I can always count on my partner to give honest feedback about my photographs.  She is an art historian with a very solid understanding of what makes a successful image and what doesn’t.  We have had a lot of conversations about composition.  Sometimes if I am sorting through my own photographs from the day (I have been going out every chance I get lately to get in some “practice”), she’ll look over and offer comments.

We’ve narrowed her system down to “strong” and “BORING!”  And I take no offense whatsoever when she says “BORING!” It’s actually somewhat of a relief to have that immediate response because I was usually already leaning that way myself.

Of course I have  my own ideas about my work and don’t always agree with her, but it’s food for good conversation, when we disagree, because I learn a lot from these discussions.

This is where the images I’m attaching for today come in.  These provoked an immediate “BOOOORING!” from her, and I was a bit taken aback.  I like this first image.

She says it’s flat and uninteresting.  I reply:  “But look, I caught those drops just before they fell!”  “So,” she replied. “There are lots of photographs like that.  There is nothing unique about this.  Your feelings in the moment as you captured it don’t transfer to the image.  You can’t think that way.  The image stands alone.”  “But for me there is a certain tension here, amidst a calmness. I like it.”   “You emotions are not infused into the image. Your liking it doesn’t make it good. It’s a weak photograph.”  And the conversation continued.  To no avail, I defended the color, the composition, the interest for nature-lovers…. There was no convincing her.  The photograph remains “boring.”

While none of the images here are “successful” from her point of view, it’s the third one that she considers the strongest.



I am eager to hear what others think about these, and believe me, I am completely open to all opinions here.  I want to understand what makes an image work and what doesn’t.  What would make these images stronger? How would you have approached this “shot.” I’ll be grateful for your input!

Update:  I just saw a great a shot over on Steve’s site:  I think that I’m going to figure a lot out by seeing strong examples of what actually does work.

Update #2:  Fellow-blogger and photographer Pablo (of the fantastic blog raised a question in his comment about what the first image would look like in B & W, so I decided to check it out.  Here it is:

1 (B & W)


I think that this version takes care of some of the “busyness” that a few people mentioned was problematic in the color version, but it also exposes other areas of weakness.  Steve mentions in the comments that the subject matter and the  focal point of the image are not the same, which of course means the composition doesn’t work, and this is really clarified for me when I see it in the B & W.  I also can see, now that I’m looking at it in B & W that the raindrop I was most intent on capturing (the one in the front) is not as in focus as I thought.  Many thanks to Pablo for his question, because has helped see the image in an entirely new way!

28 responses

  1. I understand where she is coming from and tis true what she says, I get the same from my hubby. However I understand your thoughts too, it happens to me all the time, I attach too much personal assessment and feeling to an image I create, but that is only natural, it is why we do it! My advice to critique your own work and others actually is to say these three magic words…… MEMORABILITY….ARTISTIC INTENT….CHARISMA if the image has these qualities its a keeper. Works for me most of the time!

    PS – the dew drops do not really do it for me, but understand why you took it 😉

    January 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    • Lesley, I’m so grateful that you took the time to reply! Your advice is very helpful. The word “charisma” is interesting… I haven’t actually considered it in relation to an image before, but I see what you mean, and I can see how this image doesn’t have that. Thank you!

      January 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

  2. I have to agree with your friend. 😦 I think you need to make the first photo more dimensional.

    January 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  3. Well Lemony, I’m loving that third photograph. It is simply beautiful.
    ~ Lynda

    January 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    • Lynda, thank you so much for chiming in. I’m glad you like the third one: you’re not alone. 😉

      January 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm

  4. OK…I can see what your partner is saying….Yes, they have been done before, but for me it is the fact that the point of focus is not the main item in the shot….if you had gotten in really close and made the drop the main feature it would have been stronger. The last image is better cos it has more going on and the drop is a larger part of the image…I hope I’ve got my feeling across right :/

    January 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    • Thanks, Steve. Your point about the point of focus is helpful, and I understand what you’re saying about why the last image is more successful.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm

  5. meant to say too that the background is a little ‘busy’ but getting closer and throwing it more out of focus would help that issue

    January 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    • Right, that was my concern, too–the “busyness” of the background. I’m sure I’ll have a chance to give this another try next time it rains!

      January 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

  6. Yeah – I like the third one a lot, actually. I liked the first one too, but there’s more “movement” in that third one. It’s as if the drops are on their way somewhere. Not boring.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    • Poupie! I just realized that was you! 🙂 I agree that the third image is more dynamic. Thank you so much for swinging by!

      January 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm

  7. paula

    I have to agree that I find the third one the most interesting, although not arresting. The first two – and especially the first – are soupy and I can’t find a way into them. Even with the bit of contrast, they don’t invite me into the worlds you are creating in so much of your other images. Having said that, I am a HUGE fan!!!!!!!!

    January 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    • Thanks, Peeks! (for your comments AND for being a fan :-). (I know you hate emoticons, but how else can I send you a great big grin?!) I definitely want to aim for “arresting” and I can see–through your comments and those of others–how I’ve missed mark.

      January 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm

  8. I too have a highly critical partner. That’s a good thing, it keeps the standards up, and sometimes it’s hard to be objective about your own work. I agree with most of the comments, the third one is the best, and the first one needs to have the background more blurred to work, it is a bit busy. I’ve tried some ice shots recently, and they’re not nearly as good as yours. Keep working on the dew drops, and I’ll keep trying the ice, we’ll get there!

    January 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    • I am so grateful for your encouragement, Malc, as well as your appreciation for critical input. I think it’s honest and informed feedback (which is often hard to come by) that helps us make the best progress in our efforts. Next time I head out after a rain, I’ll work on the aperture to see if I can yield some better results. Good luck with your ice photos! I’ll look forward to seeing your work. Thank you for your kind words, by the way about my own photographs of ice. There is something utterly intriguing to me about ice when I study it up close; I never get tired of it!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:39 am

  9. I don’t think it is boring at all-
    I like the first one, but I think the third one is awesome, the focus is really good and its colors are very catchy.
    I wonder how the firs one would have looked in black and white.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    • Pablo, I’m glad I’m not the only one who can get into raindrops! I decided to explore your idea about the B & W and have a look. I’m going to update my post to include it. It does change the effect of the image, and perhaps improves it in a way because it tones down all the noise in the background. But it also emphasizes (and clarifies for me) the issue that Steve raised about the problematic point of focus and even the lack of clarity to the image itself. A good exercise! Thank you for raising the question!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:56 am

  10. Julie

    I agree. I like the last image best — the color and the composition…. Julie

    January 20, 2012 at 1:36 am

    • Thanks so much for your feedback, Julie, and for taking the time to stop by!

      January 20, 2012 at 2:55 am

  11. Denzil Jennings Photography

    That’s great that you can get an honest critique of your work. It will help you grow as an artist. Keep in mind that you don’t always have to change something based on another’s critique, no matter how qualified it may be. Sometimes it’s all just a matter of preference. I do agree that the third image is the strongest though. Had the stem with the droplets been a larger part of the composition, then it would have made it a stronger image. The colors in the background may have still needed to be a bit more desaturated though to be less distracting. You could still crop the image in a manner to bring in a tighter focus. It wouldn’t be print size or anything anymore, but it make give you a better idea of what would make it stronger.The third is the strongest though because, while there isn’t a single focal point, the subject matter fills more of the frame. I love the colors and the warm tones as well. Keep it up! I’ve enjoyed following you, and can’t wait to see what you share next!

    January 21, 2012 at 4:24 am

    • Thank you, Denzil. This is very good and helpful feedback for me. I’m grateful you took the time to offer these comments. I’ll play around with the cropping and see what I come up with.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm

  12. While the third is obviously the strongest of these photos, I personally like the middle one most and it’s because diagonal composition and shapes of branches brings dynamics into the scene and also because of nice tension/contrast between right side and left side. RIght side is in focus and brighter while left side is ou of focus and darker. Very nice.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

    • Tomas, you’ve mentioned something that no one else spotted! Thank you for noticing the contrast between the two sides, as well as the diagonal composition (something I’ve been experimenting with of late).

      January 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

  13. i enjoy the second and third photos – the second one, for the sparse colors, the third one is definitely more interesting.

    January 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm

  14. Unique drops, gorgeous photos
    Thanks for liking my photo
    check out my painting blog
    hope you like it as well

    January 28, 2012 at 1:48 am

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