Critique the Community Episode 9: Family Portraits

Last week we asked the Fstoppers Community to submit some of their family portrait work for the next episode of Critique the Community. We accepted anything family related, groups, kids, or babies and chose 20 of them to give feedback on. Check out the submissions below and listen as Lee and Patrick give their thoughts.

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 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, 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 photo shoot 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.

Log in or register to post comments

Dang - I just got rinsed! Incidentally, I'm not the father in the shot :)

Hope we weren't too hard on you or anyone else. Our intention isn't to discourage but we are trying to be honest and this really is the first time we have ever seen these images.

I can't remember what I said about your image in the video but I basically feel like it's a fine shot I'm just not sure it's going to be a "money maker" on your site.

I wasn't the father in the shot of mine either! I suspect the really obvious remote tripod shot had set off a train of thought, which I quite understand.

I thought your comments were entirely justified - it is really good to see how someone who knows nothing about you views the shot.

In my shot, the family sort of posed themselves - they are not a 'touchy-feely' family and had had a bad experience with a photographer forcing his pose on them and creating images which they felt didn't represent them.

How do you balance your view of what makes a good pose with what a family feel natural? I am very new to that.

Overall your comments seemed more positive than the 2 stars you gave me!

Thanks for the critique! Very helpful ... definitely working on learning strobes more.

Hey guys! Thanks for the critique! All those shots were done in 45 minute family sessions. I actually work for a professional studio here in Utah. We Average 37 sessions a day, so all our photographers get good are posing lighting and getting expressions fast. One of our managers used to actually write for your website, Kenny Coverstone.

Will definitely take everything you guys said and use it to make my next shots better!

Wow. Did our team pick 5 of your images??? That was certainly a mistake but you have great work.

Is it me or were there a lot of excessive fades and tilts chosen?

Somehow I missed to join this episode. Would have loved to see what you guys say to a totally different Family picture from a single mother...

Love how you talk about the photos, even I'm sometimes dont agree to some of your thoughts :)
I got lots of natural light shot on film portraits, so maybe you see one of my pictures on next one

So half the images were from one photographer? Doesn't seem fair.

HAHAHAHA! Guys, I'm the photographer of the last image! The kids with the Cheerios! The kid under is actually the older brother. He's about 14 years old! lol I'm not a member of the family. We wanted to explore the idea of how the teenagers are always hungry. The mess in the kitchen and the clothing was intended to simulate everyday life. I do a lot of funny stuff with my families... Also I assure you, It got me a lot of clients! ;) See more examples here: I thought that you kinda hit the nail when you said that there are different genres of family photography, although it did not really show in the reviewed images. That one fits my portfolio if you take a look at the whole thing ;) I actually try to be different ;). Thanks a lot for reviewing it, I had a ton of fun watching you!

I think you should have one that goes in the opposite direction and do photo that are just family terrible like awkward family photos

I'm really glad you guys are doing this. So rare that there is honest, constructive feedback in the community.