Over the weekend I asked our community members if they would like Lee and I to give critiques of some of their work. The response was huge, so we have picked 20 random images to look over and give our honest opinions and suggestions. I never thought being this brutally honest would actually be quite fun and productive.
The internet can be a cruel and cut throat 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 times become less than inspiring and often down right depressing. Our hope with this new segment called Criqitue the Community is that Lee and I can offer a 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 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?
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 own 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.
If you want to have your work critiqued in future episodes, please leave a link to your image on this post here.
If you want more examples of how our rating system works, head over to Lee's post How Would You Rate Your Photography?