Critique the Community Episode 14: Food Photography

Last week, we asked the Fstoppers community to submit their best pictures of food to be reviewed by the Fstoppers team for our next episode of "Critique the Community." To change things up a little for this episode, we had a local commercial photographer, Andy Hagedon, join us to give some fresh perspective. A total of twenty images were selected to be reviewed. Check out the selections and add your thoughts and critiques in the comments below. 

Our guest this week, Andy Hagedon, shoots commercially and is based out of Charleston, SC. To view some of his work, check out his website or follow in on Instagram: @asmartimage























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?

David Strauss's picture

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

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I'm curious, did anyone else think the spoon on the strawberry image looked really wacky? Shocked no one caught that.

I thought that! In fact it was the first thing that sprang to mind. I thought it looked really out of place because the purple is, well, odd.

HaHa thanks for your honesty with regards to my non intended wacky spoon shot.
These critiques are really good as my image obviously wasnt as good as i thought it was so a good learning curve for me, thanks :-)

Thanks for your feedback on my image. Can't complain about a 4 star from you. I agreed on some of what you said to make it better, thanks again.

Thanks for the feedback, uploaded an alternative image and would be great to hear anyones thoughts

Way better, should have uploaded this one in the first place!

Thanks Mike

I like this so much more.

Thanks Lee.

As entertaining as it was informative! Great job and thanks for putting this together. Already thinking of how to apply what I've learned from the video to my work.

Thanks for the critique. Learned that you don't need pro equipment to get a 4 star rating. Tried the chopsticks on the plate but found it to distracting. I made the plate and surface myself glad you liked it. I'm almost starting to believe i could make a living doing this ;)

Seriously, it seems like the guys critiquing these images don't know nearly enough about food. Which is a problem. I mean, they didn't even know that the "onions" in the crab photo were scallops. WTF? Maybe that's subtle racial ignorance, because it's a Chinese dish, but *come on*, at least understand what you're seeing. Also, not knowing the difference between *lettuce* and *cabbage* ... please, don't review food again - get someone who knows what is what.

Also, re-watching this, I wonder if the screen you're viewing the images with is up to the task of fairly representing the images. I have a decent laptop, but I also watch the YouTube video on a high-end LG OLED screen. The TV YouTube images look *much* better than the images on my laptop. I'd recommend using a tuned, high-end monitor before you comment.