Critique my Photos 2: Electric Boogaloo

So I got my first DSLR camera about five months ago and have been working really hard in that time to learn everything I can to be a better photographer. Learning the technical stuff, getting the right exposures, how to best use post-processing to make my photos “pop” better, etc. Over the Summer I started this thread where I got a lot of great advice and critiques and I was looking for more of the same now (and also wanted to show how much I’ve improved in such a short time).

I shoot in RAW only now. And I’ve just started using Lightroom 5 for post-processing after using a free version of CaptureOne 6 for awhile. So far I really love Lightroom and don’t plan on switching back. I recently took a workshop on PP and learned a lot of great tricks for using Photoshop to enhance your photos but I haven’t used it at all yet.

So anyway, here is a set of all of my favorite shots at the moment.I still really like street photography but have also been getting more into architecture, long exposure stuff, and landscapes.

Would love to hear what you think. I know we have a lot of great photographers here and I’m always looking to learn how I can improve.

Nice stuff. I’m a sucker for any seascapes, so they had me from the start. I’d love to float out in a yak and shoot those pylons looking at land. Except I lack talent.

But Steel Canyons and Downtown Reflections really are cool. I miss city living sometimes, and initially I thought those two were horizontally shot tricks.

Biker’s location looks familiar.:wink:

Hey, the Baha’i Temple…what exactly am I looking at?

Very cool! Lake and Wells, the one with 2 trains, nice!

It’s just a tight shot of one of the reflecting pools. I have a wider shot where you can see most of the temple being reflected the same way.

And thanks for the kind words above!

That’s some very nice work, you have a good eye.

Have you experimented with long exposures for beach shots?

Thank you. I do enjoy using long exposures on water. Most of the beach shots I post are long exposures, some up to a minute. I have a set of ND filters that make this a lot of fun.

The first shot has some mood to it. Some of the others look over-saturated to me. The sculpture photo is different, as it makes you pause and try to figure out what you’re looking at, then give up and find the caption. The b’hai reflection is a good artsy effort.

Thanks for commenting. I usually do bump up the saturation but I try to do so sparingly. There are some lake shots where I really wanted them to look blue, but I did that mostly with adjusting the temp of the white balance.

Overall nice images.

If you’re using LR remember to straighten your horizons - you can use the ruler tool to do that, or in PS use the guidelines. Having straight verticals in your architecture shots is a choice based on your preference. I tend to find non-straight verticals distracting.

A couple shots seem to be shot in auto and I’m not understanding some of the aperture choices (sculpture, temple reflection, dempster tracks as examples). You probably used a tripod in at least some of those, but for many there would be no need to have such a long exposure and you could either reduce that or the ISO on those. May make those a bit sharper.

Hm, I never shoot in Auto and none of the three you mention used a tripod - all were handheld. I almost always shoot in in AV or sometimes full Manual.

Not sure about why I chose which aperture for the temple shot or the sculpture choices, but for the Dempster shot, I was shooting something else towards a really bright area in f/13 and had to swing around to catch that girl going by. I wish I’d had a wider aperture there so she was bit sharper (fired at 1/125 but would have been better at at least 1/200) but still really happy with the shot.

The temple reflection was at f/7.1, which I think is fine. The sculpture was at f/16 because it was very sunny and I actually was shooting towards the sun a little bit. Even at that aperture I was firing at 1/1250.

I must have missed the line on the exif, I thought it said auto exposure but I see that was for a different line on the Dempster shot. In any event I thought the settings at f/13 and ISO 400 with exposure bias of -1/3 was a bit odd but switching from shooting something else without time to adjust makes sense.

For the reflection shot, it was at f7.1 and ISO 100 at 1/40. That could go to 1/160 if you go down to f/5.6 and ISO 200 for the same shot but likely sharper.

Nice work.

No time for an in-depth response but I really like the composition on all of these and the technical aspect of nearly all. Many were clearly manipulated and achieved a certain artistic effect, but I thought the greens in the “Chicago Botanical Gardens” shots were oversaturated.


For most of my shots I bump up the contrast and saturation a bit, but I really don’t move the sliders very much for either. Like about 10% for each. The Botanical Gardens (I assume you mean the shot of the Japanese Gardens) had the same treatment - but believe it or not that’s about what it looked like to my naked eye while we were there. Also, I had really nice light breaking through from behind me when I shot that spot. The place is pretty magical, like something out of Middle Earth.

I’m curious now what I did with this one in post. I’ll check tonight and let you know, maybe the saturation is cranked too high but I honestly don’t think I had to bump it up all that much. It came out of the camera looking pretty good.

Sorry if I sounded harsh. There used to be a really good website (now defunct) where you could post photos for comment and suggestion. Comments were always brutally honest and usually helpful, which is how most people wanted it to be. Just saying “nice photos” is unhelpful for someone working on improving what he does. High saturation is fine if you’re going for an art look. I prefer messing with the contrast and going light on the saturation. I also try to shoot as though using black and white film, which makes me more aware of composition. Cheers.

Im not a photographer but I love the medium. Esp B&W. Esp old photos. Esp Chicago. Yours are quite nice! eta: thanks for sharing them!

No need to apologize! I wouldn’t seek out opinions here (or anywhere) if I wasn’t wanting people to be brutally honest, though just regular honest is good too. I’ve found some similar critique groups on the web and their brutal honesty is the only reason I’ve been able to improve to the degree that I have (and I know I have a long way to go still, I just started!)

I’m not sure there are any award winners here, but this is a pretty solid group of nice amateur shots.

The saturation is a problem (and a dead giveaway that you are still learning). Here is a tip: don’t touch the saturation at all in Lightroom. Instead, use the vibrance slider (with a light touch). Similarly, don’t ignore the clarity adjustment.

You have an eye for composition but there are things to work on. Avoid placing the horizon mid-frame (Evanston Daybreak). I would have cropped Dempster Tracks differently (the girl being dead center = boring, and I don’t like the vertical support on the left cut in half). I do like the shadows and colors of Dempster.

A few are simply uninteresting: Botanical Gardens, Auditorium Theatre shots.

Union Station and Dempster Tracks have what I would consider a fatal flaw: the people are extremely ordinary. The little girl is, no doubt, cute; but the huge purple helmet and the modern cheap-looking bike do not sit well within the scene. Similarly, the girl with the backpack and the hoodie and the (presumed) smartphone turn an interesting scene and composition into an everyday snapshot. I realize these are out of your control, but they do kill the images for me.

The horizontal Lake and Wells train shot is my favorite (although the unnatural curve of the buildings distracts a bit). I like the view, I like the curve of the train/composition, and I like the criss-crossing tracks.

I hope I don’t sound too negative. There is nothing here to be ashamed of.
Keep shooting!


Here’s a thought: on Dempster Tracks, try cropping the right side to move the girl on the bike to that side. It might give the child a more expectant attitude (perhaps hearing a train coming?).

On Cold Smoke, try cloning out the two foreground people, leaving just the one lone figure in black next to the building. Also, there is a small blip at the bottom of the photo that may be the top of someone’s head; crop or clone out.