Critique the Community Episode 15: Lifestyle Photography

A couple weeks ago, we asked the Fstoppers Community to submit their best lifestyle images for our next episode of "Critique the Community." This episode is particularly special because we are giving away two free camera bags from HEX to two of the photographers who were selected for critique. We chose a total of 21 images to offer feedback to, 20 of them were submitted and one was chosen from some of Fstoppers most popular photos. Check out the image we chose to critique, see who won the backpacks, and give your thoughts and feedback on the pictures in the comments below!
























The winners of the HEX camera bags were randomly selected.

Congratulations and thanks for your participation in Critique the Community. We'll send you a message through your Fstoppers profile to get in touch and claim your prize.

If you missed our review of the HEX camera bags, check it out here.

If you missed your chance to submit your images for critique, keep an eye out for future submission opportunities for "Critique the Community."

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 chart explaining the Fstoppers Community Rating System.

1 Star - The Snapshot

1 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 2 star picture. The majority of 1 star images have had no postproduction work done to them but do often have an "Instagram style" filter added to them. The average person these days snaps 1 star images every single day with their smartphones. Most 1 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 1 star images for any reason.

2 Stars - Needs Work

All images, besides maybe 5 star images, always have room for improvement but 2 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 2 star image has put some thought into the composition, exposure, and postproduction but for some reason has missed the mark. A 2 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 2 star images from time to time.

3 Stars - Solid

A 3 star image is an all around good image. The photographer has a solid understanding of the basics: composition, color, focus, subject matter, and postproduction. A 3 star image is "good" but it's not great. Most part-time professional photographers have mostly 3 star images in their portfolios. Usually a level 3 image would have been rated 4 stars if it had been shot in a better location, or with a better model showing a better expressions, or there was better postproduction. A photographer capable of taking a 3 star image is capable of taking 4 and 5 star images if they would simply pay more attention to the details. 

4 Stars - Excellent

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

5 Stars - World Class

5 star images are flawless and unforgettable. The amount of time, energy, and talent that goes into the average 5 star image is staggering. In many cases these pictures require a team to produce including a professional retoucher. The concept, lighting, subject, location, and postproduction on these images has to be perfect. In some cases the jump from 4 to 5 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 5 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 1 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?

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Denis Girard's picture

Hey guys! I took the photo of the redhead family (#13) and I am not the father! We did try to get the shot several times and It was not a composited image! Also funny that you taught the same thing for my kids with the Cheerios shot in the family photos critique (that the photographer was the father!);) Here's the SOOC image! Thanks for the review and the comparison to Normal Rockwell. You made me very happy! ;) Cheers guys!

Patrick Hall's picture

Wow, you've had 2 images make our critique and both images we thought maybe the photographer was in the photograph? That's crazy! I wonder what it is about your images that make us think that....I'm guessing you are pretty consistent with your style which is a great thing to have as a photographer. Whichever way you look at it, it's still a pretty cool photograph.

Denis Girard's picture

Thanks a lot Patrick! I appreciate it! ;) I like to think I'm consistent! Merry Christmas. ;)

Mike Freestone's picture

"Bubble" by Juan Felipe Rangel.

This is a rare time that I think you're completely wrong Patrick!

For whatever it's worth, I give this a 5 star rating. I think it's one of the most beautiful contrasts I've ever seen, and I'm not usually one to read too deep into a photo. But here's what I absolutely love about this image:

1. From her facial to her whole body, the girl's expression is one of the most genuine and unique expressions I've seen in a photo. Her anticipation for what's about to happen is amazing.
2. The connection in this perfect moment between two subjects that seem to come from two completely different worlds. The young girl, looking very well dressed and presented, on the grungy streets of New York, having that genuine connection with an older man from the streets.
3. The contrast between the two, from their appearance, history, race and age all make the moment more beautiful in my mind. Especially with a lot of the things happening around the world today.

Just my opinion, but I love it.

Caleb Kerr's picture

I don't disagree with any of those points about the juxtaposition and the timing, other than it could arguably make it a 5 star candid street photography photo, but it's not lifestyle IMO.

Mike Freestone's picture

Yeah I agree with you 100%. But in the past whenever they see a photo that's been submitted out of category, they usually rated according to the style they see it fits . But you're right, I forgot to mention that I would consider the street photography as well. Thanks!

Patrick Hall's picture

I could actually see giving it a star higher than I did now that I've stepped away from it for a while. You make valid points and at the end of the day, even though it isn't really a lifestyle image, it's still a pretty cool photograph.

Jay Pegg's picture

Thank so much to the FStoppers community. This is the first time that I've sent an image for critique and I got so much more than I ever expected, even a fantastic new bag!!

I definitely understand the "commercial" lacking aspect of the image and it is going to be something that I will have in my mind from now on.

Thanks to everyone who took the time and shared their opinions about "Bubble".

Caleb Kerr's picture

But don't forget that not all images need to be commercially viable or look like an advertisement! That's simply one perspective but by no means should that influence how you shoot.

Leigh Smith's picture

The climbing shot: She has tape on here finger. It is used to cover cuts and blisters, etc. And also used to prevent such minor injuries. Crack climbing one of the more difficult and physically demanding types of climbing. Your hand scan get wrecked!

Jay Pegg's picture

Not a better way to end/start the year!!

Thank you so much for my new Hex Bag. It is an incredible piece of equipment.

little blurry but took it in a hurry to show you guys!!

David Strauss's picture

So glad you like it! Put it to good use!