Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure – The Art of Critiquing.

by Rick Diffley on February 17, 2014

Peeling Door for Blog Image Added reflector filter

Writing a useful critique that gets to the point without being upsetting is truly an art.”

One of the best treasures a photographer can ask for and give, is effective image critiquing. It is an instant educational tool to access and improve one’s work.

Even if you don’t wish to get or give image feedback, if you started reading images that have been critiqued, you can most likely improve your own photography.

Getting the Treasure

You have to “ask for it.”  Decide if you want your image to be critiqued and be prepared to receive it with an open mind. I’ve found it helpful when posting my own image to include a few critique points regarding my own shot taking.

Remember, you are getting someone’s personal opinion about your image. You will get feedback stating they like your image “as is” while others will point out certain technical or artistic qualities  of the image they do not care for.

Worst Mistake => Starting a debate about the critique.

Your photography is very much a personal endeavor! Poorly written comments can be easily misunderstood as an assessment of the your ability (or lack thereof) vs honest feedback of the specific image. However, you can ask for clarification on any issues.

Giving the Treasure

Take time to study the image and form an opinion of what you like about the image, both technically and artistically. When I critique an image, I usually limit myself to about 2-3 issues. It is a misunderstanding that a photo critique should only point out what is wrong.

Technical Qualities

Look at the specific technical qualities of the image (lighting, color, contrast, composition, depth-of-field, background, and focus.) that you like or don’t care for. It could be nothing more than a cropping issue. Or a suggestion about shooting at a slightly different angle or location.

=> One of my top issues I look for when critiquing are ”distractions.” With the viewer finder to your eye, look around in a clockwise direction, and then back the other way, asking: “Is there anything that takes away from my main subject?” Now, snap the picture.

Pick qualities that you can most effectively communicate about how you feel the change may help or add to the image.

Artistic Qualities

Look at the artistic qualities of the image by describing any emotional response the image imparts. An image can have technical flaws, but jolt you to a strong emotional response. The opposite is true was well.

Homeless Man Sitting= = =

Now, I’d like to share a few thoughts regarding the opening image at the top of this article.

Original Garage

It Started Here

The above image is what I saw while driving. Moving to the old garage door, I found numerous shots, within the shot. I wasn’t happy about the section I was focused on being in the shadows. I usually think: ”Start big and reducing the final image to the point of a full frame final shot” depending on the main subject. Be mindful of the background vs your your main subject.

Main thoughts

If you scroll down, you’ll see the original image as shot before any post processing. The amount of post processing performed varies from image to image. It ranges from 2 minutes to 10-15 minutes. What I liked…

  • Lines, peeling, cracking paint, and exposed bare wood
  • Door handle
  • Color of the window pane
  • In camera cropping of windows. Personal choice. Sometimes I like to create a shot where part of a window (or door) is partly showing. Can create a sense of adventure, a wondering what is behind that?

Peeling Door for Blog Image Finished

Original Shot

Shooting Details - Shot in manual mode using a NikonD300, 18-200 zoom lens, SS /125, f/11, Focal length 32mm. Remember…

  • Take lots of shots.
  • Use the right (series) f/stop for the shot. I used f/8 to f/22.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Always try to get the shot right in the camera instead of thinking you can fix “it” in post processing.

Post processing -  I use Photoshop Elements and Google Nik Software. With my image I started with ”Color Efex Pro” using the “Bleach by Pass” filter. Next, I switched to Viveza adding some specific color control points to add structure (Think, pulling out more detail.), brightness, contrast, and saturation. I put the image aside, but when I came back to it, something was missing. Here’s what I played with…

I went back into Color Efex Pro and used the ”Reflector” filter. You would be right when you read “Reflector” filter to think of the professional (collapsible) disc used by photographers, like seen here: Reflector discs. Inside Color Efex Pro, the “Reflector”  filter allows me to use reflective light of gold, soft silver, or silver. I can choose the intensity, position, source of direction, and more from the filters slide bar controls. Pretty amazing!

Thanks for visiting!




{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken February 17, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Rick, thanks again for the lesson. I like the way you separated the ‘finished’ from the ‘as shot’ to make us work a bit to compare them!
I am reminded of a post I wrote last year. I’m sure you would have had a view on my post if you had read it!
Best regards


Rick Diffley February 18, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Good Day Ken…

It fun’s and a challenge to present a photo lesson inside a blog instead of using video. My goal to keep the article short, use image examples as demonstration (Before, During & After) and as easy-to-follow/understandable verbal steps.

The debate over the “Don’t use imaging editing software [Or very little. But "a little" clouds the debate.] and …”The software is here, us it!”

Actually, the issue goes all the back to Angel Adams and his black & white post processing methods.

Personally, I always work toward capturing the shot as close to “Toutes naturelles” [All natural] as possible. That means a lot of shots, vary lenses, differing shooting angles, f/stop, etc. Finally, about post processing – My goal is to always use “less vs more.” Pretty rare for folks that are selling, showing, or presenting an image publically, NOT use software like: PS, PSE, Lightroom, and Google Nik Sofware.

A specific example of this issue has been a great deal of discussion over HDR software. Again, the debate is the same, how much is too much?


Tina Schell February 17, 2014 at 8:34 PM

A very interesting post Rick,and cleverly implemented to fit the photo challenge :-). We have a professional in once each month to our photo club meetings. There’s typically a presentation, then a shoot, then a critique of 3 or 4 photos from each shoot participant. We all agree that the critique is usually the most valuable part, and as we’ve done more of these, participants are now self-critiquing as well as gently critiquing one another. I agree it’s an excellent way to improve. Well said!


Rick Diffley February 18, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Thanks Tina for taking the time to stop in. It is a (fun) challenge to take the weekly challenge subject and bring a slightly different idea forward, while providing a photo lesson.

Camera clubs are a great resource. I’d be curious how many people (Inside the weekly photo challenge.) utilize a camera club where they live?

Google + for Photographer’s started having city photo walks. Started by someone in a city who’s on Google+ (even professionals start or take-part), they meet, and they move around the city shooting and giving/taking tips.


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