Family Photography Critique
Okay, hi you guys. Welcome to photo critiques here at Photo Week sponsored by SLR Lounge. So, we are actually gonna be doing these photo critiques all week long at lunchtime at Photo Week, so if you do want to submit a photo to have it critiqued, follow the link that you see right here and you can critique-- somebody will critique your photos. It's very exciting. Today we are going to be looking mostly at family photography, this is the family photography critique. I'm Sandra Coan. I am a newborn and family photographer actually here in Seattle, Washington, who specializes in film photography. That's a little bit of me and what I do.
Nice. My name is Ben Hartley. I have a wedding photography studio out in Columbus, Ohio, as well as I host a podcast, the Six Figure Photography podcast.
Right, nice. So we're gonna be with you today for the next 20 minutes.
Let's jump in.
Let's do it. Oh, so cute.
I love this so much.
I love it. Okay, so, first of all, you guys, so just so you...
know, we don't have names or anything, so I can't say your name, but whoever did this, fantastic job with the mirror. I mean I feel like, right, with that reflection?
Yeah, I mean I think just the very fact that our gut reaction as soon as it came on was "Oh my gosh, I love this," I think is really telling. The thing that I'm actually really intrigued with and I enjoy is the empty chair. I was trying to say, "Do I like it or not," I do.
I do too.
I love the intentionality that it shows the dad having to go in the backseat and play with his kid.
With that reflection, and you know what else I'm really loving are the lines on the window in the back. I feel like that framing is just so well done, right, because it's bringing your eye into the dad and the baby.
The only thought, then, that I would have--
Just a little.
... maybe this is not the only thought. The only current thought that I have as a critique is this is an image that I actually feel like doesn't necessarily get better with shallow depth of field. I think that's maybe the tendency is for us to shoot shallow, shoot two-eight, shoot one-four. Because I want to see in that mirror, I would love to see a little more of that baby in focus in the mirror, to see his face and to see that reaction. And so maybe stopping down and shooting this at a higher aperture just to get them in focus a little bit better would probably be a little feedback.
Yeah, I can see that. All in all, I think, amazing, what a moment, right? This is one of these pictures that--
It makes me miss my kids.
I know! I think well done. It's beautiful. Okay, so here we have... Ooh, that's very fun. So what do you think? Where are you going with that? So this is where I think shallow depth of field would be nice for me personally.
Yeah, I agree. I think shallow depth of field. But the good thing is, is there's a lot of information going on but it's all been isolated with tone. And so I love that there still is dynamic range. The dynamic range in this image if you can't quite tell in your feed, I don't know. In this monitor, the dynamic range is incredible that you're seeing. I think all those nuances, it still overall falls to dark but you still get to enjoy those subtleties.
Yeah. I think if I were going to do any kind of a critique, the only thing that I'm wanting to see in this and this could just be my eye, and how I frame things, is maybe a little bit difference in the framing. She's right smack dab in the middle. And I would love to maybe cut out some of the ground that's here in the foreground and kind of move it up so she's more in that left corner and we see more of the trees over the top.
Or go the opposite route. Because I like that she's kind of looking down on you. She has this kind of pride, this very confident look. So I like that he's looking up. And so maybe instead, you cut off some of the top and leave more down below to kind of give it more of that feeling that's going on.
Boy, it is just so hard for me not to hop out of the chair and start doing my prompts in there. Because I totally want to do that. Really beautiful. Well this is so fun. I'm already having the best time. Look at that bow tie! Okay, so I am a kid photographer. This is what I do. And so my gut instinct, every time I look at these, is oh my god, look at that little guy! (laughs) Which is what I do. But I think this is really beautiful. I think everything looks good to me. I like the shallow depth of field. I like where he's looking. For me in my photos, I love eye contact with kids. I try to get them engaged, but I know that's just more of a preference or personal taste.
I'm a huge fan of context with imagery. And so I want to see a little bit more of what he's looking at. Because my gut is it's maybe mom, or it's maybe dad, or it's maybe big brother or big sister. And so I kinda want to see a little bit of that narrative going on. But I mean, look, it's a really stunning image.
Such a cute baby. Oh my god. Yeah, same. I think if you're looking up I want to know a little bit more of the story, otherwise I want looking at the camera.
The crop too. That's a one-to-one crop. I'm not a huge fan of the one-to-one crop. I think I'd like to go normally two-to-three crop. That's just me being picky.
That's hilarious. I love the one-one crop. (both laugh) and I'm a film shooter. Okay, so here we have a wedding. This is your thing.
Yeah, good wedding... So here's the challenges. This monitor we've got a great depth of dynamic range and this one we've got much more contrast. And so... Because right off the bat I was like, I want more contrast. And then I look over at this monitor and I'm like, ooh, there is contrast.
Okay, one thing I'm noticing right away. I think in these kind of shots, for me, it's all about story-telling. And I think that this one does a good job of that. But you also have to be aware of what's going on in the background. And I see the photographer with the camera. I don't know if that's the official photographer or one of the official photographers, or a guest. And the fan are bothering me. So I would have tried to maybe come in and crop a little bit more and just be aware. Or even shift so if that person is a paid vendor, they're not in the image, and more of the guests are in the image.
Yeah, so to me, this is wide and stepped back, and I want to see this wide and tight. I think the story is between the bride, and maybe her grandfather is my guess. I think the reaction of people laughing and stuff is supplementary. But to be in there closer, to get more of the bride's reaction and more of her grandfather, a little bit wider, tighter, to see the other people recede further into the background. When you shoot wide and right they're gonna do that. And the wonkiness, I wouldn't be mad at the wonkiness. It's a dance shot...
Yeah, dance shots are fun wonky.
Yeah, go wide and tight.
Yeah, just make sure you're not getting stuff in the background that you don't want to see. Like exit signs at weddings bug me. It's just never pretty. All right. Ooh, bride, pretty portrait.
This is a shot that I really enjoy. Doing this type of shot is using that type of gobo. Like a foreground element, creating some depth there. And so I see what you're doing. I like it. I think the current position of the lace blocking the nose, and the way that it is, is doing a weird thing in my brain. My brain wants to see a little bit more of the structure of how her nose is shaped. Right now it's causing the nose to look big. Even though her nose isn't big.
Well, we don't know.
Well maybe, yeah.
Maybe that's why the lace is there.
I don't think it is, though. And so I think there needs to be a little shift in that.
Yeah, same. I would have the same critique. I see what you're doing, and I get it, but I do find it a little distracting. Or even just, sometimes those things work if you can't get in the moment and move the lace, even just shifting your body. I instinctually want to walk over this way, where that tattoo is, and maybe get a little more of the tattoo. And then it would shift the perspective. We'd see a little bit more through the lace.
Yeah, I agree. Seeing the tattoo cropped like that is... My eye goes to the tattoo. And I think it's because it's cropped. My eye just goes right off. Because your eye takes you to that dark area and then it leads you off the image. Just, woop, you're gone.
Yeah, and what you want is to have contact with that eye.
So maybe seeing that second eye through the veil, through the veil by the way...
Would be beautiful. Babies! Okay, so studio, I shoot in studio. I love studio work, and I love studio work with kids. I think it can be really fun. A couple things right off the bat, is when you're working with kids in studio, it's really about connection. And you can still have movement, and you can have spontaneity when working with kids in studio, but still have a connection. For me, if her eyes were closed maybe this would work. But the fact that her eyes were open but kinda half open, it just feels a little bit off. So it seems more like an oops moment than an intentional moment. So I would either, again, want her eyes closed and really laughing, or looking at the image. Another thing you want to really watch when you're working in studio is you want to watch your backdrops. Because the whole reason we have a backdrop is to create this beautiful smooth seamless thing. And backdrops get wrinkled and kids step on them, and I battle with this all the day. My backdrop has stickers all over it and stuff because I get toddlers in there. So I get it. But it's still something that you want to be aware of and maybe even fix in post-production. Because of the wrinkles and the way that it's stepping, you can tell that it's fabric, which makes it feel a little bit... It just looks a little bit more like a cheat or something, like it's not uber sharp. And if you're in studio, it should look like studio and be sharp. Does that make sense?
It totally does. I agree with everything you just said.
Well that was easy!
I know, right? (Sandra laughs) Try it again, try it again on this next one. (laughs) We'll see how this goes.
Oh, babies! Here, you can take it away. I keep jumping in with the babies.
Yeah, so. It's a little bit of a contrast between this and the last one. I think that as we're looking at the backdrop and we're looking at the floor that she's sitting on, there's a couple different directions you could go with this. The first one is, it is a little distracting. We've got all this consistency in color. The pink in her hair, and the pink shirt, and then the pink balloons. But then the context of the blue and the orange almost negates the fact that everything matches because it doesn't match so much down there. So I think again, just a little bit more consideration of that floor space. At the same time, maybe that would actually make for a better black and white image. When the colors aren't working for you, then go black and white, right? I think that would actually help, just remove that color.
Yeah. And then I want to know what the context is. Because with the balloons and with the kind of blanket that's there it almost feels like this was taken at home and it's just a really cute baby and a quick snapshot. But then I see that catch hood. And it makes me think that there's studio lighting involved and strobes. And so again, it's about, what is your intention? If it's meant to look lifestyle, and it's meant to look like it's taken at home, you can still do that with studio lights and have it look really organic, but then maybe not have it set up so much. Because this looks like it's intentionally trying to look like a studio setup. But that blanket with her outfit with all the stuff going on is distracting me. Does that make sense?
It totally does. Either be full lifestyle, or be full studio, baby in a basket. (Sandra laughs) This is gorgeous.
That's beautiful. Holy moly, that's gorgeous.
So the very first thing that I'm gonna talk about with this. We're using some off-camera lighting here. At the very least it's a reflector taking the sun. But my guess is with the angle of it. That it's probably an off-camera light. I like the modify that's on it. It's nice soft light. The only thing is, you've put the bride... You've prioritized the groom. Meaning the light is coming over the bride. The groom has all the light on him, and the bride's face is in shadow. And so I think you actually want to bring that light over the groom, to prioritize the bride. So the bride receives the majority of that light in front of her rather than the shadow. That would be my first take.
I think that's actually great. And I always say there's different light you can do for men and different light you can do for women. And you can do kinda harder light on men, because they look good and rugged. But most women I know don't like to see anything even remotely textured in their face. And so one way to do that is to make sure that you're always getting really good light on your lady friends.
Second thought is, the mountains. Gorgeous mountains. They're creating a sound wave through their heads. Just like te-te-te-te-te. And so either put them above it, or put them below it. So get the camera up higher, which is probably gonna be pretty challenging with as tall as that groom is, so maybe drop down just a little bit and just bring their head up above that mountain-scape.
I totally agree.
And again, they're smack dab in the middle. Back to that. It's a beautiful shot, off-camera lighting, but it's kinda basic in regards to composition.
Composition is huge. And it's amazing how just moving a little tiny bit one way or the other can really change an image.
Can we stay here for one more second?
The hands. I think that when we're looking at a couple, right now, the hands feel a little dead. They feel like you told them, hold here. And so I just want to see her, or I want to see him, I want to see squeezing. I want to see a little bit of a grip. I want to see a little tension.
A little connection.
Yeah, a little more connection. Even his hand around her waist. It looks like he doesn't want that right hand of his to be there because it's kinda dead. I want to see him pulling her in to him. Like he doesn't want to let her fall off the cliff that they're on.
Ooh, that's good, yeah. And don't be afraid to pose your couples when you're working with couples and give them that feedback. Okay, you've got your hand there, now really pull her in and give her a look.
Some direction, give her a little squeeze, let her know you're there, right? Grab her booty. (Sandra laughs) Maybe. At least you would cause them to laugh, right?
Totally. Oh, I love it. See now, I love this, it's so cute. Look that that. Nice light, nice clean backdrop, good connection. The only thing I would say to critique this is there's a little stuff on the face. If you're gonna go in and edit, just make sure you get those little... Looks like a little skin flake or something on his face.
And I think the crop, it feels a little like floating head.
Well it looks like he or she might have a really interesting wrap on. That would be nice to see in there.
I want to see three-quarters. This is a cutting off of the head. It feels floaty. So bring it down a little bit more. And then even the... I don't know what we're looking at. The top, the hat. To see that.
All of it.
Yeah, all of it.
Yeah, because I think if you're just... I like a good tight head shot portrait, but when there's other stuff going on then that's part of the story too. So the costume here, the outfit is obviously part of this story. So bringing it up a little bit and seeing more of it. Totally. Oh, good family photo. Okay you guys. So this is beautiful, this is great. I love the tall grass. This looks very similar to a beach we have here in Seattle. It might be. So one thing when you're working with families even when you're doing more of a lifestyle and you're not posing, and all this kind of stuff, you really do want to make sure that everybody in the frame looks good. I love the connection between mom and dad. And I even like the little girl playing. That's cute and that could work. But baby's looking a little not happy (laughs) So I think if I were in this moment, and I know it's so hard when we're not in the moment. We can just look at the picture and tell you what we would do. I would have said to the mom and dad, keep doing what you're doing, you look great. I'd be singing songs, I'd be doing something to try to shift that expression in that baby's face.
Yeah, yeah, let's keep moving.
I always love a good stair shot. This is fun. All right, take it away, Ben.
Yeah, right now I'm just taking it in. It takes a second, right? A couple things. Maybe this is an editing thing, or just a slight shift of composition. That light--
Right? I want to go down the stairs, right to them, but I can't because of that light. It's just like, hey, look at me over here.
I am gonna get out of my chair. See this is where that one and one crop would be great. Because then if it was like this... Sorry, I had to.
Or just like, clone out
Yeah, that would work too (laughs)
Or composition, maybe just try to use your framing to just pull the staircase in front of it a little bit more.
I think that would be so cool though, in a square with them in the lower corner. A nice square crop.
Don't do square crops ever.
I love square crops. (Ben laughs) We're gonna need to talk about this later.
Square crops are great, I love square crops. Keep going.
Okay, we're doing it. Oh, beautiful. Now this I feel like they have that connection. I can feel that movement in this picture. That's beautiful. I love a good black-and-white. That looks like film, unless they did... It's beautiful.
Yeah, I think I'm most interested in the edit. There's this low-key look to the clouds. There's something a little haunting about it, and maybe it's the way that the dress is flowing this way feels like, where's the rest of her body. It's interesting.
Yeah, it's beautiful. I would almost like to see this cropped in on their faces and her arm on him. His legs after a while start to get distracting because I am like, where are her legs? What happened to the bottom part of her body? You know what I mean? But if it was cropped up to here, of them, it would be so beautiful.
Dips are a tricky thing. Going back to what you were saying about baby pictures, family pictures, you either have lifestyle or you have a bit more studio. This feels like there's this very real moment. Even the edit is super real. The grain, the texture of the clouds. Super real, the way that she's gripping his hand is super in the moment. But then you have a little bit more of this contrived dip that feels posed. Maybe it's not, but it just feels more posed. And I almost just want them to be standing up and having that same interaction, having the hair in her face. Having the grip. But it just feels a little bit more basic in a good way.
Yeah, I agree. I think that would be really beautiful, really strong. Maybe that's why I'm wanting to see it cropped. But I love the pretty mood, for sure.
Hashtag mood, hashtag love it.
Hashtag don't stop won't stop. (Sandra laughs)
Okay, wedding getting ready picture. I love a good reflection photo. I think it's fun. To me, again, I would pull back on this because the way her face is cropped in that mirror, with whatever's on the side of the mirror, it makes it look to me like she's wearing a hat.
I mean that's intentional, though. You know, it's kind of interesting. The thing that I would say is, when the forehead gets cut off before the hairline, that forehead just keeps going, baby! Her forehead just, when does it stop? I don't know, do you know? And so you kinda want to see that hairline. Just a little, doesn't have to be much. But when you show the hairline, it's like oh thank goodness, her head stopped.
Yeah, yes! And then you could even, with pulling back on this, these wedding dresses often have these beautiful backs. You'd still get that same mood of getting the earring on and the reflection, which is really cool, but then get that back of the dress, which might be a nice detail for a wedding photo.
The blue M bugs me too, back there.
Yeah, me too, actually.
This is you, this is you.
Yeah, this is me, this is me. Okay you guys. This, right away, I say you have to make sure you know the direction of your light when you're photographing a baby. So I always tell people, when you're putting a baby like this, whether you're using natural light or studio light, really make sure that that light is coming from the head down. That's gonna give you the most flattering light. It's gonna take care of any skin problems. Newborns sometimes have skin problems. You always want to look for the shadow to be under the nose. And right here it looks like this light's actually coming this way, up on the baby, because the baby has a shadow in that nose area which just isn't flattering light on anybody. It makes you look like you're sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories. You know, with the flashlight. So you want to try to avoid that. So make sure you're keeping that light at the top of the head.
Yep, spin that baby.
Spin that baby!
And then you're great. I love the shot. I mean I love the down, that's beautiful. Her hair, so pretty.
I know! Just look at the eyelashes. There's just nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby.
I kinda want to mess up her hair, though. It feels almost like it's been combed. I just want to do this to the hair. (Sandra laughs) Just let it be wild.
Parents love to get out their little baby combs. (Ben laughs) Comb their baby hair. But I think that that was our last image.
Yeah, that was so fast!
Yeah, that was great!
I could do that all day!
I know, let's keep going, come on now!