November 5, 2012 at 12:05 am #4371
I don’t think I am a fauxtographer, but I could be wrong. What do you say?
…and before you say the first one is OOF, it’s blurred the way it is for a reason. Just trying some new things.
Cheers!November 5, 2012 at 9:14 am #4374
Two important questions before continuing, how long have you been shooting and do you market your services?November 5, 2012 at 9:26 am #4375
According to most your posts involving those two questions, I’m going to safely assume you think I am. Correct?
EDIT: This isn’t me starting shit with you. Just wondering why you think the way you do.November 5, 2012 at 10:52 am #4380
Just celebrated 11 years. Yes, yes I charge.November 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm #4383
How long you’ve been doing it is merely something that helps inform me how best to advise you in proceeding. The question of which you charge is paramount. If you are not marketing your services you cannot be a fauxtog because the definition of a fauxtog includes charging for sub-standard work.
If you were going for a certain look in your first shot, it does not enhance the shot in any way, so I would say that it probably not an experiment you want to put into your portfolio, it looks very much like a mistake.
Your biggest weakness is probably lighting, sometimes it is decent, sometimes it is very awful. Remember that available light does not mean ignore the lighting and hope for the best. When you shoot in the real world (as opposed to a studio) you need to work with the lighting almost as though it is another model in the scene. Working with available light is very limiting, but can produce amazing work with a little extra effort. It will make you explore options you wouldn’t if you had control over the light. Art through adversity applies here. This is the stumbling block that would make me classify you as a fauxtog. Your composition, posing, use of cliche’s and lack of finesse in processing are all things you should be working on and I would advise working on them some more before going pro, but they aren’t really breaking the shots for the most part. Exposure and contrast issues will be largely corrected by learning a little more about the lighting as well.
Just because I don’t think you’re there yet, doesn’t mean I don’t think you can get there. You’ve been at it long enough that I know you enjoy what you do and your work is fairly consistent, so I know you’re thinking. I suspect most of your problems are probably resultant from either not realizing your weaknesses or just not knowing where to go to get the information you need to continue. Trying to maintain a business while still having the freedom to shoot what you need to learn and grow is almost impossible, and if done, slows your growth tremendously. If you step back, shoot only for yourself with the goal of improving your lighting with the help of an experienced mentor, you could easily be up to pro level within a year.
I recommend you sit down with every shoot and throw away 90% of your shots. I know this is tedious, but write down why you threw away what you trashed and why you kept what you did. Doing so will help you identify what works and what doesn’t so you can do the things that work on purpose and better avoid the pitfalls.
I see a ton of potential in your work, so get out there and harness it.November 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm #4388
Beautiful. Thanks. Very informative and stern. I am going to re-do the editing and retouching of the set with the yellow dress. I will select the top 3. Mind doing a critique on them when I finish?
I also do quite a bit of “TF” work. It’s the easiest way to get models for projects and concepts that I have. They’re also the easiest way to experiment with new things I have learned. I’ll be buying the X3200 and X1600 at the end of the month and have a couple TF shoots lined up so I can learn and get comfortable with the new lights (before taking them anywhere PAID).
One question… what “cliche’s” are you referring to? I almost instantly think you’re referring to the wedding rings. I must admit that I almost always steer clear of selective coloring. Customers constantly ask for it. I always supply them a copy of a ‘normal’ photograph. Time will tell which one they like better. LOL
Another question? If I may… Portfolios- The more images the better, or the fewer the better? I try to limit the images in my Facebook portfolios, but on my website, I post whole wedding days.
Again, thanks!November 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm #4389
I would be more than happy to provide a critique on a couple of specific images, it is much more effective than a critique of a body of work.
TF work is a great way to get experience, since the models are usually learning as well, you can help each other. Since you’re gonna buy Paul Buff stuff anyway, make sure you check out his essays on studio flashes.
Then research short vs broad lighting (95% of the time, you’ll want to use short) and the basic lighting patterns. Keep in mind that you can do almost anything you want to do in studio with just the big light source in the sky and a reflector.
The rings shot would be fine if it were lit a little better, but the cliche that I was referencing is the hands heart thing that has suddenly become so popular… it just seems tacky to me, like selective color, it was cool the first time I saw it, then it got boring, now it just hurts my soul (overstated for effect). I find intertwined fingers work a lot better to convey the emotion, the heart thing just feels forced.
Portfolios are tricky, but it is true that quality is better than quantity. Every shot should be good. 10 great shots are better than 10 great shots, 10 good, 4 mediocre, and 1 bad. For my web site, I still need to pull my best work and make up a gallery of wedding images, but I do link to a couple of entire wedding days. This includes shots taken by second shooters and shots I include for emotional resonance for the specific client even if I don’t feel they are good enough to print. I guide clients through the process of picking their images for enlargements and albums, so I avoid them printing the less than stellar shots even though I’ll put them on the web site. If there is any question in your mind that a shot might not need to be in the port, don’t put it in. Never keep shots in your portfolio more than two years, and always look through it from time to time and eliminate shots that don’t represent your skill level, replacing them with more recent shots. I keep a print portfolio and save all of my old prints all the way back to the 80’s. It’s fun from time to time to look at what I thought was portfolio worthy back then. Though it’s a little surreal to look at your own work and realize that you’d throw it away at a glance today when you’d put it in your portfolio a few years earlier.
I also keep more than one portfolio. I have them for fashion, general portraits, seniors, weddings, and general artwork, which are the five areas I do work in. Most have only 15-20 shots, that’s all it takes to get a booking if the portfolio is solid.November 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm #4423creyes8519Member
The OOF pics to me were unappealing. I didn’t like the editing… if you bring some shots back and strip down the editing, you’d have some decent shots like this one: http://s1299.beta.photobucket.com/user/yawn1027/media/IMG_0587.jpg.html?sort=3&o=10 I love it even though you can see a roll in her belly that’s not very flattering (which you I’m sure you can photoshop a little to fix that) but that’s the pic that sticks out at me that I really like. It just looks so comfortable and laid back and I like that their hands are touching… cute cute shot but I’m just not a fan of that desaturated look… that’s my personal preference but you have an excellent shot there. I like this one: http://s1299.beta.photobucket.com/user/yawn1027/media/IMG_0479.jpg.html?sort=3&o=13 except the color is just a little too warm for me. This: http://s1299.beta.photobucket.com/user/yawn1027/media/IMG_0411.jpg.html?sort=3&o=17 .. cute pic, not-so-great editing. Biggest flaw is your editing. Some may like it, I’m just not a fan of the style. I agree with MBC to like throw away a lot of your shots.November 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm #4428
Here are the shots I have reviewed and re-edited. I will write a full response this evening. :]
Cheers!November 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm #4437fishMember
YeahRight, thanks for putting yourself out there and following up on the criticism. There’s plenty for me to take away from the advice given.November 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm #4438IHFMember
I want to ditto what fish has said. I think it’s really refreshing how you handled yourself, and I thank you for keeping the topic on your photography and not getting bent over the criticism that was asked for. Seriously, one of the most productive threads thus far, all because you handled yourself like a professional. So glad you are out there giving it your all, and caring about what you produce.November 10, 2012 at 3:40 am #4483
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.
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