I’ve had a very busy week, hence the delay, but I wanted to get back with you before it was over. I hope this will help you understand where I’m coming from and help you to identify areas for improvement.
The first image (0956) feels a little clunky to me. Among the things that kinda bother me about it are that I can see up her nose, she looks very uncomfortable, and it just doesn’t look clean to me. You need to be very careful when shooting under cloudy conditions, the effect of light scattering is great if the clouds are thin, but under heavy coverage, you get this dirty, snapshot look that makes the images look like they were shot with a point and shoot. It also looks like your focus is actually behind the subject by a few inches, the rock behind her looks much sharper than she does. It just doesn’t feel planned, it feels like the kind of test shot you do when you’re playing with framing. If you’d have moved around her enough that she was short lit instead of broad, gotten in a little tighter, and used a reflector to reduce the harshness of the shadows, this would be a much more pleasing shot. It would also solve the big black detail-less area of hair on her right side. Also be careful with merging, the branch behind her kinda looks like an antler as well.
The second shot (0947) is framed much better than the first, but again, you’re a little further out than I would recommend. You can capture the scenery a lot better by moving down and shooting a little wider, that way she could fill the frame a little better. I’d also recommend bringing her down to the lower right third intersection instead of centering her on the right third line. Just like the first shot, it’s got that dirty look because it was shot under heavy cloud cover without anything to break up the gloom. It also looks like the focus is off as well. If you focus manually, check your diopter, it may not be set correctly, if you use autofocus, look into now to calibrate it on your camera, that can help. The lighting is OK, but still broad lit and it’s generally preferable to make sure that the shadow from the nose doesn’t touch the lips. Also ask the models not to disjoint their elbows like that, I know they see it in the fashion magazines and it’s a coutour and crap, but it’s a bad habit to get into in anything but the highest end editorial work.
The third shot (0901), I would have probably thrown away. She just looks so awkward and uncomfortable it makes me uncomfortable to look at it. The posing shortens her legs and makes them look stubby, she just kinds gets lost in the background and she looks like she’s about to be sick. Practice working with models faces and the light, shoot with longer lenses whenever possible (I’m talking 150-200mm or more) to compress the features when you’re working with models. Most models do not look good face on without very precise lighting, 3/4 shots tend to look better. Position yourself in relation to the light to end up with short lighting and get a little higher. Remember that if you shoot low, it makes the legs, hips and belly look bigger, shooting high accentuates the face and upper torso and minimizes the hips and legs. One mantra I use is “if you have two of them, make them different” and try to avoid losing the models limbs behind her. Again, your biggest things to work on are lighting and posing.
The last two shots the lighting is much better, mostly because of the difference in cloud cover.
The fourth shot (0479) is a lot better off than the first 3, the color, balance, and overall look is much cleaner and the image looks a lot more refined. The same three problems do persist (focus, lighting, posing). The lighting (while better) could use some work in this case a reflector would have done wonders if you’d used it to bounce the sunlight into the scene. When you’re doing your TF work, practice getting the models to feel at ease. Unfortunately this isn’t something that I can really tell you how to do, you need to develop a rapport with the model that makes them feel comfortable enough with you to fully relax. Most people will get tense when the camera goes up, so you need to find a way to relax them, and how to do that depends entirely on your personality and theirs, though it gets easier with practice. When I’m working with just one model and they are having trouble, sometimes I’ll have them lay down on a bench and I’ll lead them through a few guided breathing and meditation exercises which usually gets them out of their own heads long enough to finish the shoot. It working with a couple, I’ll have them close their eyes and talk about things that are important to both of them, asking them to think about things like where they met, what they thought when they first saw each other, and stuff like that. This works well for me because I’m good at drawing out others emotions, but you’ll just have to figure out what works for you. I wish I could be more helpful, but every photographer must find their own way to deal with this because trying to mimic another photographer’s approach will distract you. When posing, have your models stand tall, avoid bunching the shoulders up to the neck, again, try not to hide the arms behind the people. For women, position their body so that it faces abot 45 degrees from camera, put their weight on their back hip or leg, turn the head back beyond the camera 20 or 30 degrees, then bring the eyes straight forward into camera. For a guy you do the same thing, but instead of bringing the face past the camera, bring it straight on to camera. These are the basic 1-3-2 pose and 1-2-2 pose. You can then rotate this pose as necessary, but the positions remain relatively the same. This will accentuate the femininity of your female subjects and the masculinity of your male subjects. Also, in long shots like this, I usually line up the subjects bodies long the third lines instead of trying to make their faces hit on the third intersections, this avoids the excessive head room. Also, try to shoot with a 4×5 crop it mind because it maximizes your print size versatility.
Shot five (0411) is overall better on the framing issue. She’s just a little too close to centered for me, but the head room is better. She’s almost short lit in this shot, which flatters her face better. The biggest problem with this shot is that she’s all scrunched up and it makes her look short and wide. Backing off and shooting longer while having her stretch her body would have flattered her figure a lot more than this shot does. One technical thing in this shot is that you’ve blown out the whites on the horse. This is hard to put into words, but you need your model’s body to be active but not tense. If you hold out your arm and let your hand dangle, that’s an inactive form, holding your wrist out straight, but without flexing all the muscles is active, and making a fist and flexing the arm is tense. Never allow a subject to relax into a position, if they are comfortable, the photo will look weak, but you need to keep them from over-compensating and tensing up, because that will make the photo look uncomfortable. The trick, and it just takes practice, is hitting that happy medium between tense and relaxed. You won’t always nail that perfect balance, none of us do every time, but being aware of it will help you spot it. I tend to have the model enter the scene and get comfortable, then I adjust her pose bringing her entire body active, which feel awkward but looks relaxed.
Anyway, I know this is a lot of negative stuff, but I wanted to focus on the areas that are most important to improve on first. As I said, you have a consistency in your work, so I know you’re thinking about your shots, but these finer points of photography are a bit more intangible than some of the simpler technical issues, and therefore harder to pick up quickly out of a book or a couple of tutorials online. I recommend finding photos you love and attempting to replicate the lighting and posing on those shots. Having an image that you can use as your goal will help you deconstruct how to do some of this stuff.
I hope this was helpful, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.