Critique the Community: Submit Your Natural Light Portraits Now

Critique the Community: Submit Your Natural Light Portraits Now

Our next episode of "Critique the Community" will feature natural light portraits. Use this awesome featured image by Dani Diamond as inspiration for your submission. While images which include the use of reflectors are acceptable, please do not include any shots that include extra light (flash or continuous) added by the photographer. Please get in your submissions by Sunday, October 18th and you'll have the chance to have your image critiqued by the Fstoppers team. For this episode, we will be giving feedback to 20 pictures. To qualify, you must follow the submission rules below.

To submit your natural light portrait, you must:

1. Have an active Fstoppers account.

2. Upload a natural light portrait 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.    

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360 Comments

Previous comments

Here's my attempt at a natural light portrait.

Anthony Dalesandro's picture

Courtney Refakes shot at the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, CA.
Leica M-P, Summicron 50mm processed in Capture One

johnkarras's picture

My son.

Mitchell Gerdes's picture

Running in the Park

Thoughtlessness by Amogha Krishna

Jacques Cornell's picture

Why is the cover girl trying to show me her left tit? I don't understand the obsession with soft porn on this site. Wanna be a better photographer? Don't lean on the easy crutch of T&A.