What would you do??

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frodaman
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What would you do??

Post by frodaman » November 30th, 2012, 9:56 am

In my growing desire to get better pictures, I have kind of focused on practicing with little subjects like these. I am asking for a little bit of constructive criticism; what would you do differently with these pictures? Would you take them at different angles? What about photoshop? Thanks for the input. :D

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-Jeff

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axeman2729
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Re: What would you do??

Post by axeman2729 » November 30th, 2012, 4:40 pm

I think their wonderful the way they are!

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Soopaman
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Re: What would you do??

Post by Soopaman » November 30th, 2012, 5:36 pm

To preface my constructive criticism, I would like to say I haven't been seriously photographing for very long, and only upgraded to a DSLR in August. That said, I feel I do have a good idea of what elements to look for, but I believe this may be personal preference and not necessarily something other forum goes will agree on.

First, the colors on the photographs are very highly contrasted and saturated. In some cases, I think it may work to turn them up, but often it seems like a way to try to make a good photo out of a bad one, and it just doesn't work. This is especially true for the banded gecko photograph, though the other photos show some element of this.

Secondly, in regards to the snake, it doesn't appear to be in a very interesting position or substrate. It looks like it was still in the same spot you found it, and I can see the board you likely flipped it under in the last photo in the series. Do not mistake me, this isn't necessarily bad. There are a lot of talented photographers who take great in situ photographs and it works really well. I just don't think it works when you've found something under a board. They're often curled up, especially if it's cool out, and there are usually on a very dull substrate. It doesn't look very natural. I pose 99% of the subjects I photograph. In doing so, I try to show their whole body without any other parts overlapping each other (ie coils on top of coils with a snake). Additionally, I try to raise the head up so that the animal looks alert and relaxed. This is often difficult and requires a bit of work to achieve.
Regarding the substrate, I try to choose a substrate that isn't all one medium, or one color. I find this very bland. Additionally, if I am going for a "field guide shot," I will try to put something in the background to draw the eyes of the viewer back on the herp. If the background goes off into infinity, or just more bland substrate, it really seems to ruin the photo for me. Even variation in the elevation of terrain can help alleviate this if there is a obvious rise in elevation behind the herp.

Thirdly, it is important to pay attention to depth of field. The gecko shot seems to be affected most by this, as there is a very narrow range in which the substrate is in focus. I try to avoid having a lot of blur at the front of the photograph, unless it's in the realm of grass or reeds, which can help frame a shot. This can be fixed by cropping it out of the photograph, or raising the F-stop. I usually shoot around 9-13 f-stop, with the center of focus on the eye of the herp.

I'm sure others will chime in with more. Photography is definitely an art, and one I am only just beginning to learn. It's a fun journey, and I think you'll enjoy it. It may be helpful to look at photographs that you really like, and see what elements set them apart from your photos. Try to implement that in your next photo session!

Best of luck,
Kyle

bgorum
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Re: What would you do??

Post by bgorum » November 30th, 2012, 8:32 pm

I'm going to disagree with Kyle's first two points. The color in your photos looks fine, at least on my computer and on my ipad. I also don't have any problem with the pose of the night snake. That particular tight coil with the flattened out head is a common defensive posture of night snakes, and it is my guess you wanted to show that behavior.

What I think you need to work on is composition. Basically you've placed the subjects head in the dead center on all of these pictures. There are times when that can work, for example compositions that are supposed to be really symmetrical, but in the case of these pictures it looks like you placed them there because that's where your camera auto focuses or because you just didn't know where else to put them.

When you take a photograph you need to think about what you want that picture to say and then eliminate everything in the frame that does not help say that. For example, why all the extra space around the nightsnake. What does that add to the picture? Also, what does the dark stick in front of the gecko add to that picture. Pay attention to what is in the frame.

Keep shooting. All this stuff comes with time!

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Soopaman
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Re: What would you do??

Post by Soopaman » November 30th, 2012, 8:53 pm

bgorum is a much better photographer than me, by the way!

And the contrast/saturation is specifically referring to the gecko and tarantula photos.

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Owen
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Re: What would you do??

Post by Owen » November 30th, 2012, 10:59 pm

Saturation is a bit high in the gecko, tarantula, nightsnakes, but not to bad. IMHO the contrast levels are a bit high on all but the bat. It tends to blow out the whites. I shoot with contrast dialed all the way down when doing JPEG. If I'm shooting RAW, it doesn't matter as I can do the adjustments quickly in Lightroom with presets. When I shoot JPEG, I set my contrast to -3, sharpness to +1 and saturation to +1. I figure I can always add contrast back in in PP. A good program to edit individual pictures is Photoshop Elements. I'm not sure the current version. I have PSE-8 on my old laptop and PSE-10 in my desktop.

The tarantula looks way oversharpened for my taste. The hairs just don't look natural. If your sharpening in PP, use the lowest radius setting.

I don't worry too much on the composition as shot since you can frequently crop to fix. These are live animals and spending too much time with them stresses them. I'm I'm with one for two minutes, shame on me. I would concentrate on getting the proper angle to best present the subject. Sometimes ground level works well, but sometimes a 30 to 45 degree angle works better. The angle for best lighting helps as well. Just leave a little space around the subject to crop. When you've decided what looks best to you, you can work on filling the entire frame with a properly composed image.

A lot of this is personal preference. I hike and spend minimal time with any animal encountered. Shoot and move. Shoot and move. I'm also not stuck on any one format. Standard aspects are 3:2, 4:3, 5:4, 16:9, 1:1. Just fit it to the subject.

BTW, what gear are you shooting with and what is your processing workflow on these?

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chrish
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Re: What would you do??

Post by chrish » December 2nd, 2012, 4:50 am

Jeff,

I think this is exactly how you learn to take better photos. Be your own harshest critic.

That said, I'll tell you what I would tell my self if these were my shots (I didn't read anyone else's comments first so pardon any redundancy):


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This first photo has some composition problems. First of all, you tried to center the snake's head and ended up with a bunch of empty space on the left and behind. If you had gotten closer or cropped more the picture would have more "punch".
Also, the out of focus debris behind the snake is distracting.
You weren't level to the ground (i.e. the photo is crooked). Easy photoshop fix.
A little more depth of field would help. I don't know what the f/5.6 that you shot is equivalent to in DSLR terms, but I would have shot this about f/11-f/13 with a DSLR macro lens. Your camera has a smaller sensor so you would have to figure out the equivalent f/stop setting using one of the online DOF calculators.



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In this second shot, you are again not quite perpendicular to the ground and the photo is tilted a bit. Again, too centered producing a lot of empty space around the animal.
You should do some reading about composition and the rule-of-thirds. I wouldn't have applied the rule-of-thirds here, but I certainly would have not centered on the snake's head.
The rock in the foreground is dinstracting.
Again, not the right amount of depth of field. A little more would have helped.

I'm not sure if the shot is sharply focused on the snake's eyes or not. Hypsiglena eyes are tough this way. They never look focused?



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I like this angle here, but the photo has too much photoshopping. The color/saturation looks unnatural.
Again, too much empty space above the snake.
This light is also too harsh here. A diffuser (or simply shading the snake) would have helped.




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Too far away.
Not straight.
Board doesn't add anything to the photo.
Too much contrast again. A diffuser or shade would help.


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Too big.
Angle of approach isn't good. This photo would be better if you had gotten down lower to the ground.
Too much empty space.
I find the yellow moss stuff in the foreground is distracting because it is more colorful than anything else and draws the eye away from the subject.




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Incorrect Depth of Field again.
The stick paralleling the gecko is distracting as is the darker rock behind it.
Gecko is moving away from the viewer which is never as interesting as when it is coming at a slight angle towards the viewer. Obviously the gecko turned away as you took the photo.
Again, you have an object in the photo that is more eye-catching than your subject (the lichen). Some viewers will subconsciously see this as "oh, pretty lichen shot, oh wait there's a gecko as well!". You want the gecko to be the subject and the eye shouldn't be distracted from that.




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This shot is "unnatural". Even if this was the way you found the bat, it doesn't look like a bat should be this way. That gives the photo less "personality".

I think for a subject like this I might have zoomed in to get a face shot. This pose of a bat flat on a rock isn't as interesting.

As an example, in this shot, I had a roadkill bat to photograph. There was nothing "interesting" about it so I had someone hold it and got in closer to at least make something from the shot. It isn't a great shot either, but I just wanted to demonstrate the value of getting what you can from the photo.

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You might want to do a little reading about photographic composition. Consider what people generally find pleasing and then see how you feel about those features.

Try using photoshop (or whatever program you use) to crop a photo different ways, rotate it a bit either direction, clone out stuff, etc., then ask yourself what your "impression" of the edited shot is. This is what's great about digital. Practice is free.

Learn a little bit more about Depth of Field (DOF) and camera aperture ranges specific to your NEX camera. You will hear people say "stop down to f/22". Then you might notice that your lens doesn't stop down that far. That doesn't mean you can't get the equivalent amount of DOF.

Also, learn to use DOF. Don't just max it out because that doesn't make a photo better. This is a common mistake people make when learning to shoot herps.

Lastly, remember you are taking photographs to please yourself in the long run. You need to look at a lot of photos (your own and other people's).
Don't just say "I love that shot". Why do you love it? What makes it work?
Don't hate a shot. Figure out exactly what is wrong with it.

After you decide what you like and don't like, and how to emulate the things you like and avoid the things you don't.
Pretty soon, you will find your own personal photography style emerging.

Chris

PS - Having read the other responses, I want to mirror Owen's statements. You don't need to get the composition perfect in the field. Consider the animal's well being first. You can always crop and rotate a bit on the computer and clone out distracting elements, but the better it looks on the camera viewfinder, the better it will look on the computer.

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frodaman
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Re: What would you do??

Post by frodaman » December 3rd, 2012, 9:18 pm

Wow, thanks! I didn't expect to get such detailed responses! You guys really helped. :thumb: Some people don't like to be critiqued, but to me it's great. It's the only way to learn in my eyes. I am using a Sony NEX-3, it's alright but I plan to eventually upgrade. I also need to upgrade my editing software.. I am currently using Windows Live Photo. Needless to say, I'm a beginner.. :lol:
However, I thought it would be good place to start to have some herpers point me in the right direction. :beer:

-Jeff

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chrish
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Re: What would you do??

Post by chrish » December 3rd, 2012, 9:23 pm

Since you have no commitment to any other editing software, you might want to try the GIMP before you spend any money on something else.

It is free (http://www.gimp.org), there are great online user's guides, forums, etc., and it does almost anything a herper could want. It is almost as good as photoshop, IMHO.

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