Ben sussman's picture

Comments on landscape photos

I am new to this site and received a 1-star rating & comment on a landscape photo (below) I posted that read “snapshot photo”. When I used to comment on Flickr I always tried to pinpoint a specific aspect of the photo that I thought could be improved and I always gave encouragement to the post-er. One could say something like... needs color balance, subject lacks focus, distracting objects in the way, etc. To say “snapshot photo” is like saying “it stinks”. Maybe it does stink but that’s unhelpful if you don’t say why.

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Phillip Breske's picture

I agree completely. When I comment on a photo, I try to make (what I think are) helpful suggestions instead of just saying I don't like it. There are very, very few images that can't benefit from a little touch here and there and I think we ALL miss things from time to time. It's always good to have a new set of eyes look at a photo to point out the things we tend to miss when we are too emotionally connected to our own images.

I also try point out the specific things I like about a photo because "that's beautiful" by itself is as bad as "that sucks" to me.

imagecolorado's picture

Your first critique should be your own critique. Tell us what you think is wrong?

Alan Brown's picture

Hi Ben, thanks for posting and being open to critical comments. I truly believe that critiques when properly performed and with sincerity are the best way to learn.
To answer what I believe is your first question - I believe in order to achieve a 2 start rating you have to show enough in the image to indicate that the subject has been assessed and composed/processed to show it in its most favorable light.

To critique, I can see your intent - the sun is going down and you want to capture the rays as they highlight the water in front of you. That you have achieved
However, there are a number of things that detract from this image, primarily revolving around the composition (which is THE most important element of any image) - I'll highlight the main ones I see;
- my eye is being pulled to the boat, which seems incidental to the image and sailing out of the scene. If this were lower right/sailing in it may strengthen the image rather than detract from it.
- I believe there would be more interest in the sky. Had you tilted your camera up the sun lighting up the sky would have probably created more interest (especially so if you time right/ add saturation in post-processing). Had you placed the boat in the intersection of the bottom/left 1/3rd of the frame this would have improved significantly.
- ensure you horizon is absolutely level (or clearly and intentionally not to suit composition that benefits as such)
- Coloring. Although you have captured a sunset/sunrise there is very little color in the image.

I always try to ask myself questions BEFORE I take an image
- if I was painting the scene in front of me what would I leave in/out? - What is the subject that is drawing me to take the image, and how can I best position it and hold the viewer's attention?
- what am I feeling (or want to convey) as I take the image, and how can I pass that on to the viewer?

I hope this helps. I have been there myself and faced some pretty severe critiques in my younger years. I'd encourage that you look at images you like and figure out why, and participate in critiques so you start asking questions and become more critical of your own. Be careful though - through growth you will likely find that all those keepers that you took last year now don't look so appealing.

Good luck, and enjoy the time you take to create each shot - that's the true reward,

Peter Nestler's picture

Alan's comments are spot on. Being intentional about what you're shooting is important to creating a shot that has impact. With that said, as you improve you will still get ratings that are quite off on here. If you truly love the photo, that's what matters, though it would be helpful if people explain why they rate things the way they do. I have a number of shots that average 4 stars, but the first rating I get is always a 2 or 1. Someone just doesn't like my style and makes a point of rating every picture badly without an explanation ever.
If you're going to do shots straight into the sun, you might also start learning to do some bracketing so you can bring some detail into the shadows (unless you have a strong silhouette that looks best in shadow) without blowing your highlights. It's a tricky balance to process so the image remains natural looking, but has more interest in the details. First and foremost is composition. Look for an interesting foreground element that can make the image more dynamic.

For a start, I will stress that not limiting oneself to the standard “must use the rule of third” and others is good. I do like the idea of having just a band of sky. But here is an unsorted bunch of ideas that might improve the picture, although based in many case on personal preference:
- The composition still need work. I like having just a band of sky, but I feel like a bit more of it would be better. If you really want to focus on the reflection, as underlined by Alan Brown, a vertical shot could have been great. Also, the reflection is almost centered but not really. I would either center it, or put closer to a third (keeping the but on the other third). (Third is an indication, not necessarily accurate though.)
- The reflection should be totally vertical.
- Because the background is to flat and to dark to see any depth, it is also weird to not have it horizontal.
- There is a weird reflection almost at boat-level. It looks like pollution. I personally prefer having it removed in post.
- I feel like the sky would benefit from more vibrance.
- I prefer having the white shadows a bit less blue too (through simply reducing the saturation of the blues).

David Russell's picture

Hi Ben, welcome to the site and the group.

You're absolutely right - you should always provide feedback that is constructive if rating an image poorly.

Receiving harsh ratings with your first images is quite a common experience on here I think. I was really surprised at how low my images were rated when I joined about 4 months ago.

Since then however I've really come to see the wisdom and value in the star rating system when you look at it objectively. It has helped me to be much more critical of my images and understand what other people see in them, or don't see, and understand that I can do better.

This image reminds me of some of the very first I ever took. It's exactly the same subject of the setting sun on the water. There lies one of its problems - it does not show anything different or uncommonly beautiful. You could take this photo on almost any evening anywhere in the world with water and a sunset. You need to try and find what is unique and special about a place, and put that front and centre in your work.

Remember that no image exists in a vacuum. The people viewing your image have probably already been exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of images today alone and they will rate your work against the standard of everything they see, consciously or not.

A few more specifics:

The boat doesn't really work. It looks like a sloppy composition, especially with its mast cut off by the edge of the frame. An easy fix next time. Get rid of everything that does not need to be in the shot.

The white houses in the dark shadows at the back look messy.


Try cropping this down to just a portrait of the sun and the reflection. Get rid of all the distractions.


Have you done any processing on this or is it straight out of camera this way?

Chris Jablonski's picture

Ben, I'd ignore the numerical ratings. I do. Completely.

With this image, I can see the appeal of the scene, including the texture of the water and the sun's reflection.

It would look better to me if I could see more detail in the dark areas, especially the shore, but also perhaps the foreground water. You're facing a major challenge here in this regard, shooting straight into the sun. Sometimes, excessive contrast makes a satisfying image impossible (not here, necessarily, but sometimes it's better to leave the shot you'd like, and try another idea).

I'd place the sun off-centre, maybe walking to the right if possible, so the yacht could still be more or less where it is in the frame, with the sun to the right. I like the high horizon, but I'd try to leave some room above the yacht's mast-tops, so it looks as if it's floating - I know it is (!), but it looks subjectively trapped by the frame cutting the mast tops, like when something's caught in a door.

Ideally, I usually put a boat sailing INTO the frame (so maybe walk left instead).

I hadn't read the other comments before starting mine, but I note we say a lot of similar things. Good on you for seeking critique, and don't assume others know better! Just 'cause we have opinions... ;-)

Mark Guinn's picture

First, welcome to the site! Don't let the 1 star "hit-n-run" vote run you off. This site can be a great tool for growth, especially if you focus on the groups like this more than the profile page. Images on your profile page will get roasted more often than not.

As for your photo, I think Alan nailed it. I would bring the horizon down to the middle line to show off both the sky and the water, kind of like your other photo "Tel Aviv Sunset." The sky looks like it would produce some beautiful colors with a little processing. Also, the trees in the background are too dark in contrast to the white houses. I think if you were to balance out the shadows/highlights, the image would have a lot more warm color to bring it to life.

I will respectfully disagree with Alan on one point, though: I like the sailboat, especially if there was more sky. Yeah, my eye automatically goes to it, but to me it completes a nice calm scene.