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Thread: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

  1. #1
    UKDivemaster's Avatar
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    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Recently I have found two discussion threads interesting. Both concern 'photography as art' and criticism. The first was a response to the March Monthly Competition: one of the entrants bemoaned the fact that the winners had created 'nice pictures but were they art?' Results: March 2012 Competition

    The second topic was a call for more honest rigour in criticism: i.e. 'you got the dof wrong etc' commenting on others picture.

    I think the issue is: constructive criticism is difficult to give if the photographer's intention is unknown. And its often difficult to do for images in isolation.

    So, to kick this off I'm going to post some images that did really badly in recent mini-competitions. I am a relative newby but I have the hide of a Rhino: so honest opinions please.....

    Photographer's Intention:

    This is a series of images, taken at night with the intention of contrasting nature and our built environment. They are not intended to be 'pretty' or give the viewer a warm fuzzy feeling. My intention is to create a feeling of despair and 'why are we doing this to our beautiful planet?'

    Comments on:

    Technical quality: choice of lens, POV, exposure, timing.
    Artistic intent: Have I achieved my goal - is there something I could have done to increase the emotion? Is my subject matter right - are there better examples/places?
    Post processing: this is where I am really learning - any help gratefully received.

    Are welcomed - thanks in advance!

    Urban Landscape I

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Urban Landscape II

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Urban Landscape III

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Urban Landscape IV

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Urban Landscape V

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Urban Landscape VI

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Urban Landscape VII

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

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    Letrow's Avatar
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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Mark, for me the intention you wanted to create is not there. The first photo I really like, for the light effect you have in there. Nice photo, good lines.
    The second photo is fine in itself, but not great. Again, I like the lights, maybe a bit too much exposure, and I would have cropped this photo a bit more. The lights at the top can go and maybe some of the grass.
    No message there for me.

    Aside: I see Farnborough on the sign. Are you close by? They do big air shows there, don't they?

    The McDonald's has too much light I feel.

    The last four photos, with plants, don't really work for me. The last one is best I think, because of the composition, but unfortunately the flowers have halos, probably due to the flash.

    All in all a few photos look fine, but your message didn't come through for me. Not sure how you would make that work either.

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    UKDivemaster's Avatar
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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Letrow View Post
    Mark, for me the intention you wanted to create is not there. The first photo I really like, for the light effect you have in there. Nice photo, good lines.
    The second photo is fine in itself, but not great. Again, I like the lights, maybe a bit too much exposure, and I would have cropped this photo a bit more. The lights at the top can go and maybe some of the grass.
    No message there for me.

    Aside: I see Farnborough on the sign. Are you close by? They do big air shows there, don't they?

    The McDonald's has too much light I feel.

    The last four photos, with plants, don't really work for me. The last one is best I think, because of the composition, but unfortunately the flowers have halos, probably due to the flash.

    All in all a few photos look fine, but your message didn't come through for me. Not sure how you would make that work either.
    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your response. Interesting - I'd guessed I had missed the target with the emotion, but its sometimes difficult to see this in your own work. The feedback is really useful. I think the colours in the lights and night may be creating a funfair feeling rather than despair! - Back to the drawing-board!

    On a technical note the halo you mention was intentional. The idea being that movement of the cars - the lights, disturbed the flowers. I used a longer exposure and second curtain flash.

    And yes, I am near Farnborough, the airshow is with us at the end of the summer. My son is hoping to get a job at the show before he has to go back to school - so I'll be there with a long lens and high shutter speed!

    Regards.

    Mark

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    Letrow's Avatar
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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Mark, the funny thing is that the light efffects that you have in there (e.g. the moving cars on the motorway) are great to see and also to try and reproduce.
    Your first photo reminds me of a photo taken in Los Angeles I think by some famous photographer (forget who, but have it in a book somewhere), who wanted to give an impression of that busy city at night.
    How long did you expose for that?

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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Letrow View Post
    Mark, the funny thing is that the light efffects that you have in there (e.g. the moving cars on the motorway) are great to see and also to try and reproduce.
    Your first photo reminds me of a photo taken in Los Angeles I think by some famous photographer (forget who, but have it in a book somewhere), who wanted to give an impression of that busy city at night.
    How long did you expose for that?

    Yup, the idea was nicked! I exposed at 100 ISO and f10 for 30 seconds and used an 18mm lens on a cropped sensor DSLR.

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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Hi Mark,
    I'm with Peter on that, I do not have a feeling of despair looking at your photos. It would be more in the category of "oh, pretty lights" and that every photographer wish he could realise a good long exposure at night. I think here our interest is entirely capture by the light trails. In order to see destruction,or nature, a bit more daylight on the subject would do the job.

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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Quote Originally Posted by wlou View Post
    Hi Mark,
    I'm with Peter on that, I do not have a feeling of despair looking at your photos. It would be more in the category of "oh, pretty lights" and that every photographer wish he could realise a good long exposure at night. I think here our interest is entirely capture by the light trails. In order to see destruction,or nature, a bit more daylight on the subject would do the job.
    I think you are right. I'm re-imagining the images now, perhaps with more urban decay, less movement and perhaps desaturating parts of the image.

  8. #8

    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Mark, I like where you were going with these photos. As previously mentioned I think you missed your mark. But with some selective editing I feel you could come closer to your intent. The Mcdonalds one is my favorite. I think it has the despair you were looking for with the chaos of light. I took the liberty of editing three to show what I thought your intent was.

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    With each image I edited I took what I thought to be the subject, and isolated it by using gradients, and masks. With the intent of focusing the viewers eye on the subject. For the first The Mcdonalds sign, and the head lights. For the second The bench and headlights. In this shot I think I would have liked if you took the picture at a downwards angle catching just the bench, top of the garbage can and the lights, leaving out the houses and shops in the back ground. And for the last which may be a bit to dark, I soley focused on the head and tail lights, I spent some time getting rid of all the lights just above the road save the 6 bright ones.

    IMHO
    Ryo
    Last edited by Ryogenetic; 19th April 2012 at 04:27 PM.

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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    My thoughts, for what they are worth, Mark, are:

    #1. When I first saw this sort of shot, many years ago, I though Wow; but now, shots like this really need a bit extra to excite me. From a technical side, the image is fine and well exposed.

    #2. This would look good to me if it wasn't for the rather bright bluish light coming from the left side. If that was reduced I think this could work well.

    #3. This has an extra dimension, but somehow it doesn't quite grab my attention.

    #4. I like this one, it works well with good balance of composition.

    #5. This has potential for me, but at the moment I find the light too central and there is something about the foreground which doesn't seem quite as good as it could be. I wonder if a little crop from the right side and bottom would create more impact.

    #6. I think the upper light needs to be fully visible or not at all. Overall not as good a scene as some of the others, for me.

    #7. Something missing, possibly too much 'wasted space' in the top right corner. Perhaps a landscape ratio which showed more on the left side would have worked better. But it is possible that this wasn't an option.

    I think # 5 & 7 would work better without that 'dead daffodil' lying on the ground.

    How many shots did you take? For scenes like this I would expect to shoot somewhere between 50 and 100 just to get one or two which worked.

    All in all, nothing really wrong with the camera technique and possibly worth editing slightly differently, as Ryo suggested. But I don't see anything which makes me say Wow, I really want that hanging on my wall. But those shots are rather few; particularly as I get older and more cynical.

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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryogenetic View Post
    Mark, I like where you were going with these photos. As previously mentioned I think you missed your mark. But with some selective editing I feel you could come closer to your intent. The Mcdonalds one is my favorite. I think it has the despair you were looking for with the chaos of light. I took the liberty of editing three to show what I thought your intent was.

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    With each image I edited I took what I thought to be the subject, and isolated it by using gradients, and masks. With the intent of focusing the viewers eye on the subject. For the first The Mcdonalds sign, and the head lights. For the second The bench and headlights. In this shot I think I would have liked if you took the picture at a downwards angle catching just the bench, top of the garbage can and the lights, leaving out the houses and shops in the back ground. And for the last which may be a bit to dark, I soley focused on the head and tail lights, I spent some time getting rid of all the lights just above the road save the 6 bright ones.

    IMHO
    Ryo
    Ryo - thank you. I particularly like the work you have done on the bench, it looks empty and cold - just as it was when I pressed the shutter.

  11. #11
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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    My thoughts, for what they are worth, Mark, are:

    #1. When I first saw this sort of shot, many years ago, I though Wow; but now, shots like this really need a bit extra to excite me. From a technical side, the image is fine and well exposed.

    #2. This would look good to me if it wasn't for the rather bright bluish light coming from the left side. If that was reduced I think this could work well.

    #3. This has an extra dimension, but somehow it doesn't quite grab my attention.

    #4. I like this one, it works well with good balance of composition.

    #5. This has potential for me, but at the moment I find the light too central and there is something about the foreground which doesn't seem quite as good as it could be. I wonder if a little crop from the right side and bottom would create more impact.

    #6. I think the upper light needs to be fully visible or not at all. Overall not as good a scene as some of the others, for me.

    #7. Something missing, possibly too much 'wasted space' in the top right corner. Perhaps a landscape ratio which showed more on the left side would have worked better. But it is possible that this wasn't an option.

    I think # 5 & 7 would work better without that 'dead daffodil' lying on the ground.

    How many shots did you take? For scenes like this I would expect to shoot somewhere between 50 and 100 just to get one or two which worked.

    All in all, nothing really wrong with the camera technique and possibly worth editing slightly differently, as Ryo suggested. But I don't see anything which makes me say Wow, I really want that hanging on my wall. But those shots are rather few; particularly as I get older and more cynical.
    I would have loved to had a bit more time with the daffodils - maybe some work this weekend. Unfortunately a lot of my photography is snatched time between taking the kids to sports.

    Thank you for your comments. You are right about the First Photo. I want to capture this spot again, at rush hour wit a bit more light in the sky - and maybe some stars & moon.

  12. #12

    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    Mark the thanks is to you for taking the picture. If I could adequately describe what I was seeing there would have been no need to work the image. But I find that it is easier to edit than to explain. BTW I think you can go even further than I did on the bench, and absolutely crush the back drop in darkness.

    Thanks
    Ryo

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    Re: Constructive Criticism - Photography as Art

    With regard to shooting stars and moon, Mark.

    Recently, during a clear night, I had a go at shooting lights from the next village (on a hilltop 2 miles away) with a nicely positioned moon and a bright Venus. And as a test, I shot with my 150-500 lens at or close to 500 mm.

    The results were better than expected but not exactly perfect. But the star was always blurred. Eventually I realised it was moving so much faster than the moon that I was actually getting motion blur.

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