Another Look with Art Wolfe


Lesson Info

Portrait & Travel Photography Critique

So, we're moving on now to portrait and travel photography and go into the develop module. There's nothing I can say about this image. I think it's a beautiful image. A great moment, it captures our fear and our wonderment. And I think whoever shot this did a great, great job. I can see that they've burnt in a little bit in the ensuing smoke coming out of the plane. I think it's probably a good choice, the color, everything about that really works to me. And this image, I picked the first couple because I think they're more than just a random shot. They are shots that the person knew they were gonna be shooting the aerials. Or in this case maybe it's a friend that's up there on a building. I like the graphic nature of that. If it were mine, I might play initially with taking the sun reflection out. And you do that by just hitting this little healing brush, I think it's called a healing brush. And then that kind of what happens with telephoto lenses, there's multiple pieces of glass. An...

d often they pick up the reflection of the sun in there. But I think the image looks a little more graphic just having that sun flare, flare is what they call it, out of there. But I love the simpleness of that, the red sky. And it's very effective. Okay, so those were two photos that I think the person really, various photographers really worked at. These are more of a travel type of portraiter shots. I love this shot, I love those kind of shots that require a little thought on the photograph's part. He's just or she's not just walking down the street grabbing shots. They're virtually inside the building. This looks like India. And so, what I would do with this is bring down the highlights just a little bit and open up the shadows just a little bit, just get a little more out of that picture without changing the essence of the image. In other words, I don't want HR to really a make this flat. I want you to feel like you're inside a darkened room with that gentleman looking out just in a relaxed way gazing out. And I think you can open up the shadows slightly to affect that and gain a little more detail within that frame. But it's a beautiful image, I wish I owned it. This is also another very interesting image. These women in this book body of water. Or maybe it's on the ocean's edge. It looks like they're harvesting seaweed. Let's see what we can do with this image. The first thing I might do is see if taking the temperature to the right warms that up. I'm gonna take the highlights down. I think this image is really interesting. I'm not changing anything about the composition. But I think the exposure. Now I'm gonna pull this back to that yellow (mumbles). So I want the sky blue. And again, I'm just working my way through as I would normally do with my own work. And sometimes it's just you have to adjust one and then you see it affects the other. And you finally get to a point. But it's just not exact science. Sometimes it's a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Now I love the fact that it's little more graphic. But it still needs a little work. And so, I'm gonna take it down. There's detail in this person's face. And if I go to this brush in the upper right with the spots around it, I can make the size of this smaller. And this is exactly what Ansel Adams was doing in his dark room, using different tools but essentially it's exactly what he was after, burning and dodging. And we're basically dodging and opening up the shadows on this very dark skinned lady. Actually her skin may not be as dark as it looks. But it's by contrast to the overall environment, it looks really dark. So we're gonna bring up the exposure. And as I do that, it becomes green. So I'm gonna pull it to the right on the tint. And I might even go down, and this gets complicated, but I'm going down to the HSL, which is hew saturation and luminance, and I'm gonna get onto green channel. And by sliding it to the left, I'm removing the green in the shadow. And so, when I do that, that takes care of the green. But now I'm gonna go back up here and play with black. So by pulling that black and the white, I'm reclaiming some of the contrast. And that's not too bad. Now I'm gonna go back to overall. And you can see now how the exposure on her face isn't so bright, but you can get personality. Before it was as dark as anything. And I think that's, let me try this hashtag. Now you're gonna see what it looked like before. Ah, shoot. Gonna darken that, so let's look. That's the before. Just a few adjustments. We're reclaiming detail in the sky. But also exposure on her dress and on her face. Which one do you like better? Yeah, of course. I'm paying you guys money to be nice to me. All right, all right, yeah. Can I just enter with a very quick question? You used the word graphic to describe a little bit. Can you just explain what you mean by that? You know, there are certain shots where they're very soft and angelic and it's misty and everything's soft. And you kind of look at it. And then there's others where whatever's happening is it really grabs your attention. The storm clouds over the ocean. And how often do you see people in the middle in the ocean or in a lake like that? So that becomes graphic elements to work with. And so, I look at this and I'm not seeing a shot like this before. I've traveled the world for the last 40, 45 years now, and I have not seen something quite like that. And so, I love to be startled by seeing something new to me. So I think the context of where these women are working is very, very different. In the water on the edge of the ocean is another element. And I believe they are harvesting seaweed. Which is a huge food source around the world now. And so I've seen that in Borneo. I've seen that in southeast Asia in Indonesia. She doesn't particularly look Indonesian. But she could be. In fact, she probably is Indonesian. So that's when I meant by that. So I did a book called Tribes. I have photographed people throughout the world especially like this. So what I would do with this image, which I think is technically perfect, but what I would do is a couple things. They're right in your face. And so what I try to do is play to the strength of the image. So I'm gonna rotate this image. And I'm watching the cross hatches, these verticals. And so I'm trying to make it as vertical as possible but it's symmetrical. So I might close this a little bit and align the eye so that it's right down the middle. So aligning it vertically helps that. And make the eyes perfectly symmetrical helps that. Then what I'm going to do is take the highlights down and open the shadows. And bing, bang, boom, that's all I would do. It's not a whole lot. I think the person that photographed this did a great job in getting it sharp and right exposure. But that does help it, by just making it that one last 10% tighter and cleaner and more symmetrical. So this is a different type of portrait. This is in your face, it's not candidate. It's stylized, and that was the gist of the book Tribes. I wanted people to stare straight into my camera, and therefore straight into your eyes. So you felt the power of the moment, the motion of the moment. And that's what this person is doing. This is much more of candidate shot. And maybe this person that's selling newspapers is aware of the photo and they're a little embarrassed because perhaps they don't get photographed very often. And so, they're a little shy. So I already changed the tilt. All I did was align some of those lines. There's not much to do on this one 'cause I think it's a lovely shot. And there's a lot of value for just totally candid moments of people being themselves. And that's what I get from the expression on this person. And so, yeah, you could burn down highlights like on these little rectangles of light. But essentially I think it's a really, really nice candid moment. And choosing to make it a black and white works as well. I like this shot too. I like the composition of this old Chinese gentleman in front of his home. Just the way he's framed and the environment around him, all of it works. He's got his hands folded. He's very, very elegant and confident. And it is conveyed in this image. So I think that really works well. So with this shot, and I didn't even have to look at the caption to figure out where that is because I recognize the shape of those baobabs in Madagascar. I love this, I'm just closing the gap a little bit so that the young boy playing with that tiny little kite has that connection to that out of focus baobab. So all I did was just change it slightly. Not much has to happen on this. The warm light is reflected nicely in the boy's skin. He's got to hold his pants up. He's running towards the camera. And it's just a nice moment, really nice moment. So there's a similarity between these images. This one's more challenging because this kid is really reacting to the photographer and running towards him. This person's very aware of the photographer and probably is just happy and yet the rest of this image doesn't quite connect with that person. But maybe there's something we can do. One thing that I try to avoid is cropping people off at the wrist, the ankle, and the neck. Just basically try to avoid that. And so that's where this crop occurred. So what I would do is maybe make it more like this, by closing the gap, I'm gonna avoid all the wires and blue sky. I think that works. And perhaps I'm gonna open this up and make it a little more like that. And so, it's like two different points of view. You've got the woman that's in your face reacting to you. But enough of the kids going to school or coming home that it gives it a sense of place. We avoid cropping the feet off. And I think that relationship works a little better. This is interesting too. I love the shots and I've shot a lot where you don't see the face of the person. So it creates, it draws us in, it draws us in. When we can't see the face, it creates a mystery, and a mystery is a good thing. But look at where the fingers are. They're being cut off. So when you hear my voice saying, where's the horizon at night? You'll also remember that I'm gonna be looking at where you're cropping the person. So shoulders in all of that work. So I think this is a little tighter and more graphic because of that. You still have the mystery of who the person is and what they're looking at and it's a very simple use of negative and positive space. The intensity of the color and the design on the dress on the robe is balanced by the expanse of sand. So that says everything that this previous reset shot does. But it gets the subject more out of the center. And we lose the crop on the hands. I'm very aware of square formats because it tells me instantly that the person that took this picture cropped that. And so, some people like square formats. I've got a prejudice against it because I just am aware people have cropped it. And there's very few formats that have squares. Although there are some. I would prefer to use a 35 millimeter format. And I'm looking at this image. And I like the perspective, the above point of view, the candid point of view. So what I would do with this guy is just bring it in like this, I'm gonna open it up. Because I think anything below this mark on his body doesn't really add. And then I go to the crop. I go to the arrow to the left of the lock. And I go down to two by three. And that tightens it, now it's an uncropped image as far as anybody's concerned. And then I might play with the highlights. Take the highlighted areas down a little bit. It's overcast day. And I think that just simplifies the shot because whatever I've cropped out really isn't saying anything in addition to this. It becomes a little more easy to read. Now, this one gave me pause because I love the fact that there's a lot going on. This looks like Istanbul. I don't know if it's Istanbul or somewhere near there. I think it's a mosque. It would have been nice, and I'm sure the photographer would agree, if the head of the gull was in the frame. And yet I'm not gonna crop it out because it's got a certain amount of energy to it. So I'm not gonna crop anything of this image out. I like the lines coming off the boat out of the lower right. I love this incongruence bird. And I could the secondary birds tell the story. So there's not much I can do with this image. It breaks a lot of rules. But I still love the image. And so, congratulations. This one probably shot in Delhi. It's filled with color and life. And there's not a lot of breathing room, but that is what Delhi is. Especially the market scenes in Old Delhi. It's just this kinetic. Let's see if cropping would help. It might be kind of nice to take some of the Nokia signs down a little bit because that kind of overwhelms this. That's a little similar way of seeing that image. But I like images that are just full of detail and life. And those I use in contrast to the quieter moments like that. So if I'm telling a story or giving a presentation, I'm generally including both versions. The ones teaming of life where everything's happening at once, and then you contrast that with kids in a monastery or in a shrine with candles. So it's giving a pace to the presentation. This one was great, I love the candidness of this. It could be Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Dutch, the Amish are great subjects. Not particularly happen to be photographed. But this is really nice. I love photos that bring me back to a different era. And in fact the people in Lancaster County really do live a very traditional lifestyle. And it's kind of nice to see this whole thing going on. Next year I'll be leading a tour with my long-term friend Gabrielle Jacan, who's from Romania, and we're gonna be photographing farmland and traditions that go back to the seventh century. So of all the countries in eastern Europe, Romania really clings to very, very traditional ways of harvesting grass and hay and using cows and sheep and goats and all of that. So this reminds me a little bit of what we'll be after when we go on that trip, which you're all invited to go with us. But there's nothing I would change with this. I think it's really a nice image. And I'm glad to see it. In this image, I think the person did a great job. Again, the person sitting on the edge of the cliff at the big bend on the Colorado, it's really Horseshoe Band, I think it's called. It's really nice, a few things that I would do is maybe pull it a little away from being too magenta. I would take down the saturation a little bit down here. And I would drop, and I think the person that took this has done a lot of work on this and has done a good job. But I would even take down those clouds more. Because I want that person and the river to be fully engaged. And by taking the sky down, then you are able to see the person sitting on the bluff a little better. Now, you could argue that you like it more orange or magenta, or whatever. But I think just dropping down that sky is critical. And I love the fact that the person's lost in thought looking at this magnificent landscape. It's a very simple image, very nice. This is really another nice shot. I think photographers are the nicest people on the planet. But let's make this image work a little better. So I'm gonna bring in a neutral density filter from the bottom to the top. And watch what I do. I play with blacks and whites and I'm bringing out basically contrast. And I'm bringing out the color of the pack and the shoulder of that. So it becomes more participant, it becomes more obvious. (laughs) Remember Porky Pig? When he would struggle with a word, I would just abandon it. It's been helpful for me over the years as well. So at any rate, just bringing in a little darkness into that water, I think probably closing the gap so that the photographer is a little more dominant helps that image, but nice, works. I think this also as a graphic element as one tours and travels around the world. It's nice to have these kind of graphic details to augment the big cathedrals and shrines. I often love to pace my presentations with architectural details. In this particular case, we're using complementary colors of red and green which naturally go together. So it's just kind of a nice study. You could also close the gap and just do a study of the window treatment and the little pots and the windows and have a little less. That also works, but both work. It's just maybe a matter of taking the green down a little bit and toning down the colors just slightly. So spiral staircases in churches and in lighthouses and in other places. They're beautiful shapes. This works really nice coming in from the left and our eye follows all the way down to the bottle. It also could be really a nice vertical. And if I flip this horizontally, then we've got the lines coming in from the left again. And there's a lot of verticality to this. So without context, you're looking either straight up or straight down. So there is no right way to see this. And so I flip this intentionally just to show you that when it's kind of without horizons, you don't have to be locked into the way you shot it. Nobody really cares. And if I close the gap, then every part of this works. So that works as a tighter composition. But it also works in its entirely. And it also works the way we originally saw it. So there were multiple ways of seeing that image. This one's pretty tight. This looks like Iceland to me. The only thing that I would slightly just to say I'm improving it would be a little less of the tree here to gain that one corner of the building. And that's a very minor comment. But everything's very, very tight and precise. So perhaps stepping back just a little bit. A little more breathing room around the mountains, a little more space around the house. That would be a secondary way of seeing it. The exposure is correct, technically it's perfect. That's the only slight, slight, slight critique to Alex. And on this one, I would just kind of bring down the, it looks a little overworked. And so saturation, bringing the saturation down a little bit, playing with the highlights gives a little more detail in the clouds and shadows up. I think this is a better way of seeing this image than being a little overworked, a little too contrasty. It's a nice enough shot. I don't know where it is. It's somewhere in the Central America or Florida, I have no idea where it is. But it's a beautiful old structure on a really nice day. I think that helps that image. Okay, so this looks like one of the fjords of Norway. Horizon, basically this line divides the photo and half. And I would say let's just open this up. Let's make it a panoramic. Let's bring it all the way down to there. Let's straighten the horizon. And where's this horizon line? Well, basically they're along the water. So you could that's the horizon line. But if we do that, maybe it's somewhere in between. Probably about there. So then I'm gonna take the highlights down. And you can see there's no detail whatsoever in there. So this is a case where maybe a neutral density filter would have worked better because we do have nine stops of light. But it depends on this picture and the camera that the photographer was using when they shot the shot. And I can't read any, I can't read what they started with. I love the fact that it's a cabin overlooking this fjord, but I think less sky, more emphasis than on the cabin, the little benches. This tells you exactly what the previous shot did, but without all that sky take your eye up and away from it. This is a really nice shot. Horizon is in the middle. So there's a couple things I'm gonna do. I'm gonna bring the horizon down to there. Done, okay. So then I'm gonna take the highlights down. And you can see again there's no detail whatsoever in the sky. Gonna open up the shadows, take the overall exposure down again, then drop in the neutral density filter. And by doing this, I'm reclaiming this. But look what happens in the corner. This becomes darker than that. And so you can take this tool and lighten that up a little bit. But the overall exposure tells me that this is handhell, a shot that's not tack sharp. So the person that shot this was handholding the shot and without a filter. I think that maybe we needed to use a faster ISO, probably bump the ISO up to 400. It was F13, but mostly it was shot at 1/30th of a second, which is two slow to handle the shot. And that's exactly why these are not tack sharp. I can go to the numbers and see that this photographer actually ate pancakes in the morning and we'll just leave it at that. So, too little ISO, too long of exposure. And the emphasis then is on a subject that's not quite tack sharp. Compositionally, it works, but a neutral density filter would have helped and a faster shutter speed. I'm gonna retain the same composition or same ratio, but I'm gonna close the gap a little bit. Because I want there to be less space all the way around and just have the elements of these two boats, the cabin, and that little land formation. And everything in the previous image, this is just tightened up a bit so that my eye worked the frame better. Then I'm gonna take the highlights down a little bit. This again, this pixelating, which tells me it was kind of a low file that we got. ISO 100 is nice, 1/60th of a second, maybe a little slow if you were handholding this image. But basically I'm frequently now because I'm using the top Canon cameras, I'm usually starting off at ISO 1OOO as a starting point. And virtually no noise. And then I can bring it down. If I can put the camera on a tripod, then I can take the ISO down to even 100. But I'm not gonna handhold anything at and 1/60th, it's just not worth trying to hold my breath and trying to get it when it's unnecessary. And in an open landscape like this, there's no need to shoot at 100. I think this is a really nice shot. Person knows what they're doing. I like it a lot. I would maybe change the color just a little bit. Because the color is a little, maybe I pull it to the blue. And by pulling the tint a little to the left, the cabin becomes less yellow jaundiced. That's purely a subjective call. I think the image is really nice. I like the cabin off center. Low horizon, the stars, the movement of the clouds. I think it's a lovely image, good job. And this looks like Lake Union here in Seattle. So let me bring that light up here. What I would do is maybe take, yeah, I'd take the sailboat, which is the main subject, off center, so get it out of the center. I don't think I've lost anything. I've lost a few houses. But what I've gained is putting the moon and the boat off center, which I think helps that image quite a bit. All right, I'm done with that. So are there any questions about what I was doing? Any questions from the studio? Yeah? So how do we decide when to keep the moon or the sun in the center or put it off center? How do you decide when to keep the moon and the sun in the same image? In the center, like center of the image. So now I just saw you moving the boat and the moon to the side. Well, you know, getting back to that one image. The moon, and this is the moon, the moon was basically tied because the sailboat was directly under it. And the photographer waited for that sailboat to get into the reflection of the moonlight. So the moon was moved simply because I wanted to get the sailboat out. There's very few times I'd ever put the moon or the sun in the middle of a frame anyways, because I'm always intentionally trying to use space. The minute the subject or the horizon is in the middle, it makes the image less engaging because that's where your eye goes. So almost always I'm putting the moon and the sun off center.

Join legendary wildlife and conservation photographer Art Wolfe, as he critiques a select group of nature photographs. In this curated review, you'll get expert insight into improving your work in the field and through post-processing so you can begin capturing unforgettable images of the world.

Art critiques images in the following categories:

  • Wildlife
  • Landscapes
  • Abstract Nature Photography
  • Portraits and Travel



  • Nice to have well known and our local world famous Art Wolfe to critiques our works.Glad to have a chance to have him critique my Hummigbird image with a top score. Is like to me winning an award. Thanks Creative live for the opportunity.
  • What an amazing opportunity to learn from a master. Thank you Art Wolfe for sharing your expertise and teaching us to simply take "Another Look." Thank you Creative Live for yet another great session.
  • Outstanding class with Art Wolfe's critique of student's work. Thrilled one of our images (Snowy Egret) was selected, honored Art felt it needed no other cropping and even though it was one of the last images reviewed and short on time, would have loved to hear if the image required any other adjustment. Will try Art's "Highlights down, Shadows up" in Lightroom Classic to see if the image looks any better.