1. Reminder: Please user our affiliate links to get to your favorite stores for holiday shopping!

Wildlife Photo Critique Thread

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Phocal, Jun 25, 2016.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I look at a lot of photographs every day with a large majority of them being wildlife, which makes sense because wildlife photography is my main interest. One of the things that I have noticed while looking at various photography and social media sites is the lack of honest feedback about images. I believe that getting honest critiques of your photographs is a very good way to improve your photography. I have also found that doing critiques helps improve my photography because it forces me to look at photographs from a critical standpoint without any emotional tie to the photo (something that is hard to do with my own photography).

    Please only post true wildlife photographs here as I am not interested in critiquing anything else. If the animal is contained within a fence (this includes fenced preserves where animals can run freely) or is tamed don't post it.

    Include as much information as possible when taking the photograph. Not only does this include the camera/lens and all the various camera settings used but also your reasoning behind those settings and any/all processing done (to include software used as well as software you have access to).

    I strongly encourage anyone who wishes to jump in and critique away, it really will help with your own photography. Just remember that a critique is not about just pointing out all the flaws in the photograph. It should include what you find pleasing, good, interesting in the photograph as well as pointing out things that if done differently could help make the image stronger. For example don't just say your perspective is terrible and should have been shot differently .... say something like if you had chosen a lower perspective it would have helped to highlight the imposing physical size of the subject as well as made the photograph much stronger.

    I really hope this thread can turn into something positive that does help people. I am not starting this as a place for people to argue and I hope everyone can leave personal attacks out of this. Yes, you may not like what someone says about your photograph and it may hurt to hear that this photograph you love so much is not NatGeo quality like all your friends on IG or FB tell you.

    So lets see how it all goes and I will start by putting up one of my photographs for anyone who wishes to critique.

    Camera: EM1
    Lens: ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20
    Exposure mode: Manual
    Shutter: 1/500
    Aperture: ƒ5.6
    ISO: 800 (was set to auto ISO)
    Taken using a skimmer pod to help steady the shot while laying on the ground

    Reason for settings: The aperture was chosen because I wanted to get the full length of the eyes in focus and anything less would have been a bit to shallow. The perspective was chosen because I really wanted the photograph to show the gators point of view as well as have the pure green smoothness of the moss possible with this lens to highlight the gator. The day was overcast with occasional rain so I was in manual mode to have control over the shutter speed (usually I shoot in aperture priority). I used auto ISO because it's just one less thing I have to think about and after I set the shutter speed and aperture the ISO is what it is anyways.

    Processing: I used the Velvia 50 preset from VSCO because I love the saturated look it provides. From there I manipulated most of the settings to get the look that I wanted, mostly I am going for the tone curve this applies and using everything else as a starting point. While I love the 4:3 ratio I have started to use 3:2 for my gator photography because I feel it fits the subject better. This shot I went with 3:2 because I wanted to spread out the photograph and have less of the green above/below the gators head because I felt anything else kind of lost him in the sea of green. After leveling the photograph and the change to 3:2 I applied maybe a 5% crop to get the eyes to align with the top horizontal line 1/3 the way down.

    27151198111_e46daf16d5_h.
    Careful
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr
     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi, What about wild birds perched on fences?
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  3. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    LOL, sure
     
  4. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Phocal

    shooting wildlife has not always been part of my portfolio.. but I have found myself doing more of it over the last few years, partly due to locations and partly due to investing in the technology required

    Something I have admired in your work is that you seem more dedicated than many in taking visually interesting images of wildlife as opposed to merely recording their presence.

    Taking a photograph and creating an image to me are two separate processes.. both are valid... but I know which I prefer

    that said I offer for critique a slightly smaller creature which may or may not be related to your gator

    26097876064_3379865296_b. P4280062 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    K
     
    • Like Like x 4
  5. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Great... I asked because I some don't consider photos with fences and other man-made objects to be 'natural'...

    I was standing at the back door looking for birds when I saw this Black Phoebe above on the patio cover, with a moth in its beak. Then it flew onto the fence and I was able to get a bunch of shots off...
    EB144517.

    EB144518.

    EB144519.
    All 40-150mm + MC-14 @210mm, f4, cropped.

    I didn't do any PP other than Raw Therapee's defaults plus a little sharpening and a heavy crop.

    Barry
     
    • Like Like x 4
    • Winner Winner x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    @kevinparis@kevinparis I really like that image. I am about to head out and will try to get to this tonight or first thing in the morning. I agree, there is a difference between a taking a photograph and creating an image. I also really appreciate your comment, I try very hard with my photography to not just document various animals to create images that people will enjoy looking at.

    FYI, that 300 is really turning out to be one gem of a lens.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    @barry13@barry13 I photograph birds on fence post all the time, sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. I just made the wildlife requirement because there is a lot you don't have control over when shooting wildlife compared to caged or tamed animals. Like them landing on a fence or a stick in the way that you wish you could reach out and move but you can't because it's either impossible, dangerous, or would scare off the animal.

    Will also get to your photos tonight or tomorrow.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    Good idea for a thread. OK, here goes.

    First of all it is a very good capture. I like the gator's POV. And Agree with the decision to crop...I'd even play with 16:9. I'm sensitive about horizon/verticals and centering. I think you got it.

    However personally I'm not a fan of the Velvia look. Never used it. Way too over-the-top IMHO. I'd back the saturation off a bunch and maybe play with the curves...



    FWIW as a reference, my monitor is profiled and my photos as posted appear a bit more washed out than they do when I'm in the editor.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  9. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Interesting shots... but my suggestion is that you work a little in PP with contrast and sharpening to give a little more punch to the image

    K
     
    • Useful Useful x 1
  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I didn't think to try 16:9, one aspect ratio I don't really ever use. Went back and I think I actually prefer it, thank you.

    I am also really sensitive about horizons and this one gave me fits for a long time, but in the end I got it (initial shot was not level).

    Color is one of those very personal things. I shot Velvia for many years in my film days and really grew to like the look it provided. The preset is not perfect but it does do a good job with the grain and the changes to the greens in particular (but I like how it effects the reds also). I use it as a base for some shots that I really want to saturate the greens. It also crushes the shadow detail which I honestly like for some shots, for some shots I will bring back the shadows.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I typically don't like shots of animals from behind but in this case it really works. To me it works because you broke one of those "rules" and have your subject facing to the short side of the photograph. Say what you will about the various rules of composition and subject position/facing but there are reasons they exist. I use to not put a lot of value into them until I spent 2 years as a moderator for feature hub on Instagram. It did not take me long to notice that 90% of the photographs I featured (it was a wildlife photo hub) followed the rule of thirds and when they did not it was obvious why that rule was broken. That really made me into a believer about the rule of thirds. The various rules (or guidelines if you prefer) are not from photography but were developed by painters centuries before cameras where ever developed. The whole subject facing into or out of frame really is about the mood of the photograph and I personally like/use both depending on the mood I want to convey. In this case I get the feeling that the lizard is saying F you, based on where you put him in the frame, his posture, and from shooting him from behind. The mood of the photo would be completely different if you had placed him on the left and looking into the frame. Speaking about the rule of thirds, you have his eye at almost the intersection of the right and top line from the rule of thirds which helps to make it stronger image.

    The exposure is perfect and the processing is very good. I may have tried masking off the bottom portion to play with color to get it more the shade of the top green but that really is all personal taste. One thing I do with all my nature photographs is bring some pop to the eye/s of my subject. I am in love with the radial tool in LR and have a preset called eyes which I have the following settings: Exposure +.30, Shadows +35, Clarity +20, Saturation +18, Sharpness +15. I will put a small circle in the eyes with that preset then use the brush to fill in all the area that I want to give some pop to. After I get that done I will play with those settings to get it perfect, they are just a starting point and typically I end up lowering most of the settings (every image is different). I do this because the eyes are everything and it really helps to draw attention to the eyes which helps the viewer connect with the subject/photograph. The only other thing is I feel a 3:2 crop is a bit better for this subject.

    The ƒ5.6 aperture works perfectly for the photograph. If you had stopped down anymore you would have gotten more of the grass and body in the focus which would have started to get distracting. It leaves enough of the body in focus to see what it is with enough grass for you to know the location while blowing out the rest into a very smooth and beautiful green. The perspective is perfect, down at his level where it should be. I really hate all the photographs I see on here that are what I call the 6:45 perspective aka standing and shooting down at your subject (which does nothing for the subject and is so boring it makes me puke).
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  12. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Phocal

    thanks for taking time to offer your thoughts. I come from a graphic design background, and am a regular user of the rule of thirds, though it was well into my interest in photography that I realised I had been doing it naturally before I had the benefit of the onscreen grids

    That shot was taken on the first day I had the 300 and this was really a test shot testing out the operating parameters of the lens

    appreciate your comments

    cheers

    K
     
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  13. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    You are welcome. Was looking at your Flickr account and really love your surfing shots, some good stuff in their. I really wish Olympus added in the lines for the rule of thirds. It annoys me that the grid lines they have are the Phi Grid aka Golden Ratio. My cousin (who has a masters in art and is one of the most amazing artist I have met) loves the golden ratio, I just can't get into using it. Looking at his work, I like the stuff that follows the rule of thirds and I'm impartial to the golden ratio stuff.

    The 300/4 is turning out to be a really amazing lens. As much as I want that lens I am forcing myself to see what Olympus does with the EM1mk2. I really want to get back into sports photography and need to see that Olympus is making a commitment towards that end. Lens wise I feel they really have, now just to see what they do with the upcoming EM1 before I invest in more lenses. If I like what they have done I will drop a lot of money on lenses because I want to get all the Pro lenses, that will basically give everything I could ever need for my type of photography.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  14. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Great action sequence, I will do the first image but everything I have to say applies to them all. I would like to start with saying that I hope you don't mind that edited and reposted here as part of my critique. The images are in a section of my website that is not linked anywhere and if you want I will remove them. That said lets gets started.

    You did a good job with the crop, the birds eye is just above the top RoT line and the moth is just off the intersection of the top and right line. That really does help bring the eye to the subject. Placing the subject in the center is hit or miss in my opinion and I usually try to but if off to a side, but sometimes it really needs to be in the center (like my gator photo above). In this case, with the elements of the fence it helps to balance the photograph and works well. Any other framing putting the bird to the left would include part of the fence on the left and would just look awkward, which would leave you with having to remove it in post (can be a real pain in the butt to do). My suggestion to make the composition a bit stronger would be use a 3:2 ratio as I did in the photograph below. This is from working with your already cropped image, may find something better working with the full image. Doing this I was able to pull the eye up to the top RoT line while still keeping what I feel is the most important elements of the fence in the photograph. Tried working with your image and keep the 4:3 ration but it would end up cropping off some of the pretty fence design. The only other aspect that made this photograph difficult is the background, which when it comes to wildlife you don't have much control over. Would have been great if the dark area was not there, would help the bird stand out much better. Unfortunately the head just happens to be right at one of the darkest areas of the background. oh..... I really do like the sun reflecting off of the moth, really helps draw the eye right towards it.

    Now, for PP. A little post can really go a long way with making a photograph pop. I did a really fast edit that could be much better working from the original file (especially if it was shot in RAW). All I did was hit my starting preset that I have worked up. All this preset does is play with the various sliders in Hue/Saturation/Luminance area of LR to basically get the starting colors that I like. I also increased sharpness and increased masking to 60ish to help not sharpen the background. I really love the masking slider in the LR sharpening area, much faster then doing the masking manually and works pretty well. After that I just hit the auto button but that increased the exposure pretty high because it was trying to draw out the shadow of the birds head. I brought the exposure down to a level that worked well with the entire photograph. After that I used the radial filter tool to put a small circle on the head set for dodge shadow and followed that up using the brush to brush in the filter along the shadowed part of the head. Nothing really fancy but it does make a difference in the overall photo. Oh, I increased contrast to 18 because I like contrast :biggrin:

    My Edit
    p1883877923-6.

    Original
    p2025465745-6.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  15. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    @Phocal@Phocal, Thanks Ronnie! That looks much better.

    I have a lot to learn with PP... I do still have the raw file and will definitely give it another try.
    I'll let you know if I get stuck :)

    Barry
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    You are welcome and my pleasure. Sorry it took a bit longer then I was anticipating. School has me so swamped I have not even gone out shooting in almost 4 weeks.

    Practice is the best thing as is getting people to look at photos and give you honest answers. Always willing to help if needed also.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Interesting concept for a thread. Here's one of my favorites from an African trip a few years ago. Compositionwise it's kind of boring; it is the cat's eyes that grab me. The 500 yard stare, watching for lunch!

    full.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  18. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Oldracer

    there is a better composition in there... you just have to fine tune things a bit to get the diagonal lines of the branch and the leopards back anchoring more into the bottom corners

    The other thing is the rather dull, low contrast look... its a dramatic animal, and it needs a little oomph. There is no substitute to learning the basic manipulations of PP, learning how to read a histogram and how the various controls effect the image.

    From just the jpeg post here, and maybe 5 mins in PP, I came up with this

    Leopard_In_Tree (1).

    cheers

    K
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 2
  19. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    @oldracer@oldracer I would crop to reduce the foreground blur and move the eyes out of the center of the photo...just my 2¢
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  20. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Agree strongly. I like having diagonals running out at the corners. I used to think they would lead the eye out of the frame but they always seem to lead the eye into the frame. I first started working with diagonals running into the corners after reading an article online somewhere about Cartier-Bresson's compositional techniques and it was one of the things he often did.

    It works and it works a hell of a lot better than the rule of thirds as a compositional guide.

    What I think works really nicely in this case is that not only do the diagonals meet off centre at right angles but the leopard's head is above the line of it's body and falls onto the line of the diagonal of the tree trunk so the 2 diagonals end up reinforcing each other very strongly.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1