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PhotoZAP: We Critique Your Photos
PhotoZAP 1: Flash Blindness

Our critics praise and pan your pictures


“This photo is an example of too much strobe, too much reliance on equipment over aesthetics.”
— Monica Cipnic

Photo © Susannah Storch, Longmont, CO. Gear: Canon Digital Rebel XT with 28-135mm lens at 28mm setting, Canon 580 EXII flash. Exposure: 1/200 sec at f/14, ISO 100.

Photographer's statement:“I wanted to create some drama. The shot was taken on Long Island, NY while I was on vacation from Longmont, CO. With the harsh blue sky days we constantly have out west, I was happy to have East Coast light and clouds to shoot under.”

Our critics say:

Jack Howard: This shot feels like a composited image. Note I say "feels like." I don't doubt that it's a single in-camera exposure but there's just so many disconnects between the foreground subject and the background. The crop/framing right through the forearm is unsettling, and there's zero engagement with the subject. I'm reckoning the fill light–which should have been dialed back at least a half stop–comes from a small strobe, judging by the "sunburst" on the sunglasses (with a 6-bladed lens set smallish aperture f/8-f/11ish), since the background isn't bathed in warm, directional early or late-day golden light, but is rather just blah, flat blues and greys. I'd be interested to see what upping the background exposure and dialing back the foreground fill would do to change the overall color and textural feel of this image.

Monica Cipnic: Jack’s right: There’s a detachment between the subject and the background.  Everything about this photo is intense, but not necessarily in a good sense--the intensity of the contrast between the overwhelming black/darkness of the entire photo and the subject's face and especially the flash reflection in his sunglasses don't add up. This photo is an example of too much strobe, too much reliance on equipment over aesthetics. We can see the background scene over the subject's shoulder, and just about make out that the sun is in it's midday brightness, which can account for why Jack and other viewers would say that this looks like a composite image---the light coming from different directions, the flash reflection and then the background, doesn't make for a unified image, it's visually confusing.

Mason Resnick: It takes a lot of skill, thought and planning to make an image as visually disjointed as this one. The ratio of strobe-to-ambient light must be at least 2-3 stops, maybe even more. The result is jarring. Clearly the photographer was going for dramatic impact, but this overdoes it. Less is more, and I think a more subtle darkening of the background, perhaps one stop darker than the subject, would have given this photo a dramatic look without overpowering it.


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