View Full Version : Looking for Critique

12-31-2008, 05:05 AM
Hi, I'm looking to send a case to Kentucky and would like any input on these images. Please be honest....if they would be worth entering or not.

12-31-2008, 02:21 PM

I hesitate slightly in replying, but I will move forward to say your images first as is are incomplete. I would be happy to convey my thoughts to you via pm if you wish.


12-31-2008, 03:15 PM
I would really like to help you but these are just to small to really tell anything. Maybe you could email me larger files or host these somewhee so you can post them larger. How many prints can you enter in Kentucky?


12-31-2008, 04:38 PM
test post

12-31-2008, 04:47 PM


12-31-2008, 10:19 PM
Hi John,
I have 3 of the images larger showing here. Can you give me some feed back
on them?

01-01-2009, 12:21 AM
Mari I will comment only on one image because it caught my attention right away. What I immediately noticed was the bright sky competing with the warmth of the city scene. The sky being so bright demanded my attention although it is not significant to the scene. So I have toned it down with a deep blue sky to compliment the warm tones within the city, then flipped the image to bring the foreground street to become a stonger point of interest to the overall scene. With a bit more time, there are a number of other smaller nuances that could be tweaked to make it stronger yet. It is simply a suggestion and a start and it could be improved on from there.

Nice work by the way. You are going to do very well with your keen eye.


01-01-2009, 12:33 AM
I love the city picture - I want to go there! Where is that? I also like what Ron did with it. Sorry I guess that's not much of a critique but it sure caught my attention.

01-01-2009, 01:39 AM
I'm not really qualified for cc, but I will say the image of the legs on the rocks was a little unsettling- maybe that's a good thing for competition- I don't know. I love the landscapes, but since I don't really shoot them I don't know much. Sorry I'm not more help, but I did really like most of them.:)

01-01-2009, 02:09 PM
Ron nailed it on the city image. It needs some texture to the sky, with clouds or a sky added to it. The white area on the building is also competing for attention with the rest of the image. I'd tone that down or change it's color completely. I would not have flipped the image, because of the numbers and other signage that will also have to be flipped. That said it may or may not score above the dreaded 79.

The rocks with legs I'd pass on. It's distracting to see the legs and the decide if that is a head or not. If she was sitting up and we could see her on the rocks it would have a better chance. I'd also like to see more room on that image.

The farm scene, like the city scene, is one that might score or might not, depending on the judging panel. It's borderline. The composition is good, and you're colors and exposure are good, as it is on all of these. It does however have some shadow on the right side of the field that would have been so much better lit by that setting sun.

Good stuff and like Ron said you'll do well. You're seeing good stuff.

01-01-2009, 03:35 PM
Mark I'm glad you pointed out the backward numbers. I meant to add to my original post that anytime you flip an image, you must scan the image closely to be sure you correct any and all backwards letters and numbers. Very simple to correct but just watch closely.

I got to thinking about this image this morning and out of curiosity, I recropped it. This is just a different view with a different feel and focus. Trying to do this quickly and working on my laptop is not so fun and certainly not as precise and detailed as I would like but you can get the idea.


01-01-2009, 04:21 PM
A side note...Ron on another forum there is a thread asking what photographer would you like to ask any question, or learn from. Right now I'm saying Ron Jackson. I want to hang with you for a couple of days and see how you do a commercial shoot and process your architectural images, especially.

01-01-2009, 04:28 PM
Ha! Mark you flatter me. Why don't you catch up with me Sunday afternoon on the Silver Meteor train to DC then you can spend a couple of days with me up there shooting four assignments. :) Thanks for the ego boost. Now I can go about my day with a smile.

01-01-2009, 06:06 PM
I want to hang with you too Ron! :)
Thank you so much for the input and Mark too. Ron, I love the last changes you made. I get so hung up on how I cropped the image in the camera, I don't play with it enough in the computer. I love the way you brought up the color on the flowers and brought up the windows more. It' looks beautiful!
Thank you, thank you both.

Kimberly, this image was taken in Orvieto, Italy. I was there doing a bike trip.
It's a great little village. I would recommend it to anyone.

Thanks again and Happy New Year everyone.

01-01-2009, 06:15 PM
Mari I hope I have helped in some small way. One thing I found years ago was to look within a scene to see if there is a better image within. I have found a number of times looking at an image on the computer, that when I zoomed in to look around, I would often find a stronger image with a simple recrop than the one I originally composed.

Those colors you mentioned such as the flowers are of course there, just add a layer and bring them up with the sponge or any number of other methods. Be sure to remove that red box (maybe a fire alarm) off the archway within the white wall on the right.

I want to go there. I love this village. Very romantic in every sense.

01-01-2009, 08:14 PM
Sorry I did not get this posted yesterday. Here are my thoughts on the first three images. First the vineyard photograph, there are really two possible images here, the top half or the bottom half. I chose the bottom. I cropped the image so that the right-hand side is very near to the diagonal line intersecting the right edge. I darkened the entire image, except for the buildings then I took out the electric pole and the white building on the right-hand side by stretching the left-hand side and the top half a little bit. I was able to increase the compositional dynamics of the image. The reason this works is because of the lines from the vines coming down from the upper left pulls you into the impact of the buildings. By darkening the surrounding the area then dodging out the highlights of the trees and the edges of the buildings will make them pop when the image is under the lights. As I see it should merit.
I do not have a title I will check with Holly for ideas. I am thinking of something like "the last rays of light" or "day's end".

On the second image I chose to flip the image horizontally so that you read into the legs. I would like to see more of the water above the legs if there is more to the image. The file is too small to tell for sure but something feels wrong like maybe the legs were added. I also tried to minimize the heavy vignette in the outer edges that was causing key hole effect. As it is high feel that the image is in the above-average category.
Again I do not have a title, and I will check with Holly.

On the third image, I feel there was too much information. I chose to crop to eliminate the sky issue. I do agree that in the original files the sky is a major distraction. I would be very careful if you decide to put in a sky as Ron initially suggested that you make sure it does not have a telltale cut out edge around the buildings. Judges will see that and counted as a technical fault. I chose to crop the brightest set of windows off. I looked at flipping the image and chose not to I did check the image slightly to make sure the verticals stayed vertical. I used the desaturate to take the warm tone out of the image on the stairway and in the very upper left corner. Then I burned these areas down till they were even with the surrounding areas. Next I darkened the overall image and them burned any lighter areas to give the feeling of a dark evening. Note. I also took the towel off of the patio railing. And I straightened the wall to the left of the street opening. Remember competition lights are bright. We need to darken these images to give the impact they may appear slightly dark over the forum. I do feel that the image now would be a borderline case. Somewhere around 78 to 81. I feel that this in the image needs an older man with a cane back towards us walking up the road or leaning on the rail. If put in well, I see this image in the excellent category. Again I will ask Holly title ideas. JMO's Keith

01-01-2009, 08:23 PM
Concerning the other two images, the boy with his parents when I do not feel would get above average. The distraction of the white behind holds the eye while the lighting on his face feels flat and underexposed.

The image of the bride and Marine I also feel would stay in the average category because the light appears to be coming straight down pocketing the eyes. There are other distractions within the image like the white wall and the sky showing through the trees. Overall the pose feels average and there is nothing to take it to the next level. Again JMO

01-01-2009, 09:02 PM
Ok, Holly came through again with what I feel are great titles
the legs - "Nude Beach"
the farmhouse "A Vintage Year"
She said the print title for the other one will depend on if you decide to add a person walking away or not.


01-01-2009, 11:58 PM
I meant to mention earlier that the one of the legs on the rocks gave me the impression of a washed up corpse. Just odd having the legs sticking out like that. For what it's worth.

On the image I worked on and Keith commented on, I agree about adding the human interest however, I still disagree about the flip. We read left to right. Therefore in general but not always, it works better having leading lines lead your eye in a general left to right direction and not leading back in from right to left. I have looked at this image both ways a number of times and in my opinion, it is stonger flipped.

This image has many possibilites and by taking enough time and paying attention to detail it could be a wonderful presentation.

01-02-2009, 01:27 AM
I have looked at this image both ways a number of times and in my opinion, it is stonger flipped.

This is why there are 5 judges on a panel, because everyone may see things differently. I still feel it is stronger if you do not flip the image. Ron is correct about the direction our eyes travel through an image. However in this particular case the low wall on the side of this road acts as a very strong "stopper". If the image is flipped it stops you from getting to the center of interest. When the image is not flipped it stops you from traveling away from that center of interest and actually creates a leading line right to that center.


01-02-2009, 02:48 AM
Goes to show how every person can see something completely different. In the end, the creator must decide for themselves what they want to do with an image to finalize it.

I did a very quick rendition with the man Keith suggested. You can see I still prefer the flip in my verison. I also prefer more life to the image and not as dark and cold as Keith's that's why I left some lights on for a "warmer" more romantic mood. Just my personal style. There is no perfection here, it's just a thought process to hopefully help Mari see how many different ways you can see and manipulate a single image.


01-02-2009, 03:04 PM
WOW! This is such great info. I've learned alot from you both. Thank you for all the input. Now I will make some changes with two images.
When I look at the legs in the rocks, I can see where you would think it was a body washed up. Originally, it made me laugh because I was walking the beach and saw the legs just sticking out. I never thought of a someone being in trouble....I will not use that image.
Keith, I love what you did with the countryside image. Lesson here for me is to start looking within an image for another image. I will make the changes you recommended.

Keith & Ron - I love all the feed back on the city street image. I find myself
drawn to the warmer tones/ details pulled out with the one Ron did. I like the feel there vs the colder tones. On flipping the image....I can see both ways, I guess I will have to make that decision. OH BOY! :)

Thank you both for all your help. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.
I hope to meet you both at PPA.
Thanks again,

01-02-2009, 05:08 PM
I find myself
drawn to the warmer tones/ details pulled out with the one Ron did. I like the feel there vs the colder tones.

Mari, Go with your gut instinct. It has to be your choice. I feel the warmer version is the wrong choice to make, especially in your situation being just a few merits shy of your degree.

In the interest of education for everyone else reading this thread I am going to write exactly what my comments would be if I was on the panel and the warmer version came up and someone challenged it to get it to a merit.

" I am at XX in the average catergory because I find this image visually busy and confusing. There are so may bright spots my eye bounces all over. I am having a hard time finding the center of interest. After all the bright spots next the bright red flowers draws my attention because eveything else is almost monotone. But the flowers aren't strong enough to be the intended subject. Next my eye bounces back and forth from the bright orange and red areas in the cobblestones to the bright orange area in the lower right corner of that brightest window. It makes me wonder what it is? Looks like a fire in the room. My eye reads in from the upper left corner but then is drawn around the image to all the bright spots and then flows out the bottom right following the wall. When I finally get to the man, which I assume is the main subject, he is walking out of the image."

Now here's what I would say if the darker version came up and was challenged

" I am at XX in the Deserving of a Merit catergory. I love how the maker has chosen to contrast the warm light in that covered walkway with the cold and dark feeling of the rest of the image. You just know that it's a miserable day and there is a respite just up the street. The use of warm tones contrasting against cool tones adds to the visual impact and draws you right to the center of interest. When I read in from the upper left my eye goes right to that light then follows the arch down to the cobblestone street - where it jumps to the warm light reflected in the puddle and right up to the light again. The rest of the image almost creates a negative space that balances the strong visual weight of that light, yet there is enough detail to provide background information that tells me the story."

I do still feel it's a good idea to add in a person, especially with my version because the story is as I said a cold miserable evening after a long hard bone chilling day and the person is headed for the warmth of home and family. If you decide to use the warm version then you can put a person in or not as you choose. There the image would be about the scene and not the story of someone headed somewhere. Remember it would need to be printed much darker than shown here for judging conditions. In the darker version I took that into consideration already.

Mari, I liked what you said "Lesson here for me is to start looking within an image for another image." Dave Swoboda is the person who taught us that lesson.

01-03-2009, 02:21 AM
To the general forum membership

I have been told via PM that my last post was like that of a 2 year old throwing a fit and saying "pick me pick me." Not my intention in anyway. I have nothing to gain from Mari choosing my version other than wanting her to do the best she possibly can. I was simply trying to share a judge's viewpoint on two versions of the same image and give Mari information to consider when making her choice. Any comments I made are strictly about the print and not the maker or any other contributor. That is how it is handled in print competition, all comments address the print, never the maker. It's never personal.

The sad fact of life is that if you are lucky enough to gain a lot of knowledge about a particular topic and you are motivated to share that knowledge, sometimes that sharing will be mistaken for arrogance. I don't know how to solve that other then to just shut up and not say anything. I can't help it if anyone questions my motives but I can't let that questioning stop me from passing on knowledge that was so freely given to me. I have an obligation to pay back my teachers by passing it on. If I offend someone in the process I am sorry.

Mari, You have some nice images here. Like I said, go with your gut. In the end no matter what the results, if you don't follow your gut instinct you will always wonder what if???? Good Luck!

01-03-2009, 04:03 PM
Hi Keith,
I want you to know I did not take anything personally. I have learned through the years that it's not an attack against me or the image I have taken. I know that 2 judges can be differing in their thoughts/opinions and thats ok, it's how we all learn.
I do appreciate all that you have given me and I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me and others.

Thanks again,

01-03-2009, 05:57 PM
In defense of Keith’s reply…

I know that Keith is a big boy and can take care of himself, but I just thought that I’d put in my 2 cents worth for those who know him only from his posts on this forum…

While there are many people on this forum who regularly express their opinions on print critiques, some who act like they’re experts in print judging, there are really very few on this forum who have the qualifications, experience and the background to make a really valid appraisal of an image’s chances in a National Print Competition. There is a huge difference between the opinion of just anyone who wants to post a comment, and the opinion of one of the most experienced, and in my personal opinion, one of the best PPA-PEC Affiliate Jurors that we have. Just FYI - Internationally, there are only 106 names on the list of PPA-PEC Approved Affiliate Jurors, and that includes the Jury Chairmen - Keith is one of those 106 people.

Keith is the only PPA-PEC Affiliate Juror who regularly posts on this forum. A few of the other Jurors do chime in from time to time, but Keith is the only one who regularly takes the time to analyze, critique, and offer suggestions for the improvement of the work of the members of this forum. All of those critiques take time - a lot of time - and Keith gets nothing for doing it except the personal satisfaction that he may have helped one person move just a little bit closer to achieving their professional goals. In all of the critiques that I have read that have been posted by Keith, there is one thread that runs through them all - every comment he makes is aimed to help the maker to move that print up out of the Non-Accepted room and into the Merit or Loan Print category, and he does it from the perspective of someone who regularly sits on that panel. He IS one of the Jurors who will decide if that print will hang in the International Exhibition, be permanently retained for the PPA Loan Collection, or returned to the maker - so his perspective will always be that of a PPA-PEC Juror who is sitting on a judging panel.

I have been a volunteer worker at the PPA International Judging for more than a dozen years, and in that time, I have met and worked with just about every Affiliate Juror on the Juror List. After being around the Jurors and seeing them judge year after year, you start to form personal opinions about people, their abilities, perspectives, personality and their personal motivations. Within those personal opinions, there are always some people that you really hope will be invited back to judge again next year and, of course the very rare individual who, in the back of your mind, you hope never gets a call back again. Those who judge at the National Judging are literally “THE BEST OF THE BEST”. Usually a Juror will be invited for a couple of years and then rotated off as other Jurors are invited to judge. The best Jurors seem to get invited back with more regularity. Keith has been an invited Juror at the PPA International Judging for 5 of the last 6 years (I’m limited on my search since I only have the group photos from the National Judging for the last 6 years and none from before, so he may have been there prior to the last 6 years, but I can’t say for sure since I can‘t locate those photos, and my memory gets fuzzy that far back). For a Juror to be invited to judge for 5 of the last 6 years means that he is considered to be one of the best of “THE BEST OF THE BEST“. In my personal opinion, Keith is definitely is one of the top Jurors that we have at the National Judging, and would be on my personal panel of Jurors if I had to pick a “blue-ribbon“ panel of judges. I have seen Keith judge for hours on end and seen him critique for hours and into the night - with just as much enthusiasm at the end of the day as at the beginning - he does that because of his dedication to the profession and his desire to help others to succeed.

The fact that we have such a dedicated individual on this forum, one who is so willing to give of his time is a remarkable and invaluable gift. I’ve seen many, many, many critiques done at the National Judging, and I still get a real education every time I read one of Keith’s critiques - and I read every one that he posts. I think that we all need to thank Keith for all of the time and effort that he puts in for all of us on the forum. I think he deserves a round of applause. We should all be glad that he’s here !!!

Also - for those who notice my use of the words judge vs. Juror - there is a definite difference between being called a judge and being called a Juror. A Juror is a PPA-PEC Approved Judge. Just about anyone can judge - very few can qualify to be called a Juror.

- Just my humble opinion… I’ll shut up now.

01-03-2009, 06:07 PM
I have to say Amen to Ricks comments.

01-03-2009, 07:40 PM
Thank you Keith.
I read every one of his comments particularly. I have not yet entered print competition but I do intend always to keep getting better and getting in my mind what experienced people know so while I am photographing/presenting I can do better.

01-03-2009, 08:24 PM
In defense of Keith’s reply…

While there are many people on this forum who regularly express their opinions on print critiques, some who act like they’re experts in print judging, there are really very few on this forum who have the qualifications, experience and the background to make a really valid appraisal of an image’s chances in a National Print Competition.

That is a very valid statement Rick. There is no doubt that Keith has earned his position and qualification as a judge and he is definitely one of the best portrait and wedding photographers working today. His commitment to serve this forum by participation and sharing his experience and knowledge is legend. However, I do want to say that this is, like it or not, an open forum with a wide range of creative thinkers. Some, like me do not have the stack of letters behind our name, but that does not mean different views should not be shared and opinions given. Let's don't scare off even the newest of forum members and photographers from hesitating to post their thoughts and opinion on any thread just because Keith or Jack or Michael Gan or any other person has posted. If the Competition thread were locked so that "only" a qualified judge could comment, that might be different. But don't stifle those who challenge Keith or anyone else as that very challenge often will bring out more discussion and information for everyone to learn from.

Sometimes we type our comments with the dialog running in our head but when it's read, it can often come across to the reader(s) in a completely different tone. Could Keith's post on Mari's thread have come across a bit childish in tone? I suppose so in hindsight of reading that particular post. In my opinion the comments he made might have been a bit heavy handed but maybe that was never his intent. Do Keith and I clash on other topics besides this thread? Absolutely. In the case of the mention thread we disagreed on a couple of issues. Did this help or hurt Mari? I would like to think that by the challenge and seeing different ways, it gave her and any other reader some valuable information of how to look within an image and the different ways it could be worked. Does the fact that Keith is a judge automatically trump any opinion that I or others might have? Does it mean that the moment any judge makes a comment about an image that all others should stop commenting or challenging? I sure hope not.

No, Keith doesn't need defending as most everyone knows how valuable he is to this forum, the PPA and print judging. Keith might sit there reading this rolling his eyes but I mean what I said about him. In regards to his talent, sharing and knowledge I too applaud him.

01-03-2009, 10:31 PM
Commentary and differing opinions = GOOD
Name calling = BAD

01-04-2009, 07:45 AM
I also would like to personally thank Keith- (and his wife who chimed in.) These two people knew me from nothing, yet took the time ( a lot ) of time to give me their advice and help which I truly treasure and always will. They received nothing back from that except what they gained from it personally, but I feel they gave me the same time and attention they would have to someone much further along in their photographic journey who would have been more able to show Keith the fruits of his advice. This forum wouldn't be worth anything if not for the experts who chime in help lead us all along, and I know Keith is one of the best.

Thanks, Keith, for taking so much time just to pass on your knowledge!