Developing a Critical Eye How to Critique Photographs Clarice Bourland
Evaluating a PrintThree Main Questions: What’s good about it? What’s not good? What could be better?Style vs. Standards Each photographer and each individual photograph has its own style, or mood and interpretation People cannot critique a photo based on whether or not they like the style or subject matter of the photo Standards: not objective, and are focused on skill Determined by four basic standards: value, clarity, composition, and presentation
Value Refers to range of light in photo More contrast (greater range between darkest and lightest elements) = greater visual impact It’s also good to have shades of greys to define shape and provide shading Good greys are consistent and clear, bad greys are muddy Causes of poor value include incorrect exposure, length of time the film is in the developer, and the type of paper used
Clarity Key=correct focus Can be sharp or soft focused Sharp focus- all edges clearly defined Soft focus-edges blur a bit Can be used to achieve a desired effect, but cannot be overly blurry Center of interest is often in sharp focus with the background in soft focus Draws viewers eyes to the center of interest Soft focus can be used to obscure blemishes, enhance the mood, or achieve a dreamy effect It is better to create soft edges using a filter application than to shoot out of focus
Poor Clarity and How to Improve It Clarity is dependent upon: Shutter speed and the relationship between the subject and the background (contrast, layout, context, etc.) Improving Clarity: In a setting that lacks light, decrease shutter speed or increase aperture After focusing the camera, do not move forward or backward, especially if close to the subject, with a shallow depth of field Hold the camera against your forehead and cheekbone, hold your breath, and brace yourself against a wall to reduce camera shake Make sure your eyesight is good and your lens is clean
Presentation Cleanliness of the photo indicates its quality and the photographer’s commitment to standards Look for satellites, glitches, scuzz, hickies, or glop, as well as scratches, dark circles, and fingerprints Should have neatly trimmed edges, squared corners, and proper adhesion to a mat board Four points of composition: Points of interest, cropping, lines, and aesthetics
Points of Interest Does it stand out or does it get lost in the surrounding confusion? Should have one dominant element Usually in the middle of the page, but not directly in the center
Cropping Cropping- the way a photo is framed Should not be too tight or have wasted space General rule: keep photo clean and simple, leaving out unnecessary details Balance can be static or dynamic Static: balance of composition is weighted, with the point of interest near the center Dynamic: suggests movement. Achieved by weighting the composition away from the center, on one side or in the corner
Lines Straight lines and curved lines Direct the viewer’s attention either to or away from the point of interest Increases/decreases the dramatic impact of the photo
Aesthetics Style that makes the difference between skilled photography and art May or may not have key elements We can learn to recognize aesthetic style over time
Sample Critique 1This photograph is clear and infocus. It has many shades of greywhich help provide shape andshading. However, it does notmuch black and whitevalue, reducing the visual impact ofthe photo. It also lacks a point ofinterest. The viewer is not reallysure what the dominant element inthe photo is supposed to be. Photo Credits: The Photographic Eye
Sample Critique 2This photograph is clear andfocused in the center, but blurryaround the edges. This creates aninteresting effect because it allowsthe lights to cast a more soft effect.It does not have good contrast, andwhile I think the firework is the pointof interest, the photographer doesnot do a good job of making thatclear. Photo Credits: Brandon Stanton
Sample Critique 3This photograph has a clear point ofinterest: the couple in the bottomright corner. It is made moreinteresting too, because the point ofinterest is not centered.However, the photograph has apoor value because most of theshades in the photo are light, sothere is not much contrast.Also, there is a bright smudge in themiddle of the photo. This indicates Photo Credits: Caroline Frostbad quality and poor presentation ofthe photo.
Works Cited Frost, Caroline. "Frost Photography - New York Wedding and Engagement Photographer - Caroline Frost Photography." Frost Photography - New York Wedding and Engagement Photographer - Caroline Frost Photography. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2013. OBrien, Michael, and Norman Sibley. The Photographic Eye: Learning to See with a Camera. Worcester, MA: Davis Publications, 1995. Print. Stanton, Brandon. "Photographer." Humans of New York. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2013.