dpReview – Dismay at poor photo quality in Challenges

Posted today at dpReview…

Today I went through and voted on the 116 shots for the Western Canada challenge. There are some lovely images that truly convey the characteristics of Western Canada. Unfortunately, I must admit to some dismay over the poor quality of the majority of the entries. First of all, to get only 116 entries for such a vast and truly beautifully photogenic area is disheartening in itself. But the quality of many entries was substandard for a Challenge open to photographers the world over.

I am not trying to be a troll here. Nor am I trying to be self-important in critiquing the work of others. My hope with this post is to encourage dpreview users to work a bit harder on carefully selecting images and carefully processing them before entering. Here are some specific comments/concerns:

  • Too many HDR-style/look photos when HDR is not required, nor is the look adding to the aesthetic of the image;
  • Not enough critical cropping. There are a couple of photos which make excellent use of negative space, but many others would benefit from a proportion other than the 3:2 or 4:3 that the camera dictates. Crop to fit your subject, not the camera format!
  • Too many blown-out highlights. When you make your exposure – carefully check your histogram to ensure you haven’t lost detail in clouds/sky. When you are processing, toggle on highlight/hot & cold clipping to reduce the chance of burning out the highlights.
  • Not enough careful composition/cropping to eliminate unnecessary distractions. This is of even more importance before you take the picture. Check the corners and the edges of the frame. Find the distractions then eliminate them – maybe you need to move from where you set up. More often then not, taking a few steps forward will solve many problems (provided you are not already on the edge of a cliff, lake or river!)

I realize many of the users here may be new to photography, but when you enter a Challenge, you should be posting your absolute best work. Perfect exposure, composition and focus are just the beginning of excellence in photography. It’s not helpful to put up poorly exposed and composed photos as this is not a critique session where you receive active and helpful feedback – it’s only a Challenge based on votes.

Take a look at some of the high quality photography sites around the net to see what the standard is. Learn the basics of good post-capture processing to enhance your images. Keep working towards achieving a high standard and blow us away with your best work!

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