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    I am relative new to photography (and really new to this site!), about three years ago I took an Intro to Photography class at my local university and absolutely fell in love!  The only problem was that it was black and white film and became too expensive for a poor college student like myself.  But, for Christmas 2 years ago, my family got me a Canon T2i and, since then, two more lenses.

    Anyways, I love taking pictures, but the problem is that my family is a little TOO supportive.  They never give me any feedback besides telling me they love my work.  I know I need improvement, but I can’t get critiques from anyone, especially skilled people like yourselves.

    So, I was wondering if I could take a minute of your time and have you look over a few of my pictures.  These are some of my favorite (http://www.flickr.com/photos/105757377@N06/sets/), so there are not very many up.  Most of my photography, as you can see, is pet photography and landscape/architecture.  I would like to do more portraits, but I do not have very many people who volunteer to let me practice on them (except my sister and my cousin) so I feel that aspect needs the most work.

    Also, my friend just got engaged, and asked me to take some engagement pictures for her.  I told her multiple times that I am a beginner, and still practicing, and that she should not put all of her trust in me, but, their budget is pretty low.  You can’t beat free, and I could really use the practice, so I agreed.  That being said, if you could provide any tips please help me out!  I know they won’t be 100% perfect, but I would like them to be good enough that they could use the money for an engagement photographer towards and awesome wedding photographer instead.


    Thank you in advance for your help!


    I’ll let others chime in on portraits and whatnot…I’ll focus on the landscapes:

    General thoughts:

    There’s a lack of foreground interest with the two landscape shots. While I’m sure the view was great and worthy of the share, they don’t necessarily make me want to be there. A strong composition would include something drawing the viewers eyes through the image.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/105757377@N06/10331762255/in/set-72157636662169603 – this shot appears to be a little too blue (but I’m also viewing on an uncalibrated monitor while at work) in the left 2/3’s. The clouds in the upper third have a purplish color cast as well. The overall feel of the image is slightly unsettling, but that might be the angle of the water vs. the mountain ridge – I can’t tell which one needs to be leveled.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/105757377@N06/10331721826/in/set-72157636661220483 – Is your subject the skyline, the trees, or the lake/pond? It looks like you stopped on the side of a walking path and took this shot because it ‘looked nice’ with the trees framing the pond. The sky is bland – this is half the pain of being a landscape photographer. You don’t have the option of choosing when the sky will cooperate with you, so you have to come back another time. There’s also a strong right tilt in most of the buildings.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/105757377@N06/10331790305/in/set-72157636661220483 – now w’re getting somewhere… except the bottom part of the image for the viewer to walk through is cut off. The right wall is also higher than the left, creating a bit of a disproportion in the image. Make sure the horizons are level – the arch and the wire in the upper third are tilted left.

    Keep working at it. Read a lot and shoot a lot.


    My first question is do you shoot in auto?


    JLiu-  Thank you for the input!  I see what you mean about the horizons being sloped, thats something I forget about when framing the picture.  I will work on that as well as what I am actually wanting the picture to display.  Thanks again.

    nairbynairb-  It really depends.  I usually try to take one of both because I don’t trust myself completely.  Most on this site are manual, except the flowers and a few of the dogs (they move so fast and I am so slow with manual, I feel like I am always changing things when the lighting is funny!)


    scd – One of these will come in handy: http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/level-camera-cube/
    Even though my camera has a digital level, I still use this analog, blocky cube because it just works.


    Scd, it would help us if you include EXIF data.  A hot shoe level is useful to have, but in order for it to help you, you also need a good tripod.  Still, sometimes it is invaluable, your mountain photo doesn’t have a level horizon and while some forests have trees that generally grow vertically, the trees in your scene are leaning in different directions.

    If the camera is not level, vertical lines converge.  This is most noticeable if you are using a short lens.  Most editors have a tool that can fix this if it is not too severe.   You can also use a tilt-shift lens, but they are expensive and still have limitations.

    I have a T2i.  I find it most effective to use Av mode, most of the time.  P and M are useful when using a flash and M is good for those times when lighting is unusual like back lit subjects or studio flash.  The centre auto-focus point is almost the only one I ever use, although for some moving subjects and servo focus mode, it is helpful to turn them all on.

    When shooting dogs, and children, it is better to get down to their level — assuming you can keep them from crawling all over you.

    Weddings are expensive one-off events.  Messing up a wedding shoot is painful for all concerned.  Engagement shoots are a chance to meet the happy couple and see how well you get along on a shoot.   Definitely do the engagement shoot.  If they realize you are new to photography, they should also realize there are some risks, but also, if it is messed up, it’s not that big a deal, just wait for the next nice day and shoot another session.  Either you will figure out how to shoot them or they will get tired of scheduling another session and get someone else to shoot them.  Either way, you win.


    Hello SCD, Good to hear that you are at least trying to shoot in manual.  It can be frustrating  when you have to make adjustments and the subject like pets and kids are moving about.  You’ll get the hang of it, it just takes time and knowing your camera.  Soon enough you will be making your adjustments without even thinking about it.

    Good to come here or other places for critique and get good honest hard feedback and not the typical fluff that family members give you.  It’s nice that they support you, but unless one of them is an established photographer, what do they know, right?

    Anyway, a lot of your pet photos are nice and sharp, I would try mixing up the poses somewhat, too many of the same frontal profile, but they are nice.


    The landscaping ones are nice.  The mountain scene, I hope you don’t mind, I took a slight liberty and made a super slight adjustment to it HERE.
    I straightened it, lowered the exposure, raised the temperature [I forgot to look at what degree] and added a touch of contrast to it, that is all. All done in ACR, from a screenshot.

    The buildings from Central Park. You will always have the leaning issue when shooting buildings unless you use a tilt-shift or adjust the perspective in post or shoot from a different angle. It is just an effect that you get due to the focal plane angle in relation to the buildings. An interesting article, if you are really interested, here.
    I would not run out to go buy a tilt-shift, they are rather pricey. I have one and rarely ever use it, but it is nice when it calls for it.
    As you can see here, I adjusted the perspective in post, but it crops out quit a bit.

    You can always try local groups for more hand-on experience, try some sites like Meetup, there are several people that charge for hands-on tutoring and then some that welcome newbies to their group.

    As for your friend and their engagement. Just take your time, focus and make sure that your subjects eyes are in focus, try not to shoot at un-flattering angles like from above or below, unless it is for some sort of effect. If you are shooting outside, use the sun to your advantage. Never place your subject directly in the sun were they are blinded and squinting. If you don’t have a flash, try using a reflector, if you don’t have one of those, try a piece of posterboard, maybe paint one side silver or gold. Silver adds more light, gold adds a little more light and warmth.

    A trick I learned many years ago and I will share with you, don’t tell anyone! If you can’t get willing subjects to shoot and you want to get out there and do some test shooting, get yourself a cosmetology practice head and stick it on a tripod. Gives you a subject with skin tone that does not complain.

    Good Luck!



    I’m not a landscape photographer by any means — throw the most beautiful scene in the world in front of me, and I guarantee I can make it look lame.


    I am, however, a portrait photographer, so I’ll comment where it makes sense.



    Her teeth look like they are glowing. What happened there? Maybe I am mistaken?  It looks like you tried to retouch her teeth without knowing exactly how and just made them brighter, instead of the yellow going away. I could be wrong and that’s how they look, though.


    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7336/10332202475_49292bc004_o.jpg could be okay, but she doesn’t look very happy, but that’s fine if you’re going for that kind of mood. She has no catchlights, which don’t help the picture. The shot is quite grainy, but doesn’t bother me too much. Was this shot with a wider angle lens? She looks slightly distorted, but I could be tricking myself into seeing something that isn’t there. It’s not a terrible shot, but it’s definitely not one that belongs with your ‘best’


    Yikes, what happened with her clothes? That hurts my eyes. If that’s how it came out of the camera, I would tone it down a bit. It’s distracting from the point of the picture — her, assuming it’s a portrait. If it’s a fashion shot, there are better ways to display that jacket. Again, no catchlight. Not an awful shot, but again, kind of “meh” and I wouldn’t put it with your best.


    Thank you everyone for the helpful critiques!  Like I said above, I never really noticed the tilted horizons before, but now it is driving me NUTS!  I will definitely take my friend up on taking some pictures for her, but I am going to read up before on lighting and catchlights!  I reflector sounds like a good investment to make too, and I am guessing that will help my catchlight problem?  I always notice the eyes of most of my subjects are so flat, would that help this?

    Bill- I do not mind one bit.  It actually really helped me see the lean in the buildings before.  The mountain link was directing me to the park, though, so I couldn’t see it.

    Thank you again for the tips!



    Having a reflector will give you nice catchlights in the eyes which will make them look alive rather than a pool of dead darkness. Do you have someone to help you hold it? If not, get a stand for the reflector so you can have it where you want

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