View Full Version : new to competition - seeking critique

04-02-2011, 09:01 PM

I entered 4 images in the SEPPA district competition for the first time this year. I'd love to get any feedback about my images to improve them (or replace them) for the international competition coming up. I've got thick skin - would love to learn from those who are experienced.

thank you!


04-02-2011, 10:04 PM
I'm looking forward to what they have to say, too. Love the bunny on the floor.

04-02-2011, 10:30 PM
Welcome to the forums Megan and my hat's off to you for entering at SEPPA!

I could critique your images but I'm very new to competition as well so I'm going to leave it to those more qualified. There are some incredible photographers here that can give you excellent advice on what to do in order to bring your scores up so take heed when they give you their 2 cents worth. You'll be glad you did.

04-03-2011, 02:35 AM
My first impression on viewing the images is that the keyline around each of the images is somewhat distracting. It is doing the exact opposite of what a keyline is supposed to do. A keyline is supposed to direct your eye to the most important part of the image. In all four of the images, the keyline is keyed to a background element instead of a subject element.

In the first image, the blue of the keyline directs your eye towards the blue flowers and the brightest points in the image are the white shirt and socks which attract the most attention. The white spots of the shirt and socks pull your eye as do the blue flowers since the keyline directs your eye there - so you have problems getting into the subject's face.

The same for the second image. There is a lot of green around the subject, and although the color of he keyline looks like it was picked from the dress of the girl on the left, all the green around it makes it hard to get back to the three main subjects. Also, the leading line of the road leads your eye away from the subjects and back into the background. I believe that the image would be stronger if the three subjects were positioned farther back down the road where the winding of the road led you to the subjects instead of away from them.

Third image - same as the first - the keyline is keyed to the color of the door and the brightest spot in the image is his shirt and not his face. Try turning this print and the first one upside down and see where your eye goes - it goes to the white shirts and socks.

The fourth image looks like it has had the saturation boosted on the reds and the color of he keyline picked up from these reds. This directs the viewers attention to the red spots and away from the girl's face. Her face is flat lit, there is not an interesting pattern to the lighting, and the eyeball is "open" in the far eye - meaning the eyeball is not contained within the line of the face, if the face were to be turned just a little bit back towards the camera, and the light to come from the left and behind the child, it would be a stronger image. Spot color enhancements were popular a while ago, but it has been done so often for so long that it is now considered somewhat "trite".

Just my opinion...

04-03-2011, 03:07 AM
Hi Megan. Welcome to the wonderful world of Image Competition!
I took a look at the images you posted. They have a lot of wonderful qualities.
The Little girl sitting on the stone wall. Very cute expression, cute candid. A couple of things that stand out to me are- her sweater seems blown out., lack of detail. Also there appears to be a colored line running down the edge of it on our right. The lighting on her face lacks direction, therefore flattening our her features. The bright foliage behind her pulls the viewers eye up there.
Kids on path-I like the use of space making the kids look so small. I looked at it in black and white with a black border. Personally I thought it was stronger. The colors, for me, are distracting. The other thing that could have held it back is the edge of the path cuts through the 2 older kids necks, almost decapitating them. Had you stepped left this could have been avoided.
Little boy at door- Cute candid. The expression might work with the right title, but it would have to be a really good title. His shirt, again looks blown out, lack of detail. The bright color behind him pulls the viewer back to that area.
Girl picking berries- The face looks sharp but the berries and hand are not. Because they are the leading line to her face and the action in the image they really should be sharp. The lighting on her face is flat. It lacks direction and dimension. Using her left hand caused her arm to divide her in 2. Had she reached out with her other hand it would have opened up her chest to the camera and exposing her neck- keeping her together. The bright red in the bow is the first thing I noticed.
Some other general things to keep in mind when looking for competition images.- Keep your keylines thin and subtle. Bright colors against subdue mats draw a lot of attention. You want to be sure that everything directs the viewer to the area YOU want to be important. Vignetting, lightening or darkening areas will help with that. I have found it helps me to look at an image upside down and see where my eye goes. If it is not where I want it to go, I make changes. Keep things simple, at least to start. Less distractions the better. Also don’t be afraid to use a bigger amount of matte and a smaller image area. Especially with children it helps them appear small. Watch for direction of light across your subjects. Use light to add dimension to your subject. Watch for light in their eyes. Use reflectors when needed to help with that and to balance out the sun and the shadows.
I hope some of this will help you. I am sure others will chime in with their opinions also. Take in as many opinions as you can then decide what makes sense to you and what do you feel you can build on. Competition is an educational tool. Whenever you get the chance to go and watch one, do. The information during a challenge can be very helpful. You can also pull judges aside after and have them look at your images and give you advise on improvement. I still do that whenever I have the chance.
Good Luck! I hope you continue on this journey. It is well worth it!

04-03-2011, 02:31 PM

You got some great advice from Rick and sarah, so I wiill just add a couple things.

If I was going to suggest one thing for you to concentrate on it would be lighting. All of these images are quite flat light.

Girl in front of blue flowers seems soft in focus on my laptop monitor. Maybe it's just the poor quality monitor but I don't believe that's it because the rest of your images are in focus.(Except of course berry picking girl's hand as Sarah pointed out) Also you didn't remove/soften the bags under her eyes. Maybe that was a personal choice but for cometition unless you are trying to convey age or tiredness you are probably better doing the retouch.

Three kids in path - As a judge I would have liked to see more color coordination in the clothing. Don't have to be all the same color but the same tonal value would have helped. When the clothing doesn't go together between multiple subjects it suggests snapshot. Also with the hotspots coming through the white flowered trees, the top third of the image is really busy and distracting. The children's shadows are falling pretty much directly below their feet telling me this was taken more mid day. try this same thing early in the morning or late in the evening ( getting back to that lighting I mentioned) and see how much more dramatic it will be when directional light gives the children and the trees a feeling of three dimension. You have a perfect scene to create a feeling of great depth - the path going off in the distance, but the flat light taken away dimension rather the adding to that feeling of small children in a big world off on a long road to the future.

Boy in door IMO is the strongest of these 4 but lack of light direction, mixed keys of a white shirt in a low key setting and the hot spot in the background Sarh mentioned outweighed what was strong about this image. The strength being good subject, good storytelling and cute expression. Try it again blocking that window we see in the background, put him in darker colors, correct the lighting and back up se we see the whole door which will accent how cute it is that a toddler ( small) is answering the front door ( big/adult thing to do)

Girl picking berries - Sarah pretty much covered it. My only additional thing is why the tilt? I am not against tilts. I like them and use them but with a reason, like it creates dramatic lines in the background or adds a feeling of off balance etc. Here the tilt doesn't add to the image so IMO it comes off as a gimmick. If it hadn't been tilted her arm would have formed an even stronger diagonal (diagonals are always more dynamic in composition then horizontals - providing they aren't contrived) leading from upper right to her face more lower left. That's the direction your eye naturally travels through an image.

Hope this helps


04-03-2011, 05:38 PM
Thank you Rick, Sarah, and Keith for taking the time to give detailed, helpful comments! I will use them to work more on these and future images. I'll definitely change my use of keylines, per Rick's and Sarah's suggestions. I'm also going to work on the flat lighting and hot spots issues mentioned by Keith and Sarah. Keith, to answer your question, on the children on the path - I shot that around 6:00 p.m., within an hour of sunset. The sideways shadows running across the road are from the sun cutting low through the trees.

I wasn't thinking about the mixed keys with the boy in doorway until you mentioned it, Keith, but I see it now. I did think the kids on the road were in key with the green/blue/white clothing against the early spring colors of the setting. But I can see that for competition, judges want stronger coordination.

I really appreciate your comments and will use them to improve. Thank you!!