Nature Photography Photo Critique
Category: Nature Photography
Canon Digital Rebel XS
Lens: Standard: 30-50mm
Description: I just bought my first camera today.I love simple black and white photos, so I though see all >
I just bought my first camera today.I love simple black and white photos, so I thought this might be a good start for me. Thanks
Subject of photo
Composition & Perspective
Use of camera, exposure & speed
Color & Lighting
Depth of field
Roses and other flowers are interesting subjects and can lend themselves well to B&W. You've made a good start here, but in terms of flower photography (which includes a plethora of perfectionists) your subject needs some work. I don't know if it's a characteristic of this particular variety of rose, but the petals appear to be torn. I suspect, because the breaks appear in the same place on several petals, and that the notch in the right side appears to be natural, that this is typical for this variety. Someone, like myself, who isn't as familiar with the growth patterns of roses, might misinterpret this (as I have) as damage, which is not favorable in this genre. Just my perspective on this issue.
A symmetrical or generally-symmetrical subject is ok to place in the center of a composition. Otherwise, an off-center symmetrical subject appears to be off-center as an error. Your point of view is not straight down into the flower, which throws off the symmetry a little bit. This perspective is classic for flowers and, again, receives more scrutiny among flower photography aficionados. I like the perspective, however. The slight angle throws off the symmetry, with the petals at the bottom shown in more detail and the petals at the top layered like sheets of paper.
Your focus looks slightly soft at the outer edges and along the top, but there is a sharp area of focus from the center down through the middle of the image (see Depth of Field below).
This looks to be a lighter-colored rose, so I'll say the image is slightly underexposed. I don't know if you shot this in auto or manual mode, but this is a typical result for a lighter subject (white, yellow, light blue) photographed in auto or program mode (even in the semi-auto modes of shutter or aperture priority) because the light meter in the camera deliberately darkens the exposure thinking the your subject is too bright (it's trying to render the subject as 18% gray, it's standardized calibration comparison). In auto or semi-auto mode you will need to use your exposure compensation button (the one that is a square divided diagonally in black and white, with a + and - sign) to tell the camera to increase the exposure (brightness of the image) by +1 to +2. You will need to do the same for subjects that are darker-colored like dark greens, browns, and blacks. By your description I'll guess this was shot outside "in the wild" and not captive in a vase. Your shutter speed appears to be fast enough to halt any motion caused by breezes or other things that could cause the plant to move during the exposure.
For the most part, B&W photography relies on contrast between black and white and the intervening shades of gray. Some subjects work well with low contrast (broad variations between black and white) and some work well with high contrast (short variations between black and white). I think your subject here looks fine with the low contrast presented, but would also look quite well with a higher contrast to define the edges of the petals and the lighter versus darker areas of the flower as a whole. Often, this is a personal preference and I tend to like B&W images with definite and strong contrast.
The outer edges of the flower, and the upper petal are blurry. Since the center of the flower is sharp your depth of field (created by aperture, focal length, and distance to subject) is the culprit. The closer you get to a subject, the less depth of field you have. So, for close-ups you need to use a small aperture to maintain elements in focus. But, since aperture, shutter speed and ISO are connected in terms of exposure, when you use a small aperture your shutter speed will get longer (increasing your chance of a blurry subject overall if it has a chance of moving during the exposure) unless you can provide more light through the use of a flash, reflector, sunny day, flashlight, etc. (or all the above, sometimes). I'm not saying every part of every photograph needs to be in perfect focus. Even macro photos can have blurry bits. But, when part of a subject or photograph is blurry, the viewer should be able to interpret why or at least feel that it was intentional. When a photo or subject is slightly blurry, it usually points to a technical issue rather than an artistic intention. I think your depth of field in this photo is ok. For me, the out-of-focus parts don't distract too much.
Diana, I think you're off to a good start and with some attention to a small number of technical details will be creating some excellent photographs. B&W is a great medium and many very beautiful and powerful photographs have been created in this style that would not be as appealing in color. Some people are very tuned in to B&W while others find it easier to create in color. A few can do both. It takes a different "set of eyes" to see in B&W versus color, so if that's your thing, continue to pursue it.
How to improve your photo
If you are not pursuing it now, spend some time learning about your light meter and how it can help you with your exposure. This is one of the foundation skills that affects just about everything you do in creating a photograph. Learning how the light meter works and how it interprets the light will allow you to have much greater control in the appearance of your photographs. If reading about it is not working, find a photographer in your area you can learn from either by asking questions or taking a class or workshop.
Macro/close-up photography almost always demands a tripod or other sturdy platform because of the small apertures and longer shutter speeds required. A tripod, anyway, will help with most aspects of photography, from landscapes to still life.
Google "depth of field" (and see my suggestion above about the light meter and finding a photographer to learn from). You'll find tons of information, a lot of it very technical, but if you sift through it, you can find it reasonably explained. Depth of Field is one of the less-intuitive aspects of photography and can be a bit difficult to grasp at the start, but with some basic information on how it works and real-life practice, controlling it becomes fairly easy. Depth of Field is another foundation that will greatly expand your creative abilities.
Get feedback on your photos from Pro Mike Shipman