Critique the Community: Submit Your Best Family Portraits Now

Critique the Community: Submit Your Best Family Portraits Now

For the next episode of Critique the Community, we would like to invite Fstoppers members to send over their best Family Portraits for feedback. Your submission can include families, kids, or babies. We will keep submissions open through Friday, January 12th, at midnight and will release the feedback from Lee and Patrick early next week. Make sure to check out the guidelines below to make sure the picture you provide is eligible to be chosen.

To submit your family portrait images, you must:

  1. Have an active Fstoppers account.
  2. Upload your image to your Fstoppers profile page.
  3. Paste the URL of the image in the comments below.

The Internet can be a cruel and cutthroat place for photographers. For some reason, photographers are often extremely negative and cynical when looking at the work of their peers. Most photographers overwhelmingly say that they would like others to "C&C" their work, yet the conversation can often become less than inspiring and often downright depressing. Our hope with this segment, Critique the Community, is that the Fstoppers team can offer fair, yet encouraging commentary on some of the images found in the Fstoppers 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 two 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. 

One Star: The Snapshot

One-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  two-star picture. The majority of one-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 one-star images every single day with their smartphone. Most one-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 one-star images for any reason. 

Two Stars: Needs Work

All images, besides maybe five-star images, always have room for improvement, but two-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 two-star image has put some thought into the composition, exposure, and post production, but for some reason has missed the mark. Two-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 two-star images from time to time. 

Three Stars: Solid

A three-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 three-star image is good, but it's not great. Most part-time professional photographers have mostly three-star images in their portfolios. Usually, a level three image would have been rated four stars if it had been shot in a better location, or with a better model showing a better expression, or there had been better post-production. A photographer capable of taking a three-star image is capable of taking four and five-star images if they would simply pay more attention to the details. 

Four Stars: Excellent

Four-star images are fantastic. In most cases, four-star images have a certain style to them that links them directly to their creator. Four-star images usually require planning and attention to extreme detail. It's almost impossible to shoot a four-star image by getting lucky. Four-star images have almost flawless conception, composition, lighting, subject matter, and post-production. If you have any four-star images in your portfolio, you should be very proud of yourself.

Five Stars: World-Class

Five-star images are flawless and unforgettable. The amount of time, energy, and talent that goes into the average five-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 four to five 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 five-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 over 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 one star away from the community average).  If one of the 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?

Lee and I are not the greatest photographers in the world.  There are many many genres of photography that we have not been successful in or in many cases, have not even attempted in our careers.  However, I believe we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't in terms of commercial viability.  Not every image is meant to sell or book you work and that is okay!  Snapshots and sentimental images are great and most definitely have a purpose.  Hopefully, our insight and critiques can help you decide what is and isn't worth putting in your public portfolio.  I hope these video critiques can help you see beyond the technical and personal elements that make up an image and begin looking at your own work in a new light.    

David Strauss's picture

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

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Here is one from a spontaneous session at home. Usually my kids don't like to pose in front of the camera, but in this one my older boy was proudly showing his strength. As usual I only got a few minutes of his time, before his patience ran out and he was off to do something more interesting. I kind of like how this shot turned out, though.

I take this one long time ago and my client want to have the sunset behind him, it was difficult but I think we make it happen.

This is one of my all-time favorite family photos I've taken because I think it captures an authentic moment of pure joy between a father and his two sons.

Omg I love poodles!!! Such a cute pic

Christmas family shoot! It was a makeup artist that I had worked with that wanted to do a studio shoot.

Love this

Thank you! :) They're a gorgeous family!

One of the most intimate shots I've done... 'Little Dani'

This is my own family with me in the group. So a selfie family portrait.

This is a shot from a photo session with a new mom's baby.

A family portrait done for some good friends. I used 1 speed light with an umbrella and shot about 15 frames stitched together for the landscape feel and view.

I asked him to act like a star and he did

Taken while playing in the snow. It was a really fun day

Do ya think Mom will like this?

This was a really fun session, their daughter was amazing!

Heres one of mine favorite one, my sister and her son trying to please her. It one of the best pic which i managed to click of them and its very close to my heart.

Alright, here it goes!

This was one of the last shots of a family reunion I did at a friends house during a great sunset in Colorado. Fun group... You can actually see the individual personalities in every kid from the timid ones to the more confident ones by their body positions and faces.

I like this, especially because you only get one chance!

Here are a couple shots of our close friend's girls. We went to the beach and without really planning on anything and started shooting. It was a windy day as you can see from the hair being in big sis's face in the one pictures. At first, I was wishing it wasn't there, but after taking another look at it, I love how it brings candidness to the photo, you see the real bond these two have. Was a great time!

This was our family portrait when our second son was barely a week old!

This was our candid family portrait for 2017!

I made a homemade studio setup with the back of my sofa, the french window, a few blankets and 1 flash and created this image of my son at 9 months old.

Here is a street photography family portrait.

I have two photos I would like to enter, Both are very different and I just couldn't decide!
The first is from a beautiful wedding at Convict Lake in California, The bride and groom were swinging their young daughter on the shore and I was lucky enough to catch this perfect moment.

The second is from a family shoot near Donner Lake just outside of Tahoe. This young girl was fascinated with the bubbles that my assistant was blowing. This helped for more than just this photo of course, because her attention was not easily kept without the bubbles.

Street fair bubble girl
This cute girl was very serious about making a lot of bubbles. I shot this in Omaha, NE while there for a conference.

My family entered a contest at a "trunk-or-treat" gathering and won. Mission Impossible was the theme. We gathered my photo gear, plenty of cool gadgets, plastic weapons, you might see the " trash can top - satellite dish" to the right as well. On the side of the van we took black gaffers and spelled ACME PLUMBING and when I removed it the next day off came the clear coat off of the paint. I wonder what people think when I arrive to shoot Architecture and at exactly the right angle you can see A C M E P L U M B I N G . Oh, you might also recognize Martin in the front seat. Great Fun.

My 4 unwilling children, they hate posing in front of the camera. I had only a few minutes to capture this before baby girl melted because she wanted to eat the donut that was in her hands. Yes, I had to bribe her to come outside to take the picture.

Never done this before. We'll see how it goes. I focus stacked this, with one shot for the parents and one for the kids.

Here's one