Critique the Community Episode 4: Landscapes with Elia Locardi

Last week, we asked the community to submit their landscape photographs to be critiqued by Elia Locardi and Fstoppers. Thank you everyone for all for posting your pictures! Since we only had time to critique a limited number of submissions, we selected a range which covers different skill levels and types of landscape scenes. Check out the images we've selected.

Feel free to include your thoughts and responses to Lee and Elia in the comments below. To continue with more discussions and questions on landscape and nature photography, check out the Landscapes 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 snap shots only. Snap shots 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 post production 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 smart phones. 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 post production but for some reason has missed the mark. 2 star images 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 post production. 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 post production. 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. 4 star images usually require 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 post production. 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 post production 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, I 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, I'd 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?

For more of Elia's work, check out his recent tutorial with Fstoppers or his online platforms below: 

Blame The Monkey - Official Website of Elia Locardi

Elia's social media platforms:

Fstoppers Community:


500 Pix:


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Gabe Border's picture

Thank you for the Critique! I'm grateful for the feedback. And good eye Lee..there is a pen tool sky drop that I learned form the Mike Kelly tutorial. 300 miles(78 of them dirt) 12 hours of hiking with camera gear and canyoneering equipment. The trip that produced this image was unforgettable.

Brian Carpenter's picture

Beautiful selections.

matty warren's picture

Thanks for the critique guys! I just wanted to state that this is a 7 image pano and that the result image is very true to the scene (no manipulation to the sky or foreground). This is in Newfoundland by the way. Thanks again.


Lee Morris's picture

Well that makes the image even more amazing. I may change my vote to 5 stars

Elia Locardi's picture

I agree with Lee. Awesome capture!

Alexios Ntounas's picture

Thank you very much for the critique Lee and Elia! I thought about clarifying some of your thoughts. Yes, I have coloured the umbrellas, the original colour was blue but I thought it would make the shot more interesting. Yes I have cloned 3 of the umbrellas. The reason was that there were people with towels and stuff on those umbrellas and this didn't look nice in the shot. Maybe a change in the shadows would get me a 4 from Elia?! As far as your question Elia whether this was shot using a drone, the answer is no. Neither it was shot from a hotel window Lee. To visit this beach you have to get down around 350 stairs! It is one of the most beautiful beaches of Greece and maybe in the world and it really worth the trouble of getting there. Once again thank you very much for your comments. You are doing a great work!

Lee Morris's picture

Thanks for the update!

Paul Ciura's picture

Hey all,

First off, thanks for picking my photo to review and thanks to Elia for pronouncing my last name correctly in the video. It's a Polish last name that doesn't end in SKI. :)

Photo was the one with lightning strikes at Clearwater Beach, Florida. Those lightning strikes in the photo are real. We get some wicked storms/lightning down here.

The specs for the shot:

Hiding under Pier 60, single exposure at F/5.6, 10 seconds, ISO 100 at 24mm.

I was using a 5DMk II at the time with Magic Lantern setup to take some time intervals shots of the storm.

I appreciate the honest feedback guys! As my kids would tell me after watching this video...Daddy! You are famous! :)

Elia Locardi's picture

Thanks for the follow up Paul and I'm glad you were hiding in (somewhat) safety under the pier. That was one hell of a storm! Oh, and I'm also happy to hear I pronounced your last name correctly. People often get confused with my first name so I always make a big effort with others. :)

Luc Szczepanski's picture

Lee, your mixture of confusion with Elia's ratings cracked me up every time. Elia points out specifics that nobody would've ever considered. You begin to understand why he's at the top of the landscape photography game. Some great discourse there guys, entertaining and insightful.

Elia Locardi's picture

Haha, yes. Lee has mastered the puzzled look with my ratings. ;)

Rob Nitsch's picture

Great video, always interesting to hear the thought process of other photographers. How about picking another 20 and making another one. Of course you would have to pick my submission ;) seriously, though, great content!

Patrick Hall's picture

We def have plans on doing this again and again. I think we've done about 4 or 5 now so keep an eye out for the next batch of submissions.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks a lot for the critique! I really appreciate the feedback. You guys pointed out some things I hadn't noticed before in my own image … time for some more shooting, I suppose.

Andre Kayser's picture

Thanks so much for your critique! It helped me a lot! The lighthouse being dragged into the ocean is in the city where the surf world record was set (Nazaré Portugal that is), the sea there is so ruff, that it really can destroy literally anything. I would suggest watching the video of the surf record on youtube, after that you understand. The bay is called the widow maker bay, because so many fishermen died there. Just for clarification on what you are seeing and how this is even possible!
I hope you will being doing this sort of critique again and maybe make it a contest, for whoever gets the best rating gets some fstopper thingy as a present? That would be really amazing!

Shyama Prasad Mishra's picture

Great Critique and congratulations to all the shooters whose photos got featured.

I am little sad to miss out on an opportunity to get some feedback, however I do understand that Elia and Lee are extremely busy individuals.

We appreciate your time and feedbacks guys. Keep up the good work.

Regarding getting a chance to get expert opinion, there is always a next time. :)

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Come on, guys. It's pretty unfair to critique the actual location of the photograph. Not everyone can hop on a plane and travel to the most exotic places on the planet. Looking through some of these portfolios, it looks like some of the people who submitted are in the process of learning, particularly post production. I've always considered the purpose of critique as how to take what is in front of us and make it better. You can't go back in time and get another composition (if it was even physically possible in the first place) or go to another location altogether.

Haha, I just totally critiqued your critique.

Patrick Hall's picture

The goal for CtC has always been to give as objective of a rating as possible to help people understand why an image should or shouldn't go into their own portfolios. In order for that rating to be objective, we have to keep a blind eye to anything other than aesthetics including effort, camera gear, photographer's experience, etc etc.

I totally agree with your statement about everyone not being able to travel to the most amazing locations but if you want a strong portfolio that idea has to be thrown out the window. If you want to be a fashion photographer, you better have amazing fashion models in your portfolio. Same goes with Landscapes.

The angle we take with CtC is "will this image get you work" in the genre you are selling to towards. It's far too easy to give everyone a pat on the back and be overly supportive but at the end of the day everyone, including us, has to keep the bar raised high.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I do agree the bar should be set high and there are some background issues that should be disregarded. However, I also think that it's kind of crazy to critique a piece without knowing why it was taken. A portfolio is a visual resume of sorts and as such should include samples of the work you are trying to get and you should have several portfolios or resumes. Without knowing what the end goal or the end "user", it's really impossible to give much useful feedback. And I've seen CtC somewhat play with the idea of what the picture is used for or what the end goal was even in this video. The photos I take for architects certainly wouldn't compare to some of the architecture photography, however that is how I am required to take them for submission to the Archives, If I happen to take the picture for a big shot architect or a well known building, of course I'm going to include that in my portfolio for that type of work, even if I wouldn't hang it in my living room or send it to an art gallery.

Any useful critique should include tips to make the image as it exists better. Portfolios grow as we grow as artists. I don't have the same pictures in my portfolio as I had when I was 18 and I would assume you wouldn't either. Some of the members ARE actually 18 though and these may be the best images they have. To say that someone should table an image because it isn't the same quality as someone with umpteen years of experience is a very discouraging stance to take to younger people.

Keep in mind I say all of this while I edit a cavern series where everything going through my mind is "I wish I could have gotten a shot from 10 feet above my head" or "I wish I hadn't been shooting from inside a 12 inch wide hole".

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

I kind of agree with all of you here... but I also do believe in "Tough Love"! Knowing the fact that anyone with a DSLR is taking photos these days, it's harder to become known as a professional photographer (i'm guessing people who submit their picture here are trying to be pro and not just doing it for fun!! or at leas i hope!!)... sure you can probably make a living by shooting family portraits even if you're not THAT good in your city with a small studio.... BUT if you wanna make it as a landscape and travel photographer, it's not really the same thing. you just HAVE to be THAT good... and they're right. you either need to be someone who can make EPIC photos from a not so good location (only a handful photographers like that in the world), or you need to travel to places and have a really good looking subject and location to shoot. you just need to get out there. there's no way around it... this is exactly what i'm suffering from right now. specially with a full time job that gives me only 2 weeks vacation a year... it's extremely tough but this is not to discourage anyone. I think setting the bar high and telling young people who wanna make it as photographers like myself that their picture is not good enough is absolutely what a critique should be. in fact, i'm hoping to submit some photos and if i don't hear negative things i'm gonna be pissed.

Watching what Elia has done inspired me so much. i EVEN gave up insuring my motorcycle for next year to be able to pay for better trips. (trust me, when someone doesn't insure his beloved motorcycle, it's a huge deal)... but yeah anyways! good luck to all of ya!

Paul Ciura's picture

In my case, I am doing photography as a hobby only. If it was my job, I don't think I would enjoy it as much.

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

you bring up a good point. but in the short time that i started photography as hobby, i think i really want to make it my job. it's important to me to be able to do something i love and make a living out of it. I really need to do this for myself to prove myself that i can do it. even at this point, it's not always fun. when i'm on vacation, i get up super early every day to get to the same location to get some shots for my portfolio and everything on my vacation revolves around photography.. so i get a sense of what it can be like at times... but then it's the marketing and business i'll have to deal with which is the only part i really don't like.... however, i still believe it's way better to spend your 8-10 work hours doing something you love, rather than doing anything just to pay the bills..... i just need to do it! and i'm willing to do anything for it. like i said, the bike is in the garage now. already cancelled the insurance! LOL.

btw, which picture was yours?

Paul Ciura's picture

It was the lightning one.

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

fantastic. you did good for a location like that.

stephen brownhill's picture

Firstly Thanks Fstoppers for picking my image to go up in the firing line with Lee and Elia. Respect to these two top class shooters; I am stoked to get any feedback but especially from these two guys!

I do agree that its not an epic waterfall by any means; I don’t think we have many jaw dropping falls in Cornwall, UK (where I live). Saying that I will put the feedback to good use, and will search for bigger better locations to shoot. I appreciate the comment from Elia about where I maybe able to put my images to good use for local tourism board for example. I intend to continue to build a killer portfolio.

Thanks so much guys and keep up the epic work- loving it !

Didrik Linnerud's picture

Thanks for the like on instagram! I would love a feedback on these! Thanks.
- Didrik

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

is it here where we can submit for critiques? i'd love to submit some!

Lee Morris's picture

We will post about the next one soon on the front of Fstoppers.

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

thank u sir!

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

sorry but where exactly on your site will you post this landscape critique again? I don't wanna miss it so is it on the actual main page?

Lee Morris's picture

it may be a while before we do another landscape one. We have a wedding one on the front page now.

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

is there any mailing list we can sign up for the landscape one? or a reminder of some sort?

Devon Budd's picture

Thank you for the Critique! That was really fun to watch haha.
You asked a couple questions about my image so I figured I would let you know.
The image is only one shot and was not composited. I think the color change in the sky from top to bottom was my poor use of an ND Filter. As for the direction of the lightI think it was just a really really bright hot day 35 degrees or so and the sun was just before noon. Thanks for the 3!
Any tips for maybe reprocessing the shot?


Lee Morris's picture

That's amazing. Something about it looks so surreal and I don't mean that in a bad way. Care to post the original unedited shot?

Devon Budd's picture

Sure, but you'll have to give me some tips for it in Post haha.

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

HUH! it wasn't a composite after all!!!! interesting!

Devon Budd's picture

No it wasn't haha. But I am really interested in why they thought the light was a bit weird.

Ramtin Kazemi's picture

me too. but to be honest i didn't think it was the first time i looked at it. nothing was out of order for me lol :P anyways. that just goes to show, you NEVER know. if you know what you're doing you can make the impossible believable in photography. and vise-versa... it's art! i think if a photograph makes you feel good by looking at it then it's a good photograph. we shouldn't be too worried about if it was real or not.

Devon Budd's picture

I like the way you think

David Campbell's picture

Really enjoyed the variety in this critique - both in the styles of photos presented, and the feedback given by Lee and Elia.

A sidenote, I recognise the location in Iain MacFarlane's photo. It is Ubirr Lookout in Kakadu, Australia. I visited there recently and can vouch for it being one of those elusive spots where the location and view are spectacular, but it is difficult to find a composition that 'works' or does the location justice in terms of the sheer scale of the view.
An added complication is that the site is very sacred to the Aboriginal people, and carries the risk of thousands of dollars in fines if you don't vacate the area by 7pm (incl a 20-30min walk back to the nearest car park), making sunset shots like this a bit of a gamble.
My recommendation for this spot would be to visit during the wet-season (chance of thunderstorms, more dramatic skies) and to compose either more west-ward to include more of the flood plains, or even shoot east towards the more desolate looking Arnhem Land.

Dave Marco's picture

Thanks so much for the feedback, all valid points.

@ Elia - I didn't notice the issue with the water on the left, will clean that up, thanks for pointing out. The photo was indeed taken on a stormy day, in April if I remember right.

@ Lee - the full resolution is almost 9000 pixels wide (and looks great printed big) but for obvious reasons I don't post it online. Here is a link to higher res file: By the way, the place was really blue :)

Amir Hanna's picture

Pronounced Backgrounds, i would love feedback maybe on the next Critique the community!

Leo Litvac's picture

Thanks for the critique guys, it's been a real honor and pleasure being reviewed by you! Just wanted to point out that this is one of those difficult to capture points, that's why the composition is a little awkward, also it was captured with a kit lens on a shitty camera :). I also wanted to point out that there's not so much traffic on this road, I would've like some more trails too, but I couldn't get any, also this is a multiple exposure shot of 14 frames, for the light trails. With all that said and with your critique in mind I will certainly return there for a reshot.
Thanks again!