Knowing how to analyze images, to criticize them in a constructive and relevant way, is very important to progress in photography, whether by analyzing one’s own photos or those of others. Let’s see together what to look at in an image.
First and foremost, the story of this article is quite colorful…so I need to tell you how I came up with the idea. As you may know, I’m currently in India on a two-and-a-half month trip. A trip to meet another culture, and not only tourism to take pictures of “me in front of” 😛 I’m a couchsurfer, and when I arrived in New Delhi I stayed with 2 absolutely adorable guys. Some friends were at their place when I arrived, including an Indian architect and architecture teacher. She was supposed to give a photo analysis course to students in archi who had taken this option (well, they did! :D). But then, Saacheet (that’s his name), didn’t know much about photography ^^
So I was the perfect candidate to give her a hand, and against all odds she offered to help me out. come with her to do the course. Obviously, as I like the unexpected, I accepted 😀 I was supposed to do a quick tour of the basics of photography, and then tackle the critical aspect. And then finally, my chatting helped despite my a bit hesitant English, I spent more than an hour improvising on the blackboard on the exhibition triangle and the composition, in front of 40 students younger than me by 3 or 4 years, and who gave me “sir” 😛 I must say that it will remain memorable 😀
Anyway, I was frustrated not to have been able to talk about the analysis of an image, so it had to come out ^^ So here is more or less the course that should have been taken by about forty young Indians !
Introduction and announcement of the plan
(:P Promise, I won’t make it to you like a XD lecture)
More seriously, I’m going to make a somewhat artificial division between the technical criticism, which is easier, and the so-called “artistic” criticism, which is already much more subjective. Artificial, since technique is at the service of art. But basically, you can easily bet that a simple landscape or the depth of field is not maximum, it’s not necessarily voluntary.
Having said that, the most important thing is to know why we’re taking the picture. If it’s someone else’s we’re analyzing, we can’t know, but if we don’t guess, it’s bad. On this subject, I invite you to reread the article on the questions to ask yourself before taking a picture, I think it will be interesting in connection with this one.
Besides.., opinions will obviously differ depending on the person. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving yours away, or that one is better than the other. That said, if you’re critical of someone’s photo, try to go for it. gently If the person gets offended, it won’t lead to anything anyway, but you criticize to help him or her, right? 😉 (it also works with yourself, by the way).
So always start with the positives, and try to say “I would have done it more like this.“that «This is wrong.».
Warning: everything I’m about to say here may be contradicted by the photographer’s intention. Something that is usually judged as a defect may be intended. So if I say “if it’s blurry it’s wrong”, it may not be the case if it was voluntary for one reason or another (you have to be able to justify it, that’s all 😉 ).
Furthermore, to analyse the technical aspects, it is always better to know the EXIF datawhich often allow you to know some interesting things (and even the creative mode or not used by the photographer).
In general, it is best to keep the ISOs as low as possible, otherwise there will be noise in the image. It’s always worth checking the ISOs, because sometimes you can forget to change them after a low light situation. If you use 1600 ISO in daylight, it’s probably a bit too much 😉
As you now know, the aperture has an influence on the depth of field. So if you make a landscape with a foreground and a background, it is likely that f/2.8 will be too large an aperture 😉 In short, here we will mostly look at if the aperture matches the desired depth of field. in the situation. If the chosen settings are a bit “exotic”, there may be a good reason. For example, you do a portrait at f/8 so that you can see the background which is interesting (I did that today because the background was the Taj Mahal :P), or you do a landscape at f/2.8 because it’s dark, you don’t have a tripod, and you focus on infinity anyway.
It is all about pointing out defects if necessary, or at least wondering why.
Speaking of depth-of-field blur, an image should generally be sharpeneven if the majority is lost in the bokeh. And the clean part obviously doesn’t have to be chosen. arbitrarily(See the article on eye-catching elements in a photo). Sometimes, paying attention to this can reveal a problem in your focus (read again the secrets of autofocus, it can be useful 😉 ), or a blur of movement due to an insufficient shutter speed (see below).
Of course, it is not forbidden to take a completely blurred picture, but you have to know why.
There are a lot of things that will influence the speed chosen by you, or by the camera (in aperture priority mode for example). First of all, it all depends on whether you want to freeze a fast movement or create blurred subjects. That said, you will be limited by the conditions: if you don’t have a tripod you won’t be able to use a really slow shutter speed. We think less about it, but it’s complex to make a slow speed in daylight, even with a low aperture, without overexposing the image (long live the ND filters, but that’s another story 😉 ).
Well, sometimes it doesn’t matter. For example, if I’m shooting a landscape in daylight, I’ll set the aperture priority to have a depth of field that covers the whole image (f/11 for example), and I’ll let the camera decide the shutter speed, while watching if it doesn’t go down too much. If the result doesn’t give the exposure I want, I can use a different exposure metering mode, or exposure compensation.
Although it is not the focal length that directly influences the effect of the perspectivebut the distance to subjectSome focal lengths are more appropriate for certain types of photos. For example, if you shoot a portrait at ultra wide angle, you will have the choice between :
- a tightly framed but very distorted subject (since it was necessary to get closer to frame tightly)
- an undistorted but very small subject in the picture
This is an extreme example of course, but I think that one does not choose the focal length consciously enough, especially when using a zoom lens (hop, I stay put and zoom in to frame.). In my opinion, the right method is to choose the perspective you want first in the image (for example, standing very close to render the immensity of a monument, or at a reasonable distance so as not to distort a face too much), and then choose your focal length to get the framing you want. (respectively an ultra-wide-angle lens to get the whole monument, and a small telephoto lens to frame tight enough).
Here we will focus more on the compositional aspects, and even more “abstract” things like the subject, its strength, or what the photographer is trying to convey as a message.
The subject, or the idea
As I said before, the why of the picture is probably the most important thing. Ideally, you should have a real subject and something to get across with your image. You have every right to want to photograph a flower because it’s pretty, but don’t expect your image to be strong if you limit yourself to that. That said, even for this kind of simple picture, you can always go furtherand ask yourself, for example, why exactly you think she’s pretty, and by putting this aspect in value.
If you’re working on an idea that you want to get through a photo, make sure it’s says and that we includes. If the viewer does not understand it, you have usually failed to get your message across.
Sometimes, even if the subject and/or the idea are clear, it is the technical realization of the image that will sin, and thus spoil your beautiful idea. This is what we talked about earlier.
Background and disturbing elements
Generally speaking, the background is there to support the subject, not steal the spotlight.. The gaze may move from one to the other, but the subject must remain obvious. This is why in some situations a shallow depth of field is used.
Besides.., you are responsible for everything that is within the framework. So this branch protruding from the corner of the frame and obstructing the view is the photographer’s fault. So check that there are no disturbing elements in the image.
I’ve already written quite a bit about it, and between the rule of thirds and last week’s article on the drawing/photo relationship, you should be served! 😉
One of the most common mistakes is obviously put the subject in the middlewithout any particular reason, such as to emphasize a certain symmetry. Once again, centering an image is not evilwe just need to know why we’re doing it.
There are also more complex and intuitive things, such as the balance in an image for example, i.e. the “weight” of the different elements. Roy explained it very well in his article on drawing, so I’ll let you read or reread it.
We can also think about the model installation in a portrait, which must correspond to an emotion you want to convey, and not just be the first one you found by chance.
Light and exposure
The present light, its enhancement, the use of artificial light or not (and how) are to be considered. Even if we have already seen the different parameters of exposure, it must be repeated that there is no such thing as a perfect exposure: an almost completely black image can be well exposed, it is enough that it is wanted and that it creates an interesting effect.
In short, we could go on for a long time because there are an infinite number of things to look at when analyzing an image, but these are the main things to remember, and will help you to criticize your images as well as those of others in a constructive and relatively complete way.
Final Exercise : choose one of your images, and criticize it on these different points as a comment ! 🙂