One of the things I’m perhaps a bit infamous for is being quick to offer critiques on other people’s work. I’m going to remedy that with today’s article by turning the spotlight on myself by critiquing some of my own images, and encouraging readers to do the same in the comments. The only way a person can continue to grow and improve their skills is through constructive feedback and performing self-analysis; I’m a big proponent of both.
Determining popularity is a tough thing to do – so I’ve let Flickr do the work for me. I’ve picked a small selection of images by number of favorites; interestingness is something which nobody outside Flickr really understands, and number of views is also somewhat meaningless because photos of equipment and test shots tend to score highly due to being used in other posts. I’ve worked my way down the ranks, ignoring images that have no photographic merit (e.g. product shots for reviews, setup shots) and just focused on the ones which I would consider ‘proper’ images. Note that even this method of selection is bound to be slightly imperfect as older images will have had more time to accumulate favorites than newer ones – borne out by the fact that there are only three of the ten images were from 2011 or later. This means that there are going to be older images in there which are probably not as good as the work I’m producing now. Interestingly, almost all of the highest ranked images are watch photos – even though there are far more ‘reporting-on-life’ type shots. I suppose that’s my niche…
It’s also important to remember that criticism is subjective, and biased by one’s own point of view and photographic stage of development. This means what I find ‘works’ now isn’t necessarily the same as at the time the image was shot.
I will not be holding back. So, without further preamble, here we go.
#1. Water droplets (2011) – 2,067 views, 85 favorites
An attempt to capture some texture with the (then new to me) D3100. Two things bother me about this image: one, the truncation of some of the droplets at the edges (understandably unavoidable given the nature of the subject) and the depth of field; it’s only just enough to cover the two droplets at center. Not immediately obvious that this is the best choice of focal plane. Processing may be a little bit overdone, too – tones appear heavy and there isn’t enough highlight pop at the top end.
#2. JLC Master Minute Repeater, titanium (2011) – 759 views, 63 favorites
Again, two major criticisms in hindsight – firstly, the warm color tone doesn’t reflect the actual warm-gray color of the watch; however, I can excuse it as an attempt to create a mood. The bigger problem is that you can’t read the manufacture’s name printed on the crystal; it just doesn’t stand out from the dial, which happens to be almost exactly the same tone and luminosity. There isn’t a lot you can do about this due to the physical nature of the object, other than shift the camera to have something dark behind the printing…but that would also change and imbalance the composition, which at the moment feels equally weighted left-right.
#3: Lemania monopusher chronograph (2007) – 2,920 views, 58 favorites
The ‘heaviness’ and darkness of the processing lends suitable gravitas to the subject given its age; however, it does seem a bit too contrasty in some areas, with clearly blown highlights around polished parts (e.g. the screws). In hindsight, I find the crop a bit too tight, and the lighting uneven; the lug areas – especially the top portion – is too shaded relative to the movement and doesn’t bring out the shape of the watch case enough. Furthermore, the right hand side just feels cut off.
#4: Ferrari 599 GTB (2008) – 2,567 views, 48 favorites
If I hadn’t posted the lighting setup, it seems that people would have mistaken this for a real car. I like the mystery of it, but I find the overall composition a bit imbalanced; the main shape of the car and light pool around it doesn’t really match the shape of the frame. Furthermore, the light pool around the bottom of the car is too well defined and not diffuse enough; it feels a bit like a cutout. There are also some odd fine reflections along the top edge of the bodywork (specifically, the back) which look unnatural.
#5: Lange 1815 (2007) – 4,005 views, 47 favorites
This remains one of my favorite images for sheer ‘pop’; however, the color is atrociously awful. It’s not accurate, too saturated in some places and not saturated enough in others. Although the image pops contrast-wise, it perhaps pops too much; there are harsh blown highlights in various places and ungraceful mid tone transitions. The lighting could use a little more diffusion, or fill, or both. The bottom right loop of the regulator is truncated, but there’s empty space at top right – rotating the camera clockwise slightly would have helped balance this out. Finally, there’s clear sensor dust on the balance rim and near the numbers that wasn’t retouched out…
#6: Jaeger LeCoultre Duometre (2012) – 1,071 views, 46 favorites
This is actually a very similar image to the previous one in subject and lighting style – but with five years of lighting experimentation in between the two; to make things more challenging, it was shot with a Leica M9 and huge frankenrig. Note how this image maintains the same contrast, but has much better highlight transitions and mid tone gradation; there’s also nothing obviously cut off and no empty areas in the frame – it’s a balanced shot. Color is also much more accurate. I think if anything, the top left portion of the image needs work, though – more depth of field, more brightness, and more pop in general.
#7: Sinn 757 (2007) – 1,401 views, 35 favorites
The form of the image is nice, and the strong lighting helps delineate the contours of the watch well. However, the truncated text and curvature on the left feels incomplete; less exposure on that side of the case would have helped better maintain balance in the image. Aside from that, compositions like this need perfect geometry; the watch is leaning left slightly and not perfectly in plane. Finally, there’s a lot of rather obvious dust that hasn’t been retouched out…
#8: Seiko SNZH53 ‘Fifty Three Fathoms’ (2011) – 1,054 views, 34 favorites
Firstly, the lighting in the image suits the subject perfectly; it lends a degree of transparency and luminosity to the textures in the image that make it clear you’re looking at metal, water, and glass/ crystal; colors are bang on, and it’s clear what the subject is. There are only two issues here – firstly, the upper left portion of the frame feels empty; I should probably have added another water droplet there to fill out the emptiness. Secondly, you can’t read the name of the watch, and the case design in itself isn’t distinctive enough to be able to tell. This is only a problem of course if it’s a commercial image, which this wasn’t.
#9: Before blowing (2007) – 497 views, 33 favorites
One thing I’ve noticed is that images from my earlier 2006-7 period are much darker than what I produce today; there are deep, black blacks and shapes/ objects defined solely by highlight outlines. There isn’t a good or bad to this, it simply is what it is. I find the balance a little off; shifting everything slightly to the left would probably help, and reduce the impression of odd hairs sticking into the image at right – seeing the continuation between hair and face would help define the subject better. Finally, the gray background intersects the dandelion exactly midway – it should be lower, achieved by a higher camera angle, to avoid this.
#Lucky Last: Omega Dynamic Chronograph (2007) – 3,293 views, 32 favorites
One of the test shots from my first encounter with the D3, I was trying to figure out how full frame dealt with macro work; quite well, it seems. One of my first experiences lighting to give the illusion of a particular orientation and rotating afterwards rather than getting everything perfect in camera. I got the illusion I wanted, but the lighting still clearly needs some refinement as there’s a hugely obvious hot spot in the case, and odd bit of flare off the crystal. Color is better than previous images, but there are still casts in the dial and case. Finally, there’s also a general lack of retouching and large amount of dust.
One interesting observation out of all of this – what people favorite definitely does not correspond with what Flickr thinks is interesting, or what gets the most hits – I have images with over 40,000 views, but very few favorites – these tend to be the demonstration or illustration kind of image, rather than any with intrinsic artistic merit of their own.
Time for me to go practice now. MT
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