Learn photography through a friendly and constructive photography critique. In this video, I share my thoughts on a beautiful, soft-focus flower image offering tips for cropping, and reducing the impact of an overwhelming background.
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Hello, and welcome to another edition of Two Minute Photo Tips. I’m Julie from Ultimate Photo Tips, and this week it’s critique week! I have to send out a very big "thank you" to one of our readers, Paddy Howes from South Africa. She very kindly responded to my call for images, and sent in a beautiful flower photo for comment.
As always, remember that these comments are just my opinion. They are not the absolute truth, but I do hope I can offer up some food for thought that you might be able to apply to your own images. So, let’s dive right in and get started.
© Paddy Howes
Photography Critique: What I like about this image!
Here we are in Lightroom with Paddy’s beautiful flower image. Anyone who knows me and who knows my photography, knows that I love images like this: soft focus close-ups of flowers. This one is really nicely done, so there’s not a lot for me to say in terms of ways to improve this image. I will give you a couple of suggestions for things that you might want to try.
Photography Critique: Cropping
The first one has to do with cropping. The image, how it stands, has a lot of negative space around the flower. I feel like the flower is just on the verge of feeling a bit lost within the image, so my instinct is just to crop it in a little bit. So let me show you what I mean. I’m going to go into the crop tool, and I’m going to try an 8×10 aspect ratio. You don’t need to use any particular aspect ratio, but I think that’s one that’s going to work for us here.
Now, what I’m going to do — if you notice down in this bottom left corner, there’s a little bit of a gap in the background material. I’m going to adjust my cropping rectangle to kind of hide that, and have the stem starting almost out of the bottom. That gives me a bit of room that the top of the image where I prefer to have it. That’s the crop that I like.
© Paddy Howes
Crop by Julie
One other option that you could try for cropping is a square. Let’s take a peek at what that would be like. Just the default there looks pretty good. Now here, for sure, we’ve come right in on the flower and drawn attention onto the flower, no question.
© Paddy Howes
Crop by Julie
This is personal preference whether you like this crop better, or one that has a little bit more room. I like to have a little bit more room. This is now starting to feel a little bit too tight for me. I’m going to go back out to the last one, with a bit of space at the top. I actually like what’s happening in the background there. It’s nice and soft, but there’s some gentle shapes defined there that echo the shape of the petals, and there’s a little bit of breathing room. So this is the crop that I’m going to pick.
Photography Critique: Subduing the Background
Now, the other thing that I would suggest… That yellow in the background: I like it very much. I like the warmth of it, and the warmth of the green. Those two colors together give a really uplifting feeling to the image; a nice warm, sunny day kind of feeling. I like that, but I do find that that yellow is very, very strong, and its beginning to overpower the flower a little bit. Because it’s such an intense yellow, and yellow is one of the colors that draws our attention quite a lot and is quite powerful to us, it is pulling attention away from the flower a little bit.
What I’d like to do is come over to my saturation tool here. I’m just going to go into the yellow itself, and desaturate a little bit. We’ll come down somewhere around here (-25). I still have that warm feeling, but now I don’t find that yellow quite as overwhelming. It’s a little bit softer, but still in keeping with the overall image.
Now, I didn’t check the exposure yet, so I’ll look and see. This is a "light" feeling image to me, so I think we could handle a little bit more exposure. There’s a teeny little bit of room at the right of my histogram, so I’m going to bump up my exposure just a little bit. Let’s see if I can go any further. No. I don’t want to clip anything, so we’ll stay there, and brighten it up just a little bit.
Photography Critique: Contrast
Now, between that change in exposure and the desaturating of the yellows, we’ve lost a little bit of the punch and impact of the image. So now I’m going to go and add a little bit of contrast. Now, we don’t want to be too heavy-handed here, because this is a delicate feeling image. I’m just going to try what the default medium contrast does. I like that! It’s just perked up the image that little bit to bring some life back into it.
Now, like I said, you don’t want to be too heavy-handed here. If I went in here — you can see I have room at the left of the histogram — and start dragging [the blacks] out, now it’s getting kind of harsh. I’m pulling saturation back into the yellow and it looks too contrasty now. It’s just not in keeping with the mood of the image. I’m going to back that off. I want to keep in nice and delicate with just that little extra bit of contrast.
© Paddy Howes
Crop and adjustments by Julie
Photography Critique: Thank You, Paddy!
And that’s it! I like the image now! I think maybe you could sharpen the image a little bit just to make sure the little hairy bits on the back side are tack sharp, but other than that? Beautiful!
So, once again, a big thank you to Paddy for sending in her image for photography critique, and to all of you for watching. That’s it for today! Make sure to visit me on ultimate-photo-tips.com and sign up for my newsletter while you’re there. That’s where I share ideas and inspiration that I don’t share anywhere else.
Happy shooting, and I’ll see you next time!