Critiquing Photographs – Workshop by Ralph Fuchs

On Wednesday October 21, club member Ralph Fuchs led a workshop on critiquing photographs.

This is a topic that holds a lot of interest for members of the club because it seems to be something that most of us find difficult to do. I’m sure we all want to have the ability to properly critique our own photographs and it’s also helpful to be able to assist our fellow photographers to develop their skills by providing an impartial critique of their submitted works.

Going beyond, “I like it” or “it’s nice” or “I don’t like it” is necessary if we want to develop our own photography skills and help our fellow members to improve theirs. Ralph had some great PP slides and a critiquing worksheet that I’ve included here so we can all continue to practice critiquing photographs.

Ralph got most of his information from the PhotoSIG tutorial “Guide To Critiquing Photographs”.

Below, I’ve listed some of the important points from his presentation.

  • Critiquing is beneficial to the photographer whose work is being critiqued but is also tremendously helpful to the person doing the critique.
    • By thinking about what makes a photo “good” or “poor”, you are adding to your own knowledge base. Knowledge you can use to improve your own work.
  • The critique must be viewed as a constructive exercise.
    • Identify things that could be improved upon but also things the photographer did well.

 

Technical Aspects to consider:

  • Exposure
    • Is any area overexposed or underexposed? If so, can you say why you think that happened?  How could the photographer prevent this in the future?
  • Focus
    • Is the main subject in focus? Is it a sharp or a “soft” focus? Is the focus appropriate for the situation?
  • Depth Of Field
    • Is the DOF shallow or deep? Does it work for this shot or should there be more or less of the photo in focus?
  • Lighting/White Balance
    • Is the light soft or harsh? Does the lighting enhance or detract from the photo?  Is the white balance set correctly?  Is there a yellowish, orange or greenish cast to the photo?

Considering the Composition of a Photograph:

  • Centered vs “Rule of Thirds”
  • Fore, Middle & Background
  • Cropping/Framing
  • Color/Tonal Range
  • Diagonals, S-curves, etc.
  • Leading Lines
    • Do the lines & over-all composition make you want to look deeper into the photo? Is your eye drawn into the photo or out of it?
  • Dark vs Light Areas
    • Are there too many bright areas? Too many dark areas?
  • Balance
    • Is the photo “balanced”? Would other objects or other light/dark areas improve the balance?  If the photo is off balance, is there a reason for it?

How Does a Photograph Make You Feel?

  • Is the photograph relevant to the theme?
  • Did the photographer succeed in telling his/her story?
  • What mood do you see?
  • Is this the mood the photographer intended?
  • Does it make you feel happy? Sad?  Angry?
  • Do you like the photo? Why or why not?
  • Would you hang this photo on your wall? Why or why not?

 

CRITIQUING WORKSHEET

Theme:                        Open:

Print:                           Digital:

Image Number:  ______________

Technical

  • Exposure
  • Focus
  • Depth Of field
  • Lighting/White Balance

Composition

  • Rule Of Thirds
  • Fore, Middle & Background
  • Cropping/Framing
  • Colour/Tonal Range
  • Diagonals, S-curves, etc.
  • Leading Lines
  • Dark vs Light Areas
  • Balance

How You Feel About It

  • Relevancy To The Theme
  • Does It Tell A Story?
  • Artist’s Intended Mood
  • Does It Make You Feel Happy? Sad? Angry?
  • Do You Like The Photo? Why?  Why Not?
  • Would you hang it on your wall? Why?  Why Not?

Here’s a copy of Ralph’s critiquing worksheet if you’d like to download it as a Word document: CRITIQUING WORKSHEET

I’ve included  one of my own photos that I submitted a few years ago, here for critiquing practice.
deer in field

Looking at this photo and keeping in mind the info in the worksheet above I would say that technically it’s pretty good, exposed well, reasonably sharp, a shallower depth of field might help to isolate the deer from the background a bit more but it was actually shot at F5.6 (the lens’s maximum aperture at 300 mm focal length on a cropped sensor body so that presents a difficulty.

How is the composition? Well the deer is smack dab in the middle and some might see that as a problem but it’s head/eyes/ears are actually pretty close to an intersect point in the rule of thirds grid. One problem that was mentioned was the way the ears are chopped by the line of the hillside. Perhaps cropping differently would improve it.

Below I’ve cropped it to leave space in front of the deer (in case it wants to run away), pulled in a little tighter to fill the frame up and brightened it up a bit. Does this improve the photo? It’s subjective of course but I think it does, to my eye it now seems more balanced and more interesting. I think that cropping it actually improves the telling of the story, it’s a wild animal, it’s wary but curious, what is it thinking about? Perhaps it’s thinking “why is he shooting with a Sony? Why is he standing on the seat and sticking up so high over the top of his car? Where am I going to go for lunch?”

Who knows what it’s thinking, but it has free will and at some point it’s likely going to run away and now it has somewhere to go. The point is, a thoughtful critique can improve just about any photograph so it’s great to have some people around who are willing and able to provide us with the feedback that we all need.

 

DSC041692_edited-1

Thanks Ralph for all the work you did preparing and sharing this workshop with us!

 

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