Photo Critiques: 3 Winners and a Dud

Photo Critiques

After shooting, the most interesting part of the junkyard night photography workshops is the afternoon critique. On day 2, each participant brings 4 images to review with the group. In a supportive environment, my co-instructor Troy Paiva and I talk about what worked, and offer ideas for improvement. Seeing how different photographers approach the wide array of subject matter in the junkyard is always a great learning experience.

Stronger Critiques

As we’ve built relationships with the photographers who’ve attend our workshops multiple times, our critique methods have evolved. Many photographers find that the feedback loop on the first night’s shooting can lead to breakthroughs on the 2nd or 3rd night of the workshop. A few people have asked us for stronger critiques, in order to accelerate the learning process.

A request for a stronger critique lets us know that the photographer isn’t worried about having their feelings hurt, and that we shouldn’t sugar-coat any criticisms of their work. We can be blunt about discussing any shortcomings in the images. At first, we were surprised that some accomplished photographers were asking us to let them have it in front of the group. This humbleness and desire to learn were so impressive, that we’ve added a new option for our critique sessions.

3 Winners and a Dud

This new critique option is called 3 Winners and a Dud. Instead of bringing their 4 best images, participants could optionally bring their 3 best, plus 1 that didn’t work. And a lot of times we collectively learn the most from the dud. Removing roadblocks by reconceptualising a really frustrating setup can often free people up to do better work.

A 7-shot 360 Degree Light Painted Panorama

One of the photographers who attended the last workshop asked us if we’d show him some of our duds, and talk about why they didn’t work. Below is a 360 degree panorama of a funky RV interior that I shot on the night before the workshop. There were 30-40 mph winds that night, so shooting an interior seemed like a good idea!

The inside of the RV was completely dark except for a little bit of moonlight coming through the sunroof. The 360 pano is comprised of 6 shots around and 1 shot up at the ceiling. Each shot was light painted using a flashlight to bounce light from behind the camera position. All 7 exposures were 1 minute at f/8, ISO 800. A Tokina 10-17mm fisheye was used at 10mm on a Canon 60D.

The overall lighting is a bit flat, and the kitchen area is too dark. The metal ceiling has some hot spots, leading to a loss of detail and uneven transition area between the ceiling and wall. Some of these issues could be improved with hours of complicated post-processing work, but a better shot would require a re-shoot.

Lessons Learned

So the question is, how do you create interesting, directional lighting in a tight interior space when you’re shooting a 360? I would sacrifice some resolution and shoot 4-around with a full frame camera and 12mm fisheye lens. This would simplify the setup by only having to light 4 shots instead of 7. Shooting 4-around also doesn’t require a zenith (up-shot).

I would probably try using bounced flash instead of a flashlight. I would also pay close attention to where each shot starts/stops, in order to keep the lighting as even as possible when stitching the pano together. I might even try adding some lighting from outside the RV through the curtains.

If we don’t explore where our limits are, how will we ever get past them? Talking about what didn’t work is a great first step in figuring out what to do next. I hope this example inspires you to try something difficult. And if you don’t nail it, talk to someone you trust about how you can.

Fall Night Photography Workshop

The next night photography and light painting workshop at Paul’s Junkyard will be September 28-30, 2012. Contact me if you’d like to get on the workshop notification list. Registration opens in early June, and the email list is the best way to grab a spot before the workshop fills up.

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