What’s wrong with this picture?

A very effective way to learn something is to learn by one’s mistakes. The key to this method is knowing when a mistake has been made. In photography, there are some mistakes that any beginner would notice – for example, a picture is blurry or dark, or is pointed at something awkward. After that, though, it gets murky. Looking at your own pictures, you may notice that something is off, but you can’t put your finger on it. People you know will just say nice things about the pictures they like and gloss over the ones they don’t, so you’re never really sure how your photo is perceived by others.

That’s where a professional critique comes in – and it’s why I invested in an online class. The class offered something that is hard to come by otherwise:  a solid, honest critique by a professional with excellent credentials.

I’m currently in week 7 of an 8 week class. Each week we are expected to submit 4 pictures which demonstrate understanding of the week’s lesson; the instructor then writes up a critique for each submission. Each critique is available to everyone in the class.

Although reading some of the comments has been pretty painful, I’ve learned a little from each one of them. In some cases, the problems can be corrected in post processing. Other pictures just need to be sent to the digital dustbin.

Here are some of the shots that weren’t up to snuff:

Dog 1

Too dark

This first one of my dog, from a lesson on “timing”, is underexposed. (There wasn’t too much work involved in getting her to pose – all you have to do is ask her if she wants to go for a walk.)

The corrected version:

Dog 2

Do you want to go for a walk?

Needs cropping

Needs cropping

This next shot needed to be cropped. The lesson had to do with taking shots from unusual angles – I was in the clock tower during the daily chimes concert.

And the corrected version:

Looking down at photographer

Looking down

There’s no hope for these next two, without some serious Photoshop work.

Splitting Wood

Splitting Wood

In the shot on the right, the background is too busy, making it hard to see the subject. Actually I realized this before submitting it – but hubby, who was chopping wood, wasn’t available for a re-take so I had to submit as is. (Another submission for “timing.”)

This next one was most painful of all.  I was really pleased with this silhouette of a kitesurfer backlit by the sun setting behind the hills, submitted for a lesson on lighting… but the critique, rightly so, pointed out that the guy was decapitated by the shoreline.



There have been a couple pleasant surprises, however. I was down on this next shot, again submitted for the timing lesson, for the obvious reason that it’s so grainy that you can barely see the goalie’s face. (It was cloudy and the sun had already set.) But it helped that the instructor has a soft spot for soccer photos, and this met the assignment requirements perfectly.

Goalie misses the shot


While I continue to make some mistakes over and over – such as underexposing shots and cutting off extremities – I have a better idea of what to look for now. I’m not ready to take another class right away, but I think the investment has been worth it.



  1. Getting a good, honest photo critique is a rarity. I see so many folks gushing over images in blogs when I know, as a professional, the image is inherently flawed. I used to give honest critiques but I stepped on too many feelings and also, found it harder and harder to be honest with bloggers who had become my friends. Good for you in taking a class and accepting the criticism you receive. It will only serve to improve your photography.

    The dog photo is adorable. Glad you were able to correct it and make it a keeper!

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