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    Hello Internet


    I would like to present myself to be judged.   I know I am asking for criticism, but please gear it in a way that can help me improve.  Some people on this forum seem to forget that last part.  I have been shooting for about a year. I feel like I’ve run into a wall  recently, and I’d like help getting pointed in the right direction.


    Thanks in advance.



    #16 (the little girl) would be a winner had you focused on her EYE instead of her hair.

    What’s with the on camera (or worse yet popup) flash?! You’re kidding, right? Harsh shadows are just that… harsh. Get the flash OFF CAMERA … create some drama.


    Ummm, a bridge, couple buildings, view from the hotel room… not feeling it.


    Nothing to say.

    To me, these look like your practice shots. Let’s check out the lighting here, focus there, and aperture the other. Nothing screams of “Man, that’s a good shot, let me capture it before it gets away.”

    Worst Case Scenario

    To me they say….

    I’m in the Navy, I get to go to some great places yet these are the best shots I could manage.

    There are a couple of cracking shots, but they are lost in the mediocre ones.

    The best tip I can give you? Anything at the front of the picture will look bigger! (more so with a short focal length lens)

    ie: Girl in front of juke box, she has large arms and you’ve made them bigger.

    Girl on the railway tracks, has large boot ( though this one isn’t too bad)

    Girl sitting on the crooked porch, has large thighs and boots.

    Girl on the white background has MASSIVE baby!


    #16 (the little girl) would be a winner had you focused on her EYE instead of her hair.

    I don’t think focus is the problem.  Her right eye eyelashes are pretty good.   Depth of field is really shallow though.  However, her nose seems to be in reasonable focus and hair that seems to be just in front of her ear is in focus, so her eye must also be in focus.  She does have dark green eyes and her pupils remind me of a cat!  They appear to be oval instead of round.  Here is a somewhat edited version of your photo.  I removed a number of stray hairs, tried to put some colour into the left side of her face and sharpened her right eye (probably too much).  Click the photo to see the large size.


    Let us know what you think of my edit and I will take it down and get my space back.


    The worst photo might be the child with camera, #15,  where the sharpest part of the photo seems to be the lint on her sleeves.

    Of the people photos, I’m drawn to #8 the most.  You have enough depth of field, but not too much, exposure is good, they are in relatively the same plane so their size is not distorted.  Their expressions are great too.  The most notable problem with it is the white has blown out so his collar has blended into the shoulder and her dress details are lost.  If there is a raw file you can get that detail back through post processing.

    I like the alley scene #2 in places.  The yellow building at the end is a bit blown out but I like the composition and nearly in focus wall on the right.

    #1, I feel is leaning to the right and I don’t know where I am supposed to be looking, or what I am supposed to be looking at.  Getting low and using one of those bollards as a main foreground element may have helped.  Keeping the camera level side to side and front to back prevents some distortion caused by perspective.

    #3, has that same “I was there, I took a photo” feel that #1 has.  Both foreground boats are partly out of the frame.  There is a lot of empty sky.  The horizon cuts through the middle of the photo.   It would probably have been better to back up a step or two and get the rest of the boat tied with yellow rope.  Getting a little lower so the tallest mast is just in the photo might have helped too.  All easy to say while sitting here exercising 20-20 hindsight.

    #4, has the camera tilted up.  Sometimes that is unavoidable.  The effect can be removed with software if you don’t have a special lens.  Fixing the tilt takes a bit off the sides of your photo.   Once again, there does not seem to be a focal point.

    #5, does nothing for me.  It is a geometric shape and some leaves.

    #6, is almost there.  Someone has a pool on the roof.  The view is from up high.  The courtyard has lines strung above it to keep birds away.  The square has a fountain or monument with a moat.  This would be a better photo if the lens were shorter and pointed even more down, so the whole square was in view but keeping the view down the street.  Sometimes you can take 2 or 3 photos with the same settings and focus then stitch them together.  It’s easier with a wider lens and one photo.

    #7, is kind of neat.  Shooting across the rooftops has been done before.  Your photo has distortion because the camera was not level.

    And so it goes …

    The question is, why are you taking the photos?  As vacation photos go, they are pretty reasonable.  Even as stock, some are pretty reasonable.  For portraits, most would benefit from a longer lens.  For landscapes, some would benefit from a wider lens or larger format sensor, or both.  Keeping the camera level or a tilt-shift lens would help.  Tilt-shift lenses are expensive.  Unless you would use it a lot, software correction and trying to keep the camera level are more attractive options.  Taking time to figure out why you are taking the photo, what do you want the viewer to see/feel, will help.



    Thank you for all your comments. Friends and family are great, but sometimes you need a complete stranger to tell you the truth. I have a few question i hope you all can help me understand. I by no means want to imply the “you wern’t there, you don’t know” attitude. Just asking what I should do next time if the same situation comes up.


    EyeDoc: I understand what you mean with the shadows being cast from my flash. I don’t have a lot of ‘portable’ lighting equipment (non-wall plug in). Would you suggest i forgo the on flash if i am not able to setup any other lights?

    Also, i assume no comment on any of the other means you don’t see anything wrong? No news is good news?


    Worst Case: I understand about distance from the lens and perceived size. How would you suggest i get around that without having the model square up in front of the camera? P.S. that baby was in fact huge!


    Clicker: Thank you for showing me your edit. You probably understand that bouncing 3 year old’s make it difficult to take a steady shots. That picture reflects my Photoshop skill level at the time, and I should probably find the original and try again. I am having trouble understanding what you mean by distortion due to the camera level. I understand keeping the horizon level and i do my best to fix that in PS. But as far as tilting up or down, I am not seeing what makes that a technical flaw. What part is being distorted? Could you clarify?

    Worst Case Scenario


    This shows the solution, stand further away and use a longer lens. Or if you don’t have a long lens, make sure you are using the longest you have (ie: not a wide angle) and don’t choose poses that  exaggerate the problem.


    Camera level



    Camera tilted up



    Same tilted up photo corrected in Photoshop



    Temporary backdrop wasn’t quite big enough, shots were hand held without measuring so slightly off, but you get the idea.  Sorry for the Perrier commercial, I wanted something that was square and this box was the first thing I came across.  We know the box is made of rectangular shapes, and I didn’t touch it from shot to shot, so the adjacent sides should be parallel (within the limits of box making)  In the top photo, the sides are parallel.  In the middle photo, the top edge looks shorter than the bottom edge and the sides lean in.  In the bottom photo the sides are reasonably parallel again because I adjusted the middle photo in Photoshop.  Turns out the edges’ lengths vary by about 1/16th inch, who would have guessed!  Sides of buildings should be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground, except a certain tower in Pisa.  If all your buildings lean into the centre, there is lens distortion.

    Usually the effect of pointing a short lens up or down is more pronounced than with a long lens.  The same physics are at play as when you shoot a portrait with a short lens, which causes near objects to appear much larger relative to objects slightly further back in the frame, giving someone an extra large nose or other appendage if it is held nearer the camera.  Portraits are usually shot with 85 to 135 mm lenses.  This way you can stand a little further back and objects stay in perspective.

    Bouncing children (and dancing adults) need more depth of field to keep them in focus, and higher shutter speeds or light from a strobe to freeze motion.

    No comment on any of the others, means we didn’t comment on the others.  Reasons vary from individual to individual but many of us when faced with a collection of photos pick the ones we want to comment on and leave the others for someone else to comment on.

    I looked through your portraits and the shadows don’t look too bad.  The one with harshest shadows is the restaurant and jukebox photo.  For that sort of shot, bouncing off of the ceiling or a white reflector a few feet from the flash will soften the light quite a bit.  If you can get the light up high, either bounced or on a stand, then move your subject away from the walls and their shadow will fall behind them instead of being well defined on the wall right behind them.  If you can do off camera flash, sometimes a bare head off to the side will create harsh shadow that we call dramatic light.  This can work well if you want to hide something, or you want to emphasize wrinkles.

    I didn’t see EXIF data and don’t know what gear you have.  Nikon and Westcott make stands with umbrellas and/or softboxes designed for small flash.   If you need more power, you can even put two or three lights in one umbrella or softbox.  This gives you equivalent power to most studio strobes but they take up a lot less space in a bag.  The Nikon umbrellas come with their own bag.  The Westcott stuff does not.


    Don’t need $$$ for off-camera flash work – a decent Youngnuo manual flash could work just fine at $75.

    My feeling is you have a good eye and some winner shots, you just need to create more ‘pop’ to your photos, if that makes sense. Look at this website for ideas on bringing out the best in your subjects:  http://digital-photography-school.com/. I learned much from them when I was starting out.

    Plus, post only your best stuff! There are photogs who have portfolios of only 5 or 6 pics. I’m an amateur who shoots for hobby, but I have had a few paid gigs of kids parties – and my “portfolio” consists of 2 shots of my daughter. 🙂


    The first 3 portraits in your people section are very over processed in terms of skin smoothing – the second one especially looks very plasticy.

    My favourite image you have in from your ‘things’ section, the fourth down, man directing a helicopter – it’s a great composition! I think entitling the section ‘things’ though, makes it sound like a place you have just put all your miscellaneous images without much thought. Most of them are military so I would take the rest out and have a more appropriate title.

    I agree with eyedoc, only post your absolute best.  Good luck!

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