have been processed in HDR.

    Attached are some more taken at the car park.

    As for including the person and umbrella in the shots, I was chiefly aiming for better composure (i.e. experimenting with placing objects in the frame). I wasn't really trying to convey a strong message, and I think that that might weaken the photos.

    The good thing is that as the carpark is near to where I live, I can go retake these shots at will.

    The fourth image is of an old fence closing off an ecological reserve in spirit park. The HDR treatment of that photo is subtler then most and the colors have been boosted only a bit.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    As for the last image, I think I understand it's weaknesses. I am quite partial to it myself, but I think it's because of the colors..
     
  4. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #4
    To my eye, #1 is all context and no "subject" and therefore seems vacuous and uninteresting.

    #2 is a bit more interesting, but the umbrella and the large pool of water (?) are competing for attention, so the photo doesn't seem resolved.

    #3 seems to be all composition and no concept. Sorry, but it just doesn't make my eyes want to linger.

    #4 is the most interesting of the lot, largely because the "subject" (i.e the fence) is in a complementary color to its environment and therefore jumps out, but also because it has some conceptual depth. It seems ironic that these busted up fence slats, which are made of wood, should end up leaning against live trees for support. However, I wonder if a different angle could have foregrounded this dependency to greater effect.

    #5 suffers from compositional weakness, but the content is interesting. The blue, rusting, graffiti-tagged dumpsters nestled against each other and juxtaposed with greenery have the potential to make a great photograph, but the substantial foreground adds nothing of interest. The dumpsters are too close to the center, and the structures at the right are distracting.
     
  5. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

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    #5
    This is my friend Ida from Norway and some of her photographic work: http://flickr.com/photos/idasorknes/page9/

    Check out page 10 as well.

    Her portfolio when she came to Uni was based around self portraits and that was it, the consistency of her involvement in the work showed she was interested in her idea enough to repeat it and go over it again and again. Even after 3 years she still does self portraits!

    You could use the other car park photos and if you are interested in the subject matter just talk about hyper realities. That could be your main strength, if you feel you need to include other shots, put them in a different portfolio.
     
  6. onomatopoeia macrumors 6502

    onomatopoeia

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    #6
    I like a lot of it but the saturation is too high for my tastes and some of the HDR feels like "HDR for no better reason". I'm assuming you are attempting to over saturate one primary color in a frame dominated by gray. That theme certainly works in most images in each set. The addition of a model makes these shots work better for me -I just wish there was no visible HDR halo around the figure in the exterior parking garage.

    I like where you're going. Perhaps grab another model and try to refine the path you've chosen.
     
  7. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #7
    Stick with the last two. The members that commented on all of the images says pretty much the same thing I would. They other three lack interest and center focus.... there aren't any dominant elements in the others.

    You are doing a good job, but I just want to say be careful getting caught up into the artsy fartsy photography instead of fine art photography. Not that your images are artsy fartsy, study as many genuine art photographers as you can, and learn how and why they produced their images they way they did.
     
  8. Zeiss macrumors member

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    #8
    when you say you are applying to a fine arts degree, is it commercial photography or fine art photography? I guess the thing to work out is why you are taking these images, and what they are visually describing about your experience of constructed places and environments. There is a whole history of this stuff in art, especially the 'Germans', starting with the Beshers, then Gursky, then Hoffer, and others like Edward Burtynsky [not German, but check out his images on China]. They all have very specific ideas about what these places mean to them, and why they make art about it. The idea of human experience in manufactured landscapes is central to contemporary art discussion etc etc.

    In terms of your images in relation to these things, the last one is probably the most successful in that it highlights the connections and absolute contrast of a natural and manufactured environment. The others are relatively decent images technically, but the edges are all wrong, and there is no strength in the composition that connects with the strength in the objects.

    Anyways, for an entry folio there are some promising things in here.
     
  9. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #9
    No central point of focus, no good leading lines, no interesting visual elements, lightest points aren't worthy of visual focus and don't lead anywhere at all.

    Boring. Not enough contrast between the water and the asphalt. Water doesn't lead the eye anywhere interesting. Eye goes up the frame, then hits the lights and is led right out of the frame.

    Person is too small to be the main subject, person offsets the blue as the subject. Crop out the light behind the person in any case, it's distracting. crop the photo in half and the blue almost holds its own, and the lines lead the eye in a nice circle.

    Not a bad image, but it really doesn't "tell" me anything. No leading lines, no central point of focus- the color's offsetting one another isn't bad, but nothing leads the eye anywhere.

    [/quote]

    Again, good color- but that's about it- the pattern of the blue is overtaken by a useless foreground, distracting but not interesting trees and a sky that really doesn't balance, not to mention the vignetting. If you crop out the foreground and the sky/trees, and porta-potty on the right you might end up with an interesting and usable composition.

    The second set, the umbrella picture is ok- that and #4 are probably ok, outside of that, I'd look for more leading lines, stronger overall composition and watch where the highlights are- your eyes will be drawn to the highlights first, unless there's a strong leading line to start with, and that line or brightness needs to lead to something worth looking at. Then your image needs to lead the eye around a bit if it can, and if not, it needs to leave it on the subject, not lead it off out of the frame.

    I find that glancing quickly at a shot and seeing how my eyes go over it tells me if it "works" in terms of composition, space/negative space and contrast.

    Ron Resnick's "Sure Shot" videos have the best overall quick ABCs of composition of anything I've seen, even if the name's stupid and he's not the most engaging speaker I've ever heard. The set's probably worth-while if you're going to pursue photography seriously.

    A more detailed criticism would take larger images, these are at the very lower limits of usefulness.
     
  10. Everythingisnt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Everythingisnt

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    #10

    Thanks for all the pointers. The hard part (at least, from my perspective) in shooting a carpark was finding a way to make the images interesting; apart from the structure of the building, I had a hard time finding any central aspects to shoot (hence the model). I think I did pretty well with the fence, as all the surrounding brush made it VERY hard to get a good perspective..

    As for the dumpsters, I see what you mean about compositional weakness. I do find that place very interesting though, and am planning a re-take.

    I will definitely check out her work later today.. (I'm a bit busy at the moment with homework..) After reading your points though, I think that perhaps one of the most important factors is making the portfolio coherent and self-supporting.. However, I don't think that the carpark images are enough to go on by themselves and am therefore thinking of planning a portfolio perhaps based on my last 2 images, with strong colors throughought.


    I agree that HDR is very tricky as a tool. Too much and it looks ridiculous, but just enough and it can add an entire dimension to the picture. I think that I will try fiddle around to get rid of the HDR halo. Another shoot with more models is definitely a good idea :).

    I definitely think that studying art photographers is a good way to get inspiration and learn new techniques. The carpark shots with the model were mildly influenced by the work of Jeff Petry, whose photos are quite amazing.. http://www.troubledartist.com/


    I am applying to a fine arts program, not a commercial one. If things do work out, I am hoping to go into fine arts photography, although if not I would still like to do commercial work.

    Thanks for the pointers, also. I agree that most need revisions on composition and perhaps more of a 'focus'.. Something I will try and implement when I retake them.

    Again, good color- but that's about it- the pattern of the blue is overtaken by a useless foreground, distracting but not interesting trees and a sky that really doesn't balance, not to mention the vignetting. If you crop out the foreground and the sky/trees, and porta-potty on the right you might end up with an interesting and usable composition.

    The second set, the umbrella picture is ok- that and #4 are probably ok, outside of that, I'd look for more leading lines, stronger overall composition and watch where the highlights are- your eyes will be drawn to the highlights first, unless there's a strong leading line to start with, and that line or brightness needs to lead to something worth looking at. Then your image needs to lead the eye around a bit if it can, and if not, it needs to leave it on the subject, not lead it off out of the frame.

    I find that glancing quickly at a shot and seeing how my eyes go over it tells me if it "works" in terms of composition, space/negative space and contrast.

    Ron Resnick's "Sure Shot" videos have the best overall quick ABCs of composition of anything I've seen, even if the name's stupid and he's not the most engaging speaker I've ever heard. The set's probably worth-while if you're going to pursue photography seriously.

    A more detailed criticism would take larger images, these are at the very lower limits of usefulness.[/QUOTE]


    Thanks for the analysis - it was really helpful! I appreciate all the tips and will definitely keep them in mind when I try redo these photos.. Also, I will check out the "sure shot" videos.

    I am kicking myself over the composition of the last image, and I think that when I re-take it I will try a much closer angle. To be fair, the vignetting is probably because of the quality of my camera (Panasonic point and shoot), but I will see if I can get rid of it by re-doing the HDR.

    Also, I'm not sure about what you mean by 'larger' - actual full size prints? I posted all these images in their full size formats (due to them all being taken with a 7mp P & S), and simply attached them as thumbnails to the post..

    I already know that I need a better camera, don't worry.
     
  11. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #11
    I have seen the girls work, she is okay, but I think with time and training, you could surpass her. The images just aren't that interesting on her page.

    The images you have are great, and the post is a nice touch sans for the one with the guy with the umbrella, it looks a bit too shopped to me.

    i say get a nice urban looking model and shoot the hell out of that car park on a empty or busy day.... throw in some bikes, hoodies, fake gold jewelry and mean mugs and you'd have yourself a great shoot with some good images.

    Ditch the umbrella thing, I just don't see it as your style or something you are working that well.

    p.s. I checked out the photog that you mention, his work is pretty good. He gets into the real nitty of the urban landscape... and you are doing a good job gleaning off of him. I say take this shot again without the umbrella and place your live subject somewhere near that opening or around it... play with it a little.
     

    Attached Files:

  12. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

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    #12
    I totally disagree with this judgement, you sound like you're going through a tick box of things that need to be included to make it a good image. This is his strongest image because I believe it questions reality and looks like its from a computer game.

    @Digital Skunk, just out of interest, why is her work okay? I included it as a point of reference to building a consistent portfolio, not because he could learn how to make better pictures.

    @Zeiss, it won't matter what sort of degree he goes for, both will prepare him in varying ways for the commercial world.
     
  13. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    #13
    A reminder here: if you're interested in studying PHOTOGRAPHY, then it might behoove you to have some photographs in your portfolio which are relatively unaltered, at best only gently altered.... HDR and other techniques show more about how proficient you are at Photoshop and other software, how skillful you are at editing/retouching/manipulating images than they do in showing how good a basic photograph you can take. Forget the fancy retouching and tricks: just go out there and concentrate on taking some really good photographs which require little editing to demonstrate the quality of your work.....
     
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #14
    You're certainly welcome to disagree, and I'm going through a list of elements that are helpful for having a compelling image for sure- but here's my challenge to you-

    Quickly flick your eyes over the image and see where they land- when I do it, they land over on the left side on the brightest part of the image, and they slide off that side of the image- that hurts the image *immensely* in terms of drawing a viewer into it.

    Now, force your eyes to the image again, and you'll find that the left yellow vertical column draws your eye up to- nothing. It takes a third try to get your eyes to go through to the center and draw you into the image. With good leading lines as well as better control of the light areas, you'd be drawn in and discover the depth automatically.

    If you really want to play with the image, crop out or tone down the bright outdoor area on the left, and brighten the white parking space line on the floor by at least 2/3rds of a stop and see how your eyes treat the image then. Darken the outside (especially the yellow columns,) and bring up the levels slightly moving towards the center and see what your eyes do then.

    Do you see what I mean?

    There's some cultural programming in where your eyes will start and the direction they like to go in- in advertising images it's relatively important, and generally follows the culture's reading direction. Start at the top left and go in a Z leaving the branding for the bottom line if it's a westerner, and go vertical for asians whos writing flows that way and right to left for arabs. Break that consciously if you need impact, but only if the image and message are really compelling.

    In fine art, you're better off paying attention to leading lines, negative space, bright areas, tension/release and the rule of thirds/golden ratio where it's appropriate (and it's more often appropriate than not-) you can pay attention to one, you can pay attention to more than one, you can play with the other geometric things that work, or you can consciously ignore them all- but if you ignore them all you're more likely than not to get a poorer image than if you don't.

    In terms of fine art images, if you want them to go on the wall, you need to make them compelling. They need to draw the buyer in and hold their interest. If you want to sell fine art, you do better to pay attention to what's worked since the middle ages than to ignore it without consciously making that choice or you won't sell many images. Put your images in a gallery, or at an art fair where you're lumped in with other photographer's and painter's images and ignoring those principles will mean you'll go home with fewer sales and ultimately have less success.

    It's relatively simple to make an HDR image look like it's a graphic from a computer game. It's much more difficult to make an image that people will want to purchase and use.

    In the first fraction of a second, most folks decide if they like an image or not- and it's all about how much it holds their interest- that's mostly about how long you can draw their eyes through the image and that's controlled with the things I've outlined more than it's controlled by anything else.

    Every heavily processed HDR image "challenges reality"- if you want your images to stand out, the composition has to work as well.
     
  15. telf22 macrumors regular

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    #15
    i personally do not find the 2nd and 3rd images appealing as the first image is really the same subject but a much better photo - after the seeing the first, the next two seem not as good.
     
  16. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #16
    I don't think I could add anything that hasn't already been said. Just make sure you have a clear reason why you're showing a photo. The above is the only photo I like. I don't like any from the first set, although the photo man holding the umbrella could be improved with some simple cropping.

    The last image from the 2nd set can also be made more interesting with a little cropping.

    I hate the one in the forest, and the last photo (1st set) of the small blue "buildings", as there's nothing appealing about it other than the colour.


    The 2nd photo in the 2nd set, where the man has his back facing you, would only have been interesting if taken from higher up so that you can see what's sitting on the other side of the railing. I just don't like seeing the very tip of a building, some sort of plant, and that's it.
     
  17. Everythingisnt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Everythingisnt

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    #17
    Hmm, thanks for the advice. You have a point about how editing can sometimes overstep the line between the art of photography and the art of photo editing.

    However, I also think that editing and the style you employ in giving your photos a 'look' is a very big part in the artistic style and creation of your photos. If editing helps them be more representative of what you are trying to convey, then I'm all for it.. (Though that's just my own personal opinion, not a general statement at all :)..)

    I think you made a really good point about my first image.. I really didn't know where I stood with it, but after actually doing the eye-flick thing you suggested, I've realized how little there actually seems to hold the eye. I may quite possibly reject it in favor of a radical re-take..

    I agree about the last photo.. The only thing that makes me like it is the color, although hopefully I'll be able to combine the vivid scenery with better composition in a re-take.

    However, the contradictions about the forest photo confuses me. Some people don't mind it, but some don't like it. Can you point out what exactly I should try and improve? I personally think that it's worst aspect is over-cluttering, as well as a bit of over-HDRness (which I plan on fixing).

    Also, here is a version of the first photo, second set, with higher light smoothing and more contrast:

    Which do you all think is better - the first or second one? (Ignore the motion blur on the man holding the umbrella, I will fix it with a re-treatement of HDR)..

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #18
    The second one has better post-processing, but the shot's composition is really unsatisfying. The very strong diagonal of the building competes with the strong vertical of the figure and his reflection. The eye has nowhere to settle.
     
  19. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #19
    What he said.
     
  20. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #20
    I don't like it because of what you said.....it's too cluttered. Yes, the red fence stands out because of the colour, but the background is too muddled with green.

    I really don't know what there is to like about the photo. Why am I looking at it? Some people just take photos of random "stuff" in their city and call it "urban" or "street" photography. Some people will take a photo of a tree, or a group of trees, and call it "nature photography". However, the good photographers can walk the same streets, and through the same park or nature trail, and produce photos where the subject is clear. You not only know the subject of the photo, but also why the photo was taken, and what the photographer wants to show me. In my opinion, your photo is just a snapshot of a red fence you happened to see while walking through a national park. That's why the background is so bad.....as you didn't really plan on showing anyone who'd care.

    I particularly dislike the foreground tree/bush thing on the left side of the photo. It's distracting, as your eye is drawn from the red fence to this green foreground shrub (?)(I don't know much about plants, sorry), which doesn't even blend in with the hodge-podge of green leaves you see in the background.


    EDIT TO ADD: I just wanted to say that while I'm not a pro photographer, I'm going to give you some advice anyway regarding nature photography. I don't know if it's good advice, since it's something I personally made up myself: If I can't imagine a painter creating a painting (nature) from my photo (ie: if I can't imagine what I see becoming a painting), then I don't bother taking the photo.

    Next time, take a nature photo, look at the LCD on your camera and ask yourself: If this was a painting, would it suck?
     
  21. SolracSelbor macrumors 6502

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    #21
    I love it!
     
  22. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

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    #22
    @compuwar, I know what you're saying so you don't need to tell me to remind me how I should read an image. I'm simply telling you that this has artistic merit.
     
  23. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #23
    So many different opinions!

    The pix are fine... to a point. They're thematically linked... though they seem to be a style in search of a subject. I'm not convinced you've 'found your voice'... more that you've seen similar pix elsewhere and are trying to create your own versions.

    When you believe - passionately - in what you do, you'll be able to present your pix with more conviction... and you won't care what a bunch of folk on an internet forum have to say. Good luck to you... :)
     
  24. Everythingisnt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Everythingisnt

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    #24
    That is some really good advice :). Thanks for the tips.


    That's some good input.. You're probably right, considering that I have yet to really find a style or message that I want to express over anything else..

    Hopefully art school will help with that ;)
     
  25. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #25
    What SHE said.... sorry just had to correct you. :D

    I agree with Clix Pix as well... I think you are doing too much shopping to want to submit these as portfolio images. When I had to submit images to a contest or portfolio viewing I had to give them unaltered, or with basic adjustments... like levels, curves, and minor dodging and burning...

    This was mainly for the student's benefit though, since most students don't know how to properly dodge, burn or make adjustments, or do it in a controlled way. I didn't even learn once i graduated, it too me months as Photo Tech for the paper to learn how to do it in a controlled and consistent manor.

    Let's see what the regular images look like.

    p.s. To the OP, art school will help greatly, but always remember to use your own imagination. My short bout with art school left me realizing that a lot of students end up being that starving artist for years, mainly because their work was great for their teachers and classmates, but not the greater majority. There is a large gapping hole between "Good Photo" and "I will pay $xxx,xxx,xxx.00 for that piece of art."

    Don't get caught up into the status quo!
     

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