Photo Critique with John Keatley


One Hour Photo Featuring John Keatley


Lesson Info

Photo Critique with John Keatley

With our remaining time, if you don't mind sticking around we're gonna take a look at some photos from everybody else. I'm gonna go ahead and just take a moment and switch over to our Lightroom catalog. Okay, first up from Erica Greene and I'm just looking at this thinking, I thought that this was submitted upside-down. And I wasn't sure if she did that on purpose, or if my computer just flipped it around. But I'm pretty sure that she had it listed, or posted, upside-down, which is actually what caught my attention on this. And so I guess we could review it either way, and so I was actually more fascinated with it upside-down just because it changed my perspective on things. On its own, normally I wouldn't post a photo upside-down but this is one of those ones that I think it just, I don't know, makes you look at it a little bit differently, and so... I'm actually just shocked, 'cause I think Lightroom in my catalog flipped it around for some reason on its own, and so now I don't know ...

what to say about it. But I think it was an interesting take just because every once in a while, there are photographs that you can flip upside-down. I don't know if you've ever done that. Well, I do it for different reasons, but I think sometimes when I'm editing, turning an image upside-down sometimes I can't see color unless I do that because I'm focused on-- Oh, really? Expression and things like that, so sometimes when I'm editing I'll actually do it upside-down because it allows you to see things. It's kind of like, I think, if you learn to draw. I think in basic drawing they talk about drawing something upside-down because your brain isn't focused on-- The details. The details. You're able to just think clearly about line and perspective and that sort of thing. Right, and if you work with a view camera, a four by five or an eight by 10 camera, you see the image on the ground glass-- I don't know how people do that, I could not-- And so I've turned images upside-down for compositional reasons, just to kinda look at the edges a little differently, and the proportions of size things, and so that's, I think, those two good tips. One, for composition, but one for color. I think that works out well. All right, let's go to the next image. And we're looking at a beach image with a little bit of snow, I'm trying to see if I recognize this place. And I love the clouds in the sky. I'm not sure if there's a spot on your sensor or if that's a bird. And do you shoot much landscape stuff? Only for, you know, when I am doing conceptual landscapes, but typically it's not part of my-- Not part of your norm? And so one of the things, and I don't know if this is controversial or not, I will clone out a bird if it's so small that it just seems awkward and distracting. And I know that it was naturally there, and you can get into the whole Photoshop-- You're asking the wrong guy, I mean, I'll do anything. I don't have any problem with anything but if you're working for a newspaper, you probably need to leave that bird in there-- Yeah, yeah, you definitely would as far as journalism ethics kind of fit into their own special category of photography. And everyone else is kinda up to their own and with what you're doing, it's really, it seems like it's all about the final image, what's in the final image. Right. Everyone gets to draw their own little line in the sand as far as how far they want to take things. Well I think, I mean, just personal opinion, you know I think, again like you said, it depends on what your personal preference is, but I think oftentimes we limit ourselves by thinking of photography as this documentary tool, which it can be, but if you think about if you're just interested in creating, you know photography should be thought of no differently than painting, right? I mean, you could paint something that makes no visual sense to others without understanding where it came from but no one's gonna question it, you know? But I think for photographers, we get so caught up in those details, so I think you're right. It just depends on what you're interested in and what you're trying to achieve with it. All right, so this is what happens when you talk about photos, you get kinda get send off in tangents and you, back on the photo here, one of the first things I look for in a photograph is a subject, and I'm not getting a strong subject here. I'm seeing a lifeguard stand and I guess I would like a little bit more tangible. There's some nice elements, I mean you got a nice sky, the snow on the sand I think has potential, and maybe there's some neat patterns in it. And so I think the scene needs to be worked a little bit more on its own. It's not bad, but it's not catching me with anything. I think this, the horizon on the water seems to be, it's like-- It it a little off? Off balance to me. And so one of the things I'd love to be able to do is go into Lightroom and see if we can just kinda fix that because the human eye can be very, very sensitive to the horizon, and so there you go, there. Couple percent better. Feels a little better, yeah. Yeah, and so don't want to have those horizon lines off. All right, excellent, let's go to the next one. And this feels like Europe to me and I'm gonna drop off this bottom, just to get it a little bit bigger and this is Marcello Maselli. And so one of the things that we talked just about this, about symmetry, and it looks like you kind of embrace that in a lot of your photographs. This type of photo bugs me because it's like they're not quite in the center of the sidewalk and it's kinda like you want to be when you got everything else so symmetrical on that. Any thoughts? Yeah, I would agree that I think if you're gonna do it, it could be over a little bit. For me, I get when I look at this photo, and this is personal preference, but I get the feeling of walking into a, which doesn't happen to me all the time, but I get the feeling of walking into a room where the ceiling's too low, and I have to duck down like I feel like of restricted by the lack of head room so to speak, so for me, I'd prefer to see more sky, and maybe less pathway, but... But it's a beautiful image. Yeah, I mean, it's a beautiful place. The other thing I would maybe try is I feel like we're a little too close with the wide-angle lens 'cause that roof is kinda fading away. I wouldn't mind seeing this backed up if you have the lawn to give you the space. Backing up a little bit further with a more normal, or maybe even a telephoto lens, unless there's something in the foreground but it's just kind of a plain sidewalk. And so that's why I might try a longer lens on that one. All right, let's go to this next one here. So we got a black and white from Anthony Kriz and I love black and whites. I'm starting to shoot more black and whites myself. I'd like to do a black and white class here, at CreativeLive, at some point, but that's I think that's years down the road. And so I think it's an excellent image for turning black and white, and I think you've got some good elements in there. I love the repeating pattern of course. I like the toning and the contrast in it. And there's a whole science to that in black and white-- Yeah, it's hard. Getting it right, and I'm still working on that. Not totally sure about the big angle in the bottom right-hand corner. I do like that it mimics the girders that are kind of right above it, and so that part is pretty good, and there's kind of a nice angle where it's cutting the railroad lines. I would like to visit this environment myself because I think there's many different other angles that could be exploited. All right, let's move on. And so... Is this a pre-shoot for a wedding? I'm not sure. Chosen a good time of the year in this location with the fall foliage there, they got a long lens getting the shallow depth of field, and so I think it's a nice shot of the couple. It's clean, it's colorful, it's I think the framing on it is pretty nice. Any suggestions? I mean, I know how this stuff goes, so I mean... My first thing comes to mind is like it'd be cool if there was a like a umbrella of like a different color, a solid color or something like that. But I know if you did that, it would change the lighting on their face, which is maybe why they did clear, but for me, the clear umbrella kind of like takes all of my focus away from everything else-- It's a very artificial element in a very natural world. Right. And so yeah, I would agree with that that. If you can choose the umbrella choice there might've been a better choice with that. I mean, it's good for lighting reasons. Yeah. All right, let's try a little closeup here. And so closeups, this one's from Renee Song, and closeups, in my mind, are kind of an easy gimme if you get in close enough, if you... 'Cause there's just beautiful little colors and textures and things like that, and I don't know flowers well enough to know what this is, and so this one to me just screams, color, and it's got some really nice color, and so then it's nice on its own, it's not totally sharp, and I don't know if it's supposed to be. There are elements that are sharp, but they're kind of in odd places. I actually kind of like that about this, though. I feel like I would, I mean... I think if it was sharp where you expect it to be sharp it would look like any other closeup, but I don't know, I'm actually kind of, that's the thing that I find most interesting about it is that it's-- Well, it does mimic a bit more of a painting and so when I say I think it should be sharper, if I was shooting this, what would probably happen is I would shoot the next picture sharper and then I would say, "Oh, I may not like that." (laughs) Yeah. And then I go back to the first one. And so it's second-guessing at this point. It's hard to tell, 'cause we don't have that mythical photograph to compare it to. All right, next up, this is from Mai... Me pronouncing names is just gonna be hard. Arana, and so I really like the shot on this one. So this is just a good moment of light, choosing light on the subject, and I think you could've shot this at any time of day but I think this is one of the best times of day to shoot this, and then another black and white photograph here, and do you shoot much in black and white? Do you? No, I actually just did a portrait series in black and white a couple weeks ago, but outside of that rarely do I shoot black and white. 'Cause that's how I got started, you know, 'cause I was back in the film days. That's all you really had, but there is a whole special look to the toning and development of it and so it's something I encourage everyone to play around with a little bit because nowadays you can shoot raw, you can process it later into black and white, so you can do amazing things with it. And so, yeah, definitely get out there and shoot some black and white. All right, ever do sports photography, action photography? I did once, and then I-- Once? Never did it again. (laughing) And so, going down to the motorcycle track, and so we got a slow shutter speed shot, which I love action and slow shutter speeds 'cause that shows us where the action is, shows us what's moving. I do a lot of panning stuff, and the thing on this shot is I just want to move to the right, wherever if there's another spot to shoot a little bit to the right, or shooting this cyclist just a little bit before, 'cause we're starting to get on to the backside of them, and it's harder to get good shots on the backside of them. And generally you wanna shoot kind of as they're coming up perpendicular to you, and then, generally speaking, you can stop shooting once they get straight in front of you. And so I kinda feel like they're riding away and not in a great way, but I think it's a good choice of shutter speed because when you're shooting action and you're doing these slow shutter speeds, finding that right mix where there's a little bit of sharpness, but some fun blur in there, and I think they nailed it on the shutter speed and just gotta keep shooting and watch those backgrounds. It's a little bit messy, a little bit bright in the upper parts of the background. All right, couple more to choose from here. Okay, Ndine Wittkamp. All right, so you're our portrait expert here. What are your thoughts on this? The lighting is nice, they have a good handle on light and control. I guess I'm try to... For me personally, I guess I don't know what it says or what I'm supposed to be feeling about it. It seems like she's kind of, I'm not sure about the expression, so I'm not really sure if it was a portrait for the person or if it was about them, for a story or something but certainly, I like that they're exploring with environment, and their lighting seems to be coming from a good place, and the post, they certainly, if that was, it looks like it was maybe some post involved. But I would say, I would just say keep shooting. I would say really think about expression and subject and how that is meant to relate to the overall image, but it's a nice, well-lit portrait. That's good insight. Now for me, it feels like she's sitting behind a store window that's reflecting out, but you can't see the photographer in the reflection. Or it's a composite. And I'm not sure which. Yeah, to me, I assumed it was a composite, not because they did anything wrong, but it just seemed like it would be a composite. If they actually lit that out on location, I think they did a great job of balancing the light and that sort of thing. Okay, see now I'm starting to see it on location, but at first it felt like the lights were a reflection in the window that was-- Oh, I see-- It was like she was sitting in a storefront. Oh right, right, right. And part of the thing that threw me off, I think, is the person's logo, because they have Imagine Photography there-- Oh, you thought that was the store window? It almost felt like that was the store window. I know it was the logo, but it felt like it was the store window. Yeah. But yeah, if that was all out on location, that's a lot of work to get all the props and get everything set up out there. All right, so a little bit of a fun one for our last one here. John, what was your original statement when you first-- This can't be real, I mean, I don't know. Maybe it was jumping and it just happened to do this but I just can't believe that that's real. Geert Weggen, a good moment here-- Which I don't want to take away from, I love it. I think it's hilarious, I'm just, so I don't want to take away from, I don't want to be thinking about whether its real or not even though I said that, so-- I'm going with it's real, I think it's real. Planet Earth 2 is coming out. They have this little video of a mouse on one strand of grass that's kind of falling around. Really? And so they might crawl up a piece of grass, I don't know if he's eating some of the flowers or something there. The one thing that's just throwing me off a little bit is the aspect ratio of the image, and I don't know if this is exactly one by one, and so, okay, it is. It is, I guess wasn't used to the square. I was gonna say I prefer squares to something a little bit longer, it felt a little bit taller and so. Obviously, they're cropping this, I think, just to get in tighter and maybe get rid of some distracting elements there. But this is a good moment. And we don't have full resolution here, so I can't tell on sharpness, but definitely they got a great moment. Yeah, that's pretty awesome. They got a great moment. All right, so that concludes our image review. John, thanks a lot for sitting in on me with this and helping out. I hope all of you were able to pick up something from that. So thanks a lot for tuning in, and we'll catch you next time around.

Class Description

Click here to ask John Greengo your questions for future One Hour Photos!

Every month, John gives you an hour of expert guidance and immediate feedback with ten questions and ten critiques in this exciting new series we're calling One Hour Photo. John will also sit down with one guest photographer to offer insights, advice, and industry knowledge, and this month's guest is John Keatley.

In this hour, John responds to questions about shooting around the Grand Canyon area, a camera suitable for left-handed people, Lensbaby lenses, the benefits of mirrorless cameras, and lens recommendations for portraits.

John Keatley is a well-known commercial photographer based in Seattle, WA. He often self-characterizes his work as a reflection of himself, rather than the individual he is photographing. In recent years, his journey of self-discovery has brought clarity to emotions that have always been present yet were previously unknown. Anxiety. Fear. Isolation. Not Being In Control. Keatley capitalizes on the correlation between these emotions and humor. It is a fine line, sitting in the pain of the emotion and understanding that pain can also be humorous. Yet John beautifully executes this dichotomy in his work, as the viewer is invited to stay a moment longer and ponder the unexpected. Check out his CreativeLive class here.