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New camera, new skillz... some interesting shots. (Thanks for looking!)

I'd love to get some constructive criticism. I took a DSLR photography course and would certainly value some input from people who've been doing photography for some time. Tell me if they see anything where I can improve my photography skills.






















Some pretty interesting shots, I like it.

Congrats on the new camera.
These make for a nice portfolio. Did you use a polarizing filter on some of the shots? I really like the lined shore crab in the tide pool picture. For critique - I would've preferred the dog had all of its nose, though the tight framing cutting off parts of his/her ears doesn't bother me. Instead it lends an intimacy to the photo. You really seem to have good control of focus/depth of field and exposure. 'This the sort of thing you're looking for?
Awesome shots!! I really like the crab and the three pelicans.

Congratulations on the new camera - I look forward to seeing more!
I think you have a good grip on your technical skills, based on the sampling above. The following comment should be viewed in context of my personal preferences, rather than pure, unbiased technical matters: most of your images are shot in full sun conditions, but I have found (for my tastes) that I direct lighting/cloudy conditions tend to yield richer colors, more depth of texture, and a kind of richness that direct sun does not provide. I compare the photo of the white dog with that of the small monkey two shots above it and find the wide range of values much more visually satisfying in the dog portrait. The broader the range of values (greys/mid-tones) in a photo, the more information you are providing the viewer, and the richer the experience is likely to be for the viewer. (of course there are always exceptions; that isn't a hard and fast rule. Sometimes reducing a scene to only a few values between maximum black and white renders the image as more of a graphic than a detail-rich photo, and that can be the better choice sometimes, just not in the case of most of your examples, IMO)

That said, you have handled the difficult task of rendering both shadow and highlight details in challenging lighting conditions very well.
PS: are you working with RAW image data, or just good ol' JPGs? What is your image editing software? Just curious.
Wow those are so nice! Great job :grin:
this will add to and already talented grower , cant wait to see what you can do with all those cool plants in photography.
not that you havent already impressed us all with all of your other pics.
nice pictures by the way, and very nice surroundings, dont see the ocean everyday here in the mountains of va.
cant wait to cruise to alaska in september, ill see the big water then. yip yip yippie!
It's true, right now I've opted to go with the most basic kind of lighting: frontlighting and daylight. I have some portable lights coming which should help with my not going into situations that call for different lighting. Also a remote shutter for my tripod setup, so that too will help once I start exploring more low-light possibilities.
  • #10
Keep the feedback coming. Thanks to all who replied. I'm looking for the type of comment that Whimgrinder left - as it helps me grow as a photographer.

Blue: Yeah, I realized that the dog's nose is cropped, but it was still a nice shot, so I included it.

Thank you for your kind comments, Dex, Devon, Thez and Uphwiz. I also appreciate the encouragement.

Whimgrinder: Currently, I'm still working with JPEGs. Soon I'll be downloading Lightroom4 and doing other interesting stuff like focus stacking. At that time I'll switch to raw.
  • #11
uv filter might help with the sky and water shots
  • #12
I urge you to start exploring RAW processing ASAP: the amount of additional information you have to work with is considerable and a lot can be accomplished with a processing engine like Lightroom (which I wholeheartedly recommend).
  • #13
Thanks Mickey. As a matter of course, I always buy a UV filter for all the lenses I buy - for protection of the front element of the lens as well as to reduce glare and improve the color saturation. I should go ahead and consider using a circular polarizer for outside shots though and that should make bluer skies in the shots. There's also a mode in my camera called 'Vivid' which enhances color graditions like sky and ocean though. I'll try the mode next time I'm outdoors.
  • #14
Circular polarizers make a huge difference! It knocks the aperture down 2 stops, so I don't recommend using one is low light situations.
  • #15
I urge you to start exploring RAW processing ASAP: the amount of additional information you have to work with is considerable and a lot can be accomplished with a processing engine like Lightroom (which I wholeheartedly recommend).
THIS. I second this ten hundred percents! XD Really, though, RAW offers a whole lot more flexibility while not detracting from the image's quality. You may have to buy an external HD, though...

On to my critiquing... keep in mind, this is all my own $0.02, with my own biases and partialities. Also subject to my laptop's screen calibration, which may be off... again...

To me, it seems a large chunk of the above shots are overexposed. In the shots with the flowering ice plants, the flowers (the most interesting part of the shots) are blown out or near-blown out. In the shots with the crashing waves, the frothy water (the most energetic parts of the shots) suffer the same thing. In the shot below the crab, the pathway (the "artsy" part of the shot)... you get the point. Admittedly, some of these are very difficult to capture properly given the range you need to capture in the same shot... dark rocks with VERY bright water, etc. Additionally, it's probably largely your lighting's fault; shooting in full, direct sun produces some extremely difficult scenarios. As Whimgrinder noted, overcast is wonderful for photography. And as others have noted, filters and polarizers can work wonders.

Aside from exposure, I encourage you to play with composition. Many (most?) of your shots are pretty well-centered. I'm sure you learned all about the rule of thirds in your class, and I find that, typically (NOT always), shots that follow that rule are more interesting, more visually pleasing than centered shots. For the sake of example, your lighthouse shot and the meerkats. In my very humble opinion, the lighthouse would have been much more interesting if it were a third from the left of the frame instead of centered. I say the left, specifically, because the little building in front of it is off-center, giving it a right-weighted appearance; so, framing it on the left sort of balances it, despite it being off-center. Since I can't see what's the the right of the frame, for all I know there was a huge, hideous abandoned warehouse or something there that would have ruined the shot had you off-centered it to the left, in which case centering is fine. One note about using the rule of thirds with animals in general, including bugs and such: frame it so that the subject is facing INTO the frame, not out of it. When framed such that the subject is facing the edge of the frame, it creates the feeling that the subject is going to run into a wall or out of the image, which kind of tends to create a sense of tension. When framed so that it is facing INTO the frame, it makes it feel more like the subject wants to be there, or is behaving more naturally, as opposed to making the viewer feel like the subject is trying to run away from having its picture taken.

The meerkat shot is the perfect example of when NOT to use the rule of thirds. In my opinion, that is far and away the best shot shown here and is very nearly perfect. But to focus on composition, the reason this shot is perfectly suited to being centered is because of the "weights" of the two meerkats. One is taller and narrower, the other shorter and wider. They're perfectly balanced just as is, yet they're different, creating interest. You also caught the perfect pose. One is looking directly into the camera, seemingly keeping an eye on you and their audience, while the other watches over its shoulder: the shot captures the nature of the animals perfectly. Absolutely wonderful shot.

Regarding software: I, personally, use Photoshop, but Lightroom is also perfectly fine. I've just been using Photoshop for probably over a decade, so I'm more comfortable using it. Also, since you're planning on playing around with focus stacking, I assume you're not afraid of using some of the "new-school" techniques available and, as such, recommend you also look into HDR. I've JUST started playing with it, but it's a blast. The range it allows you to capture in a single final image is incredible. Some of those over-exposed shots could have been absolutely stellar as an HDR, I suspect.

Think that's all I have for now, lol... take it all with a grain of salt.

Oh yeah, and your dog is gorgeous. I can't believe how similar my mutt looks to your purebread, even down to the eye color. My girl clearly has white German in her, lol... Fantastic dogs, no? ^.^

EDIT: In my experience, built-in color effects (such as your camera's "Vivid" ) are crap, and I stay as far away from them as possible. I ALWAYS aim for the truest color balance, and if I want to emphasize something later on, it can be done in post-processing.
  • #16

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough critique. I really appreciate you taking the time to help me out. I know about the two thirds rule of composition. It's not one that I keep in mind too often but definitely should.

The iceplant, the overexposure, I agree totally.

I didn't know the trick about animals facing into the frame to create a sense of comfort. I will definitely try to keep that mind when shooting wildlife. :)

As for the dogs... yeah, I have two white GSDs and love them both to pieces. The best dogs I've ever had! :)

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  • #17
I love "depth of field" on landscape shots (which can be tricky at times) and you seem to be getting a handle on it just fine. The last photo would have been great if the lower right corner could have been in focus but the others all look good. Especially the rock formation with the flowers (i think ice plant) in the far top background (pic 19) and the first & second pics as well. Nice job Brok!
  • #18
Two suggestions:

Shoot all day throughout all the different lightings of the day.

Familiarize yourself with Art History. Rococo painting is a particular favorite of mine...
Maybe even take a painting course.
A great technician does not automatically make a great Artist