Photography, Cycling and the Internets

At Least I Got a Piece

The results are in from tonight’s competition.  I held on to one third place.  Nothing else placed.  It was a great competition with some fantastic entries.  As I promised, I’d relay the feedback from the entries.  For my two contestants today (Tracy and Michaela)   you can see how your comments fared, although you both threw some softballs. 🙂  I’ll go in the order of judging.  Clicking on the image will give the exact resolution that was judged.  All the commentary is obviously paraphrased since I didn’t record it. 🙂

Color Pictorial: A Blossoming Storm

Commentary: I wish the detail of the flowers was in focus.  It could stand to be sharper.  The branches are a bit sparse which doesn’t fill out the edges well.  I think this image is probably a composite [which it isn’t] and because of that, the clouds could have been worked on a bit more to really bring them out.  I’m not a fan of the very top, it needs to be darkened to be less of a distraction.

Travel: Market Post Tower, San Jose CA

3rd place! – Commentary:  This is more of a pictorial image than a travel one, but the title clearly defines the building and location so that is good.  The clouds make this photo because without them it would be quite bland.  The building itself has almost a surreal effect and that is probably because the architect designed it that way.

Photojournalism: Preparing for the Boat Race - San Francisco, CA

Commentary: This image is more of a pictorial image.  It doesn’t really tell as story.  That boat can be anything, it doesn’t tell a story about a race.  I would have rather seen the race boats.  Next image.

Monochrome Pictorial: Goofball

Commentary: I really wish she was in focus.  She’s just not very sharp.  I like how she is in an awkward position which ties in very nicely with the lines of the sidewalk.  It is obvious this was taken with the sun high in the air with the shadowing.  It is a nice image, I just wish she was in focus.

My takeaways from all critiques of the evening

  • Telling a story in PJ and Travel is far more important than the composition of the image.  Having pictorial qualities is good, but the story matters.
  • The technical details of how you took the photo or the challenges you faced don’t matter at all.  It is all about how it is perceived.  Crop the image, it is very important.  All the little wins you may have had behind the camera don’t matter.  Crop it.  Focus attention.
  • Darken the edges.  Don’t let the eye escape.  But be careful, make it look natural.
  • Focus is key. Focus is key.  I doesn’t matter how incredible the image is, if the subject out of focus, it sucks.
  • Foreground objects need to be in focus.  Take two images and merge them in Photoshop if that can’t be the case.

10 responses

  1. Well you certainly entered some real nice images there Sean, and it’s always beneficial to listen to others opinions, even if you don’t always agree… It keeps us focussed and makes us think more… and ultimately helps us to improve…

    May 12, 2010 at 4:30 am

    • Exactly. That is why I have been doing the club competitions. The judges don’t hold back and nobody says a word during judging. Hearing that feedback, even if you don’t agree is worthwhile. It lets you know what resonates well with people and what doesn’t. There is also the whole aspect of individual judging styles, so you can’t put too much weight into one opinion. I think the club and it’s competition format has helped me tremendously. Far more than if it was just a show-and-tell type format.

      May 12, 2010 at 7:42 am

  2. Congrats on getting 3rd place!
    The goofball image…. I couldn’t tell that she wasn’t in focus because of the small size of the image (from your other posts), but it’s noticeable when looking at the larger size. BUT, it doesn’t bother me in the least, because of the way you chose to process it.

    I disagree with you about the foreground object needing to be in focus. Your MAIN SUBJECT needs to be in focus, whether it is in the foregound or not 🙂

    May 12, 2010 at 5:48 am

    • To be honest, I couldn’t tell it was out of focus and I was looking at it at 100%. 🙂 Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own image, you can’t see it for what it is. The web is an odd format for showing photos. Unless there is one little tidbit that someone wants to see more detail on, nobody looks at things in larger formats. (Which is why I recently went to the wider blog page format.. get more pixels on the screen). Because of this, its very easy to get away with stuff. Even in digital format, it is far easier to get away with stuff. I have yet to enter the print categories. I think my images need to be much stronger than what they are now to be successful there. Not to mention, I need to get prints made, or buy a good printer. 😉

      On the focus bit, I should clarify, the criticism I have heard several times is foreground foliage, grasses, flower petals, needs to be in focus. One image (not mine) didn’t place because the tips of the rose petals closest to the lens were out of focus. On one of my submissions (Winter Beckons – the frosty leaf in grass), the foreground grass was out of focus, which was a ding against it. But again, w/ any feedback like that you can take it or leave it. 🙂

      May 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

  3. Wow. Judges certainly throw no punches! Not sure I’d ever make a good judge. 🙂
    But, to be honest, I didn’t look at the images (originally) full size so there are details they are judging that I didn’t see.

    Congrats on placing third!

    I really like the goofball image. I don’t think she is that out of focus and I find the feeling the image evokes plays a stronger role.

    I can understand their commentaries on the travel and photojournalism images. Seems these categories are very specific and if an image, even if very good, doesn’t meet the basic requirements, then, well, it must get simply tossed out of consideration.

    I give you much ‘props’ for putting forth your images for judging! Very brave! 🙂

    May 12, 2010 at 6:25 am

    • Thanks Tracy. For the PJ and Travel images, yes I completely agree with the judge. I know that buildings don’t do well as pictorial, and tend to do better as travel. So the entry there was a bit more strategic on my part. The PJ shot, well, I just didn’t have one to submit, so I tried to get close. 😉

      As I said to Michaela, the critique, even if it makes me uncomfortable, has been tremendously helpful. The part I have to remember is that I’m making images for me, not them. But it does feel great when they like it. 😉

      May 12, 2010 at 7:52 am

  4. Congrats on Third Place. I actually liked all the images you entered. And in my opinion, not everything has to be in focus. It’s up the artist and that’s you 🙂

    May 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    • Thanks, Consuelo. Yeah, you are right, it is up to me. I do think its a good idea to learn all the rules so I can knowingly break them. Then, its art, and not a mistake, since art is deliberate. 😉

      May 12, 2010 at 9:27 pm

  5. I enjoyed reading your post on this. It might inspire me to enter a competition one day. Congratulations on the win, I think that’s great.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

  6. Thanks, Josh. I think I will keep sharing the judge’s comments when I think they are valuable. Check out your local photo club scene, I bet they have competitions like ours. Very low key, and mostly for fun and feedback.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

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