Image Doctor: The critiques!

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A regular part of Australian Photography magazine for more than a decade, the Image Doctor, professional photographer Anthony McKee, can give constructive feedback on your images, with a selection of his 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. 

This month's winner

“I captured this image of the Wheel of Brisbane after meeting a friend for lunch in Southbank, Brisbane. The sun broke through the clouds at the right moment on that overcast day and I wanted to show the Wheel’s scale. I found zooming in worked better at capturing the size of the Ferris wheel instead of as a whole with a wide angle, but I’m unsure if this was the right decision. I would love some feedback on this shot!”

Image: Etienne Van Rooyen
Image: Etienne Van Rooyen

ANTHONY’S TIP: Hi Etienne, and thanks for sending in this image; we don’t often get to see images shot on film anymore! You mentioned that you zoomed in rather than shooting wide to get the whole wheel in the picture, and personally I think you made the right decision.

One mistake many people make is that they try to fit too much into their pictures. This can work well in the right situations, particularly if you are a skilled storyteller, but often too much information can be distracting.

As a wise man once said, “less is more”; (damned pay clerk!). Anyway, about the only thing you might want to explore when shooting similar images against a blue sky is to try adding a polarising filter to the lens. This can darken the sky and often add some more drama. Keep shooting film!

TITLE: Round and Round We Go!
PHOTOGRAPHER: Etienne van Rooyen
DETAILS: Pentax KM, 28-80mm f/3.5 lens @ 60mm. 1/125s @ f8, Fujifilm Fujicolor ISO 100.

Image: Daryl Fisher
Image: Daryl Fisher

“I was able to capture some stunning images of this bird with a Nikon D750 using a Sigma 150mm-600mm lens hand held. To capture this bird, its owner brings along up to half a dozen different parrots for a free fly at a local park and I was able to capture this image of this bird having some fun. These birds are amazing at the antics that the owner lets them get up to and it is just amazing watching these birds free flying and the speed that they get up to.”

Anthony’s Tip: Hi Daryl and thanks for sharing this image. Years ago I realised that photography is no different to creative writing; our job as a photographer is to put together stories that engage an audience.

Your photo simply says “here is a blue macaw flying”, but what could your audience learn from this image if you gave them more information?

I’m guessing you know the owner of this bird and so you could potentially collaborate on some ideas. I would be exploring some more complex visual opportunities, like what happens when you have the bird flying towards you with the owner in the back of the image, or you are positioned directly beneath the owner the Macaw flies in to land. Make the images that others do not usually see.

TITLE: Flying Free
DETAILS: Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm lens @ 370mm. 1/800s @ f6, ISO 360.

Image: Geoff Kaiser
Image: Geoff Kaiser

“While walking the back lanes and canals of Venice with my wife I spotted this location that seemed to sum up all of Venice in one image: canal, bridge, alleyway and gondola. I was keen to capture the image with just part of a gondola emerging from under the bridge rather than the whole boat.

Fortunately, it was quite a busy canal as it took many attempts to get the gondola in just the right spot. Edited in Lightroom with a crop to remove distractions, details were brought out of the shadows and tweaks to the tone curve. Some enhancement to the orange / yellow for the bricks and blue / aqua for the water.”

Anthony’s tip: Hi Geoff, a few years ago I realised I could distill my approach to photography down to three simple steps - Line, Content and Moment. This shot is the perfect example of the idea; you found the line (a viewpoint with multiple points of interest along it), you adjusted the focal length to fit in the content that was important to you, and then you waited for the moment.

In all I think you got everything just about right, with one exception - as I look at the photo I cannot help but be distracted by the highlight above the stairs in the top left corner. If you crop out the top left, suddenly this image becomes a lot stronger. Otherwise, great work.

TITLE: Venice
DETAILS: Olympus OM-1, 12-40mm f/4 Pro lens @ 16mm. 1/200s @ f8, ISO 1000.

Optional Image Caption

“I’ve recently begun using an off camera flash to shoot low key portraits in my home studio. For this image the flash was at 1/2 power (in manual mode) and mounted in a softbox with grid; it was positioned about 2m away and slightly above the model. Whilst I’m happy with the photo, it seems to have a little burn out on her forehead area. I can probably adjust this in photoshop but would rather use the camera and flash settings.”

Anthony’s tip: Hi John, this image is not too bad for a first attempt, but here are a couple of things to consider. First, soft-boxes don’t always create soft light; it's all relative to the size of your light source (your soft-box) and its proximity to the subject. I typically use a 100cm softbox for images in this style, usually at about 1.5 metres from the subject. As for the highlights, I shoot in RAW mode (exposing for the highlights) and then I use an adjustment brush in Lightroom to tone the highlights down.

Two other quick notes - if you are just working with flash, use a fast shutter speed of about 1/125th of a second, and try and experiment with a silver reflector from the opposite side of the light to bring a little more light and shape into the cheekbones. Otherwise, good effort.

Image: John Lawson

TITLE: Finding the Light
DETAILS: Canon EOS 5D Mk IV, Canon 24-70mm f/4 lens @ 50mm. 1/8s @ f4, ISO 200.

Image: Thierry Rocchia
Image: Thierry Rocchia

“I was walking in Nice on the Promenade when I saw a group of people gathering around this man making soapy water bubbles for the children around him. My camera had already the black and white setting with the red filter. I used photoshop elements to crop the photo, added some contrast and used the levels to lighten the right side where the crowd is, and darken the sky.”

Anthony’s tip: Hi Thierry, you have everything you need in this situation to make a great photo, but you failed to bring everything together. Yes, the busker is making bubbles but the image would be stronger if someone was looking at him, and if that was what you were hoping to convey, then at least show us a frame where all the kids nearest the camera have their eyes open!

The Fujifilm X100T is a great camera, but on its own it is not enough to make you a street photographer; for that you’ll need to learn the dance! Work on your timing and street skills to be in the right place at the right time to get the best photos. It takes practice.

As for using a red filter on your camera, personally I’d be shooting in RAW mode, then converting the images to monochrome in Lightroom and using the B&W Mixer to selectively adjust the tones within the scene. Keep at it!

TITLE: The Water Bubbles Maker
PHOTOGRAPHER: Thierry Rocchia (NSW)
DETAILS: Fujifilm X100T, 23mm lens. 1/170s @ f5.6, ISO 200.

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