Critique the Community Episode 21: Commercial Imagery

It's been a while since we've sat down to critique of the Fstoppers images but we're back with the series for our 30 videos in 30 days challenge. To commemorate our recent tutorial with Monte Isom, we filmed a new episode of Critique the Community which will focus on commercial images. A few days ago, we asked the community to submit their work for us to choose from. Since the definition of commercial imagery encompasses a wide variety of subject matters, we chose 20 varied images to give some feedback to. Do you agree with Chelsey and Lee's commentary on the images below? 





















The Fstoppers Community Rating System

If you have an Fstoppers account, you are able to create your own profile and portfolio directly within the Fstoppers Community. Once you have a portfolio uploaded, you can browse images in the community and rate the photos of your peers. Even though art is usually a fairly subjective matter, we wanted to create a rating system that was as objective and unbiased as possible. This way, if one of your images has been rated 50 times and has received an average rating of 2 stars, you could feel confident that maybe that particular image is not up to par. Below is a simple explanation of the Fstoppers Community Rating System.

One Star: The Snapshot

One star ratings are limited to snapshots only. Snapshots are usually taken to document a time or location, but little to no thought has gone into the creation of the image. If an image has been "lit" with external light (besides a direct on-camera flash), it is at least a two star picture. The majority of one star images have had no post-production work done to them, but do often have an "Instagram style" filter added to them. The average person these days snaps one star images every single day with their smartphones. Most one star images that pop up on sites like ours are images of flowers, pets, landscapes, sunsets, objects around a house, etc. If you read Fstoppers, you should not be sharing one star images for any reason.

Two Stars: Needs Work

All images, besides maybe five star images, always have room for improvement, but two star images "need work" before they should be included in your portfolio. As photographers, we are snapping thousands of images per year, but only a few of those images should ever be shared or put into our portfolio. A photographer who has taken a two star image has put some thought into the composition, exposure, and post-production, but for some reason has missed the mark. A two star image should not be in the portfolio of a full-time professional photographer and amateur photographers should strive for something better. Even complete amateurs who don't understand photography at all are capable of taking two star images from time to time.

Three Stars: Solid

A three star image is an all-around good image. The photographer has a solid understanding of the basics: composition, color, focus, subject matter, and post-production. A three star image is "good," but it's not great. Most part-time professional photographers have mostly three star images in their portfolios. Usually, a level three image would have been rated four stars if it had been shot in a better location, or with a better model showing a better expression, or if there was better post-production. A photographer capable of taking a three star image is capable of taking four and five star images if they would simply pay more attention to the details. 

Four Stars: Excellent

Four star images are fantastic. In most cases, four star images have a certain style to them that links them directly to their creator. A four star image usually requires planning and attention to extreme detail. It's almost impossible to shoot a four star image by getting lucky. Four star images have an almost flawless conception, composition, lighting, subject matter, and post-production. If you have any 4 four star images in your portfolio, you should be very proud of yourself.

Five Stars: World Class

Five star images are flawless and unforgettable. The amount of time, energy, and talent that goes into the average five star image is staggering. In many cases, these pictures require a team to produce, including a professional retoucher. The concept, lighting, subject, location, and post-production on these images have to be perfect. In some cases, the jump from four to five stars may be as simple as changing the unknown model in the picture with a celebrity or bringing in a set designer or stylist to make the image slightly better. Although there are always exceptions, most five star images take days, if not weeks, or months to produce.

Strengthening Your Own Portfolio

Even with our objective rating system, people are going to disagree with what they like because ultimately, art is still a matter of opinion. However, we believe once an image has been rated over 25 times, it will have a rating that is pretty fair and honest (we hope to deter trolls by giving negative Karma points when a vote is more than one star away from the community average). If one of your images in your own portfolio is rated lower than what you personally feel it should be rated, we would urge you to try to look at the image from an unbiased angle. Step back, erase your memory of the photoshoot itself, and try to imagine an art buyer, stock agency, potential client, or local gallery as they decided if they wanted to invest in your services. Would your image make the cut?

David Strauss's picture

David Strauss is a wedding photographer based in Charleston, SC.

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Do you find that offensive? Don't we all copy others to grow our craft?

Ahh I didn't realize this. I dig Nick's shots for sure.

Julia Kuzmenko has a whole section in her tutorial we have in the store dedicated to how to create double colored shadows. "Rip off" is a bit much to claim for any photography technique though. Art moves nowhere without copying as David points out.

"Rip off " might be a little strong sure. I know we all grow from each other. I just found it funny that Lee pointed out that it might work if it were a famous person, and Nick used this technique with his Kevin Hart portrait. It's like yup... been done.

The Stones were pretty famous when this techniques was used on them.

There is a famous shot of the Stones shot with this style decades ago? Is that Fancher’s work? If not, “rip-off” is a little aggressive.

Photo 12 is the transport of a 180,000lb. dry gas outlet manifold. It was shot on a bridge near St. Francisville, LA with an Inspire 1 Pro with an X5 camera. I've never been satisfied with this camera.

Love the critique even though it wasn't the outcome I'd hoped for, that's how you grow and learn. There are so many awe-inspiring photographers here at Fstoppers.

I do agree with the comments that it had too much saturation, but I was going for something that popped. I do use some HDR in this type of work to help bring out the trailers (normally the loads are wider than the trailers and in the shadows). That photo was used for a Facebook promo pic so the top area had text over it in the final ad.

And yes Lee Morris, I come everyday and will continue. Lol

P.S. I was in Charleston in mid December shooting some container cranes being moved at the Port of Charleston and thought about you guys and how cool it would be to meet up but didn't have much time. Maybe next time!

Ya send me a message next time you are in town. I've gotten some pretty amazing container ship drong shots in the harbor.

And thanks for continuing to come to Fstoppers after Chelsey's brutal critique ;)

Wow, never known there's such thing as "container shipment photography". Reminds me of some fast and furious scene where s#$!t just about to go down

I do contract marketing work for this client that is in the mega transport business. They move some of the largest objects on the planet, like what you see on Discovery channel’s show called mega movers. We were on the Discovery Science channel’s show called heavy metal task force a few years back and yours truly had a good bit of on camera time but not enough to be recognized at Walmart LOL

We were at the Port of Charleston to move a couple of container cranes from the rails to a place in the yard where another company added more height to the legs, making the cranes taller to accommodate the larger ships. Once the alterations were complete we went back and moved the crane back to the rail and into service. It’s pretty interesting.


Thanks for the comments on my photo! - I’m the guy who shot the Hotrods on fire.

Because of the pinstriped flames in his cars, for my client and me, the fire was an important part. The cars a real, the fire was done with a long exposure and a huge torch and the ground was made wet for the reflection with lots of water. So no tiny cars used :)

Here is the whole tutorial of this shooting;

I always enjoy your critique videos, and often agree with you guys. Keep them coming;)

I love these Critiques and yes being brutally honest hurts at first but then you realise its constructive criticism which helps you learn and to fine tune your work.
Also love the fun banter, great work and can't wait for the next one :-)

"we hope to deter trolls by giving negative Karma points when a vote is more than one star away from the community average" --> is it forbidden to disagree? :)