Critiqued- yikes!

About three weeks ago I was invited to join an advanced photography group here in town.  The group is made up of people who have gone through all the photography and photo-editing classes offered at our local college. After their instructor retired, they formed a private group which contracts with the retired instructor to lead the group in their weekly 2 1/2 hour sessions. I got to know a few of the members of this group through AAUW and my photo club, but had no idea that the class they were in was something that would one day be available to me.  These people have been studying photography together for years! I have never taken a photography class that wasn’t online. My experiences with being critiqued have been in the photo club- and I’ve never felt quite up to snuff there.  But. . . it will be good for me!

Before my first class, I was given an external drive to copy; it was full of videos, mostly on photo-editing.  Most (all?) of the students use the Nik Collection to enhance their photoshop editing, so I bought it (I had an old version) and Tony Kuyper’s TKA actions (luminosity masks and more- I had an old version of that as well).  I haven’t made a dent in watching the videos; there is only so much my brain can absorb.

I didn’t have much time to prepare for my first class, so I matted and brought a golden hour photo of Willow Lake I took last year. I’m never confident about landscape photography, but I really liked the clouds in that one.

Right off the bat, the instructor said it was “soft”- there wasn’t anything sharp in the photo (and he was right. . .). I’m not sure why I didn’t check it for sharpness, before I printed it. I KNOW that in photography, especially traditional photography, sharpness is the first requirement.

And the work of the other students was sharp, of course, and also very professional and creative. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for me!

For my second week, I took a new photo- a still life, somewhat of a comfort zone for me. It is not my usual style- I attempted to get EVERYTHING in focus- no dreamy, shallow depth of field! I needed to establish some credibility after my disastrous first attempt.20160128-MMA_8041_melinda_anderson-Edit-2This simple still life has AT LEAST 20 layers of work done in photoshop! Massive amounts of cloning and dodging and burning- and special work in Nik Color Efex Pro and Viveza. It was generally very well-received- it is sharp (but the instructor did say it needed extra sharpening for print. . .). The criticisms (from the teacher and class members) were that the reflection was confusing and the bottom of the photo too dark and also confusing. Some said I should have extended the reflection through cloning. I think the consensus was I should have cropped off the part where the black top meets the wood on the bottom (I had considered that). Also, the silver cups behind the glass are confusing- or maybe the etching on the glass is. I should have mentioned that my Photoshop file was projected on a big screen, and then they went through it layer by layer, evaluating what I did. I am learning to look at my photos very closely- zoomed in.

I am definitely out of my comfort zone in this group- but I am really enjoying it! It is fascinating to see what others choose to shoot and how- and how they edit their work. I used split toning in my first effort- and no one else had EVER used it- including the teacher! Someone else commented on my use of blend modes- like it was unusual. Very few spend much time in Lightroom- a few steps and on to Photoshop! So I am going to definitely be learning a whole new way of approaching things. My intention is to learn all these techniques and see how I can incorporate them into my own style. I have learned that I really like the Nik products and am using them frequently now in my regular Photoshop editing.

I did find the need to get away from SHARPNESS to go off into the land of blur with my Lensbaby this week (see yesterday’s photo)- so my blog may look a bit schizophrenic over the next few months. This week I’m bringing an old (sharp, I hope) photo of a hummingbird that I have re-edited. We’ll see what happens. . .


2 thoughts on “Critiqued- yikes!

  1. Congratulations! You’re moving outside of your comfort zone. Good for you. I like this photo because of the darkness. It lets the red tones stand out. And I don’t find the darkness confusing, in fact I love it, but I agree that the silver cup behind the etched glass is distracting. All in all, it’s a lovely still life. Your editing is so sophisticated. I’m always impressed with what you do and how you do it. Even though you didn’t know that they didn’t use it, adding a split toning layer was a genius move on your part. You caught them off balance. I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences with the new group!

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