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. Our winner each month will receive a fantastic prize thanks to our amazing sponsors SanDisk. 

This month's winner

TITLE: Passing Through
PHOTOGRAPHER: Melinda Tonzing
DETAILS: Canon 6D, Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 lens. 1/160s @ f3.5, ISO 320.

Image: Melinda Tonzing
Image: Melinda Tonzing

“I have a passion for portrait photography, and I feel that every time I photograph my son there is such a depth to the image, a story behind his eyes that is quite engaging that leaves me and others wanting to know what is going on beneath the surface. This image was created beside a window in the mid morning light using black fabric to hang across a wardrobe in the background.

I’ve titled it “Passing Through” initially because he was just passing by the room when I called him in to test the light, but also because I feel that he is such an old soul, like he’s lived many lives before this one”. 

Hi Melinda, this is a rather lovely portrait and it definitely captures a level of depth to your subject. Overall there is not a lot I would do to change the lighting or the background; both are working rather well for you. The one thing that I would change though is the cropping. As I look at this image I can’t help feeling there is a lot of wasted space at the top of the photograph and for this reason I would be inclined to crop the top of the image down to the just above the top of your son’s head. Otherwise, great effort.

Anthony’s Tip: We usually associate portrait images with the portrait (or vertical) format, but there are times when the same portrait can be made just as strong in the landscape (horizontal) format. Negative space to the left of right of the subject is often more striking than leaving negative space above the subject.

TITLE: Kiama lighthouse
DETAILS: Nikon Coolpix B600 @ 45mm (in 35mm equiv.) 1/1600s @ f5, ISO 125.

Image: Alex Petkovic
Image: Alex Petkovic

“Walking around the blowhole at Kiama near Wollongong I stopped and took this shot of the lighthouse. Its one of the many photos I took around the area. The original photograph was a colour image but I have converted it to black and white."

Hi Alex, lighthouses are a fascinating subject, and if you look about you will find numerous photography books dedicated to the subject.

I think one of the common questions we have to ask ourselves when making a photograph is, what are the important elements in the scene and how do I want to describe them? Do I want to celebrate this lighthouse as a beautiful structure (in which case I might eliminate any distracting elements from the frame) or do I want to show this structure more in the broader context of everyday life - more like a doco image with vehicles and people wandering about it?

With this image I feel like you are halfway in between the two mindsets. By cropping the campervan out of the left of the picture you do actually manage to celebrate the lighthouse more, but had you waited for some people to wander past, the image would have had more of a doco feel. Decisions, decisions!

Anthony’s Tip: Always try to begin the image making process by knowing how you want to represent the subject - as a hero or just another part of everyday life. It will help decide how you interpret your subject and craft you photograph.

TITLE: Sundew Success
PHOTOGRAPHER: Oliver Tomkins
DETAILS: Canon EOS 760D, 24mm f/2.8 lens. 1/1600s @ f2.8, ISO 100.

Image: Oliver Tomkins
Image: Oliver Tomkins

“When walking in some scrub near Paynes Find in WA, we came across this butterfly stuck in a sundew. I was somewhat unsure of how to place the butterfly in the scene, but I went for the central composition because I liked the emphasis it placed on the butterfly.  Almost nothing was done in post, just basic adjustments, and cropping.”

Hi Oliver, I think this image is a great find - the colours and textures are very interesting. What would make this image more interesting though, is if you there was more depth-of-field in the image (the amount of content in focus, both in front of and behind the main subject).

Depth-of-field is controlled by the aperture, and at f2.8 (the aperture you used for this image) the depth-of-field is very shallow. If you’d used a smaller aperture though, such as f11, more of the image would have been in focus. Of course, as you close down the aperture, you need to adjust the exposure using the shutter and (or) the ISO. The new exposure for this image could have been f11 at 1/200th of a second at ISO 200.

Anthony’s tip: Don’t be scared to explore how different aperture, shutter and ISO settings can affect an image idea. They are creative tools, there for the using of!

TITLE: Parking Ticket
DETAILS: Fujifilm X-T30, Fujinon 90mm f2 lens. 1/125s @ f2, ISO 5000.

Image: Felix Colvin
Image: Felix Colvin

“Rather than spending an evening in Melbourne Airport waiting for a delayed flight, I opted to walk through Melbourne's CBD where I found this old BMW sitting pretty with a parking ticket. I thought it was mildly amusing given there was no other cars around. I adjusted the colours slightly but can't seem to find a work around the noise, I tried adding some artificial grain but it feels too overcooked after that.”

Hi Felix, noise is a problem that I’ve had to deal with for decades, mainly because I love working handheld in low light conditions. For now, the best solution I have found for noise is the Topaz DeNoise AI software. It costs about $80, but if you are regularly working in low light it is a really useful tool to have.

Now, as for this image, I have to be honest and say that I would really like to have seen more complexity to this photograph, like people wandering past, or perhaps a wider field of view to show the other empty car spaces you mentioned. Photography is as much a form of communication as the written word, and we should use it intelligently. In this image I can only see a noun - I want to see some more verbs and adjectives in your story.

Anthony’s tip: While most of us prefer to use “freeware” on our computers, some software, including Topaz DeNoise AI is actually worth paying for.

TITLE: Sly Grog Shop
DETAILS: Canon R5, Canon RF 15-35 f/2.8 IS lens @ 28 mm. 1s @  f11, ISO 100.

Image: Bruce McDonald
Image: Bruce McDonald

“In the historic town of Gwalia the dark interior of the Sly Grog Shot provided the opportunity for creating a low-key shot which I've attempted to do here. I tried various angles for the shot but settled on this one, despite the bright sunlight entering from the window on the right which I've attempted to darken down. The image was processed in Lightroom Classic as a colour image and then converted to monochrome.

Hi Bruce, this is a great setting and I commend you for nailing this one-second handheld exposure. Locations like this can be difficult to photograph, in part because you were probably not allowed to rearrange the bottles and you don’t have much control over the light. The other challenge though, is that making a strong still life image is a difficult task.

Personally, I’d have used a slightly longer lens to make this image; as we look at it here, you have almost included too much of the scene but not enough content. If you were to crop this image but about 20-percent, I think the image would look stronger.

Anthony’s Tip: The old saying, “Less is More” is one of the most valid statements in the art world. If something is not looking quite right, start by cropping the image and if that doesn’t work, then start adding again.

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