Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dayanna Nickels Critique

Posted by David, Approved by Melody

Well, we're starting something new here on the blog: critiques. Back in art school, critiques were a part of my daily life. You learned quickly to unpin your heart from your sleeve and to take the advice given to you for what it was: help.

For those of you that have never taken part in a critique, the general rules are these.
  • The person being critiqued says nothing.
  • You display your work and allow it to speak for itself.
  • The person doing the critiquing begins by pointing out a few things that they like about the image, followed by what is not working for you.
  • Generally, you are never allowed to point out more negatives than positives.
  • At the end, you conclude with your overall impression of the work and recap with your favorite element.
  • All comments are to be couched in terms of how they affect you, and should not be made in broad truisms.
  • At the end, the artist has the right to ask questions of their critic, usually along the lines of how would specific changes or information color their interpretation.
  • And finally, the artist is given the chance, not to defend, but to explain their work, it's intent, and to thank their critic.

Critiques are immensely helpful. They allow you to see the world through the viewer's eyes. Something that you looked over can be glaringly apparent to them or, conversely, your intent with the piece might go unseen.

So let's get into our first critique. It comes to us from a photographer out of Texas, (my granddad's home state) Dayanna Nickels.

Photography Critique

As soon as this shot popped up on the screen Melody said she loved it. What is usually a very standard shot has been given some life via posing. Attention has also been paid to keeping only the main subject of the shot engaged with the camera. All of these elements are very difficult to work with, especially when dealing with fidgety teenagers at a quinceañera. I also like how variety has been carried over into who is wearing a jacket and who is not. And I love that we still have details in our blacks. It's very easy to fall prey to clipping the blacks, myself included. 

My main concern with this shot is the choice of camera angle. While the heroic upshot works extremely well for all of these young men, the most important part is the young lady in the center. Whenever possible I want to lengthen and trim women. In this particular instance, with so much dress pooled around her she takes on a greater visual size in the composition. To minimize that dress I would like to see this shot from directly above. That likely being impossible in this situation, I'd like her standing, perhaps by the pillar, her escort at her side. The pillar could then be used as a way cut into her body and dress and make her even thinner in the eyes of the viewer. Ideally this shot would be done from a higher position so as to shoot down on the girl, but sans ladder I would opt for a long focal length, thereby minimizing the difference in height between photographer and subject. The longer focal length would also create compression in the frame, so that there is not a significant difference in size between the boys in front and those in the very back. 

All in all, I'd say that this shot is moving in a very positive direction. It seeks to inject creativity into what can often be a very structured process. I'm looking forward to seeing how your work progresses, Dayanna, and thank you for sharing with us and trusting us to give a fair critique.

If you're interested in having your work critiqued, drop a jpeg sized to 810px on the long side, into an email to If you're a photographer aspiring or otherwise and want to get more useful information like this, be sure to add us as a friend on facebook and click all of those "follow" buttons at the bottom of this page. You can also keep up with all of David's Twitter antics here: twitter. (He got a smart phone for his birthday).

Next Up: The engagement shoot that nearly wasn't.

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