Critique the Community Episode 12: Swimwear with Dixie Dixon

A couple weeks ago, we asked the Fstoppers Community to submit their swimwear images for a special episode of "Critique the Community" with Dixie Dixon. Patrick met up with Dixie and went through 20 images of the submissions to give their thoughts on the quality of each image according to the Fstoppers rating system and how the images could be improved. Check out the image selection below and add your thoughts and ratings to the comments below. 

Dixie is a professional photographer based in Dallas, Texas and focuses on swimwear, fashion, and lifestyle to bring different brand visions to life. To view some of her work check out her website.


















5 star image



(this photo preview was removed by the user)



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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chase stanley's picture

Stoked to have a photo reviewed! Thanks guys.

Percy Ortiz's picture

I gave yours a 5 Chase ;) winner in my books

Martin Van Londen's picture

Oh my gosh.. You guys crushed my hopes and dreams.. Lol oh well. At least I have some good feed back to bring to my next shoot with a model. Thanks for the review!

Mike Freestone's picture

I liked the last shot a lot, the blown out highlights didn't bother me like it did for you guys. But the last image on the bottom left, looks like the photographer's hair blowing around in front of the lens? or maybe a spectators hair blowing into the frame?

Patrick Hall's picture

I now see that Larry Sanders took that photo and he is actually from Charleston. I would bet it was sea grass from the dunes here at our beaches but I'm just guessing here.

Percy Ortiz's picture

Another great critique as usual guys but i felt this one closer to heart as this was my bread and butter up until last year. We needed a bit more "hard love" from Dixie :P Peter Hurley and the headshot one is still my favourite one.

Fritz Grimm's picture

A honor you reviewed one of my photos! Thank you guys you are amazing! Some of your tips you mentioned I shot as well

Nasser Ali's picture

Even if I am not submitting photos to the critique, I always enjoy these beneficial videos.

Thanks Fstoppers :)

First time watching a critique episode - great idea. Great and non-humiliating reviews! I am going to watch more of the series.

Hi There,

When is the next photo review for swimwear ?


David Strauss's picture

It will probably be a while. We like to rotate in different genres of photography regularly. Every week and a half or so we'll put out a post about what the next submission topic will be.

That 4th photo is def a composite.

Fritz Grimm's picture

It´s not a composite. If you check out my page you can see some other photos from that shooting.
Here a BTS article from the shoot:
But I would like to know what makes you think it is a composite Michael?

I'm sorry, I meant photo #4. The number below the image threw me off :). I'll make an edit to my original comment.

Seagram Pearce's picture

Thanks to someone on FB for showing me this. Thanks for the flattering comments. If you're curious, here are some specs about the shoots:

Shot with 4x 800W redheads. A little underpowered for the huge swimming pools, so had to push iso. Wasn't happy with it at the time, but it did a little something.

Smoke machine was going full blast. >_<

The girls have zero retouching on them. Looking back, the standing girls elbow STILL bugs me. But whatever, it's raw, so it is what it is.

The post production was coloration - WB balancing the scene & then warming it.

Patrick - It's :)

Patrick Hall's picture

Well I have to say you did an outstanding job. I do now notice the elbow but that's an easy retouch. Good work on getting quality models, that's the one area I feel like so many people fail to find the best talent possible. Killer photo

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thanks so much for the 5-star rating, guys! I was not aware of this, but I am glad my image was included in this critique :)

Edit: It was a one light setup, just like you assumed, Patrick, + simple hood reflector, far away, the shadow behind her back is a little brighter because of the white swimsuit that reflects the light back onto the wall and fills in the shadow :)