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    I’m looking for CONSTRUCTIVE criticism here.  I spent most of my life always taking pictures and loving it.  I received a DSLR from my hubby as a gift and have been taking pictures for the last two and a half years (with much more effort on actually learning about photography versus simply enjoying having a bit nicer camera set on auto) and when I’m not taking pictures, I’m reading, researching, signing up for workshops and following forums in an effort to learn as much as I can about photography.  I currently do not charge for any pictures and all the pictures in my “photostream” are of my own kiddos, my nieces and one friend from high school’s kids.  I offer to take pictures of them to practice.  Going into it, I tell them, I’m learning which is why I’m not charging.  Usually, they end up liking the pictures so for me that’s a bonus and honestly, I learn something every time.  I don’t feel as much pressure since we both understand its a learning opportunity for me and hopefully they get at least a couple pictures they like.  I have signed up for another workshop in January and hope to gain some more knowledge.  My goal is within the next 3-5 years perhaps have enough knowledge to start charging and actually get paid to do something I love.

    I was pleasantly surprised when I reached out to one YANAP member and actually had positive feedback.  She noted that some of my pictures are a bit underexposed and I do see that.  I still struggle with fear of over exposing.  I should fix it in post, but on my monitor it does look brighter, however when I viewed them from my work computer they seem darker.   Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    Here goes nothing…http://www.flickr.com/photos/90014955@N02/



    On monitors. You need to calibrate, at least visually till you can afford/rent either a spyder or a colormunki. These are important and will help your underexposing, I had the same issue. In my head a bright monitor was good, brighter the better. I’ve since learned through a couple classes, is that’s not true. It ends up being misleading, as you’ve noticed. Try a visual/manual calibration. Windows 7 has one, and I know macs do as well, but I’m not as familiar.


    Colormunki and spyder whats it ( i have colormunki lol) are pretty pricey, but if you make nice with some other photographers sometimes you can find a nice one to let  you borrow it. Calibrations need maintenance every month or so, but it helps. Also I *THINK* borrowlenses.com offers them on a lending bases, but I may be making that up 😀


    Lol! I love the fireman with the big phallic hose and grin.


    As far as exposure, it’s just as bad to underexpose as overexpose… you lose detail in both cases. In fact, provided you don’t blow out the whites, overexposing is better than correct exposure as far as getting a better picture. Naturally, you have to correct it in post, but that will noticeably reduce noise.

    Set your camera to give you “blinkies” if you blow it out, and make sure only spectral highlights are blinking. You may run into issues shooting backlit subjects against a sky, but extreme contrast is a different issue entirely.



    @Stef – Hilarious.  I really never noticed that about the fireman, but after a second look, I don’t know how I missed it.  But in all honesty, thank you and Intuition for the feedback.  I have now calibrated my monitor, (bought an inexpensive Spyder until I can afford a better quality one) and I will set my highlight indicator on and that should help.

    Seriously, I thought I was going to get chewed up and spit out on this site.  I try not to really compare myself to others, just what I don’t personally like.  I am however, my own worst critic.  I believe I have a lot left to learn and am enjoying the process.

    Thanks again!



    I looked at your gallery before, and again now.  I still don’t have much constructive to say.  I agree with what Stef and Intuition already said.  Many of your images are low contrast — they have that shot through a sheet of glass look that is trendy in wedding photography at the moment.  I don’t care for that look, but if you like it more power to you.  If they were my photos, I would use levels and/or curves to increase contrast and get the look I like.

    There are a lot of portraits of the same young woman.

    I prefer the fireman scenes, but I lean more toward that kind of content.  Keep doing what you are doing if you like your images.  Use a lens hood and adjust contrast as required if you are not trying for the low contrast look.  Keep shooting.


    Thanks cameraclicker for the feedback.  Yes, there are quite a few of the same girls.  They are my nieces (twins) and since I know I need the practice, they are more than willing to let me “use” them.  I do like my images, I would rather say I love them.  Would you mind editing one of the low contrast ones so I can get an idea of what you mean?  I would appreciate it.  Thanks in advance.



    Looking today, I see fewer than I remember of the low contrast photos.  I picked one of the cowboy to edit.  Please see original and edited.

    Editing was done in Photoshop Elements 7 which I still keep on my computer because I like the batch resize feature. Elements is a lower cost program than Photoshop CS6 which is the heavy duty editing package. Elements can do a lot but the full Photoshop has more power if you have access.  His hands look a bit burned out and I tried to get them back with the burn tool, which works reasonably well with CS5 in 16 bit mode but does not work as well in Elements as it gives a blackened look.  I’m not happy with the hands but I did not spend much time editing.  I used his T shirt as a colour reference, adjusted levels, adjusted highlights and applied some sharpening.

    What do you think of the changes?


    Yellow skys are not a good fix for a blown out sky. I know that type of coloring is trendy but you seem to be using it to just try and fix your blown out skys. You are simply shooting at the wrong time of the day. If you shoot RAW it may be possible to get that detail back. Place you subject in the shade and use your flash (off camera) on the subject so you can keep the detail in the backgrounds.


    Thanks cameraclicker.  I think it looks great -much better and honestly, more true to the real colors of his shirt.  The original was edited with an action.  I do use PSE 9, but to say I’m a novice is even overstating my skill level (which is why I think I sometimes lean on actions but really should invest in a class).   I was experimenting since they aren’t “clients” just my family and the more I look at mine – the less I like it.   I genuinely appreciate the time you took to give me an example.  I’m grateful to learn whenever/wherever I can.

    @Sarah – you are probably right.  I should have picked a different time of day (it was about an hour before sunset and we were behind a line of trees so there wasn’t much light coming in), but had rented  lens for the weekend and that was my last chance to use it.  While I was not completely happy with the sky, I was happy to have those images of my son.  I didn’t notice when I was shooting them, but when I opened them on the computer, I noticed.   Currently, I don’t own an off-camera flash.  It’s on my wish-list.

    My response kind of sounds like I’m full of excuses, but in all honestly, I am a mom of 4, grandma to 1, work full-time and have two other businesses on the side (w/my hubby) so finding time to sneak in learning and taking pictures really is a struggle for me and I have to make time for it when I can.  I genuinely love it though, so I keep trying and even though I make lots of mistakes, I look at them as a chance to learn and grow.

    Great tips and advice.  Thank you!


    ” I didn’t notice when I was shooting them, but when I opened them on the computer, I noticed”

    This is something I still struggle with, but it’s something you REALLY need to work at. I know for me I always feel this unwarranted pressure to hurry up and get the shots, and that I shouldn’t take any extra time, like it’s unprofessional. I know this isn’t true in my head, and that if I took an extra five minutes the client won’t care ( generally) to get the right show, but I panic anyway. I’m working on slowing down and making my environment work for me.

    Also actions are great, but you need to know that they are the start of the editing process, not the end all. It’s not a magic button to push and then be done, you have to tweek them. If your using lightroom presets ( actions) that’s near impossible, and i wouldn’t recommend it. Photoshop actions though are highly editable ( is that a word?) and a great starting point. I’m not sure in elements, but I think it works on the same layer system as Photoshop, also look up masking techniques in youtube. There are a ton of resources on youtube, utilize it!


    The Internet is a great resource for learning but some information is more accurate and some less so.  You have to cross reference and test what’s provided to make sure it is real.

    You can get the effect of off camera flash with a reflector held a couple of feet from an on camera flash.  You can use a real photographic reflector or a sheet of white foam core.  The catch for using either is the need to hold the reflector at the right angle to reflect the flash onto your subject.

    Most Nikon and some Canon models can fire an off camera flash using the pop-up flash.  Canon just introduced the 600 EX RT which has a built in radio but another 600 EX RT or a dedicated radio is needed to fire it, off camera using radio.  Like other models you can use a pop-up or another flash with commander mode to fire it, using light.  Some other makes of flash can be fired when they see light from another flash.


    Thanks again.  I am going to keep looking online for as much info as I can get.  Currently I’m taking an online course and so far, I see I have a lot of weaknesses and just have to keep plugging along, slowly, but surely learning as I go.

    I did purchase a reflector.  I need to get the hang of it, not be afraid to use it and really just slow down some more and think things through.  That would be beneficial, I’m sure.

    , I didn’t realize I could even adjust actions when I first opened them, I’ve realized now that I can pick and choose parts of it that will work.  Typically, I strive for clean color, but again, just trying out actions and other options to see if I like them.  I know they won’t stand the test of time so I’m trying to focus more on learning how to get them to just look “real”.

    I just want to say one more thing here – I was really scared that I was just going to be attacked when I posted my pictures (cause I know I need lots of work/practice/learning to do).  But, I have been clear about my ability/goals and I’m open to constructive criticism.  Amazing that people can actually learn from others if they would just check their ego at the door and have some humility. I see so many catty fights on this site.  Thanks again!


    Actions are great. Some of the people on these forums say they “hate them” and that they’re “cheating.” I disagree, yeah if you click and go and end up with something Instagram-esque, it’s kind of cheating and unoriginal. And it doesn’t show any sort of knowledge or your own editing skills. You can open up the action, hide and show certain parts, and then click the layer mask tool and use the paintbrush in black (to “mask” over it) or white (to bring it back) at varying opacities on different parts of the photo. Sometimes an action looks great applied to the person’s clothing, but makes their face too yellow. You can mask it out on their skin, making it look more natural. I’ll have to post an example. It’s simpler than it sounds once you see what I mean.

    I recommend everyone to check out this page: https://www.facebook.com/EnviActions?ref=ts&fref=ts

    She is formerly known as Stacie Jensen Photography, but just rebranded her site and action brands to Envi Actions. She has wonderful tutorials for people of varying skill levels in not just actions, but anything and everything in photography, including business tools. She has even personally answered messages for me though I know she’s busy! Plus, she often offers a few free actions and her stuff is not priced high at all. I’ve bought a few of her action sets and I remember one was only $10.


    Ok, after wanting to throw my computer out my window for being so slow while making this, here’s the example.



    I prefer the clean edit/top right.  With a little fill light, it would be perfection!

    Yep, still not sold on other people’s  created actions.  No, I don’t think they are cheating.  I think they are better suited for DIY types, rather than professionals though.  That’s just me being old school though (or so I’ve been told, even though I am very new to photography),  I think there is less work/time and more talent involved and images are more dynamic and impressive when most the work happens before the click.  Nothing beats good lighting work,  but I guess it did help save a rather flat image.  I just wish they didn’t look so washed out and blended into the background in your final edit.

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