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: Big Storm
PHOTOGRAPHER: Mardi Harrison
DETAILS: Canon 5D IV, Canon 24-105 lens @ 24mm. 1/15s @ f8, ISO 100.

Image: Mardi Harrison

When a rather large storm passed through Mardi Harrison’s neighbourhood earlier this year, she made a few photos. “I had attempted taking pictures of lightning before but I never had much success. Well, I seemed to manage to get this one. I would rather it have been near buildings or something more interesting than a paddock but I was a bit afraid to venture out to explore any other location”.

Lightning storms can be both exciting and scary, and staying safe should always be the top priority. If you want to get out and about in a storm though, you can remain relatively safe in your car thanks to something called the Faraday effect. The main trick is to find a safe place to park (preferably away from traffic and trees) wind down your car window, get the camera poised and then wait.

The only thing I’d change with this image would be to crop out that tree in the very left of the image; this will improve the balance and remove the only distracting image in the picture.

Anthony’s tip: Don’t be scared to explore the cropping of an image; it’s easy to do and it can really make a big difference to a photo.

Congratulations to Mardi Harrison who has won a Sandisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD valued at $254 thanks to our sponsor SanDisk. The Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD is an ideal storage solution that you can take with you on the go, whether you're transferring files at school, or storing photos you take on a holiday. It has a 1050 Mbps read and 1000 Mbps write time, with 2 metres of drop protection and IP55 water and dust-resistance for durability when you're out and about. More info:

Image: John Montague.

TITLE: Brendan
DETAILS: Canon R6, Canon EF 24-70mm lens @ 70mm. 1/200s @ f8, ISO 100.

John is an emerging professional photographer who made this image of a close friend for his friend’s wife.

“I requested he wore his favourite leather coat as I wanted to portray his rugged outdoor looks which I accentuated by converting the image to black and white. I used a single Canon 600EX-RT Speedlight, Bowens Mount and Neewer 700mm Softbox with grid fitted. The portrait was shot against a black background and then further enhanced in Lightroom.”

This is a great portrait and there is nothing I would do to adjust the capture, but I do think this final image is very dark. This might be personal taste but it could also be because your monitor is not calibrated properly or you are working in a darkened room; in both instances a “normal” looking image on your screen might actually be dark.

Printing is subjective but the average punter (your friend’s wife included) usually doesn’t want images looking too dark. I would go to the original file and adjust the midtones in the Curves tool (this will brighten the image while maintaining the white and black points) and then I would go to Colour Grading, select the Midtones and add in Hue (32) and Saturation (15). About now this image should rock!

Anthony’s Tip: Reliable monitor calibration and consistent ambient light around your work space are important if you are to get the best results from your photos.

Image: Owen Jenkins

TITLE: Portland Silos
DETAILS: None provided.

“This is one of a number of frames I made of the silo artwork at the old NSW Portland Cement Works. I used a very wide 12mm lens and like the way this added dynamic diagonals between the silos, flowers and clouds. The f18 aperture meant everything was in focus from front to back. I increased the shadows and contrast a little in Lightroom and made minor adjustments to the vibrance, saturation and sharpness.”

Hi Owen, extreme wide-angle lenses are fun to work with but they can also create distortion. In this image your camera was aimed upwards and so the silos appear to be tilting backwards, but you can solve this problem in Lightroom by using the Transform tool in the Develop settings. With this image I would adjust the Vertical setting to -28, then adjust the Aspect to -15 and finally change the Y-Axis to -5 to bring the image back down in the frame. You will then need to crop the image to reframe the image. The Transform tool is popular with architectural photographers. 

Anthony’s tip: when photographing structures with a wide lens, give yourself enough space around the edges of the composition to make adjustments later with the Transform tool.

Image: Kirsten Hutton

TITLE: Sumatran Tiger
PHOTOGRAPHER: Kirsten Hutton
DETAILS: Canon EOS 6DMKII, Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens and 1.4x teleconverter @ 437mm. 1/500s @ f8, ISO 12800.

Kristen is a self taught hobby photographer with a passion for photographing animals, including this Sumatran tiger at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. “This Sumatran tiger was behind glass which can be difficult however this one came out better than I expected. Capturing animals takes patience to get a good shot but I was fortunate this tiger got into a good position and light. Any feedback about how I could improve my photography would  be greatly appreciated.”

Hey Kristen, this is a great photo; the composition is good and the lighting is perfect. I also love the how the tiger is looking hauntingly at us through the camera. The only concern I have with this image is the noise. You shot this image at ISO 12,800 which is an exceptionally high ISO setting which does create that graininess in the image.

In exposure situations like this everything can become a compromise, but in this situation I would have put the camera on a tripod, reduced my ISO to about 3200 and then set the shutter speed to 1/125th of a second. So long as the camera is on a tripod and the tiger is not prancing about, the lower ISO setting and slower shutter speed should still make for a good image, but with less noise.

Anthony’s tip: keep an eye on your exposure settings and learn how the shutter speed, aperture and ISO can all affect your photo.

Image: Jules Guthridge

TITLE: Southern WA Coast
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jules Guthridge
DETAILS: Canon 5D Mark IV, 17-40mm f4L lens @ 17mm. 1/60s at f11, ISO 250.

"I took this photo in a remote, relatively unknown location on the wild South Coast of Western Australia early one morning in January. The tide was out revealing the reef that runs along the beach that is usually completely covered by water. I liked the intricate patterns of the green weed growing on the gold rocks contrasted with the moody early morning sky.”

Hi Jules, the Australian coastline is probably one of the most photographed coasts in the world, in fact I think we could both agree that this sort of image has been made a million times before.

The challenge in becoming a good photographer though, is learning to see differently to how other people normally see. You mentioned above the “intricate patterns of green weed growing on the gold rocks”, and in reality I think I would be looking closer at these details to find interesting photos.

Don’t be scared to get closer to a subject and also try explore different capture techniques. Making an original photo is not easy, but it is worth the effort.

Anthony’s tip: Learn to see the detail and possibilities other people don’t normally see. Learn to look and think beyond the obvious.

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