I agree - it's a strong picture but the placement of the incense could be better. I think it makes the entire picture a little slanted, like it needs to be straightened. That was my first thought but then I looked closer and the head does seem to be straight, but still somehow the entire image looks a bit off-kilter.
I played around with the placement of the incense and this one was the only one of the batch I liked. I do agree that I could have placed it better, I'm just having difficulty figuring out where. Any recommendations?
I think a looser frame might be in order, to give some space for the incense to be in. Give it some room to get established against the black/dark background before it curls up over the face. That's how *I* see it, anyways, but it's quite a different picture than yours.
You could move the incense and/or move yourself and try some different vantage points - depends on what perspective you want. Maybe it would work better if the incense isn't directly in front of the face so instead of the stick just the smoke curls up in front of it.
The placement of the incense is suggestive of a very thin pipe, which goes right into the Budda's mouth. Kinda neat, IMO.
I think the camera position should be just slightly lower, so as to be at the point of gaze.
I like the general idea and layout, but agree that the incense stick should not be in front of the face. If you re-shoot, try just a little reflection to the off side of the face to complete the head shape better. And maybe cut the light just above the stick of incense.