Be My Guest Monday 11/22/10: David H. Wells

It's "Be My Guest Monday," the day of the week that's turned over to a talented guest blogger for a quick tip (or sometimes several tips).

Today's guest: David H. Wells

The very best way to improve as a photographer does not require any new gear or expensive course of study. The best way to grow, as a photographer, is to take many photographs and then to critique them, to learn what worked and what did not.

As you might guess, for most photographers the hardest part of this process is critiquing their own images That problem is understandable, since each photographer has an obvious emotional investment in the images they make.

In my workshops, we try to break down that barrier by considering:

How do you “Critique” photographs?

Saying “wow,” “neat” or “cool” is not critiquing photographs.

Using a common language for critiquing photographs.

We need to be able to discuss the photographic tools, elements and techniques the photographer used, successfully, or unsuccessfully, to make the image that communicates their idea. This is regardless of photographic style, media, genre, format, etc.

The criteria that I teach in my workshops and I use when I critique photographs include:
How is light used? Is it harsh, soft, and from what direction

How is time used? Is a high shutter speed or slow shutter speed used?

What is the photographer’s position/angle?

What lens is used? Wide Angle? Telephoto? Normal?

Is the white in the image “managed?” (As viewers our eyes go to white first so the best photographers manage how they use white in their images.)

Is pattern, line, or texture used?

How is focus used and what is the point of focus?

What compositional elements are used such as negative space? What, if any framing is used to direct the viewer’s attention in (or out?)

Is the orientation, horizontal or vertical working?

Are each of the elements listed above used appropriately/effectively to improve the message of the image or are they misused and hinder the photographer’s communication?

These are my starting points, but they are not absolutes nor are they “rules.” Many photographers find that using these helps them to objectively analyze their images. The irony is that most photographers are good at looking at the work of other photographers, but lose that “unbiased” perspective looking at their own work. How each photographer gets around this challenge is the key to serious growth as a photographer. Some people do this by having their work critiqued by other photographers, whether peers or pros.

Despite the explosive growth in technology that dominates photography today, I keep hearing over and over how hard it is to get honest, useful feedback on your photographs. That’s why we founded Photo Synesi. This new site and service can help you improve your photography work through personalized feedback from master photographers, who are both wonderful teachers and experts in a wide range of disciplines.

It’s a premium service that allows you to:
• Submit your images
• Specify what you’re looking to accomplish
• Select a pro photographer with relevant experience
• Get vetted, expert advice to make your work better

The feedback comes in both written form and in the voice of the photographer critiquing your work. Unlike other sources of feedback, the reviewers do not just review the work done for assignments they’ve given you. Instead, our reviewers evaluate the specific work that you ask them to look at.

For a quick summary of what the service includes, click here.

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Thank you, David!

I met David H. Wells, who is a photographer and educator based in Rhode Island, and a dude who also like sushi, at the California Photo Fest. His latest project is called Foreclosed Dreams: The empty homes and foreclosed dreams littering the American landscape in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. For more info, visit his web site.

Explore the light,