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. 

This month's winner

TITLE: Under Monash Bridge
DETAILS: Nikon D7000, Sigma 18-250mm lens @ 32mm. 1/15s @ f16, ISO 640.

Image: Joe Bourke
Image: Joe Bourke

Joe Bourke captured this image in Benalla, Victoria. "The walking track here passes under the historic Monash Bridge, and occasionally, when the conditions are just right, the water is still and the reflections are amazing!” he said.

“I made some adjustments made in Photoshop include straightening, contrast, dodging and burning.” Repeating arches are always an attractive design element; in this image the symmetry in the horizontal looks great, and if you were able to bring the camera down a metre or two, the symmetry in the verticals would also improve.

The main thing I would do to improve this image though, would be to manage some of the colours in the picture. As we look into the lower half of the image, the muddy brown water ruins an otherwise idyllic scene. To resolve this I would use either an adjustment brush or the gradient tool in Lightroom to reduce the colour saturation in the lower half of the frame. It’s a technique I regularly use in architectural photography where colours reflected onto neutral tones can become distracting. 

Anthony’s Tip: Desaturating local areas of colour can often improve an image.

TITLE: Best Friends
DETAILS: Nikon Z5, 24-200mm lens @ 145mm. 1/250s @ f6.3, ISO 800.

Image: Ria Murray
Image: Ria Murray

Ria Murray captured this image on a recent camping trip. “I love the portrait of this guy and his best friend!  Some minor exposure edits in Lightroom and converted to black and white for what I thought produced a stronger image,”she said.

This is a nice moment and I‘m curious to know whether this is a friend or just some other visitor at the camp site? If this was just a grab shot then I would be happy enough with it, but if the image was of a friend I probably would have worked the image some more. I would have moved to the left and slightly lower, and then asked the man to look to the right some more; you could have captured the two in profile.

Worth mentioning - your black and white is good, but I would also be adding some more contrast (using the Tone Curve in Lightroom) and added a hint of tone using the Colour Grading tool to add in a hint of warmth.

Anthony’s Tip: Don’t be scared to explore those developing tools. If you have shot an image in RAW you have nothing to lose! 

TITLE: Rustic Dew
PHOTOGRAPHER: Chantel Skeggs
DETAILS: Nikon D90, 70–300mm lens @ 300mm. 1/90s @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Image: Chantel Skeggs
Image: Chantel Skeggs

Chantel Skeggs woke up one morning in Lachlan, Tasmania, to discover overnight snow was melting away and like most good photographers, she grabbed her camera. “I love macro shots and particularly just after rain, trying to capture the dewy detail. I am still working on having a steady hand and getting a crisp image, not to mention just recently braving it and switching from auto to manual mode.”

Technically there is not a lot to complain about with this image - it is well exposed and the focus is good. I would have moved slightly to the right (or left) when making the image to get some separation between the lower stalks to create some additional design interest.

If anything is letting this picture down, I feel that it is the lens quality. If you are passionate about macro photography and you can afford a few hundred dollars, buy a second hand 90mm or 105mm macro (a.k.a. micro) lens. Aside from getting closer to your subject you will also find the f2.8 optics to be both sharper and brighter.

Anthony’s Tip - if you are passionate about one particular genre of photography, buy the lens that is dedicated to that cause.

TITLE: Kodak Model K
DETAILS: Sony A7R II, Sony 90mm Macro lens. 1/60s at f9, ISO 6400.

Image: Don Dennett
Image: Don Dennett

This Kodak Model K 16mm movie camera originally belonged to Don Dennett’s father-in-law, and it was a perfect subject for a camera club competition looking at machinery.  Don comments, “After tentatively winding the spring and experimenting with lighting, shooting angle, aperture and shutter speed I was able to achieve a picture which, I feel, faithfully records the frenzied action of the sprocket wheel, pull-down shuttle and various other moving parts. Lighting is a mix of reflected incandescent and daylight.”

I think you have done a good job here Don, and I like the use of soft light in the background. Two suggestions - first, rather than shooting at 6400 ISO at 1/60th of a second, I would have used 200 ISO at 1/2 a second. The repetitive nature of the movie cameras moving mechanism would look much the same at the lower ISO and shutter speed settings, but you would have less noise.

Also, the out-of-focus numbers on the lens (the focus scale!) is a little disconcerting; I would have used focus stacking here to get all of the camera in focus. Otherwise, good work.

TITLE: Humpback Fluke
DETAILS: Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm lens @ 200mm. 1/800s @ f5.6, ISO 100.

Image: Paul Hazel
Image: Paul Hazel

This shot of a whale fluke was shot by photographer Paul Hazel in Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania. “The boat was surrounded by humpbacks and I’d exposed for the darker shoreline. I turned into the sun when this whale caught my eye. I snapped the shot but didn’t hold out much hope for the exposure.

But, on viewing the image at home, I felt that the overexposure helped the light on the tail on the right balancing the birds on the left,” he said.

The exposure here is great, but on sunny days in open land or seascapes the exposure will often be constant, no matter what direction you point the camera in. In this image it is the highlights on the water that are really distracting viewers from the main subject, and so I would be cropping the original RAW file down to a panorama (16:9) format with the horizon line on the top third. Then, still working the RAW file, I would add -1 stop of vignette to the image, again centred on the horizon line, to pull our eyes into the whale fluke and the birds.

Anthony’s Tip: Good cropping and discrete vignettes are worthwhile, particularly when multiple highlights are compete for attention with the subject.

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