Using the Critique Criteria – a worked example

Critique evening is coming soon but are you lost for words? You know what you like but you can’t say it out loud? Well, we can help with that!

Not so long back we introduced a set of Criteria to help when selecting images for competitions. The selection panel also found the Criteria helped them when providing feedback to the Club about their selections. Now we reckon we’ve got a handy tool to help us all make assessments of our images, our own and others’, and provide the photographers with structured positive criticism about how successful their pictures are, and possibly what could be done better.

You can find a copy of the Criteria together with an explanation of each section here.

To illustrate how you could use the critiquing process, Nick and Norman swapped images with each other and, using the Criteria, critiqued each other’s picture. After the dust settled and they had put away their handbags, here’s the outcome. Why not have a go yourself?

 Nick's imageNorman's image
Click on the image to view full size
Carham Parish Church Photo: Nick Prior

Carham Parish Church
Photo: Nick Prior

Steps to the Sea 2 Photo by Norman Dodds

Steps to the Sea 2
Photo: Norman Dodds

The photographer's intentionsNick says: "The intention was to capture a country church hard bitten by history in a key location in the corner of the Border between Scotland and England. Didn't want a pretty "postcard picture", and wanted to give some feel for the wintry afternoon".Norman says: "It was a horrible day and I wanted to get a feel of that. I would have preferred an even slower shutter speed but I didn't have a tripod so this was as slow as I could get with the camera supported on a wall. I don't think it's a great picture by any means but I think there's plenty to say about it!! "
Norman's comments:Nick's comments:
Content
Criteria detail
A very typical Borders scene taken on a very typical Borders day!

The nature of the subject and the light on the day make this image less wow than it might have been on a different day.

However, there is a high interest level with subject matter that takes us there in an instant!
Definitely a grey day on the coast! Not an image with a high wow factor but more a "slow burn" picture requiring some consideration. Lots of interesting things to make sense of.
Composition
Criteria detail
The leading lines of the track take the eye directly to the church. However, I found myself always being drawn away from the church by the trees and the foreground gravestones.

I wonder if a different angle of view would have created a more balanced composition.
The main feature is the leading line formed by the steps and the railing taking us out towards the island. The line gets fainter then disappears leaving us to make our way across the untracked wastes.

The low horizon line excludes much of the sky detail and makes us focus on the near and middle ground.
There are lots of details in the middle - windsurfer, pipe end marker, two railings, a mountain on the horizon, numerous buoys in the water. They stand out because apart from the steps the foreground is relatively uninteresting. And because they stand out the picture becomes a little more uncomfortable to look at.
Aesthetic
Criteria detail
Generally an excellent conversion to monochrome.

Perhaps a little more contrast in the sky would have created a more dramatic image.

The intention to capture the coldness of a wintry afternoon has been very successful.
The overall impact is that of an arms length involvement with the scene. On a "horrible day" that's perhaps understandable. Its as if the photographer didn't really want to be there...

The mono treatment feels appropriate to the picture since it has removed the colour distractions and added contrast to the flat lit scene.

Combined with the composition, this approach means the photographers intentions come across strongly, but perhaps not in the way he intended!
Technical
Criteria detail
Aperture has been chosen skilfully to guarantee excellent sharpness throughout the image.

Detail is excellent in highlights and shadows. Verticals are perfect.
The slower shutter speed has blurred some of the movement in the water, but has left some detail behind which might be a little distracting. Processing (clarity or contrast) has left haloes round the large island and in the clouds to some extent which clash a little with the more detailed foreground.
LikesI like the mono conversion as it was clearly a grey day and colour wouldn't have added anything of value. Monochrome is ideal for the intended atmosphere of the image.The mono treatment of the image, removing an element of distraction from the main theme of the steps leading out to sea.
Likes as wellI like the front to back sharpness and the quality of the detail on the stones and grass.The leading line of the steps is a strong element in the image.
DislikesI find the sky is a bit bland. A slight lack of balance in the composition made me feel that the main subject of the church was competing with the gravestones and trees.More could have been made perhaps of the leading line, reframing the image to emphasise it a bit more, and excluding more of the extraneous details.
SummaryThis is an evocative image creating a sense of timelessness. I would be interested to see what impact a more dramatic monochrome conversion would have had.An interesting image that could benefit from a little more compositional work, but perhaps not on the day it was actually taken!