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: Lovely Pair
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jane Jongebloed
DETAILS: Panasonic DC-FZ80, at 1200mm (35mm equiv.). 1/125s @ f5.9, ISO 400.

Image: Jane Jongebloud
Image: Jane Jongebloud

Jane says “I came upon this lovely pair on a walk through the bush at Byron Bay”.

Thanks for sharing this photo, Jane; it is a great reminder of just how capable some of those smaller sensor superzoom cameras are. This photo was made at the equivalent focal length of 1200mm in the 35mm format (my longest lens is just 300mm) and it really gets us close to these tawny frogmouths. My only concern though, is that we are almost too close. Given the chance I would have zoomed back ever so slightly, just enough so that we can see a little more of where the birds are nesting and enjoy how the feathers on the adult bird look remarkably like the bark on that tree.

Zooming back about 10-percent and then putting the camera into the vertical position would have made from a stronger composition and added some more design into the image. This image might make the bird lovers happy, but if you can add some good design into the image, you will make the art lovers happy too!

Anthony’s Tip: Zooming in can reveal detail but zooming out can often add context.

TITLE: Mt Denali
DETAILS: Canon 80D, Canon 18-135mm lens @ 135mm. 1/400s @ f5.6, ISO 125.

Image: Les Smoulders
Image: Les Smoulders

Les SmoIders made this photograph of Mt Denali on a trip to Alaska. “I put the camera on a tripod and took several shots over an hour of which three showed good glimpses of the mountain. At home I blended the best two together to get an almost complete view, converted it to mono and adjusted the levels all in photoshop”.

First, let me commend you for your clever use of the stitching technique to create this revealing image of Mt Denali; you have created an image reminiscent of an old chocolate box. There are two things I would like to suggest with this image though. First, my hunch is that your camera has focused on the tree and not the mountain; taking control of your focus point and using a smaller aperture (f11) would bring both the mountain and the trees into better focus. Also, I would like to see more contrast in the mountain and the sky, but a little less density in the trees.

Anthony’s Tip: Your camera’s autofocus doesn’t always know what you are trying to photograph - use the single AF point mode to take control of your focus.

TITLE: Old School House
PHOTOGRAPHER: Graeme Culbert
DETAILS: Nikon Z7, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 28mm. 1/250s @ f5.6, ISO 100.

Image: Graeme Culbert
Image: Graeme Culbert

Graeme told us “The photograph I’ve entered is of an old school house. On this particular morning, I felt the lighting was perfect. I converted the photo to black-and-white, and I was delighted with the resulting, multiple shades of grey. It’s a straight forward image taken with my Nikon Z7 on auto settings”.

I often joke as I make photos that I am doing the photographer’s waltz - I’ll walk forwards and then backwards, and then a little to the left or right, looking for that perfect position to be in to make the perfect shot. There are days when just a few inches (centimetres for you younger folk) can make all the difference to a photo.

This image is a classic example; had you moved forward just a few inches you would not have had the gate arch intersecting the water tank, and had you lowered your position a few inches that tree in the right front foreground would not have been intersecting the tree in the background.

Anthony’s Tip: Learn the Photographer’s Waltz; learn to move about and explore where the best position is for you to be to capture the best compositions.

DETAILS: Panasonic DMC-GX8, Lumix G Vario 12-60mm lens @ 44mm. 1/60s @ f8, ISO 400.
TITLE: Stormy Sunset

Image: Lynton Stacey
Image: Lynton Stacey

“On this day a heavy sea mist rolled in. I grabbed my camera and hastened down to the sea front as I live only a short distance away. This couple had met while walking their dogs. The mist hides their features so that no-one knows their identity”.

A sea mist is a magical environment to make photos in, but it also poses a unique challenge - while objects in the distance lose their contrast, objects in the foreground can have too much contrast and therefore become rather distracting. Yes, the mist does add an element of mystery to the two dog walkers but the wooden stakes in the mid-foreground are rather distracting. Had you moved to the left you could have removed these from the frame, or alternatively you could have lowered your camera so that the grassy bush in the foreground was masking those stakes.

Anthony’s Tip: Actively scan your frame, identify any potential distracting elements within your scene and then work to eliminate those elements from your photo.

TITLE: Dawn Behind the Clouds
DETAILS: Nikon D750, Nikon 18-300mm lens @ 78mm. 1/800s at f11, ISO 500.

Image: Ian Glew
Image: Ian Glew

Ian commented, “I took an early morning adventure to Castaways Beach just outside Noosa to see what dawn was like at this iconic beach, and I was certainly not disappointed. Although colour wasn’t fantastic, the cloud and sun combined to give a fantastic result and the dogs in the for ground having a great time added a little theatre to the composition”.

Sunrises and sunsets can often be a challenge to photograph; ideally, we want to expose for the highlights (the sun and sky), but this can leave the shadows looking rather dark. Regardless of whether you shot this image in RAW or JPEG though, you should be able to brighten up the shadows in postproduction. I’d open the original file in your preferred editing program and use the Shadows slider to brighten the shadow, then I’d run an exposure adjustment brush along the beach itself to reveal the sand and make that more inviting for everyone, including the dogs! 

Anthony’s Tip: Shoot in RAW mode and then use adjustment brushes to reveal the shadows and highlights in your image.

DETAILS: Nikon D850, NIKKOR 16-35 f/4 lens @ 16mm. 0.5 seconds @ f6.3, ISO 200.
TITLE: Clandestine meeting

Image: Julie Bradley
Image: Julie Bradley

Paul commented, “I’d been trying since 2am to photograph the Milky Way over these sticks in the water, but light pollution on the eastern shore shattered those dreams. However, the cloudy skies and lovely motion in the water made for a series of satisfying images as the sun came up”.

Light pollution is a big problem for many astrophotographers, but if you are keen you can actually buy a Light Pollution Filter that absorbs yellow sodium-vapour light. That aside though, I do rather enjoy this image. The problem that I have with it though, is that both the sky and the water are very busy to the point that our eyes go to the top and the bottom of the image, but they don’t really spend much time in the middle of the frame enjoying the main subject. What would improve this image a lot though, would be to crop the image into the square format, leaving the old wharf posts running through the middle of the picture.

Anthony’s Tip: Cropping an image into the square format will often make images stronger.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Cameron Meacham
DETAILS: Canon 650D, Canon 24-105mm lens with an ND filter. 8s @ f22, ISO 100.
TITLE: Lauderdale Beach (Tasmania) at sunrise

Image: Cameron Meacham
Image: Cameron Meacham

Cameron captured this image while on holidays at Noosa, Queensland, Australia. “I was first attracted to this area of Noosa National Park because of the pristine blue water of the ocean but on a second glance I really enjoy the surrounding rock pools and textured rock faces.

This area is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets, on this particular evening I was lucky enough to capture a stormy sunset on the horizon”

One big skill I’ve learnt in my 30 years of working with editors is to be economical with words. Why use 20 words when ten words can say exactly the same thing. The same philosophy applies to photography - trying to fit too much into your photograph can make it difficult to read.

In this image my eyes are literally trapped in the left of the frame, both by the highlights in the sky and by the brightness of the beach. As soon as you crop those two elements out of this image though, everything else begins to sing for us!

Anthony’s Tip: Learn how your eyes explore a photo and then use that knowledge to create photos that are easy for viewers to read, understand and enjoy.

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