A Engagement series - feedback appreciated

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by rocky_choi, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Hi all,
    Here is a series of engagement sessions I'm having with a couple as I try to solidify my portfolio to move forward in my photography goals.These are my second and third engagement sessions shot respectively.
    The series has a theme of the four seasons and so far two of the seasons have been covered; summer and autumn.
    It would be nice to get some advice from the seasoned pros on this forum. Any criticism welcomed.
    Summer
    Autumn
    Much appreciation!
     
  2. Principally I only see snapshots in your series. Absolutely no design that I can detect......no intentional composition, no use of many of the conventions at alll.
    But......some people prefer the more journalistic approach.....and if that is your strength, then work it all you can.
    But my impression was a big "YAWN" .....regards, Robert
     
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Rocky, Gidday and welcome (back) to Photonet . . . there are nearly 150 image there and many are just subtle theme changes within the same scene.

    Only speaking for myself – but 6 cracker DIFFERENT images from each session depicting what you have to say; capturing the essence of the “seasons” theme; and nailing the Couple’s emotions would garner more in depth analysis from me.

    That said, there are advantages of seeing may images from the same shoot, as it allows an overall critique of technique, style and general comments upon technical ability . . .

    From scan of the all 144 images, you seem to have held exposure and focus and colour quite well overall. The man seems a little less engaging in some shots than the woman - and you could better your Rapport in this regard.

    I think you tend to use the wider FL a little too much and the foreshortening on some images is problematic.

    Some framing is a little chaotic - what mean is it seems on some (as one example where just the feet are missing) it seems you were undecided between a full shot and a three quarter shot and pulled neither.

    The lighting is generally OK - but there are some images with strong facial shadows – coming the WRONG way across the face, i.e IMO, the key light is on the wrong side for the way the Subject is facing.
    And there are some B&W conversions which do not seem to have a full range of tones, yet the colour version of that set have quite good tonal range and are in the moderate lighting key range? ? ?

    All in all I reckon you could get 8 to 12 diverse images which you consider the very best of your work and ask for comment on those only - I think you would get more out of a true critique nitpicking and detailed disecting that handful of images, than just general comments about the whole 144.
    WW
     
  4. As said, much of what you have, while feeling nice enough to look at, leave something to be desired in composition and lighting/PP work.
    So, a few key things to consider IMO...
    One, studying the direction of the subjects view and making any subsequent framing work to support that direction (couple looking into the frame together is good). I see some of this, though the placement is not following a pleasing composition in most of those. Heads too central or too far off the third lines, etc. Putting your couple off center should work in theory, but needs to create a sense of balance. Simply putting them at the edge for the sake of it does not always work well. Consider your content as you pull the trigger.
    Two. Lighting is flat in many, though you have worked some off cam stuff in the Summer gallery that shows promise. When shooting in light that is flat, look for which way the light is coming first, then try to use that as support to your plan. Be more purposeful in its inclusion as you have with your backlighting with the sun in some. Off cam flash is fun, but should support the overall scene IMO. That is to say, when you meter for how the shot will be, make your scene what you want it to be, but use the flash to correctly expose your subjects. These look slightly over exposed on the subjects. You can work a little magic with that in PP I dare say.
    Three. The couple seem relatively at ease, but the posing suggests some stiffness in the way you are directing them for many. One of the things that comes with loose, contemporary posing, is the need for the shooter (you) to draw the personality of your subjects out and then capture it. I don't think this is so easy as many assume it to be, unless it comes very naturally to the photographer. In that case, those people would say its easy.... to them. Work on finding what makes your couple react to each other well, then work that aspect of their personalities to bring out fun, serene calm, intense passion and so forth...
    Good for you taking the risk of sharing, keep it up.
     
  5. I concur with the above responses. Rather too much in the way of record shots. What I didn't get any feel for was what you were trying to say with many of your images. I looked at the summer gallery - let's take any one at random:
    Do you want it to say: 'Mike and Ann, over-flowing with excitement', or 'Mike and Ann, lost in each other in the moment', or 'Mike and Ann, crazy for each other', or 'Mike and Ann, gently reflective', or 'Mike loves Ann'?
    Because you have a lot of images that say: 'Mike and Ann, sitting on a bench in the marina', and 'Mike and Ann, looking uncomfortable' and 'Mike doing an impression of a panting dog'.
    The thing that's not obvious to me is that you had: an understanding of their story; an intention to frame them in a way that tells that story; and control of your tools to punctuate and stylize the story in a way that makes it interesting visually. You seem to have used most shots with off-camera lighting, but you haven't employed the lighting to communicate anything particularly meaningful, beyond illuminating their faces. And you've rarely varied focal length, framing or depth of field, so every shot seems rather reminiscent of a point and shoot.
    You have one shot that is much different to the rest, and it's the one where Ann is showing her engagement ring.
    In that shot you've got it right: there's a story, the image communicates to the viewer strongly, there's a feeling of life and vibrancy, and you've selected your tools (framing, focal length, depth of field) to tell that story in a strong way.
    You just need to employ the same thinking in the other shots.
    Please take the above as a critical (but kind) appraisal. :)
     
  6. Looks like you have a few shots in there that are really nice and culling the images down to a dozen for each category would be a good idea. I didn't see good lighting control at all and you're simply over-doing the wide apertures. Consider the image below: your subject is dead-center, she's OOF, the lighting is doing a better job illuminating the surrounding frame instead of your subject, her elbow appears bent in an awkward angle, and you've given her zero PS help with her eye-bags and teeth.
    I realize that wide-apertures appears to be just about every newcomer's "style", but generally when you have a closeup of the couple, you want them both in focus or have a good reason for one or the other being soft. Also, almost always, get your subjects eyes in focus.
    BTW, congrats on making your first post here at P-net. Looking forward to more participation in the future. Best wishes.
     
  7. Oooops, here's the image I referenced in my above post.
    00VohA-222237684.jpg
     
  8. I like the Fall images better. More interesting to me. Maybe it's the backgrounds, lighting, clothes, or evolution of your style?
    I also like the PS processing done to some of them. Would it be better to show those similarly processed shots as a presentation rather than mixing them up?
     
  9. Hey, Well now that your e-shoot has gotten a decent lashing I will say this. Your colors are amazing, you got some great emotion out of them, if those were my engagement pictures I would be super pumped. Keep rocking.
    -Ben
     
  10. Hi all,
    First of all, I expected nothing less from the members of pnet to really come out and give their truthful opinion about the set, much appreciation. Though criticism may be hard to swallow at first, constructive criticism is something I can accept and learn from, this isn't something I can get from friends.
    I have the winter shoot coming up and I'll have some homework to do before then.
    What I can take from rereading these feedback are attention to detail, purpose of each shot, and some of the basics of lighting and composition still needs work. Directing is also a key thing that I'm trying to develop, hopefully it comes with more experience. Consistency in a style is still what I'm trying to achieve.
    I agree that in terms of a critique, it makes sense for me to narrow down what I believe to be the better images.
    A few questions I have:
    • Given that most clients may not be professional models, getting them to be at ease in front of a camera may prove to be difficult, what are some ways to do it?
    • Sometimes I believe compositional rules can be broken and it's a matter of taste and trying out something different (whether it works is another story, that's why I'm here to ask), but at the end of the day if the client is happy with the results, do you ask yourself if it's just because they haven't seen something better?
    • Though I agree that 1 powerful image is better than 100 mediocre images. With the digital age, can you really say you can provide less images to the client? If you're still providing a fair amount (let's say 50 shots for an engagement session), can you still make sure EVERY shot tells a story and have a purpose to a 2 hour session?
    I am humbled by the feedback given and I look forward to participate more in the forum. Thank you all again for taking time out of your day to help out a student of the craft.
     
    • Given that most clients may not be professional models, getting them to be at ease in front of a camera may prove to be difficult, what are some ways to do it?
    Typically, using a longer lens will give you more distance from the couple and can help them to relax....the rest is up to your demeanor and style, if you relax and have fun then they will likely relax and have fun as well.
    • Sometimes I believe compositional rules can be broken and it's a matter of taste and trying out something different (whether it works is another story, that's why I'm here to ask), but at the end of the day if the client is happy with the results, do you ask yourself if it's just because they haven't seen something better?
    Breaking the rules is OK when you know the rules and break them on purpose. Taste is often an excuse for poor craftsmanship for many newcomers. I really don't give a rodent's behind to how happy the clients are with an image in judging the photographic merit of a photograph. Course customer satisfaction is an important element to the business side of wedding photography but clients typically suffer from an "untrained eye".....many new shooters do as well. BTW, the story-telling of images is a better subject for wedding photography 102 rather than 101.
     
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “Though criticism may be hard to swallow at first, constructive criticism is something I can accept and learn from, this isn't something I can get from friends.”
    IMO, This is an extremely important area and an area where there is much confusion, and that confusion often leads to threads like this going off the tracks – THIS thread is NOT doing that.
    Just scanning the replies above there is over 100 years experience behind a camera, shooting Weddings.
    A “Critique” of submitted work is not a negative thing . . . “criticism” is a word now which is so negative we need to employ another word “positive” just to make us feel good.
    What is “hard to swallow” is having the first Assignment handed back to you and in front of the whole class the Lecturer stating “This is pathetic – you have no right being here at all.” – which was my introduction after two weeks to my “Practical Darkroom” component of my Diploma of Photography.
    So what I am getting at is there was never any “decent lashing” handed out here at all . . . and to say so, even if meant tongue in cheek, is not a good idea IMO – such goes to destroying the concept of learning by sharing.

    ***
    “Given that most clients may not be professional models, getting them to be at ease in front of a camera may prove to be difficult, what are some ways to do it?”

    I am big on Rapport. Longer lenses are a practical solution. I agree and I employ that sometimes too, I like to work quite close, generally. My main ploy is: when meeting people I spend a lot of time talking, even before I raise the camera to my eye. I have done a few courses on interpersonal communication and transaction analysis – all have helped with other matter of Business, too.
    ***
    “Sometimes I believe compositional rules can be broken and it's a matter of taste and trying out something different (whether it works is another story, that's why I'm here to ask), but at the end of the day if the client is happy with the results, do you ask yourself if it's just because they haven't seen something better?”

    Ditto David’s comment. 100% agree with it. You have to know the rules. Know why the rules are there. Know why the rules work. Have a purpose to break the rules. Break the rules and then evaluate if breaking the rules have achieved the purpose.
    ***
    “Though I agree that 1 powerful image is better than 100 mediocre images. With the digital age, can you really say you can provide [fewer] images to the client? If you're still providing a fair amount (let's say 50 shots for an engagement session), can you still make sure EVERY shot tells a story and have a purpose to a 2 hour session?”

    YES. and then YES! (emphatically)
    Do Neil Ambrose’s Assignment: http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00UrFo
    This Assignment can be adapted to any “Story” – it is ideally suited is your “4 Seasons” theme
    I have had a go at this assignment three times – first was a Girl’s Début and then two stories of a swimming squad. In the last exercise I spent about 2 hours, pulled 28 shots and culled those to SIX to (attempt) tell a story of Six People which encompassed the whole of those Two Hours . . .
    As David mentioned - customer satisfaction (and sales) are important - and good quality images with an high order of merit also sell well, IMO.
    WW
     
  12. The winter session is coming up and after getting these feedbacks, I'm looking at the sessions with an entirely different perspective.
    The original plan was to go to a park with an outdoor skating rink, but given the warm weather, that might not be possible now.
    I will go through Neil's assignment and attempt to use the approach to shoot this upcoming session.
    Any recommendations for the winter shoot is appreciated.
    Also, just rereading my comment about 'criticism' when i said "this isn't something I can get from friends." I wasn't referring to 'friends here on p-net or in this thread. What I meant from that is I can't get this type of feedback from friends (mainly because they don't have the type of experience). Just want to clear that up. I am in fact learning a lot from the advice given and is grateful that you guys take time to critique my work.
     
  13. I'm just reading into Neil's lesson and came across this:
    If I were to photograph anything or everything I thought the client might like, I'd probably end up with a jumble of images without a clear viewpoint and no underlying story. More than likely, it would be a collection of random snaps.
    It's apparent this is what the two sessions are. I wish I came across this article sooner..
    Also, are there any particularly outstanding engagement set that I can reference to that demonstrates what we've been talking about?
     
  14. Rocky, firstly kudos to you for keeping your chin up. I appreciate your work to move on to better and more insightful imagery.
    I see you have grasped a part of shooting couples that is a little hard to "feel" early on (IMO). With that in mind, my personal style of working with a couple is to chat about something they feel familiar with. I will employ all manner of banter too. Just a quick example of that would be: ME: "Ok, <groom> stand behind <bride> and give a little kiss on the neck... (camera snaps a couple), now a gentle kiss on the cheek, (camera snaps a couple more), great. Ok, just turn and face each other... now touch your noses and foreheads,... great.... how about a kiss... no not for me, for her!!". (camera snaps as they giggle) "OK, now a sensual open mouth kiss... but don't really kiss, just get close then hold for a second (camera snaps a couple), great.... now imagine your dad walking in to see this...!" (camera snaps as they typically laugh aloud). If you can pull off that sort of thing, you have a complete set of images right there. Of course you want to develop more skits than this, but that is the way I work a couple who I want to get relaxed early on. From there I work on material they provide (typically). Each thing they tell me, I listen to and try to build a picture in my head of who they see themselves as. From that image, I draw inspiration to develop their personal "look", with my personal style.
    Hope that helps in that area a bit.
     
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I'm just reading into Neil's lesson . . ."
    AWESOME . . . keep going . . . ! ! !
    WW
     
  16. Hey Rocky - I've only just started photography. You've had a lot of expert criticism here, and I couldn't add much, but can I just say - good on you for putting yourself out there and inviting critique like this? You seem to have a really great attitude to asking for, and taking on board criticism, which, honestly, I wish I had.
    I'm sure you have great things ahead - well done, and keep doing what you're doing.
    Good luck!!
    Vineet
     
  17. Rocky - you've had great responses here from seasoned pro's and I think I can only add two things. First, I think your work is above average for a first timer's "rate my shoot" photography. I'm always pleased when someone posts work this good as a first effort. I thought your shots were technically well done and pretty decent, although the veteran response has been "yeah yeah, too much wide-open shooting, not enough story" so I have learned something here myself.
    The aspect I found lacking was any full-on passion between the couple. There were lots of "cute" shots but nothing hinting at more. This might be your direction, or the couple not being comfortable, but I'd suggest adding a few PG rated kiss shots. David Wegwart's suggested patter might get you this.
     
  18. Answering your last set of questions.
    1.) In addition to using a tele and chatting a bit before embarking on the shoot, and dovetailing with the storytelling approach, make their shoot personal. Make it be at the places they like, where they met or he proposed, or where they realized they were serious, etc. This way, their reactions and the journey can have some meaning that you can capitalize on. Looking at your shoots, most of the images are the ones you've seen done by others...stop here and do the forward/backward shot, etc... Instead of thinking about what shot to do, let the shots come naturally, based on what they do and their natural body language.
    2.) If the client is happy, I accept that and leave it alone. That doesn't mean I can't still have my own opinion of an image. Wedding photography (and engagements) is part personal expression and part pleasing the client. So shoot what makes the client happy and shoot what makes you happy. Doesn't matter if the client hasn't seen anything better. Most people (there are exceptions) don't think about or care about trends. If they look good in the photo, and it speaks to them, they like it.
    When I shoot engagements, I always shoot a few basic 'smiling at the camera' poses just to cover it quickly, and because I know the parents and family members like these. Many times, the couple likes them too, after they see them. I know one pose that I'm so tired of I could scream, but it gets used almost every time. I don't question my artistic integrity when I shoot this shot.
    3.) I don't pay much attention to the number of shots I produce, but then again, I don't always set out to do engagement sessions that are story telling. Even if I do, I still don't pay much attention. I shoot what I shoot. I think if you are really telling a story--this couple's walk along the pier, or whatever, each image is at least a stepping stone to the next one, if not stellar by itself.
     
  19. That's one thing I'm trying to figure out now. What to show with the winter engagement session.
    With a wedding, the story presents itself, but with an engagement...I'll need to some more thinking..
     
  20. "That's one thing I'm trying to figure out now. What to show with the winter engagement session. With a wedding, the story presents itself, but with an engagement...I'll need to some more thinking....."

    IMO, stop worrying or thinking about "story telling" and get the exposures and lighting basics under control. I would suggest that most of your images be set at f/5.6 or f/8.0 unless you have a well thought reason to go wider. The lighting piece will take the longest to master. For outdoor work I would suggest that you invest in: http://www.photovisionvideo.com/sto..._Code=P&Product_Code=LLT028&Category_Code=DVD When you've got the basics of lighting and exposure issues well in hand, you'll be better prepared to anticipate/capture the "decisive moments" and think in terms of story-telling. If need be, take a couple of thousand images at a wedding and piece together the story over the next couple of weeks that you're doing the post work on the images :)
     
  21. Rocky, I'm not going to comment on your photos because much has been said. But I do want to commend you on your ability to recieve constructive criticism and try to improve for your next photoshoot. It's great that you are open to new ideas and just remember, if you improve one thing every photoshoot for the rest of your career- you will be a success! Keep aiming for the stars!
     
  22. Yeah, Rocky's response and attitude have been awesome! There are a rare few here who can take criticism like you did in this thread - and it seems inevitable that with that sort of solid desire to improve, you will just keep getting better. Best wishes to you!
     
  23. Thank you all.
    I can't deny that it's a bit difficult...but I had the feeling that everyone who contributed had the intention of helping me improve. It really opened my eyes of how little I actually know and not to mention it really put my @$$ in my place..haha
     
  24. Rocky, I'll affirm that you've had a good attitude about the feedback and the critique but IMO, that should be the norm around the forum. I think it's the least that one can do when requesting and receiving feedback. Further, it's a shame that it's not the norm. Next step? Maybe a P-net subscription???
     

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