I have learned through both college and work experience that one of the best ways to learn anything is through critiques of your work and other’s work. That is why, in the spirit of teaching through this blog, I am happy to critique the work of submissions from readers. If you would like a professional critique from me and learn how to better your artwork, be it photo, design, painting, et al, just read these submission guidelines and submit an image through my critique contact form. You can also email your submission to photocrit [at] chrislanephoto.com.
I am happy to announce that Daren Dobson was the first brave soul to submit work for critique. You can see more of his work on ArtBistro but you will have to register a free account to view it. I am on there as well. Daren submitted a series of photographs to me that were for his lighting course in college. I will be doing an in depth critique on only one of the images, but I will show the remaining four of the series as well.
On to the Critique
Daren has taken a series of images filled with symbolism. It is a fairly simple still-life set up with the recurring theme of the head model. The head must be fairly small, or those are some massive scissors.
The composition is fairly placed. He obviously was following the rule of thirds when setting up his shot. There is a pretty nice sense of movement through the image. The head looks into the image, which was a smart move, though I suppose there could be another level of symbolism if the head looked out of the image. But since the head looks in, the eye of the viewer tends to follow that, even though we cannot see the model’s eyes. As we look down through the angle of the face, the shadow from the key light brings us back up and the shape of the shadow of the back of the head brings us back to look at the face. The scissors at the bottom brings the eyes up to the neck and face.
The big drawback to the composition is the strong black of the scissors and strong black of the blindfold. Due to the strong contrast with the generally light image, they do draw the eye an unnecessary amount and even lead the eye away from the image with the scissors touching the edge. If you look at the histogram from the original image
you can see that there is a strong peak at near left (Black) and near right (White). The rest of the histogram is rather low. You can also see that the peaks are in from the sides of the histogram a bit, showing there is neither true black, nor true white. My first fix to this would be to go into Levels and make those peaks right at the edge. Next I would burn in some of the face, accentuating the curves of the facial structure and darkening some of the shadow side. Daren must have used a fill light on the opposite side of his strong key, but I think the opposing light could have been a little dimmer to keep the shadows stronger. These shadows will make the face have more contrast and gather the eye a little more. Following that, I dodged the handles of the scissors so they aren’t quite so strongly black.
Depth of field
One other issue that I found is the focal depth. The focus is on the neck and is already starting to blur out at the face distance.
This isn’t something that can be fixed in post, so the aperture would have needed to be set higher. I don’t have any information pertaining to what he used for this shot, though. But maybe this focus was intended? If that were the case, then I would actually try to get an even shallower depth of field, so that the face would be blurred even further. The reason I don’t think it was intended is that there really isn’t much on the neck to focus on besides the texture of the head sculpture. The only reason I question it is the subject matter, being that the scissors is cutting the neck, maybe he wanted the viewer to focus on the neck in the same manner as his camera.
Daren has an interesting image in this photograph. The subject matter is very personal and as viewers we can only contemplate what it means. With some minor improvements this could be a great photo. A big thanks goes to Daren for being the first to submit an image for critique. You can see the remaining images of his series below.
What did you think of the critique? Leave comments below to give your own critique or maybe you want to critique my critique! I’d love to hear from you.
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