The Big Review
Remember last month when I wrote about entering a portrait contest via Lensculture?
As I said then, my work didn’t make the short list. But as part of the process, all those submitting were able to get a free review of their images from one of the judges.
Have you ever had your images critically reviewed? Not me, really. I’ve never really had my portfolio looked at or commented on in this way so I was (hesitantly) looking forward to this feedback. I was hoping it would be too harsh, but I didn’t want shallow accolades, either.
I thought I would share with you the feedback I received. Read on…
Thank you very much for submitting your work. I’ve had some time to look at and assess your imagery, and I wish to offer you my feedback. You have some very strong work in your submission. I can clearly perceive your desire to use your photographic vision to create a compelling and aesthetic document of the human form. Your most effective pictures are images two, four and five.
Image five is quite interesting and is somewhat of an outlier in your submissions. Not only does the subject appear smaller in scale, but you employ a wide view which allows you to include the setting fairly clearly. There’s obviously a heightened degree of atmosphere in this picture, which very much recalls film noir cinema. You also choose an extremely elongated horizontal format which adds to the literal cinematic feel to the image.
I’m also interested in image four, mainly of course for the riotous color and profusion of pattern detail in both the jacket and the background. [this is my favorite part of the whole review] Perhaps the most interesting element of the picture is the extensive depth of field which tends to flatten the implied spatial depth of the image. [I had no idea I did this.]
Your first three images are much more alike in terms of subject placement and subject scale. Of this grouping, image two is the most effective. I applaud how the subject returns the gaze of the camera, and the high contrast, directional light which illuminates the texture of the face quite well. There is also a visual dialogue of sorts between the texture of the face and the surface of the cinder block wall behind.
In addition, the two-word title obviously references a specific geographical location and culture. This opens up the image quite easily to off – frame elements. This isn’t something that happens in images one and three. These pictures tend to function more precisely as visual descriptions of the subject and little else. That’s not a bad thing, and they are certainly commendable portraits, particularly image three. However it is to the first referenced images which I return.
In regard to your specific question, you asked how to create engaging photos when photographing non-famous people. That is a wonderful question, and I think perhaps some of the answers might reside in images two, four and five. The overall compositional construction, and formal qualities like contrast and color and texture, certainly contribute to the success of these pictures. However, it is the element of suggestion, especially in images two and five, which render the pictures quite intriguing. In these images, you reference culture in direct and indirect ways which opens up the real and imagined worlds of the photographs. This can be much more difficult to accomplish with traditional studio – like head and shoulder or head and torso portraits.
I strongly suggest you hone in on your approach in images two, four and five – it is there where your artistic vision and personality become evident.
I’ve enjoyed viewing your work, and I hope to see more in the future.
So, there it is.
First, I’m pretty happy with this review. It’s was a bit more thoughtful than I expected. I know they had a lot to review, so I appreciate I got more than just a few sentences.
I also agree with the final assessment. I love environmental portraits, and feel they are more exiting than “seamless background portraits.”
Maybe EP’s are easier to make exciting. So what would I need to do to make a seamless exciting (save for having a famous person in front of my camera). This is a big pet-peeve of mine when I review others work on social media – all the fawning that happens when [insert big name photog here] shoots [insert famous person here] when the portraits are as pedantic as can be. Maybe it’s jealousy on my part, but many of us will NEVER get a famous person in front of our lens, at least not regularly.
So, how do I make that seamless portrait exciting, sans [insert famous person here]? Is it creative lighting? Better posing? A bit of both?
I liked this feedback. Can’t say I really disagree with anything said here. Going forward, I know I’ll continue to shoot both types of portraits. The goal will be to do a good a job possible to make each on interesting.
So, have you ever had such a review? What do you think of this one? Agree? Disagree? Too honest? Not honest enough?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2018