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 got an email from Amy a while back requesting a critique on this photo. More specifically, she was asking my professional opinion on how to crop this to an 11 x 14 format. First off, here is her original photo as she sent it.
My first impression is that I like this photograph quite a bit. It has a great composition, nice tonal range and good color. I like the green grass with the blue in the shadows on the wagon. For the composition, there are great lines leading to nice movement and repetitive elements. There is also great texture on the hub and spokes of the wheel.
The one problem that I see is that the depth of field is so shallow that its hard to tell exactly where the focus is. I love the bokeh in the background, but I would like more of the hub to be in focus. The metadata attached to the original says it was taken at f/3.2 on a 50mm f/1.8 lens. I’m surprised this isn’t taken set at 1.8 with this shallow of depth. Like I said, I like how it looks, but to get more of that hub in focus would have required about an f/8 with this lens and distance from subject, maybe slightly less. To see how much of the photo is going to be in focus in the final image, use the aperture preview button on the side of the camera next to the lens. It will get darker, depending on the aperture, but it will show exactly what is in focus for the shot. I can also see from the metadata that it was shot on Auto exposure mode, so that wouldn’t have allowed adjustment of the aperture. In that case, I recommend switching to aperture priority or even better yet, to Manual mode. So, just a small issue there.
Another really minor detail I noticed is the few bright pixels in the upper left corner. I’d either crop that out (which will be done later) or burn or get rid of it in some way. It draws the eye too much. But again, this is just a minor issue in a generally great photo.
So Amy’s main concern was cropping. One of the problems with most digital cameras is they have a different aspect ratio than old 35mm film cameras. This isn’t a problem at all if the photo is to stay digital, but if a person wants to frame them, it quickly becomes apparent that it is an issue. Most stock frames on the shelves are still based on that old 35mm ratio model. Of course a person could get a custom frame or matte, but that could be costly or unsightly if the matte is uneven.
So, my cropping solution looks like this:
I don’t want to just show where I would crop without an explanation, so here it is. The hub wheel nut is obviously the point of focus, so it would be silly to crop that out. On the top, I wanted to keep the small nails as another detail in the photo, so I went just above those. With this crop, the line of the bottom of the wagon is right around a third down from the top, which nicely follows with the rule of thirds. So, that about sums it up. What are your thoughts on the critique? And thanks to Amy for being brave and submitting to a critique. I hope she (and my dear readers) learned something through this post.
If you would like your work, be it photo, design, art, critiqued, just go to my critique submission page. Let me know what you thought of this critique in the comments below, and if you haven’t yet, you should subscribe so you don’t miss any future critiques and articles.
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