PhotoZAP 16: The Shadow Of Your Smile

Our critics praise and pan your pictures


“The lighting draws my attention right to her nose.”—Jack Howard


© J Michael Bash, Chicago, IL. Gear: Nikon D90 with 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens. Exposure: 1/80 sec at f/1.8, ISO 1000, handheld.

Photographer’s statement: This photo was shot inside the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry using only available light which wasn't much. My niece, Meghan, and I were waiting for others in our group so I quickly snapped this photo. Does this photo have artistic quality, or is it simply a family snapshot?

Our critics say…

Mason Resnick: First, here’s what I like about this shot: The choice of f/1.8 to limit depth of field, selectively focusing on her eyes, the tight crop, and the girl’s pose and expression. What I don’t like: The lighting! The strong overhead light throws most of her face into shadow, while the light on her hands, nose, cheek and forehead are distracting. Moving her into a more evenly-lit scene would help.  Bottom line: It’s a nice snapshot, but it could be more.

Monica Cipnic: A family snapshot with potential--this is a lovely photo. The selective focus on her eyes, her engaging smile and the composition are all good. I have to agree with Mason, that the harsh overhead light that's creating the facial shadows and hotspots on her hands, shirt, nose and parts of her forehead is distracting. If  you had had a small portable/collapsible reflector (like the Flashpoint 12" or the Lastolite 12" collapsible reflectors) or used something readily available to reflect the light from above into her eyes and face that would have opened the shadows and improved the photograph.

Jack Howard: I agree that the framing is nice, but the lighting draws my attention right to the nose, and without significant catchlights in the eyes, there's some uneasiness in this shot. Monica's reflector fill suggestion is right-on, but really, who is carrying even a compact reflector for a family outing? Here's an opportunity to improvise. The white back of a brochure or driving directions from the home inkjet that are in your jacket pocket can be surprisingly effective at softening up shadows. Another great ad-hoc reflector for close-up portraits? The shiny silver or white back of an iPod or iPhone!

What do you think? Leave a comment!

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