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Thread: Woman and Batik

  1. #1
    ktuli's Avatar
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    Woman and Batik

    All,

    I'll be quite honest, the catalyst for asking for some C&C here is how absolutely horribly this photo did in a recent mini-comp. Admittedly, people photography is not my strong suite, but I thought this photo would be better received than it was. Any constructive criticism is appreciated (don't hold back, I'm a big boy, I can take it). Since it isn't a style of shooting I do regularly, I guess I could use some pointers as to what I could have done to make this a better photo.

    Woman and Batik

    I also discuss the photo here on my blog if anyone wants to share comments there too, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    - Bill

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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Don't be too hard on yourself on this one, Bill. Your subject is definitely interesting. However, winning in the mini-competition is very subjective. We're not only competing against interesting subjects, but also about the technical merit of the shot, the composition, lighting, and most of the time... the subjective feeling of the viewer as to how he likes our shot. I, for one has a definite pattern when I vote for the images that I like. I go first with my subjective taste. As soon as I see the entry shot I gauge it whether it captured my attention well or not. If it did then I mark it on a piece of paper. The same goes for the other entries. Now among the entries, I now select among them which has more effort put into it based on composition and technical effort. Was the white balance corrected? The horizon leveled? Sharpness, OK? Was the shot too busy or too cluttered? Are colors vivid enough to really add depth to the shot? If most of these were answered yes then that's the time I picked them and entered my vote. Frankly, when I enter our mini-comps I just want to have a feel if my shots are good enough to get some votes. If not, then that's the time I have to ask myself "now, there something missing on my shot, I wonder what that is? Or, probably the competing shots are really that good at that time that mine is on the lower category." These things happen.

    Since you asked for some opinion or comment, I would like to offer mine. First thing I noticed was that your white balance was off. Well, for my taste it's a bit too "orangey" for me. Next one was that I was hoping to see some more of the art work and less of her face. I already knew that she is the one applying the dye ink on the pattern so I want to see more of the art. Lastly, I was hoping for some more extra sharpness or selective sharpness on the image concentrating on the artwork. That's just my opinion Bill so take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes, if I am given the liberty to take the shots, I'd see to it that I will definitely roam around the subject 'til I get the right POV that I want. It doesn't hurt to take a lot of shots. You can get lucky with more shots than just having one. If I can edit your work, would you like to see it?

  3. #3
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Hi Bill,

    People aren't my thing either, so, as the saying goes; let the blind lead the optically challenged (no offence intended - to anyone)

    I hope you're feeling brave Bill, here comes both barrels ...

    Thoughts that crossed my mind viewing this;
    the light coloured o.o.f. clothing in lower left corner is about the brightest thing in shot
    the point where the charcoal/brush/pen meets the paper is not well lit (due to bending of paper)
    the face is quite dark and of course we see no features from this angle
    there's a shadow on her neck
    there's an unknown dark shape intruding into lower right corner
    at the point of sharpest focus, there are jpg artefacts
    looking at an "All" histogram; there are no blacks or whites
    a bit more DoF would have been useful

    The composition isn't bad, although it might be said the sharp hand needs a 'counter balance' point of interest sorta 'opposite' it - and all we have is a fuzzy ear. That wouldn't complement the subject anyway, unless perhaps there were an ear-ring with a similar pattern on.

    Portraits rarely do well in the Mini Comps

    I do hope that's helpful,

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    ktuli's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    Since you asked for some opinion or comment, I would like to offer mine. First thing I noticed was that your white balance was off. Well, for my taste it's a bit too "orangey" for me. Next one was that I was hoping to see some more of the art work and less of her face. I already knew that she is the one applying the dye ink on the pattern so I want to see more of the art. Lastly, I was hoping for some more extra sharpness or selective sharpness on the image concentrating on the artwork. That's just my opinion Bill so take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes, if I am given the liberty to take the shots, I'd see to it that I will definitely roam around the subject 'til I get the right POV that I want. It doesn't hurt to take a lot of shots. You can get lucky with more shots than just having one. If I can edit your work, would you like to see it?
    Jiro,

    First, thanks for the insight into your thought process during competition voting. I think that is something that is interesting to know. I know any kind of judging is subjective - usually the greatest part actually - as you point out, you make a note of the images you want to go back and look at for technical details. It is the subjective part that does the first round of eliminations. And even the technical review will have a subjective element to it as you will instinctively/subconsciously look at those elements that you feel are more important first.

    Anyway....

    1. I am interested in what you say about the white balance being off. Having been there and taking the photo, I can say that it was recorded accurately given the scene. So I wonder what exactly a "correct" white balance would look like. And that also makes me wonder which is more valuable, the true color of the scene as it was viewed or the more pleasing adjusted white balance scene.

    2. I don't follow what you mean by extra sharpness or selective sharpness concentrating on the artwork. I did manually select that as the point of crisp focus, and intentionally use a wide aperture to blur the rest. Can you elaborate more?

    3. As to POV, I guess this is just a subjective thing, and I did specifically walk around the scene shooting different angles, and this is the one I liked the most. It is that darn subjective thing again! On one hand, I am perfectly comfortable taking the photo as I like it best, but at the same time, if I want to take photos that appeal to more people than just myself, I need to figure out how to also be able to spot POVs that other people will find appealing as well.

    4. I am a SOOC kind of guy. Almost everything I do is SOOC and JPG. I've recently been convinced that I need to start shooting RAW. but I have not really started doing that yet. So if you don't mind working with a JPG, you're welcome to have a crack at editing it. I'd be interested in seeing what you would produce. A fullsize version of the photo can be found here.

    Thanks for the comments! I really appreciate them!

    - Bill

  5. #5
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Thoughts that crossed my mind viewing this;
    the light coloured o.o.f. clothing in lower left corner is about the brightest thing in shot
    the point where the charcoal/brush/pen meets the paper is not well lit (due to bending of paper)
    the face is quite dark and of course we see no features from this angle
    there's a shadow on her neck
    there's an unknown dark shape intruding into lower right corner
    at the point of sharpest focus, there are jpg artefacts
    looking at an "All" histogram; there are no blacks or whites
    a bit more DoF would have been useful

    The composition isn't bad, although it might be said the sharp hand needs a 'counter balance' point of interest sorta 'opposite' it - and all we have is a fuzzy ear. That wouldn't complement the subject anyway, unless perhaps there were an ear-ring with a similar pattern on.

    Portraits rarely do well in the Mini Comps

    I do hope that's helpful,
    Dave,

    Thanks for the comments - I appreciate the honesty - it is exactly what I had asked for... can't learn from sugar-coated politeness. I hope you don't mind me responding to a couple points:

    1. light coloured oof clothing: I've hit this problem in my photos before. I think my vision differs from many people in that my eyes don't head to those spots first, and if they do, they don't linger long enough for me to consider them a distration. I guess another thing (like the POV discussed above with Jiro) that I need to learn to train myself to look for when taking photos to present to a wider audience.

    2. "pen" not being well lit: I definitely understand your point. Any suggestions for fixing that?

    3. dark shape in lower right: Yeah - I noticed that after the fact too, and I do find it distracting as well.

    4. Are JPG artifacts something that would be corrected had this been shot in RAW? As I said above, I think I've finally convinced myself to start shooting RAW, but was not doing so for this trip. Guess I'll have to go back!

    5. How much DoF would you have liked to see in the shot?

    6. Counter Balance: I understand what you mean here. I think in my mind, the bird she is completing provided that counter balance. I know the close proximity of the two elements makes them a litte harder to provide balance for the whole shot. On one hand, I see the "pen" (which is actually a tool to apply liquid bees wax, not ink) as the fulcrum point between the two balanced elements. On the other hand, it could be argued that they're so closely linked because of that, that they become one element.

    Thanks again for the comments - they are definitely helpful!

    - Bill

  6. #6
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    I just downloaded the large file. It was sharp, much sharper compared to what was shown on the image on your original post. That means, you have to work on your workflow when you link your image here. As for the white balance, here is the idea that I always use. I look for something that I know is near white on the image. If not pure white, at least something that is near white. A white dress has a shade in near white. The paper has a shade near "cream white". In the case of the image, it has that small amount of magenta cast into it given by the light source. If you are a SOOC kind of guy, then this thing does not really matter to you. However, if you want to solicit vote or acceptance from other people to admire or feel the same about your image with regards to its appeal and technical merit, then you have no choice but to apply some post-processing work into it. I am not saying it is mandatory, what I am saying is that it is "necessary" because you are now asking for others to react on your image.

    I learned it the hard way. When I posted my first work in another forum, I got 78 views and not even a single comment. What I did was just post my work. Later on, I noticed something... I don't even know what rule of thirds was! Also, my white balance adjustment was way off to the yellow side. Sharpness was in the wrong part of the scene. I found out these things are hard to realize if I solely based my opinion on myself. Luckily, there were some guys who was brave enough to know that I am a total noob at that time and gave me specific instructions on how to make my shots look "better". Now, on my 4th post, that's where the fun began. LOL! I'm getting some comments! For me, these are manna's! LOL! I took them seriously and learned from them. Basically what I shared to you on my previous post were the elements that matter when you view other people's work. They dissected my work that way, one by one, element by element, until I saw some pattern. It was also true what other people say "You have to learn what are the rules first before you can bend them to your will." I hope this did not sound like a lecture to you. I am merely sharing the transformation that actually happened to me since November of last year when I started using a camera again after an absence of 11 years. I'll post my reworked edit based on the large file and not the one I already did based on the small one. Cheers!

  7. #7
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Jiro,

    Even if it does sound like a lecture, that kind of input is exactly what I am looking for. I'm doing this to make my photography better.

    As for the version posted here, I use the program Gallery2 (http://gallery.menalto.com/), so I just post the resized version from that. Do you have a recommended way of posting that would work better? I'm sure the large fullsize versions are far too big, but how do I get decent versions for sharing here. I certainly don't want that being why people don't like my photos!

    Thanks!

    - Bill

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Wait for Colin or Rob or Dave to share their opinion on how to upload your files here for better resolution. I am biased because I'm a photoshop guy. I always use photoshop to help me optimize the files I'm uploading. Lightroom is also good and even Photoshop Elements which is affordable. The original file is really way too big to just link it here.

  9. #9

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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Firstly, Bill, have you seen this thread about uploading images HELP THREAD: How can I post images here?

    Ideally try to get photos below 700 pixels on the longest side and under 150 kb. I like to use around 650 pixels and set the Jpeg compression to suit the max file size. Anything above this size will be automatically resized and that can sometimes produce softer results than doing it yourself.

    But to be honest, I tend to struggle with getting my photos to appear sharp here. They print perfectly sharp and I follow all the 'rules' about correctly downsizing/sharpening, etc, but I am often disappointed with my results.

    However to return to your photo. My first thought on seeing it in the competition was; that large area of out of focus head spoils the whole scene. I would have preferred a tighter crop on the left side. Possibly somewhere to the left of her ear and just showing where her neck joins the shoulder line.

    The other suggestions will also help, but this was my first thought.

  10. #10

    Re: Woman and Batik

    Bill I would certainly agree with the technical comments above but in terms of a competition winner on here all that can go to the wind....provided the image has punch. This image is lightweight in terms of colour range - it does not hold the eye. There are three areas competing for our attention - the artist, the batik and the hand holding the applicator. More than one point of interest - equally accentuated is rarely a winning combo. Whilst this image represents a recording of the scene it is not enough in terms of translating the mood and atmosphere to others. You have to drag the public by the scruff using all the tricks of the trade to make them sit up and take notice. I suspect for most it is simply a case of this not being interesting subject and presented in a rather bland way. Further back with strong side light and dust filtering through the light would have instantly given atmosphere....something we can feel with you.

    This all sounds a bit harsh but I admire you for asking for honest C&C. In my opinion mastering the technicalities of faithful capture is the first rung on the ladder.

    Oh and by the way I rarely win the comps on here....I console myself by thinking my art is above all that....I know that I am woefully wrong
    Last edited by Wirefox; 23rd March 2011 at 08:30 PM. Reason: Last Para was (probably still is) b*****ks

  11. #11
    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Bill, here's my edit.

    Woman and Batik

  12. #12
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Hi Bill,

    No, I don't mind you responding, do bear in mind they were literally just "the thoughts that crossed my mind" on analysing why it might not do well.

    Quote Originally Posted by ktuli View Post
    1. light coloured oof clothing: I've hit this problem in my photos before. I think my vision differs from many people in that my eyes don't head to those spots first, and if they do, they don't linger long enough for me to consider them a distration. I guess another thing (like the POV discussed above with Jiro) that I need to learn to train myself to look for when taking photos to present to a wider audience.
    I think the bigger problem here is that you were capturing a reality, not working under the controlled conditions of a studio shoot, where you could ask for dark clothing, etc..

    Quote Originally Posted by ktuli View Post
    2. "pen" not being well lit: I definitely understand your point. Any suggestions for fixing that?

    3. dark shape in lower right: Yeah - I noticed that after the fact too, and I do find it distracting as well.
    Good example of more things being outside your control - I mean, it's not as if the whole artist and easel was on a turntable you could rotate to a better light angle, was it? (Or move studio light stands around)

    Quote Originally Posted by ktuli View Post
    4. Are JPG artifacts something that would be corrected had this been shot in RAW? As I said above, I think I've finally convinced myself to start shooting RAW, but was not doing so for this trip. Guess I'll have to go back!
    Almost certainly (99.99999%) you wouldn't have had these working from a RAW capture.

    Quote Originally Posted by ktuli View Post
    5. How much DoF would you have liked to see in the shot?
    I don't know the focus distance, lens focal length, camera crop factor and aperture in use, so I can't give a definitive answer "A bit more" doesn't seem adequate though. The scene doesn't have a traditional "background" that you need to blur, so having a shallow DoF doesn't really serve much purpose in my mind. Of course there are limits, you wouldn't want to see a sharply defined mole on the artist's neck or cheek for example.

    Quote Originally Posted by ktuli View Post
    6. Counter Balance: I understand what you mean here. I think in my mind, the bird she is completing provided that counter balance. I know the close proximity of the two elements makes them a litte harder to provide balance for the whole shot. On one hand, I see the "pen" (which is actually a tool to apply liquid bees wax, not ink) as the fulcrum point between the two balanced elements. On the other hand, it could be argued that they're so closely linked because of that, that they become one element.
    I think the last sentence here is my view too.

    Willie's version has more bite to it and also seems to address points 2. and 4. above too.

    The dark shape could be cloned out in PP I guess.

    The bottom line is that for a shot like this to do well, everything has to be perfect; lighting, scene, subject, PP. Beyond incredible luck, that means a posed studio set. Obviously an artist, by definition trying to work his/herself, is not going to be very receptive to photographer's directions.

    If it is any consolation, I have had no successes in Mini Comps either, so I don't have the answers, just an appreciation of the problems!

    Cheers,

  13. #13
    ktuli's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    All,

    Thanks for all the great follow-up comments. They really help to dig deeper into understanding exactly where things can be improved, and where things just can't be helped!

    Don't get me wrong, I wasn't asking for help winning comps, but more because the photo did so poorly, I knew there would be things that people could point to for improvements.

    I appreciate everyone's help/comments. Hopefully next time I'm presented with a situation to shoot something like this, I'll remember this thread and fix at least some of them!

    - Bill

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    Re: Woman and Batik

    Jiro,

    Thanks for the time spent working up the edit. It definitely helps to illustrate some of the points made here by yourself and others. Personally, I think I would have opted for something in between what you produced and the original. I tend to shy away from dramatic changes to an image, but then again I think that might be because I know the original so well that I see the changes as dramatic. Perhaps for a new viewer, they might not notice as much. I generally don't like my photos to have that "photoshopped" feel to them. I certainly don't mean any disrespect by that, it is just my personal preference. I see what yourself and others produce with PP and I am genuinely impressed, but since I need more practice at it, I tend to shy away from it.

    Thanks again for all the effort you put in here! It really is appreciated!

    - Bill

  15. #15
    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: Woman and Batik

    You're fine, Bill. No harm done. I hope you will find your own style of photography soon. Good luck.

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