Does my documentary photography portfolio have potential?

Discussion in 'Personal and Professional Photography Websites' started by oldyelir, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. oldyelir

    oldyelir TPF Noob!

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    http://www.rileyyuan.com

    I've been practicing and studying the craft for the past three years and for the first time, I feel like I'm starting to put together a serious body of work that would be presentable to newspapers and photo editors. What does the the photo forum community think?

    I shoot a lot of small events and candid coverage from my daily life, and I know my next step is the photoessay—a real story. I think my skills are sharp enough and my editing is tight enough to put together something really compelling (honest feedback to the contrary is welcomed). Of course, I understand that the important part is to have sensitivity and vision and knowledge about actual issues in people's lives. I do have some ideas for the stories I'm interested in telling. But I'm curious to hear about how other photojournalists find their subjects. For instance, as I peruse the CPOY winners' work, I often find myself wondering how they obtained access to some of their subjects/stories and whether or not most of these young photographers start by photographing the subjects/stories they are close to—the ones that they have a personal connection with. Sometimes, this is very obviously the case. Other times, not so much.


     
  2. Tim Tucker

    Tim Tucker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sorry, I'm going to be a little brutal here, but you did ask for honest.

    No I would not show this portfolio. Go through your photos and count how many faces you can actually see. Then count how many the eyes are visible in. For photo essays about people this is fairly essential.

    With the processing, again do a count of how many faces are reduced to near black. Your processing is heavily over-contrasty with the reduction of large parts of the image to near black, poor control of WB and saturation. Also your presentation seems to show a lack of understanding of how to present images for print.

    Here are some screenshots of your portfolio:

    ex-1.jpg

    Why have you reduced the subject of the image to near black? You can barely see him or make him out, especially when shown against the white ground of your web page. High contrast with large areas of near black is a theme that runs through all the images, you might need to get your monitor calibrated.

    ex-2.jpg

    Again you can't see the subject's face, or the subject at all really. Why is it so dark? 90% of the image is near black, look at the histogram of the image I've super-imposed: The average brightness value is 8.13 out of a maximum 256!



    ex-3.jpg

    How many faces can you actually see here? Can you actually make out what's going on? The majority of the centre, or subject, of the image is pure black, and I can just make out it's a shot of two people's backs.

    Sorry again.
     
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  3. john.margetts

    john.margetts No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have to agree - much too dark. There is either a strange fashion for photographs you cannot see or people have their monitor brightness turned up way too high because too many people have their pictures far too dark.

    Without wanting to impose unnecessary rules, the histogram should be more or less central in most photographs and as Tim shows, yours is almost entirely in the darkest few percent of what your camera can produce.
     
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  4. Tim Tucker

    Tim Tucker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No, impose this rule John! It is not what the camera can produce but that the RGB values presented in the finished image print to specific reference colours. To the OP, it doesn't matter how the image looks on an over-bright screen in the rarified air of a darkened room, print the images and see how they change because that's what you're presenting to prospective clients. In the photojournalistic world these will be generally be viewed on calibrated monitors by editors with a deep understanding of how the image will look in print.
     
  5. oldyelir

    oldyelir TPF Noob!

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    Thank you fellas! I really appreciate the feedback, and don't be sorry Tim. I'm looking to improve.

    I'll be honest—I adore shooting in the dark and absolutely love stark lighting. But I'm glad someone called me on my tendency to exaggerate that in post/use contrast as a crutch. I assume, Tim, that when you said I don't really seem to understand how to present images for print, you were referring to this exaggeration of contrast/over-blackening of images?

    The only question I have is whether or not you feel that in some cases, a high-contrast, generally dark image can be stylistically appropriate (in a documentary context—not talking about fine art or fashion or anything). Take this photo: pippin.jpg
    Over-darkened and unsuitable for print as it is? Yes. But given the subject (a tense scene in a local theater production in a very dark auditorium), does a lot of surrounding darkness in the image seem stylistically appropriate? Even if it violates, say, the histogram rule? Does that darkness help capture the mood? I guess what I'm asking is this: say I did a better, more print-conscious editing job on this image. Would it be stronger? Or is there something more fundamentally wrong with what I've done here that editing wouldn't affect? I have admit, I like the composition of this photo.

    And I also really appreciate what you said, Tim, about needing to emphasize more faces and eyes (and expressions in general. That is a very valid stylistic critique. I'll be more conscious of how I compose and approach subjects in the future.
     
  6. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I haven't looked at your link, yet. The absolute most important element in photojournalism is to accurately and clearly tell the story. Everything else is secondary (period). If you are able to consistency tell the story clearly and accurately and add a personal style/signature to the images, you are amazing ... you are one of the gifted few photojournalists that would be called a "Shooter" by you peers and revered as a God by others.

    Your personal style and everything else ... takes second place to 'merely' getting the job done. No editor or even viewers gives a rat's about your personal style ... or anything else about you for that matter ... All they care about is getting the job done.* What is important is ... again, is the accuracy of your story telling, your ability to not only capture the defining image but to do so with drama and to consistency deliver on those two characteristics day-in and day-out on every assignment.

    I was a photojournalist back in the film-only days of photography. There is no hard and fast rules to how photojournalists work. When working out of the home office, I was given assignments/stories (features) to research, setup and shoot. Hard news assignments was more of just getting there at the right time and shoot the story. While I could submit my own stories for consideration, that was not a requirement for employment. On the other hand, when working/on-assignment away from the home office ... say covering the turmoil in the Middle East, it was important to find stories and to work closely with reporters in following up on leads and contacts.

    The better journalists, (reporters and photogs), always walked in the shoes of those they cover.

    * Which isn't entirely true, but if you don't cover an assignments because of your personal safety, and the competition published photos ... you won't be employed long.
     
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  7. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Okay, I took a look at your site. Meh. You have a long way to go to be a photojournalist. You need to take some classes, work with a small publication and get published ... Your stuff skirts the story. Example, the photo of the guy getting his face painted is a good photo, but the story is the bus sized dragon, the first image of from the fashion show leaves you wondering what is going on, even after reading the caption the viewer wonders what's happening in the image, the third image lack drama to pull you in and a candlelight virgil is nothing but dramatic images ...

    Here's images of a candlelight vigil that you could have looked for/captured.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I really think you need more training as a journalist/reporter so you can refine your images to telling the story.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
  8. Tim Tucker

    Tim Tucker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    On the question of darkness and mood, then you can use dark in your image.

    But darkness in your image is just the proportion of dark areas to light ones, your images are too dark, they do not have light areas, you only think they do.

    I find this to be one of the hardest concepts for beginners to get their heads around, but I'll try and explain:

    How do you make an image brighter? You can turn up the brightness of your monitor. But the image still prints the same as you have only altered the brightness of your screen, not the brightness of your image.

    Walk outside on a sunny day and you screw your eyes a little as they adjust to the brightness. When they do you see the blue sky and white clouds. Now walk inside to a semi-darkened room. Your eyes again adjust and you see the white paint on the ceiling as white. Even though it's many times darker than the white clouds outside you do not see it as grey. We only see in relative values and not absolute, when our eyes adjust to a scene we recognise the brightest and darkest parts of the scene and we interpret them as being the white and black points.

    You computer screen is what is called an additive colour system, which basically means it generates light just like a torch. So in a darkened room looking at your monitor the human eye adjusts and tries to see the lightest and darkest tones as the white and black points and the lightest point is generally the light shining from your computer screen.

    Remember that when in print images appear on a white page and do not generate any light as a computer screen does, they only reflect light.

    The white of the paper is the white at the far right of your histogram and the black of the printed text is the far left of the histogram. You think the brightest point of the vest of the in-focused character is white?

    Look again, the actual colour in print is nearer a middle grey:

    full-compare-1.jpg

    So what happens to your image if we do make it white? Well look and see:

    full-compare-2.jpg

    I've raised the brightness and corrected the colour. Nothing happens to the mood of the image, it remains exactly the same. But something has happened to your edit, you are beginning to see how dark it actually is.

    Now see how they compare when reduced in size and printed on a large page:

    full-compare.jpg

    Take a look at the contrast as well, you really thing that the contrast between black and middle grey matches the contrast between black and white in my edit? It's an easy mistake when editing on a computer screen rather than viewing the print (because the screen generates light and brightness, the print only reflects light), you're only seeing the tones as your eye has corrected them, you're not seeing the image as it actually is. If you want to see the image as it actually is then print it! You will be surprised at just how dark and difficult to see it actually is compared to how you think it looks. Once you've printed it then you will begin to learn how to edit images so they print near the same as they appear on screen, at the moment you're way off. ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
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  9. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    First of all, what they^ all said was right on the money.
    You are imposing your sense of what you want to see on the image, on all the images.
    This, for example, the darkness looks fake and over-dramatic, an Instagram effect.
    The editing should spring from the image.

    upload_2016-8-14_8-1-28.png
     

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