Self "Portrayal" Study. C&C Please :)


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Jan 16, 2012
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Lincoln, NE
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For my photography class this week, we were supposed to do a self portrayal study. I am overall happy with the shots, but in order to grow and learn I thought I would bring a few of my favorites here for critique. You don't have to critique each one. Feel free to pick out whichever ones you feel need improvement. Thanks.

1. f2.5, 1/125, ISO 800

IMG_1386b by asvphotos, on Flickr

2. f1.8, 1/200, ISO 400

IMG_1498b by asvphotos, on Flickr

3. f1.8, 1/100, ISO 100

IMG_1478b by asvphotos, on Flickr

4. f1.8, 1/200, ISO 400

IMG_1518b by asvphotos, on Flickr

5. f5.0 1/125, ISO 1600

IMG_0484a by asvphotos, on Flickr
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The last one is really cute!!
Although it would have been better if the wood was replaced by the white carpet.
C&C per req:

I like the idea and the story told by these images, BUT I think that there are some compositional improvmements that coule be made.

1. Why are the glasses looking at me? I assume that this means you like to read? If so, my not show the view in the direction that the glasses would be used if you were to read with them? I also think a slightly higher angle including more of the book could make it even stronger, as would slightly increased DoF.

2. Again, more DoF. IMO, unfocused foreground elements rarely work, and here the earpieces are a distraction. There is also some odd reflection on the counter. This piece also doesn't tell quite enough of a story: Are you an MD, RN, EMT... some small additional element to narrow down the field, heck, I have one similar to that in my mechanic's toolbox for tracking down engine problems.

3. I would like to see more of the other two important elements, namely the card and [what I assume is a] wedding photo. That would give more depth to the story, providing a frame of reference for time as well as 'who'.

4. Moving back and including all of the shoes and more of the jersey (esp. if it's your university) would have improved this one.

5. Cute, but over-exposed. You've lost a lot of fur detail on his left foreleg, and I agree that this would have been better all on the wood. As well, pets are usually best done by shooting at their eye-level.

Overall, these are a solid set, but I think you have a tendancy to move in too close, and are trying to use selective focuse/shallow DoF to too great an extent.

Just my $00.02 worth - your mileage may vary.

Fantastic feedback. Thank you so much for taking the time to give a solid critique, John. I do tend to get in close, but I will make a concious effort to step back and increase my DoF. I've been working on composition, but I know I still have a lot to learn. Practice, practice, practice. :)
C & C per request:

As a set I think these give a pretty decent synopsis of what you see as defining you. The only critique I have for the set as a whole is that the first three have very shallow depths of focus, which helps unify them and set a tone to the set, while the last two appear to have much greater depths of focus. Particularly after following the first three, they don't seem to quite fit "the set".

1) Let me start by saying I really like this shot. I feel the tone really suits the subject matter. On this monitor it looks like it may be a touch underexposed, but I feel that works here. I'm guessing that it was a conscious decision to move the eyeglasses off center horizontally - generally a good idea. However in this case, since you wanted them oriented straight to the camera to work with your shallow DoF, I think centering them (maybe even with a more square crop) and playing off their symmetry would have made for a stronger image. You could still use the orientation of the book, particularly the crease between pages, to give the shot some dynamics. It's also unfortunate that the lenses are tilted down, but not wearing glasses myself I can't offer a better solution to how to place them. Lastly, one additional thing the shallow DoF does is highlight passages from the book. If this book is particularly relevant to you (say, you were a history major with an interest in Richard Nixon) this is a good choice. Otherwise I might reshoot such that either the in-focus passages do say something relevant or are obviously irrelevant (by "Richard Nixon" being in focus we're left to wonder if this is intentional and what the connection is).

2) I like this shot as well, particularly the tones - the lighting, and how the colors of the stethoscope work with the granite counter. It might benefit from being shot just a bit wider, it feels a touch claustrophobic on the left side. And while I like the shallow DoF, I think it leans toward conveying the wrong message. Because the name brand and logo are what is sharp, this almost has the feel of a product shot for that brand. If it were my shot (purely personal preference here) I would try to reorganize the stethoscope so that that end was in focus as well as the earbuds since that end is just as relevant to actually using the stethoscope.

3) This one certainly seems underexposed to me; the white tablecloth and the rings would both benefit from a touch more brightness. The composition seems like you were trying too hard to get too many story-telling elements into the shot without trying hard enough to compose a good still life. The rings are too small in the frame to dominate the shot, though they're centered so we can assume that they are intended to be the focus of interest. I assume that the flowers are your bouquet, but we see so little of them I feel they're trying to sneak into the shot. The frame, which I assume holds a wedding photo, may as well be any random frame for as little of it as we can see and as out of focus its contents are. I like the concept, I would just recommend trying it again after visualizing these elements as part of a still life painting. I would suggest coming in closer on the rings and having the invitation and flowers fill more of the rest of the frame (and cut out the picture frame entirely). Oh, and if there is any of the tablecloth showing in the next attempt, try to pay attention to the orientation of the thick lines in the tablecloth. They're not symmetric in this shot, so you get the same feel as a slightly tilted horizon in a landscape shot.

4) I like the concept here, but it feels a bit chaotic. That's probably largely because the award it tilted. A subject with such clean, geometric lines asks for a very level presentation in my opinion. There's also a lot going on (award, shoes, jersey, plus something else as background under the shoes). Perhaps consider setting up the award so that its lines are parallel and perpendicular to the edges of your shot on one side with the shoes on the other and the jersey as your only background (or folded nicely and placed under the shoes, with something else clean - I mean with no-texture, not not-dirty - as the background). You can decide how important it is to have the text of the school name showing or if having the jersey represent the school colors is sufficient. I mentioned above that this one doesn't have the shallow DoF feel of the first three, even though you are shooting at f/1.8 - that's probably because the award is parallel to the camera and takes up so much of the frame that the image as a whole is much more in focus. This one also feels much brighter (if anything, I'd say you're a touch overexposed - look at the minor hot spot on the shoe's toe). It might be closer to a "correct" exposure than the first three, but coming after them it feels much brighter and doesn't necessarily fit the set.

5) As an individual shot, I like it. It may be a touch hot, and I think it would benefit from not being shot on a carpet so close to the dog's hair color (shooting on the hardwood floor would provide more distinction between his legs and the floor). As part of this set, I think you could open your aperture go with a shallower DoF If you can get his face, from just behind his eyes out to his nose and tongue, in focus while the rest of his body drops off into blur you will have captured his personality and matched the feel of the set. Yes, it may take a while and many attempts to get the right focus range, since animals just don't hold still, but that's the difference between creating a keeper and catching a snapshot. And just in general, I find animal shots have much more impact if you get down to their level. I have a couple cats and know shooting uncooperative pets is difficult, but shooting down at this orientation looks like a shot anyone could take.

Edit: Sorry for any redundancy - tirediron's post came in while I was rambling...
Thank you Rob! I do see the issues you have pointed out. I took multiple views/DoF for most of the shots above, so I will look through them when I get home to see if they are better then the ones above and post them. I do tend to go more for the close up, shallow DoF shots as a personal preference.
I do tend to go more for the close up, shallow DoF shots as a personal preference.

Yeah, I was getting that feeling (I tend to lean that way as well). I think that's part of why I kept coming back to that point - presenting a set with a unified feel also tells the viewer something about you.
The DOF in the first one is awesome.
C & C per request:

If this book is particularly relevant to you (say, you were a history major with an interest in Richard Nixon) this is a good choice. Otherwise I might reshoot such that either the in-focus passages do say something relevant or are obviously irrelevant (by "Richard Nixon" being in focus we're left to wonder if this is intentional and what the connection is).

I hadn't even thought about the words that were in focus. It's actually a book by my favorite author, James Paterson. I will definitely need to consider this the next time I shoot anything with text. Thank you! :)
Taking in to consideration the critiques given above I have a few more photos to submit.

In regards to keeping the shallow DoF perspective throughout the shots, I feel that the puppy one could be replaced with this shot. It focuses on her sleeping face, but then lets the rest of her go blurry. Although I"m not quite a fan of the white afghan in the background. It's distracting.

IMG_1529a by asvphotos, on Flickr

Another angle of my stethoscope. There is not the weird reflection on the countertop in this one, but it still has a very shallow DoF and I do not think the composition of the actual object is as interesting as the first.

IMG_1496a by asvphotos, on Flickr

A larger view of the wedding paraphernalia photo. I didn't chose this one to begin with because of the bad clipping on the wedding photo, and the rings are not as crisply in focus.

IMG_1484a by asvphotos, on Flickr
IMG_1496a by asvphotos, on Flickr

Thoughts? Am I right in my critiques of these photos?

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