TPF Noob!
Dec 18, 2015
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Hay guys, first time posting on this forum. Recently started playing around with B&W and would love some critique so I can improve. I think I especially have some trouble with the framing - kinda fumbles in the dark with there.
Welcome to the forum; you've got some great subject matter there. The first two images have a couple of issues in common; un-level horizon (easily corrected) as well as perhaps not the best compoisitional choices. With almost everything that has a head & tail or front & back, the front/head (or subject coming into the frame) view is more appealing. Had you had the ponies coming toward you, it would have made the images MUCH stronger. Additionally consider the position of the sun. Out door images are almost always better when the sun is lower in the sky, in fact the time right around sunrise/sunset is often referred to as the 'golden hour' for the beautiful soft, golden yellow light it produces. Shooting with the sun high overhead produces sharp, constrasty images with a lot of deep shadow as you have in these two.

The third image is interesting, the child has a great expression, but is significantly under-exposed, likely a result of at least in part, the metering mode which allowed the camera to be "fooled" by the bright band of sky. Backlit subjects like this can be tricky, but it would be better to have the child's face brighter and lose some sky detail in my opinion. With respect to framing/composition, for most images, an off-centre subject is more appealing, and don't forget to watch your background; the partial building really doesn't add a lot.

Looking forward to more from this fascinating region!
Welcome to TPF.

Overall you have a great eye for an interesting photo's. I like that you incorporated the cattle in the distance in #2.

The first two are tilted to the left. Number your shots to make it easier for people to reference.

You should of used your flash on the first two to fill in the shadows on the horses. If shot in raw, you should be able to lift the shadows.

In the first one, the horse butt on the extreme right needs to be cropped out and reminents cloned out so the focus is on the pony.

In the child, I think color may be better here and I would crop or clone out the ice cream or whatever it is. It could have worked in landscape format if you changed you angle and put the girls eye in the thirds area. Portrait or square crop may be better here as well. Nice capture and the flash filled in her soft skin nicely but a little under exposed.Sky hurt you here but could fix in post.

I leveled it but this will take some careful post to clone out the horses rear. Couldn't lift the shadows in jpeg, if shot in raw there may be room to bump up. Too bad no flash was used.

I leveled it, can't bump up the shadows because jpeg.

I cropped in square format, did not look as good in portrait. Bumped D light and added a little contrast to get some rich black into it, it was to gray for my taste. Didn't level because of the house roof is level. Could use more exposure increase but working with jpeg really limits the post process. But you get the idea.

I am a noob but this is how I see them. There are more experienced people here that may give you better direction.
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Wow, I did not expect such a wonderful welcome. Thank you both Tirediron and Jc for the quick and very helpful advice, will take it to heart.
Also, thank you for taking the time for showing me with edits JC, much appreciated.

Definitely glad I found this forum.
If I may I would like to show you something you may find helpful.

To do this I will show one of your shots directly against my edit. I do not do this to make anybody look bad but because we see in relative values. We do not see in absolutes, we can't tell exactly how bright an object is, only how much brighter it is compared to other objects. It is relative differences that we see so by placing the images next to each other you see the differences more clearly.

It is exactly this principle you can exploit because you need not only make two images different but you can make two elements different within the same image.

Here is your original (and very nice it is too):

Now human eyes well focussed are incredibly magnetic in an image, so why does the bright patch in the sky compete and how can you shift attention?

Here is my small modification:

Ah, you might think that I've just made the face brighter and the bright patch a little darker. But that's only part of it, the real difference is more subtle.

One thing that's different with digital processing (against film) and something that many don't fully appreciate is just how efficiently the common tools you use equalise the values and blend the elements within your image together.
  • Tone-mapping equalises the areas of local contrast within your image it begins to give shadows and highlight areas the same local contrasts. It blends them, they begin to look the same.
  • Sharpening/Clarity equalises acutance and adds a layer of similar micro-contrast across the entire image. It blends and everything begins to look the same.
  • Saturation thins colour, it subtracts the lesser wavelengths until the dominant one is left. It blends and everything begins to look the same.
Here's another example and is from an image I posted here (I'm not trying to hijack here only demonstrate a principal by example ;)):
With these apples I will fail to amaze you. | Photography Forum

Here's a close up of the middle apple, and you may think that the apple from the image is the one on the right, but it's the one on the left:

When in the context of the image the less saturated version stands out against the saturated colour of the background. We see the differences, we see the greater variety of colour against the thin (saturated) colour of the background, we see the relative difference. The thinner (more saturated) colours of the apple on the right would actually blend with the background better and stand out less! When next to each other you see the brighter contrast of the thinner (saturated) colours. (Even though the apple on the left is a crop from the image it actually appears slightly different when next to the more saturated/contrast version. We see the relative differences, not the absolute. Objects can change in appearance simply by what you place them next to.)

Back to your image (at last :)). Now looking at the first can you see how the contrast blends the girl with the background and how the area of difference is the white highlight?
What did I do? I lowered the contrast of the background by way of dropping the highlights and raised the contrast on the girl, (and removed some of the clarity). Now there is a slight difference in the local contrasts of the two areas, your eye perceives the difference even though you may not be able to detect it if you view the image in isolation.

Lesson over, soap box free again. ;)
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Hay Tim, thank you so much for your advice and your very thorough description - applaud your commitment to a simple newbie as myself.

I know this photo suffer from a lot of the same problems with under-exposed and the bright patch of sky behind. I tried applying your advice', any better? Or have I still not really understood?

Also just wanted to show a bit of a cool photo (I think) from Mongolia of an albino camel that walked past my one day as I was working. Fun fact, Mongolia is apparently the only country that has these "real camels" - the two humped ones.

Bonus number two, "the old faithful"
Great subject matter in all of these. Welcome to TPF!! It's always,always,always wonderful to see new people coming into the place. Keep on shooting, keep on working at your photography, keep on returning here!
Hay Tim, thank you so much for your advice and your very thorough description - applaud your commitment to a simple newbie as myself.

I know this photo suffer from a lot of the same problems with under-exposed and the bright patch of sky behind. I tried applying your advice', any better? Or have I still not really understood?
View attachment 113087
Also just wanted to show a bit of a cool photo (I think) from Mongolia of an albino camel that walked past my one day as I was working. Fun fact, Mongolia is apparently the only country that has these "real camels" - the two humped ones.
View attachment 113089

Bonus number two, "the old faithful"
View attachment 113090

These are really nice subject matter. Personally in #6, I would have shot one less the feet. I like #4 a lot, maybe a little bump + exposure? Look forward to seeing more of your stuff.
Please excuse the rambling a little as it's not all directed at your shots, just that your shots are easily good enough to show the difference a small adjustment can make. Neither do I attempt to dictate how things should be, I'm just highlighting alternatives by comparison. :)

It's a strange subject but not really one that was ever a problem with film. You capture with your camera the light reflected off 'the world'. It is the difference in the nature of this reflected light that makes one object look different from another. Soft skin, for example, has a different texture to brick or stone in a B&W print. This difference in texture is contained almost entirely in it's local and micro contrast. This is something that's easy to remove with modern sharpening and clarity tools. You have the capability to render your whole image with the same local and micro contrast, and you can do it very easily.
Today's digital photographer delights in taking shots that were not possible with film, shots into the light, shooting into the shadows with high DR. The very shots that require too much processing using the very same global tools that flatten images.
So it's two-fold, realising that it's the subtle differences in the way that objects reflect light that produces the visual differences in texture, that allow us to tell the difference between skin and stone, sunlight and shadow. And second, because you can so easily equalise these values, so you can un-equalise them (to a limited extent) for dramatic effect. You would be surprised just how small and subtle the differences need be.
You add 'pop' through subtle differences, not by over-emphasising the similarities. You don't make the man in the white suit stand out by making him whiter, you make him stand out by making everybody else greyer. I know this will sound maybe counter to your logic, but you can make something look sharper simply by contrasting it with something slightly softer (not sharpening everything to the same extent), you can make something look more contrasty simply by lowering the contrast of another, because we see the difference not the absolute value (sorry about the bold, bit of dramatic effect ;)).

Yes, pretty darn good, the children do stand out, but the contrast in the sky is still higher than that of the children. The children are the subject so forget about adding drama to the sky (your definition of 'added drama' will be the same as the 'added drama' you give to the children so again the values would be equalised). You can actually lighten the sky as it is the difference in contrast that adds punch not absolute contrast, so the areas of greater contrast will to an extent over-ride areas of greater brightness as long as there's a relative difference in contrast, as there was in the original scene. It's when you stop trying to make every area of your image the same that they look different:
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