Image doctor: the critiques!

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A regular part of Australian Photography magazine for more than a decade, the Image Doctor, photo educator Saima Morel, can give constructive feedback on your images, with a selection of her favourite submissions appearing in print in AP mag every month. If you want feedback on your images (it's free!), you can find out the details for submission here. 

Canon EOS 200D, EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens @ 50mm. 1/40 @ f10, ISO 100.
Canon EOS 200D, EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens @ 50mm. 1/40 @ f10, ISO 100.

Pavel Kotelevskii is an amateur photographer and this is his “first attempt with the classic composition of One Tree Hill in Maleny [Queensland].” To create this photo, Pavel combined two shots taken about 30 minutes apart. “The first photo was taken when the tree was still lit by the setting sun, but without nice colours in the sky.

The second photo was taken about 30 minutes later when there was nice colour in the sky but the tree was in the shadow of a nearby hill. The two photos combined gave the result I’m happy with.”

It is hardly a surprise you are happy with this lovely landscape image. This is a classic, elegant landscape. The simplicity of the small, central tree is balanced by a stunning backdrop while the colour is quite magical. The layers of colour graduate smoothly from one to the next, and the blue layer on the hills in the background is balanced by the blue at the top of the frame.

The warmer tones are also nicely balanced by cooler blue tones for a subtler sunset effect. You also deserve credit for your seamless blending technique.

Saima’s Tip: Blending images enables you to get the best of light and colour of a single scene, shot at different times.

Nikon Z 7, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens @ 25mm. 1/125s @ f22, ISO 100.
Nikon Z 7, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens @ 25mm. 1/125s @ f22, ISO 100.

David Walker took a Sunday afternoon ride around Brisbane River, looking for interesting shots. “This site was fenced off, containing the half-remains of a demolished building – for a site being prepared for a new development,” he writes.

“I took plenty of other shots of more interesting subjects, but this one of the graffiti seemed to work the best. I like the lights and darks of the photo – the only attractive element in the shot (the tree) is dark under the sun, while the graffiti and dirty projecting slab of concrete are highlighted by the reflected glow of the sun. The sun and glow is warm, but the flaring adds a harshness to it – perhaps too much flaring.”

I am not sure what the main point is here. It seems a little confused with the so-called attractive aspect (tree) in shade, and the graffiti lit up and bleached by the flaring. The colour is almost non-existent so it would be no loss if it was turned into black-and-white. This would suit the stark urban landscape theme better.

However, I would suggest shooting vertically and cropping most of the featureless left side, leaving mainly the wall which has most interest. Shooting at a lower number aperture, such as f/11, would also get rid of the starburst, and getting in closer to the wall and graffiti would also ramp up the grungy feel.

Saima’s Tip: Simply put, starbursts occur at high f-stops, such as f/22, when the light reflects off the blades in the diaphragm of the lens iris.

Nikon D3500, Tamron AF 70-300mm lens @ 300mm, 1/640s @ f/5.6, 200 ISO.
Nikon D3500, Tamron AF 70-300mm lens @ 300mm, 1/640s @ f/5.6, 200 ISO.

Jacob Straughan is 14 years old and one of his favourite places to photograph wildlife is the local zoo, where this image was taken. “My patience was rewarded when this red panda finally came down from the canopy of branches and walked along at the front of its enclosure,” he says. “I took many portraits, but I think this one suited a black and white conversion best as the background was very dark to begin with.”

This is a fantastic image. You are brave to successfully turn a subject that’s famed for its colour into black and white. The detail in the fur of the panda is great and this composition works well to highlight it and keep attention on the face – not too close and not too far away.

The ears have been cropped but there’s so much interest in the hair, eyes and face this doesn’t matter. The space in front of the face is also just right. The background, while black, is not a harsh deadening black. There are tonal differences, and the merge of the panda’s body into darkness is graduated, rather than a total drop-off into black. All I can say is well done.

Saima’s Tip: Taking “risks” and not being restricted by conventional expectations of how a subject should be seen can produce great images.

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