Lori sent me this photograph of an abandoned old Ford pickup. A great subject matter, especially for me because I both like abandoned stuff and old automobiles. So this definitely piqued my interest.
First off, the composition of this photo is great. She lined up the driver’s side window almost perfectly with the intersection of the top and right thirds lines and the driver’s side headlight with the bottom and left thirds lines. This is following the common and definitely useful Rule of Thirds. You can see below for what I mean. I lowered the opacity to show the thirds lines better.
The first major issue I see cannot be fixed (easily) at this point. There is no specific focal point in the picture, though it is obvious the subject should be of the pickup in the foreground. I can easily assume that the aperture is set pretty high in this, probably f/16 or higher, though I can’t tell for sure as the picture file is lacking in metadata. So what I would have done when taking this picture is decrease the aperture number to something like f/5.6 – 8 or even less depending on the focal length of the lens being used. This would create bokeh, or blurring, of the background and possibly even some of the foreground grass. This would ensure the eye only stays on the pickup itself. This would also eliminate some of the particular distracting elements in the background, such as the grain bin and equipment just past the trees.
The next thing I notice is that the entire picture is too bright. There isn’t really anything blowing out except a few of the small specular highlights, so that part is good. The darks could stand to be a little bit darker, but they are pretty darn close to where they need to be. There is still detail in the shadow of the wheel well, but it is still a good dark shadow. The problem lies in the midtones; they are simply too high. This effectively reduces contrast in the image and actually increases the lack of focal point. While shooting, this could be remedied by looking at the light meter, either in-camera or a hand-held; it was probably a few marks above the mid line. Increase the shutter speed until it brings that line down. Considering I mentioned changing the aperture, that first would have increased the light even more. So if that were done, the shutter speed would have to be increased quite a bit. But that is all at the shoot. If, like in this case, you can’t go back in time with 20/20 hindsight, work in Photoshop or something equivalent. You can adjust this a couple different ways. With the Levels command, bring the midtones mark to the right. You can see below how I set it up.
I usually prefer to work in Curves, however. It tends to give you more control over the image adjustments. And one more thing to mention, if your program allows it, always work with adjustment layers. That also gives you far more control and doesn’t have permanent adverse effects to the image. More on that in the future. Below, you can see what I did with Curves.
About the only other thing I would do with this image is some selective burning. I would particularly burn in the foreground grass, as that is getting pretty bright. I would probably also burn some of the background to push it more to the back. I may also burn some selective places on the truck itself too, just to increase some more contrast. I always use my burn tool on a very low exposure setting, such as 20%. This reduces the likelihood of over-burning an area, but it also slows the process.
For the most part, the colors on the image are nice and true to the old decaying vehicle. With the curves adjustment it boosts the saturation some, which is fine. The grass is a little on the cyan side, but not bad. I don’t think it really needs any adjustment here.
Below you can see the original image that Lori sent me, and the image after I went through the critique process. Let me know in the comments below what you thought. If you would like to submit an image just go to my critique submission contact form. Also, remember to subscribe so you can see any future critiques and other articles in the blog. Just hit the links in the left sidebar.
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