Commons:Photography critiques

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Would you like a second opinion before nominating a photograph of yours as a Quality Image, Valued Image or Featured Picture candidate, can't decide which of your images to enter into one of the Photo Callenges? Or do you have specific questions about how to improve your photography or just would like some general feedback?

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Photographing nature of Barnaul, Altai KraiEdit

Below are the photos that I consider best of those I’ve made and uploaded so far.

What would be the issues with them? The Achillea alpina one gets too small a part of the background at the bottom, but otherwise made it to Spanish Wikipedia. (Which is not entirely surprising given that there seem to be just three photographs of the plant in the respective category – something I hope to fix later this year.)

The two panoramas feature somewhat uneven light, but they seem to otherwise reproduce the scene as was actually seen rather well. (Or should I’ve made ’em brighter?)

Now, I see no obvious issues with the Delphinium elatum photo. Does it make sense to, say, nominate it for a quality image?

Anything else I could consider or improve? Thanks.

⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 10:50, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

  • The first two images have problems with the brightness, for sure. There are situations where it's not possible to retain details in the shadows and the sky, and you are usually forced to choose which one you want to expose correctly. However, the first image doesn't seem to have achieved good exposure in any part of the time. The sky is too bright and the foreground is too dark. The third image of the Achillea alpina is quite good, although it seems a bit dull, the colours are muted and the contrast seems a bit low. The fourth image of the Delphinium elatum and the bee is an interesting composition and is probably the strongest of the four images. It would have been better to have a clear sky behind it though, so that it doesn't look so busy in the background. It could also be a bit brighter too. These are my first thoughts. I think that perhaps the darkness of that Delphinium elatum image might stop it being a Quality Image, but you can nominate it and see what they think. Diliff (talk) 10:56, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the comments!
Now, regarding the first image, it’s probably more due to post-stitch processing than exposure proper. I’m not at all good at photo editing, and stitching images with considerable difference in exposure produces quite a dynamic range to be compressed for the ordinary, 8-bit per component JPEG. That said, I think I still have the HDR image saved from just after the stitch, just in case someone’d like to try his or her hand at it. (Hopefully this could make the details more pronounced, not less.)
The Achillea image was made at some 17:30 local (that is: astronomical) time, and that probably means poorer lighting and thus explains the muted colors. The location is some 2520 km from my home, and well, per my records, it took almost three hours for me to get there. I still hope to try starting my travels before noon, so to get better lighting.
As for the Delphinium – that was a pure chance shot, which I have little idea of how to recreate (apart from waiting for hours near a flower for a bee to get near, or perhaps devising an apparatus to mind-control them.) The brightness could probably be adjusted, couldn’t it?
⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 13:37, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
  • On the delphinium, consider cropping about a quarter of the way into the photo from the right and also cropping up to get rid of the partial flowers at the bottom. (I added an annotation to the original photo with possible cropping.) Burn the light-colored trunks of the tree in the background, and also what I think is a blurred-out delpinium, so that their whiteness isn't so distracting. You can try bringing up the exposure on the whole thing a bit to try to get a little more detail in the flowers and the bee (not too much or lose color in the sky), and then selectively lighten/brighten/dodge/whatever the bee and the shadowed parts of the flowers so that we can see more details. Might try doing a little vignetting to lessen the sky's brightness and draw attention to the middle, and too bad the bee's wings are hidden against the tree, maybe try doding them a bit, too, and see whether it still looks natural. Elf (talk) 17:43, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
The crop is certainly an improvement, thanks! (I guess I should upload an “artistic version” of the image as a separate Commons file, right?) As for the rest, I’d give it a try, but apart from the light levels of the image as a whole, I’m unsure if I’d be able to make any real improvement. (BTW, that’s one more Delphinium in the background, indeed.) ⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 11:40, 18 June 2015 (UTC)
Шмель и живокость (фрагмент), 2014.GRJS1.jpeg
Just uploaded the cropped version separately. I’ve spent some time trying to de-emphasise the background as suggested above, but failed to achive anything of value, so I’ve resorted to doing just a plain lossless crop for now. (Meanwhile, I’ve found a couple more of photos of these same delphinium and bumblebee, and uploaded yet another one.) ⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 19:25, 11 July 2015 (UTC)
  • For the first one, the trick is to adjust the exposure before using an HDR tool to combine them. What I do is first adjust the original so that the exposure is OK on the brightest parts and save that, then on the original adjust exposure for the darkest parts and save that, so you now have 2 photos with different exposures, just as if you had done a correct 3-or-more image HDR bracketing set to begin with. Then use whatever tool you use to combine the resulting images and see what happens. Otherwise, yeah, that's going to be a tough one to get right. I fiddled a little with this in camera RAW (I know that this isn't a raw photo, but it can still be used for editing), fixed the exposure for the river and then brought down the highlights--it's not great, but a little better than the original. Elf (talk) 18:06, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
My understanding is that Hugin already deals with exposure differences, doesn’t it? All three images in the set were shot using “auto” exposure setting, and visually, the light levels appear more or less correct for all of them (the details are well discernible in all the shots: the treetops one, the middle section, and the pond below one.) The problem may be that I’ve used good old gamma correction to “fix” the brightness when converting HDR to JPEG… ⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 11:40, 18 June 2015 (UTC)
BTW, I’ve uploaded a few more not-quite-colorful images. Curiously, could it perhaps be some mistake I do with the camera settings (though these are mostly all “auto”), or do I just happen to be at the wrong time at the wrong place? (Or is it some kind of a “Vancouver effect” at work?)
⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 11:40, 18 June 2015 (UTC)
@Gyft Xelz: "Auto" settings may indeed be a problem here. Auto white balance usually does a good job in producing neutral colors, but that's not always what you want. Try setting it to "daylight" or "cloudy" and see what it does to your images. Also, the last one looks like it could use some brightening, but be careful with that or you'll loose detail in the flowers. (Large amounts of white in the scene – e.g. snow, white beaches or flowers – almost inevitably makes the camera underexpose) --El Grafo (talk) 07:44, 17 July 2015 (UTC)
Стрекоза на стебле, 2015.GV0SE.jpeg
Стрекоза на стебле, 2015.GV0SM.jpeg
Looks rather that the season, the weather, and the time of day matter much more than the camera settings. See the images to the right, for instance – they were made just some 6 s one of another, on exact the same settings (both part of the same series of shots). The difference? Just a single passing cloud.
A bumblebee in July
The Malus flowers close-up was somewhat underexposed semi-deliberately; indeed, my goal was to preserve the detail in the flowers. That said, the photo was made around 16:30 local (astronomical) time, in May, under the shadow of this and nearby apple trees – so that probably explains its dimness. It gets better in July (see the bumblebee image to the right, for instance.)
As for the white balance setting – yes, I still don’t quite feel how it does affect the result. One of the worse parts of the auto setting is that the camera at times seems to change the setting on a slightest change of the view angle, thus producing two photos that are nearly the same except for the colors. And then – I often don’t like either. (And even worse if the shots were intended for later stitching.)
Curiously, it seems that sometimes setting white balance to flash produces the result that looks the most natural to me. Or is it just my perception?
⁓ [Gyft Xelz · talk] 08:08, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

How to crop this?Edit


Hello Folks!

I'm having difficulties with choosing a crop for this one. I think the uncropped version on the right might be a bit too wide, but if I go tighter I run into problems with the windsock and the runway marker on the left: If I crop them out completely, the whole thing gets pretty tight, maybe too tight; but if I go wider I'll end up with half a windsock. Any ideas?

Comments on other aspects are very much welcome as well: What's good and (more importantly) what's bad? I've already got some thoughts of my own, but I'll keep them to myself for now in order not to influence your opinion. Cheers, --El Grafo (talk) 08:11, 11 September 2015 (UTC)

  • I added a note to the image page. Just my initial impression. I didn't think there was any one crop that stands out though, plenty of different framing options that are ok. Diliff (talk) 09:16, 11 September 2015 (UTC)
    • @Diliff: thanks, I'll give that a try later. I agree that going for a wide aspect ratio makes sense here. I usually don't do much cloning, so I hadn't thought about that option – might be worth a try! --El Grafo (talk) 10:06, 11 September 2015 (UTC)
      • No problem, I don't usually clone either if I can help it, but it's fairly irrelevant to the composition this time and it wouldn't be an issue to remove IMO. Diliff (talk) 11:10, 11 September 2015 (UTC)
    • I mostly agree with Diliff's choice, although I would probably move the rectangle slightly further to the right to give more space "to fly into" and maybe just crop out the Dachreiter (don't know the English term) that way. — Julian H. 11:27, 11 September 2015 (UTC)
      • Thanks to you as well, Julian. I decided to just bite the bullet and cut through the runway marker. I would've cloned it out if I were going for FP, but I think it's not sharp enough to stand a chance there and for typical Wikipedia use it might even be better to leave it in. --El Grafo (talk) 09:19, 16 September 2015 (UTC) Anekdote am Rande: Das ist überhaupt kein Dachreiter. Die kommerziell erhältlichen Dinger sind uns immer kaputt gegangen, was auf Dauer recht teuer wurde. Stattdessen haben wir Regentonnen aus dem Baumarkt halbiert und rot-weiß angestrichen – die geben nach wenn mal ein Windenseil drauf fällt und die zuständige Luftaufsichtsbehörde fand das auch total OK. Muss man halt alle 2 Jahre mal neu anpinseln …
        • Alles klar, wieder was gelernt. :) — Julian H. 09:22, 16 September 2015 (UTC)

Help, pleaseEdit

Editatón de Cultura Trasandina4-edit.jpg

This is my fist picture obtained from a RAW file, I am trying to learn to do it, I need your opinions, please Ezarateesteban 22:54, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

  • Pictogram voting comment.svg Comment Your white balance is not correct -- it is too cyan. Usually you can use auto white balance in your RAW conversion software and then from there you can tweak it to your preference. A good way is to pick a spot in the photo which you know should be a certain colour (e.g. the white board should be a neutral shade of white) and then adjust your white balance so that is achieved. It helps to use a high quality monitor that has been calibrated to produce correct colours. As for photo quality: the person on the left is blurry and there are some issues with composition such as the object on the bottom left blocking part of the person. Also, there is some glowing effect on the bottom edge of the photo -- maybe something is blocking the camera. dllu (t,c) 10:17, 9 October 2015 (UTC)
  • (Edit conflict) Hi Ezarate, the first thing I noticed is that the image appears to have a blue-ish color cast, so I'd start with adjusting the white balance. In Rawtherapee, I'd use the Spot WB-Eyedropper tool on the whiteboard in the background or the Wikipedia Logo on the T-shirt as a starting point and then adjust the Temperature and possibly Tint sliders for fine-tuning. See the White Balance Entry in Rawpedia for more information. I also fond this video on White Balance, which might help you a bit on that (only watched the beginning, note that there's no such thing as "degrees Kelvin", it's only "Kelvin"). After that, the whiteboard in the background should have a more or less neutral grey. Next thing I'd do is to use the Exposure section to lighten up the image and move the whiteboard more towards an actual white instead of a mid-tone grey. There are multiple ways to do this and it may take a bit of experimenting. I haven't really found a good tutorial for Rawtherapee to link here, but it works similar to Lightroom, so some of the instructional Videos on Youtube people made for Lightroom might help you with Rawtherapee as well. --El Grafo (talk) 10:18, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

Thanks to all --Ezarateesteban 22:25, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

Gates Hillman ComplexEdit

Panoramic photo of a building at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, stitched from more than 5 frames.

This was a photo taken by stitching 5 frames taken with the Sony a7R with the Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5. The stitching was done using Hugin with a rectilinear projection to preserve straight lines. In general I think sharpness is very good across the 80 megapixel image except in the far right where there is some stretching due to the rectilinear projection.

Is this photo close to Featured Picture quality? Are there compositional flaws? Is the lighting okay? Are there any other issues which I should be aware of and avoid if I were to retake this photo? Is the subject too ugly? dllu (t,c) 10:11, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

  • I'd say it's pretty close to FP quality. Compositionally it's pretty good. Obviously it would be even better without the obscuring foreground bushes though. One little (very minor) problem is that there seems to be a stitching quirk in the middle where the middle pillar meets the grass. There's what looks like a partially cropped person through the leaves and the leaves seem to end at a seam line. I only noticed it because I was giving it a thorough examination though. I'd say the lighting is its weakest point. It's fairly dull. Well exposed, but dull. Some more interesting lighting would certainly make it easier to support (for me). Diliff (talk) 16:13, 9 October 2015 (UTC)
    • Thanks. I noticed the bug where the middle pillar meets the grass too... it's caused by the guy in the red shirt on the reclining bicycle. I could probably get rid of that but I'm too lazy at the moment. I'll try retaking this with my sharper 55mm lens on a day with better lighting. Maybe a blue hour shot would be more interesting since the Pausch bridge lights up in colourful LEDs at night. dllu (t,c) 04:02, 10 October 2015 (UTC)

Lighting helpEdit

I am pretty new to studio photography but ever since I found my tripod mounting plate (the darn thing had been hiding in my backpack all along!) I've been carried away shooting all kinds of random things around the house. I am still not very good with lighting though. I just took these six pictures of apples with different lighting:

Which lighting is the best, or are they all bad? Or should I use a convolutional neural network to create a new lighting? Are there any other obvious flaws in my photo? These photos were illuminated with a handheld LED lamp which I moved around during the 4 second exposure to achieve the desired softness in lighting. The apples are sitting on a white IKEA desk. Do I need better lighting equipment? Thanks!

Also, I will take off the stickers when shooting the second time round. dllu (t,c) 04:54, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Hi dllu, very interesting technique, never thought of moving the light source during exposure. When it comes to the direction of the light, I like the first one best, but the shadows could be a bit softer in that one. The camera position is a bit high for my taste. Tip: Get a large sheet of thick white (or black) paper/cardboard. Move the table to a wall. Tape the paper to the wall so that about half of it lies flat on the table and half of it follows the wall upward, making sure that it bends up in a smooth curve. Place your apple on the paper to get a nice even background at low angles (see for example this link or this video).
I'd consider myself a slightly advanced beginner in this area, here are some of the experiences I've made so far:
  • You don't really need a whole bunch of expensive equipment to get good results. Do-It-Yourself approaches can save you a pile of money here!
  • In most scenarios you want to have at least two light sources. On the other hand, you usually don't need more than that when you use reflectors (e.g. a piece of white cardboard or styrofoam) efficiently.
  • For smaller objects, a light tent is a good idea. It's easy and cheap to build yourself (see e.g. [1] or [2])
  • continuous lighting is easier to handle than flash at the beginning, since you can see how it looks on your subject without taking a test shot. However, it makes for awfully long shutter speeds. A remote control is your friend here – a cheap corded one is fine, or just use a short (self-portrait) timer instead. At least with the α7 you can forget about mirror-lockup ;-)
  • If you go for flash:
    • Get some cheap/old used manual ones, as you want to adjust their strength yourself anyway instead of trusting TTL.
    • You definitely need some way of diffusing them. A light tent is one option, but for larger objects you may want to have a en:Softbox. You can build them yourself as well, using some Pizza boxes, aluminium foil, white paper for the diffusion and loads of staples and duct tape.
    • You definitely need to move your flash off-camera. Flash cords are a annoying and I can't trigger the old manual one I've got with the pop-up flash. Went for some very cheap Yongnuo RF603CII radio triggers instead.
  • Get a bunch of small and medium sized spring clamps from the department store. They are cheap and a great solution for attaching stuff to other stuff. E.g. stand a sheet of styrofoam upright on its edge and attach one clamp to each bottom corner → tadaa: instant self-standing reflector.
  • some links:
    • has a lot of info
    • the B&H Youtube channel has some great videos, some of them on studio lighting. Check out the Event Space section for some recordings of lectures by professionals.
    • the CreativeLife channel might be worth checking out as well. For instance I found this video very interesting as well (that's where I got the clamps from). Edit: also have a look at this one
    • There's much more on Youtube, try "tabletop photography lighting" as a search term for starters …
Just some random points, hope you find anything of that useful ;-) --El Grafo (talk) 10:01, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Wow, amazing information! Thank you so much for taking the time to write so much and share so many useful links. I am going to buy a large piece of paper now. Can't wait to get home and try this out! Anyway, moving around a light source during a long exposure is called w:light painting which can be quite fun, although it's not the best for studio work since the lighting is quite inconsistent and you can see strange reflections in shiny things (e.g. File:Tair 11A frontal view.jpg). Getting some cheap Yongnuo flashes and radio triggers is an excellent idea, I may just drop $225 on getting a pair of flashes and wireless flash transceivers. Thanks again! dllu (t,c) 18:21, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Well, you might want to wait a little before buying more gear: I'm just a beginner myself, maybe someone with more experience would give you different advice … --El Grafo (talk) 21:37, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Obtaining appropriate sharpnessEdit

Hello all! I nominated the image on the left at FP candidates and the reactions were generally in the spirit of "it's great but oversharpened". The image was shot as a JPG with a maxed-out canon picture style sharpness preset (there's the problem) because at the time I didn't see anything wrong with that. So, in moving forward, does anybody have any tips or recommendations on achieving the right level of sharpness in an image? I'm shooting RAW these days, and my current workflow produces images like the one on the right. Is this of acceptable quality? If not, what can I improve on? Thanks. -- Thennicke (talk) 00:10, 13 October 2015 (UTC)

  • Edit: the first image was taken with a 50mm prime, so lens quality should not be the issue. The second was taken with the 15-85 IS USM, so once again, that shouldn't be a problem. -- Thennicke (talk) 00:17, 13 October 2015 (UTC)
  • The second one does not look oversharpened to me. Rule of thumb: Zoom in to about 100% on a sharp edge like the fence posts or branches in the first picture. When you see halos appearing along the edges, you know you've gone too far with your sharpening. In busy areas like the forest in the second image, the usual "unsharp masking" sharpening tools may not work that good. Carefully increasing the microcontrast (at least it's called that in Rawtherapee, called "detail" slider in Lightzone, may have different names in other software) a bit can help to increase the perceived sharpness in those areas. Again, move the slider(s) up until it looks really wrong. Move them back down until it looks normal again. Meanwhile you brain has adjusted to the wrong, oversharpened look, so move them down yet a bit more to compensate for that. Look at different portions of the image at high zoom levels, but also make sure the image still looks good if viewed as a whole. After a bit of practice, you 'll be able to recognize oversharpening much more easily. Well, at least that's my approach to sharpening … --El Grafo (talk) 08:19, 13 October 2015 (UTC)
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