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pascalewowak
10-24-2008, 06:49 AM
Hello! I am new to the forums and wanted to get an honest critique of an image that I am considering sending in for competition. All natural window light. It was an in between moment that ended up being my favorite shot of the session. I welcome all feedback. I can handle it :)
Delightfully,
Pascale

D._Craig_Flory
10-24-2008, 01:59 PM
Hi Pascale;

Welcome to the Forum. Congratulations on jumping right in with a post and an image. So many are just lurkers and never get up the nerve.

Ok, on this portrait. I see a flat lit image with no direction to the light. The Dad's head is amputated as are her fingers. Allowing fingers to show like that is never good since there is no anchor ... no reference to where they came from like a wrist and arm. If I were on the judging panel I'd look at the love showing between the parents and the baby. Then I'd weigh that against the way it was captured. I can't see it getting out of the low 70's. What kinds of portrait lights, and light modifiers, do you have ? What sort of reflectors and scrims do you own ?

Keep trying and keep posting.

Keith_A_Howe
10-24-2008, 03:24 PM
Pascale
I too want to welcome you to the forum. I have to agree with D. Craig on a lot of his comments but dad's head really doesn't bother me too much, there is enough information for the story. The biggest overriding problem is the lighting. You said it was window light but usually window light is comming from either camera right or left giving a directional light pattern. Here it looks like the window is behind camera or behind and a little to camera right. It is giving a very flat lighting pattern that is not sculpting the bodies or giving any 3 diminsionality to the image. The next major problem is lack of tonality range within the image. I agree with the problem with her fingers on the back of his arm as well.

While this image has some emotional impact and would not embarass you to enter it, I do not believe it will get above 75. I would love to see more of your images.
Keith

pascalewowak
10-24-2008, 07:16 PM
Hi D. Craig and Howe,
(I'm a former crime scene photographer so please forgive me for using last names)
Thanks for the feedback. I'm very unfamiliar with the competition process and so it's nice to hear what judges are looking for. Upon further reflection, I'm not sure any of my images would fare well as I have a unusual style that has no qualms about such things as cutting off heads and unique cropping. That said, this image was taken in a TINY bedroom with my back up against one single solitary window which was the only light source. I used my widest angle lens and this is how it ended up being cropped in camera simply due to space. I have many reflectors that I use out in the field but admittedly rarely use flash. I really prefer to bounce light off reflective walls or use my reflectors. So, while my clients adore my images, I can see how the flat lighting or lack of studio lighting would inhibit my ability to do very well in competitions. I had a suspicion about that when I posted this image so I'm fine with this being "confirmed". :)
Until such a time that I can get a studio and play around with studio lighting, I'll just keep doing what I do with available light and playing around with manipulating light with reflectors and more "organic" reflectors (such as walls and the such).
If either of you two gentleman have a spare moment and want to look over my website, I certainly welcome any feedback. Clearly, not for more guidance about competition prints (since I won't be going in that direction for a while apparently!) but just general impression overall. I realize that my style and approach is very nontraditional and not classical portraiture in any way. I was reluctant to join the forum to begin with as I heard that my style would not bode well here... :) My approach is about impact and emotions and taking the kind of pictures that make my clients swoon. I realize that what my clients love and what a judge would like may be worlds apart.
Thank you for welcoming me onboard though.
Delightfully,
Pascale

my website is www.fabphotos.biz (http://www.fabphotos.biz)

TerryMiller
10-24-2008, 08:12 PM
Pascale

Don’t worry what some people think about your work, ever bodies style is different and your style ROCKS!!:D

Your style of portraits works well for you. If you can work on your lighting to give it more direction and dimension, I think you will become a world-class photographer. There are several Ladies on this forum that are going to go nuts over your work, I think. Listen to what Keith’s says you will be winning awards

pascalewowak
10-24-2008, 09:25 PM
Hi Terry (I'm going to use first names if that's ok?),
Thank you so much for the feedback and kind words. I realize my style is different and may make some traditionalists balk at my composition and/or use of flare etc...I tend to break a lot of rules... (perhaps the old rebel in me?) I am sure that one day I will have a more refined interest in the print competition aspect of photographic imagery. I think I have several more years of learning to do before I get to that point though. I've only been doing this 4 yrs as a self employed portrait photographer (the kind of "portraits" I took before don't count....dead people don't move or show much in terms of expression/emotion...!) I'm still learning so much with every shoot. I guess I was trying to find out where my style and approach stood in terms of competitions; I got my answer and I'm grateful to know exactly how I measure up in regards to what the judges are looking for. Ultimately, I will always continue to do the kind of photographic imagery that excites me and makes me (and my clients) happy. It keeps me passionate about my work! :)
Thanks again!
Pascale

Cindi_Kay_McDaniel
10-24-2008, 09:47 PM
Honesty, although I don't see it doing well in comp, I'm not particularly bothered by the flat lighting in this story. It is all too easy to have critical details fall away into the shadows and I wouldn't want to lose either mom or dad's face in this story. Sometimes simple lighting just works and in this case I think it helped to reveal the entire story. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it...

Dave_Cisco
10-24-2008, 10:00 PM
...dead people don't move or show much in terms of expression/emotion...!)

Pascale

Yeah, but they can really hold a smile and not blink..

(the devil made me do it:D:D)

Keith_A_Howe
10-24-2008, 10:40 PM
I have a unusual style that has no qualms about such things as cutting off heads and unique cropping. That said, this image was taken in a TINY bedroom with my back up against one single solitary window which was the only light source. I used my widest angle lens and this is how it ended up being cropped in camera simply due to space. . . . I realize that my style and approach is very nontraditional and not classical portraiture in any way. I was reluctant to join the forum to begin with as I heard that my style would not bode well here... :) My approach is about impact and emotions and taking the kind of pictures that make my clients swoon. I realize that what my clients love and what a judge would like may be worlds apart.
Thank you for welcoming me onboard though.
Delightfully,
Pascale

my website is www.fabphotos.biz (http://www.fabphotos.biz)


Pascale,

There is no problem with unique cropping or cutting off heads for print competition. But it should be done because it adds to the image. In this particular print cutting off dad's head would be just fine for competition because it brings focus down to what's going on between the parents and the baby. That's where the story is in this image. What is an issue is the flat lighting. And it doesn't need to be studio lights to achieve competition results. I had 4 images merit at national competition this year. 3 were outdoors with no flash or reflectors. The 4th image was a studio portrait with one light. So you could do very well in competition with strictly available light on location. I looked at your website - admittedly not the whole thing, but I did see mostly flat light. There was one image of a baby in your opening - where the parents are out of focus in the background- that has directional light across his face. Notice how much more dimension that creates? I understand that this posted image was created under difficult circumstances - small room, one window etc - but you don't get to tell the judges that. All we can judge is what is in front of us. The thing about a judge is while that they are just as effected by impact and emotion as a client, they also want you to demonstrate technical skill and control. A mom will just see the amazing face of her child and not notice if there are technical issues. A judge will also react to that amazing face, but they will not forgive problems and they will not reward images that fall short in displaying an understanding and control of light, exposure, focal length, posing etc.

I sure would like to know who made you feel your style would not be accepted on this forum because they obviously didn't know what they were talking about. It is definately not traditional smiling looking at the camera type portraits, but it's not any different then a lot of work we see here. And even if it were advant garde, that would be welcomed. The same holds true in competition, we look for and reward the innovative. But again innovation without technical skill will not score well. I am sure you have heard some photographer whinning that "the judges just don't get my style" or 'the judges are narrow minded". What those photographers don't understand is that their technical skilles are not up to the level of their artistic and creative skills. To do well in competition you need both. So where does that leave you? Well - I think anybody can learn the technical stuff. And you can teach someone to recognize "art" or understand composition. But I think a true talent for art or creativity is kinda inate - your either have an eye or you don't. I think you have the eye, you just need to hone the technique.
You said that you got your start in crime scene photography. Looking at your site, I'm not surprised. I have talked with many other young photographers who got started as evidence photographers or in journalisim and I see in them what I see in you - capturing the scene strictly as it is without putting thier mark on it. As a portrait photographer they have all had to work to overcome that mindset. You can still get that capturing a moment in time look, but refine the image. Straighten the clothing, adjust the pose slightly. Your clients will hire you for capturing spontenaity as that is your style, but they will also want to look thier best. Those little refinements will do that. As far as lighting, by understanding the direction of the light, you will place your camera and your subject correctly so while you allow the scene to unfold in front of your lens, it is properly oriented to the light source. For examplke if you had rotated 90 degrees in the room so the window was to your side and a little in front instead of behind you, you would have had your subjects in position to have directional light. I don't know what the background would have been then, but with depth of field and the tight crop I doubt the background would have been much of an issue. Keep in mind the goal of competition is to learn and improve. If that's your expectation then you are certainly ready for competition. If I forgot to welcome you to the forum before, let me do so now.

Keith

pascalewowak
10-24-2008, 11:56 PM
Cindy,
Thanks for your reply. I tend to agree that not all flat lighting is "bad" (although I probably use it too much, admittedly) if it accurately reflects the story and emotions at hand. In this image, I definitely believed the "three" dimensionality of the new relationship (added element that a newborn brings to a couple) needed to be equally represented, you can see the three way love without the emphasis being on any one aspect of that "triangle" so to speak. So, for me, the flat lighting was necessary for this shot to showcase what I was FEELING in that room. I'm not saying some added three dimensionality of lighting would not have beneffited th image, just that I didn't want anyone to be eclipsed or shadowed in this shot. All three were equally important emotionally speaking. I am glad you feel the same way about the shot!

Dave,
Well, honestly, I wouldn't call a grimace a smile :) Still, I'm glad to see others with a fresh sense of humor here!

Keith,
I'm not sure if you saw my second post but I agree wholeheartedly that I have a TON to learn and a long way to go. In fact, I felt a bit foolosh even posting anything here but I've never been one to not just jump into the "gauntlet" so to speak. I don't fear much so I didn't have anything to lose. I don't have a fragile ego, after years of being spit upon, attacked and called every imagineable name under the sun...well, I've got some pretty thick skin... :)
I very much appreciate your advice and yes, it took me two years just to get past the "what you see if what you get" evidentiary type of approach to photography. It was hard to undo that training but I really do feel that I have gotten past it for the most part.
The biggest thing for me was my desire to capture LIFE with a capital L. After years of documenting death and violence and the horrors of what humans can do to each other, I felt empassioned to capture happiness, joy, love, and all the good emotions that humans, and in particular children, inherently have. So, you definitely see alot of laughter in the images on my website. It's a treat for me to get to document uninhibited joy for a change :)
I know all too well that I have a great deal to learn in terms of playing with light directionality. I've been experimenting with it a lot lately and pushing myself. I do this mostly with my cooperative adult subjects rather than, say, twin 18 month olds... I'm sure you can understand why!
I do believe I have a good "eye" although that, in and of itself, without the technical skill to back it up will not mean much if I don't continue to grow as a photographer. So, that's why I keep experimenting and reading and being inspired by the work of others whom I admire.
Thanks again for taking the time to offer me guidance and suggestions, I take everything in, I'm a bit of a sponge. And I simply squeeze out and release the stuff I don't agree with. :)
And, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at the kind reception I have received. I really don't have time for forum activity what with a bustling business and two small children underfoot but darn-it, I just might get hooked...
Delightfully,
Pascale

Cheri_MacCallum
10-25-2008, 02:16 AM
Pascale,
Welcome to the forum and I applaud you for jumping right in! You got some excellent advice here and I hope you continue to post!

pascalewowak
10-25-2008, 03:04 AM
Cheri,
Thanks for the friendly welcome :)
Pascale