PhoptoZAP 72: All in a Day's Beard

Our Panel of Perfectionists Picks Apart Your Pictures

"Great moment and genuine emotion captured here! However, it looks as though turning this image black and white was an afterthought."—Jena Ardell

©  Kimberly Thorn, Goshen, CT. Gear: Nikon D80 with Nikkor 55-200mm f 4.5-6 taken at 200mm, f/8. handheld. Manual Exposure: 1/400 sec, ISO 320.

Photographer’s statement:
"I chose this picture because I love natural portraits and my goal is to be the best I can be at capturing the true essence of an individual, so I would very much like all the criticism and ideas on how I can improve within this category.  This picture is of my husband Clint. It was taken during a brief moment while he stopped working on  the construction of the new dairy barn."

Our critics say...

Jena Ardell: Great moment and genuine emotion captured here! However, it looks as though turning this image black and white was an afterthought. There is a lot of untapped post-editing potential in his beard and in the texture of that hat. If you're going to make something black and white, you might as well go full-throttle! The dodge/burn tool in Photoshop would have greatly improved this photograph. If you don't have post-editing software, a polarizing filter would have created a richer contrast and darkened the sky. A reflector or a little fill-flash would have brightened up the brow and eye area, making that smile even more pleasant.

Mason Resnick: In a photograph such as this, which candidly captures a contemplative moment, the goal is to focus the viewer's attention on the subject, but in several subtle ways, the composition here undermines that purpose. The light shapes of tree limbs in the background draw my eyes away from the face (which, by the way, is overexposed with overly dark shadows that, as Jena says, should have been fixed in post-processing). Crop closer, and eliminate the distractions, and let the subject be off-center! Crop in from the right and the top right to the edge of his hat, and use software to reduce contrast, which will open up shadow details.

Russell Hart: I agree with Jena, except that what I'm missing in terms of detail is in your husband's skin, rather than his beard or hat. There should be more tone and texture in it. RAW would let you pull that detail back in, but even if you shot in JPEG you should be able to improve on it. On the other hand, it looks from the sparkly stuff in his beard as if you might sharpened a bit too much. It also looks as if you were zoomed pretty far in, maybe close to your 200mm limit. Focal lengths beyond say 105mm or at most 135mm in head-and-shoulders portraits tend to cause a certain flatness. If you'd moved closer and shot with a shorter focal length the picture would have been more dimensional. Of course then your husband would have been more aware of you, and with your variable-aperture zoom, the background would have been sharper and possibly distracting. Shorter focal length for volume, faster lens for more background defocus, always compromises!

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