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Have You Been Featured in an Episode of Critique the Community?

Have You Been Featured in an Episode of Critique the Community?

Recently, someone in our comments suggested a really cool idea, and we need your help.  If you've been featured on an episode of our Critique the Community, help us with a future video by responding to this post.

Critique the Community is a series we release on our YouTube Channel, where the readers of Fstoppers get to have their best images critiqued by Lee and I and sometimes a special guest. For the most part, the first time we ever see these images is when we film the episode. Therefore, rarely do we get to hear the full story about how the photo was taken, the challenges that the photographer faced, or some of the accolades or income the photo received after being published.

What I'd like to do for a future episode is showcase some of the most popular or controversial images featured on the show and share the full story behind the image.

If you have been featured on Critique the Community, please upload your image below along with some background information about the photo. Also, if you remember our critique of the photo, please give your rebuttal and share any information that might make us see your work in a different light.

When will this video go live? I'm not sure yet, but hopefully, it will be online in the next month or so. 

For those of you who have never been on the show, you can submit your images to Critique the Community by clicking this link or by going to the Contest tab at the top of the Fstoppers website. We have new themes every week or two, and you can always watch all the previous episode here on our YouTube Channel.

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Previous comments
Cliff Mueller's picture

I have been in two critiques with basically the same shot done twice. My upload has both photos side by side. The shot on the left was featured in the Technology Critique and the shot on the right was in the Unique Critique.

For the left shot, the comments were that they did like the crop, the astro, the lighting and it was over sharpened, but surprisingly taken all together they thought it worked and both gave it a three. They also thought it looked like a photo from the 1980s and was unique. The 1980 look was very surprising since the photo was simply an attempt to practice night photography in 2016.

Since they commented that they hadn't seen a photo like that in CTC before, I thought I would reshoot (right photo) for the Unique contest. I shot with their previous comments in mind. In the second review Lee thought it looked like a 1990s shot, so I guess the look became more current by a decade. They didn't have any real criticism otherwise the second time around but the rating still stayed at three. So they were consistent.

The critique was a bit off base regarding how the tower was lit, thinking it might have been street lights or my lights. The tower was shot from hundreds of feet away in virtual complete darkness but the few flashing tower lights were enough to light the entire tower when taken as a long exposure.

I enjoyed the comments and the perspective. I thought the 1980s /1990s comments were funny and unexpected. The other criticism was constructive and well taken. Lastly, Lee was jokingly wondering what the mysterious streak was in the upper left of the of the left photo. The streak is a legit meteor capture, but from another time and added to this photo for a little creative fun.

Chase Wilson's picture

I'm going to add a couple more because I've been urged to by my friends who watch these with interest.

This photo of Chris was selected for the "Quirky" critique. And the discussion was split between both Patrick & Lee. Lee wanted it to be more obviously quirky (holding a knife or something? a wad of cash?) - more overtly wacky. Where Patrick felt it was definitely quirky and that it fit the tone of the critique. What was interesting was that both of y'all said that it would be stronger as a series. Well, it was envisioned as a series that I call "Out of School Portraits."

I photographed Chris (that was critiqued) for a headshot and asked him when the last time he had his portrait taken was. He responded that it was probably "Senior Portraits in high school." I thought at the moment how hilarious it would be to see a set of senior style portraits but with everyone in their early to mid-thirties. And then I realized that I was a photographer - and that I could do that. So I started getting wardrobe from the 80's (when most of us were born) and gathered up a bunch of friends to shoot "School Portraits."

Chase Wilson's picture

Final one! This was in the most recent "Backlit" critique.

It was received well by all three parties: The community (I think I got the highest-rated, but not highest rated at the time of selection), Patrick and Pye. We all know the way to Patrick's heart is through a good story. And I chalk my humble success on these critiques (thanks to the community) to focusing on the story an image tells. The story of this series is to illustrate a world where digital technology hasn't taken over our lives. For this particular shot, I did end up going back and re-shooting it. I tried putting the original up on my website, but a lot of the problems I had just felt magnified when I put it on that kind of presentation. That said, here's my list of gripes with the original:

1. It's too "Instagram", I wanted to experiment with subtle stories (as seen in Vermeer's genre paintings). And while I think her pose and the story on this image is compelling enough. In the process of focusing on the pose, I completely neglected the background and setting. And in order to make the image stronger, I did a little bit of "Instagram" to the coloring. Adding that blue and yellow, with her in the intersection. It's fine - but it's a cheap trick. And I don't want potential customers seeing cheap tricks.
2. It's unbalanced compositionally. The pillow adds an incredible amount of weight to the left of the frame. And the pillow on the right is adding an undue amount of weight on the right. Mary's position relative to the window frame is far too off-center - adding to the unbalanced composition.
3. That pillar colliding with the profile of her face kills me.
4. I wish the wall sconce was on. It would make more sense for her to have a rim light if that sconce was on.

It's worth mentioning that the first go was my first exposure to trying to light the inside of an airstream. All I can say about lighting an airstream is that it sucks. The second time around I was much more prepared and more ready to take on the beast that is an airstream. I put silks over the door, and all the non-visible windows - shooting lights through each in order to bring my internal ambient closer to the outside. And I filled the airstream with some haze to reduce the contrast. Sarah (model 2) is centered in the window frame. There are no elements throwing the balance off. The sconces are on. And I planned for all the colors to be warm. I even threw the throw blanket on the left to balance out the kitchen counter.

The second shot can be accused of being more boring. And the first shot might be more "grabbing." But my goal is to show attention to detail. And I don't want any of my images to feel "As Seen On Instagram." Another entry in this series actually won one of these contests (hot lights). The major critique for that one was her nose ring, her nipple piercing and tattoo took away from the "70's period" feel of the image. But those elements *as well as a lot of the elements in my second shot) were left on purpose to remind you it's a contemporary world, with nostalgia for a time when screens didn't control us.

Jannick Clausen's picture

Lucky enough to also get one featured in the backlit critique that was just done.
The image is a single capture of the blood moon and Mars setting over lake moogerah in the fog. Shot in Queensland Australia.
It was mentioned it would be a stronger image without the two lights in the sky. Wonder if knowing it was the blood moon and Mars would change anything?
The light to the left was a building on the other side of the lake. Perhaps I should clone it out but I also like it in there too.
Thanks for the critique

Aiman Al-Ghazali's picture

I was featured in the "Backlit" episode.

Since during the critique they asked about the meta data, here is all the gear and settings I used:
Camera: Fujifilm X-T2
Lens: Sigma 50-500mm (Shot at 500)
Dumb EOS-FX adapter
Shutter Speed: 1/32,000 sec
Aperture: F/4
ISO: 200

Image was shot at Adam, Oman

Since I used a dumb adapter, My lens was stuck at wide open aperture of F/4, and had to manually focus.

I had the idea for this photo about 6 months prior to the eclipse. The mistake I made though was not going to the location early enough to plan properly.
I used the app "Photopills" to plan out the shoot. Since the eclipse in my country was happening very early, totality was only about 50 minutes after sunrise. I figured I wont need a hill that large/high to photograph the model from.
I used the app and searched for hilly areas that fall in the path of totality. I visited few of them but they all turned out to be too low, and I won't be able to back out enough to make the model smaller than the sun.
I settled at last on a hill that was on the edge of the path of totality.
Little did I know when I reached the location, a day before the eclipse, that it was a small mountain and far off from a hill. My friend(The model) had to hike about 2 km to reach the top. I over estimated the distance and the model turned out to be smaller than I want in the frame.
My plan was that I could move freely in the flat valley below the mountain, in order to align the model with the sun
At the time I had a solar filter on the lens to protect my sensor from burning(Saw the horror stories during the eclipse in the US). That made it impossible to find the model when everything in the frame was black, and nothing was visible but a round orange circle that was the sun.
I finally took the risk by taking the filter off and just shot without it. Made sure not to point at the sun for more than a few seconds.
Since I had no filter on and was stuck at full open wide aperture, I had to use the fastest shutter speed available. Thank you Fujifilm for electronic shutter at 1/32,000! which was barely fast enough for the bright sun.

It was a very fun learning experience.

While I agree about the critique from Pye and Patrick that a slimier image can be made way better in photoshop, The flare and haze shows the extreme brightness of the sun and gives the photo a sense of realism. I wasn’t going for a perfect, noiseless work of art, I look at my photo as documenting this rare event with an artistic aspect to it.

Would love to get Lee's opinion on this photo, since he hates David Strauss's "Atlas with the Sun". haha!

This is the most recognition I had from a photograph, reaching over 14K likes on Instagram when my previous highest liked image just had over 1K. My followers increased from 5K to 8K. And I was featured on a few famous Instagram accounts and on a Critique the Community episode on this website.

All in all, I am proud of this image.

Andrew Hoyle's picture

I was featured in one of the earlier wedding critiques and while I thought some of the feedback were fair, I wanted to address Lee's "How is this possible? This HAS to be photoshopped" concerns!

This shot is almost entirely SOOC (just a bit of toning and contrast tweaking). The lights in the background are actually the powerful spotlights used by the DJ. He was testing them during setup and I thought they could look really good to accent Carrie and Nick so I asked if he could point them at the table we'd set up in the middle of the dancefloor for the cutting. I'd taken a few test shots in advance using some of the groomsmen as stand ins (who later would fire the confetti canons) and got my settings locked down. Settings were f/5.6, 1/160, ISO 2000. I wanted to freeze the couple, but maybe get just a hint of motion on the falling confetti. I shot in burst to make sure I had options where the couple's faces weren't obscured.

To light the couple I'd put a basic Canon 580EX speedlite on a stand, slightly to camera right and put one of those pocket collapsible softboxes on it. By exposing for the very bright background lights and filling in with a flash, the otherwise dimly-lit ballroom fell into darkness in the background, leaving just the dramatic beams you see here. The room was also large and the other guests were probably at least 10 feet away, so there was very little spill.

So as far as my equipment goes it was a single light setup, but the real magic comes from those DJ lights I put to use. I'd be interested to see whether the effect could be replicated with snooted strobes.

Thankfully, David was much kinder with his "I can't find a flaw with this cake picture" comments!

Tav Flett's picture

This image was critiqued by Patrick and Lee in the 'moody' images episode. Patrick impressed with his contemporary knowledge of 'the cyberpunk' style of photography that's so hip with the kids today ... The image was critiqued pretty hard due to its lack of story and suggested that perhaps the guys pose could have been more interesting. The image was indeed shot reactively in a candid street style so the options for curating the scene were very limited. As alluded to, it would have been great to return and shoot the scene properly, but then again that wouldn't be spontaneous, candid street photography ...

andrew basson's picture

man o man , my photo was the worst photo they ever saw :)

little background, when I scouted the location everything was fine light and such had no problems at all, though the evening of the event they changed all the lighting and refused to even switch on any of the white lights so the entire event had this retarded purple glow all over it was fun did what i could with what was available though I did not even charge the client or anything just sent them the photos and went my own way

The event itself was a 21st plus a 18th party together, so heaps of young people running around and the artist was a local one , super great person at that, though fun started when the grandmother showed up, she complained that the lights where to bright so they switched off all the normal lights and kept the purple and green led lights on for the entire evening, that screwed me over so much, hell the only reason I did the event was to help out another photographer though seems the only reason he did not want to do the event was due to the fact that they keep changing things every few minutes

ether way definitely the most crap photos I have taken in my career was from that evening was extremely exited to see them critic it then the silent what the hell on there faces priceless almost the same face I made when I showed up to the event :P

Danny Brown's picture

I was featured in the Macro contest with this shot. I made the watermark after seeing your contest for Water Marks with Mike Kelly. You noticed it during the Judging and you thought it looked like a bunch of bumps. If you read it top to bottom, it is DBP (Danny Brown Photography). I've made a new one since then, but would love to see another contest or insight video on the subject. Thank You

David Ward's picture

The image was part of the cars critique.
My recollection is that Lee questioned why the front wheel was turned out and also questioned the positioning vis a vie the background.

The image is a composite of two images, included here for reference. The car was parked in the paddock area of a private race track facility southwest of Chicago. The background image started with an image of the EL station at Washington and Wabash in downtown Chicago.

I included a picture of the car on the track for reference. In this part of the course he is probably going about 150mph. He was learning high speed driving skills from an instructor associated with the company from which he purchased the car.

Andrea Re Depaolini's picture

Patrick Hall I know you may already have thought about this but it would be great to have photographers interacting with you with a video call.

Cliff Mueller's picture

This photo is from the group contest in late April 2020 and is the third time I've made the show. Both Lee and Patrick rated this 2 but they really thought it was bad (a one rating). I think their comments really missed the mark.

Lee said his eye kept going to the guy on the right and he didn't think the guy added to the photo. I'm glad his focus went there because that was the intent as that guy is the main subject and his zombie look while running the marathon is the main point of the photo as well as the grimaces of the runners just behind him.

Patrick thought I should have just captured the some better looking runners. The intent was to capture a real group of runners struggling at a hill on the course. Patrick also suggested a different field of focus like others have done but that was not the intention or point.

The following is from photographer Ben Long in regards to how to critique a photo:

“Now, when it comes time to critique, what most people do is feel like, "Oh, well, to be contributing, "I have to find something positive to say about it, "or I have to find something wrong with it "that I can suggest would make it a better image," and those are both fine ideas, but I think the real key to good critique is to not worry about finding something wrong, finding something that can be improved, finding a way to say something nice. I think critique starts by looking at the image and trying to discern what you think the photographer was trying to do. What do you feel in this image was their goal? If you can get to that, if you can get to that heart, to that essence of the image, everything else falls in place. Once you know what they were trying to do, then you know how they might be able to improve or where they might have stumbled.”

Hector Reyes's picture

I was featured in the Senior Portrait Critique.

I'm a fashion photographer in Dallas and don't really shoot Senior Portraits but Chelsea has modeled for me a few times and asked if I'd shoot her graduation portraits. I agreed because in addition to being a friend she was graduating from her university with honors (Cum Laude) and as a NCAA All American in the High Jump and I wanted to create images that celebrated her achievements as scholar athlete.

It was July 5 last year and we started the 3-look (graduation dress, casual, track uniform) shoot with her school’s track uniform at the stadium around 1pm. At that time of day, I knew the light wasn’t going to be great so I used as single strobe with a soft box in high speed sync mode to overpower the sun. As much as possible we waited for the sun to go behind clouds to shoot. We started off in the high jump area and by the time we got to the stadium bleachers the sun was no longer directly overhead (yay). It was the sun peeking through the clouds that created the much discussed highlight on her shoulder. My assistant was at camera left and just outside the frame (no need to photoshop her out). Settings were 1/1600 sec, f 2.8, ISO 100 at 24mm focal length. Since then, that shot has been referred to at the “Home of the Lions” glory shot and several other graduating Seniors have reached out to me to photograph their graduation portraits.

I was happy with the 4-Star critique. The only comment I felt like responding to was that you felt the crop was a little “tight” at the bottom. The actual photograph did have more room at the bottom but your staff must have cropped it for the video or your tablet.

Regarding others commenting about you “guessing” how the shot was made when in some cases there are details in the submission description… My submission did have a description just because I assumed you read them and I wanted to give some context for my submission. Following was my submission description.

“Chelsea graduated magna cum laude and NCAA All American in the high jump. I wanted to create an image that celebrated this scholar athlete and her achievements.”

I’ve included a 2nd image for context. Maybe only known to Chelsea and I, the yellow high jump bar at the top of the frame was set at her personal best and is what earned her her All American title.

Scott Short's picture

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