Image doctor: The critiques!

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A regular part of Australian Photography magazine for more than a decade, the Image Doctors, photo educator Saima Morel and professional photographer Anthony McKee, can give constructive feedback on your images, with a selection of their 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. 

Image: Justin Reeders
Image: Justin Reeders

This month's winner

TITLE: Appleby Grass Paddock
PHOTOGRAPHER: Justin Reeders
DETAILS: Chamonix 4x5 inch camera, 210mm Fujinon CM-W Lens. Shot on Kodak Ektar ISO 100 4x5 sheet film. 4s @ f32.

Justin is one of a growing number of photographers who are not only shooting film again, but who are also exploring the larger film formats. This image was shot using a 4” x 5” large format camera that was once standard kit for most commercial photographers. Justin’s only comment was “I like to show the full sheet of film, but if I were to print this image I think I would crop some sky out”.

Revealing the edge of the film is something of a brag, or at least a stamp of authenticity for film photographers, although some digital photographers do emulate this look in post! Personally, I don’t mind the look but if you are going to include the film edge in the finished photograph, you really do need to make sure your horizons are accurate.

Most modern digital cameras now have an artificial horizon in their display (mine gets used a lot), but when you are working with a film camera, an old fashioned spirit level is rather useful. If you don’t have a level, another trick is to turn on the Measure tool on in your iPhone and use the level option while holding the phone agains a straight edge on the camera.

Aside from these complaints Justin, I do love this image. Good work.

Anthony’s Tip: Getting your horizons straight, either by using the camera’s built in artificial horizon or using a level, can really make a difference to a photo.

Image: Colleen Munro
Image: Colleen Munro

TITLE: Salmon Rocks
DETAILS: Canon 1300D, 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens @ 18mm. 1/200s @ f14, ISO 100.

“This is taken in Cape Conran National Park, one year after the 2020 bushfires in northeast Victoria which burnt right to the beach. The original looked somewhat flat, so I tried improving with some basic editing including sharpening and increasing the saturation in the blues and reds.

I realise it would be improved with a view of more of the beach beyond, but I didn’t have a high enough vantage point to capture that. It is the seemingly flow of the rocks to the right and turbulent clouds that pleases me about this view.”

Hi Colleen, while you were worried that you did not get enough of the beach into the back of your photo, I actually think you have the perspective about right. The one thing that I would have changed though, is the cropping.

You’ve kept a little bit of the beach in the foreground which presents some scale to this rock formation, but if you were to crop out the foreground, suddenly this rock structure becomes far more interesting. I would also crop the sky quite heavily and (assuming you have shot in RAW), darkened the sky too. 

Anthony’s Tip: Don’t be scared to crop boring details off the edge of interesting subject matter. Show your audience what is important to you.

Image: Marie McLaurin
Image: Marie McLaurin

TITLE: A Bird in the Hand
DETAILS: Oympus E-M1 Mark II, Olympus 12-100mm lens @ 28mm. 1/40s @ f5, ISO 100. (multiple exposure).

“I went into Sydney one day with some photographer friends who took me to an alleyway called Angel Place. In it, there are many birdcages suspended from wires, which looked quite surreal. Of the many double exposures I took that day, I thought this one was the best.”

Hi Marie, combining double and even multiple exposures into a single frame can create some really interesting images, such as this one! The process can be a bit hit and miss, but in this instance I think you have a hit. Of course, that does not necessarily mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Two things bug me with this image - the first being that pink ballon in the middle of the image. Ideally I would have either made more of a feather of the balloon, particularly against that slither of blue sky, or I would have just removed it in Photoshop. The other concern that I have though, is that washed out wall in the top right of the picture.

Again, I would have probably either eliminated it from frame.

What is worth noting is that you don’t have to do them in camera - you can also combine multiple images into one using Layers and the “Blending” options in Photoshop.

Anthony’s tip: Blown highlights can often detract from an otherwise glorious image. Try to control highlights either with your exposure or in post.

Image: Jenny Barnes
Image: Jenny Barnes

TITLE: Blazintails Silver Coyote competing in Agility
DETAILS: Canon R6, Canon 70-300mm lens @ 300mm. 1/1600s @ f6.3, ISO 320.

“This dog was following a course of jumps in an agility competition. The original image has been cropped to focus on the subject,” explains photographer Jenny Barnes.

Hi Jenny, and well done on capturing a great “peak moment” image. If I was the owner of this dog I would be rather happy with this shot. The one thing that I do find distracting with this image though, is that orange safety fence in the background.

Photographers often fixate on their subjects but they forget to check their backgrounds. A more experienced photographer however, will look at the point of action (in this case the hurdle) and then move about to find a background that either complements the image or is less distracting.

We don’t know whether this fence goes all around the course or not but I would have been inclined to have moved more to the left (if possible) so that I could have kept working with the light while looking for a more interesting background. As another option though. You could carefully select that fence and both darken and desaturate it slightly. Otherwise, good work.

Anthony’s tip: Don’t just look at your subject, look at the background and ask how the two complement each other.

Image: Ian Glew
Image: Ian Glew

TITLE: Dawn Breaking
DETAILS: Nikon D750, Nikon 18-300mm 3.5-5.6 lens @ 100mm. 1/40s @ f13, ISO 100.

“A pre-dawn hike up Mt Tinbeerwah was rewarded by some very special light and golden hour of some of the surrounding hills and mountains. Mount Cooroy and Lake McDonald in the foreground.”

Hi Ian, on the whole there is not a lot wrong with this image - if I was a local resident in this area, I would enjoy it as a great representation of the local landscape. There are a few small details I would mention though, and the first are those small dots that you can see in the sky - these indicate that your sensor is getting ready for a clean.

You can try GENTLY blowing this dust off the sensor with a blower, although I prefer to get my sensors professionally cleaned (more expense but less risk!). Alternatively, you can just remove the dust marks in Photoshop. The reason that we can see this dust is because you used a small aperture (f13) to make this image; I probably would have made the photo at f5.6 and this would have allowed me to use a faster shutter speed (about 1/200s as opposed to a rather slow 1/40s).

Finally, I would have brought the composition down to include a little less sky and some more bush around that little white house in the foreground - it adds a nice sense of scale. Otherwise, good effort.

Anthony’s tip: Don’t be scared to include interesting little details (such as that white house) into the foreground of an image; there are times when it can really add to the story.

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