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Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 2

Lesson 32 from: Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 2

Lesson 32 from: Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

32. Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 2

Lesson Info

Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 2

Thank you to the people for submitting their work and it's not easy yeah being critiqued is not easy it's a tough thing is for sure including for us professional photographers it's nothing it's something we don't necessarily ever really get used tio yeah I like this piece I like the way the tree limb kind of points in the direction of people and the light coming off the rocks from the way it shines is nice so it's good lighting something was almost two perfect maybe there's too many leading lines I don't know it's almost seems like too perfect time maybe that's a ridiculous thing but I don't know he had to have more you you you you and that too perfect thing it's killing may sometimes I like it a lot I think it's beautiful obviously scott you and I and amy all got to go to white sands and so, you know, again having that personal connection to places I think is important and really feeling something you know, I was looking at the one of the people on the you know, I think we got advance...

sorry about that we had the wrong image up over here, okay, I'm going to start going to white yeah, no let's let's think with well, the truth is they're both really good images both they both kind of hit that quote unquote perfect sort of photograph this definitely talking about daniel's image y paying early morning shot in white bait season. I'm not sure white bay is necessarily on dh, and one thing is if I'm reading a caption and I'm still not able to necessarily understand what what it is after looking at the photo, then I don't think it necessarily achieves that goal. However, that said the photograph itself is beautiful in the sense that the quality of the light blues the warrant in the horizon, nothing has blown out, nothing is lost in the shadows. It's a very dynamic images, scott said. Very perfect, I think it's I think it's really great. Yeah, it's like having the starburst obviously is great. I like that it's not centered it's, not the type of subject matter that you would immediately think this is a beautiful thing if you're walking by it. So I think it's nicely done, okay, concede the way the light is kind of playing on the sand, which happens obviously at sunrise and sunset that's great and you've got the different layers of the the limbs itself, and in the foreground of the mountains, the backgrounds of nice clouds works. Yeah, it's simple but beautiful, and this tree is looking pretty haggard but makes a great compositional element for that reason. You know, it's not perfect in that sense that the photo is well executed. It's, very hard to get that little bit of some might get coming through this particular spot because it's sunset everything's changing very quickly as we know, and so to be able to capture that kind of light on dh have your tripod there to get this kind of death. The field and sharpness is is very, very tricky. Also, just as a comment on the starburst effect that you see from the tree more than likely, I'm gonna guess that of not only from the depth of field, but a very small aperture, usually sixteen, twenty, twenty two, thirty two depending on the lands, of course will achieve that star effects. If you've ever photographed a building, for instance, and it has lights on the outside and you shoot it f twenty two, you'll get that sort of starring effect from it if you have a small white source. So this also really takes advantage of that and I think makes ah, very clear. Center of focus that's, that's. Beautiful. Yeah, the tree stays in the rule of thirds on the right hand side of the frame so it's, really great and you mentioned texture I think this is a good one for texture to it, I must like deal with that tree was dealing a few ruffled if you rub your hands against the way that san will be blowing it there's a lot of texture in this case just yeah, I agree with you great job erin steve unknown lake in mount rainier national park washington so about black and white photos how do you guys feel about black and white as faras publishing in the magazine? Scott yeah it's kind of tough way probably would not do it and a feature article where you see, you know, eight or ten color photos then all of a sudden having one black and white would be kind of jar I guess we might use it for an opener like gotta think slash you to page of express remind does that you kind of set a different time from the rest of the case or if like I said, if we didn't news piece or a department even two black but you're doing a whole series of technical code is black and white it's kind of a tough decision but it seems out of place but I'm feeling this is a good decision if I would have been a lot of kind of the same green maybe the muddy water so I think black it was a good call on this one I think it's a nice photo, I think again some of the random twigs in the water our little bit distracting I like the one in the front to the right kind of pulls you in but once to the left are a little bit distracting so maybe again moving around to see if there's a better spot of water that might have been looking a long two terms but I think the lighting's good closets nixon's speech yeah, I mean I agree I think was a good choice to make it black and white from the stock photography side not not miss it for the editorial side but very afford for us to actually sell black and white photo so I wanted to hear scott's perspective on that black and white tends to be considered more of a fine art more more appropriate for fine art where color images are are the great majority of what actually was cell into scott's point if you are if a black and white does run then but the exception of course being magazines that specialize in black and white photography you know, obviously but speaking more generally is far story story driven, you know, editorial features black away it would be hard to move though I think I think this was a good choice I agree that if this was in color it probably wouldn't work but it's black and white really accentuates the textures of an image on brother wise I really agree with scott's critique of the image the sehgal you richard shot from mountain sounds sunset on milford sound fiordland pretty good I love the clouds you can see this it's almost like a movement to that maybe it was a long explosion but look over there are kind of pointing towards the mountain it's three wildlands reflection is really nice it's a pretty solid case yeah I agree I think it's beautiful I think it's well executed you know I probably personally would have tried to open up some of the shadows and bring a little bit more detail out in the darker areas that said this would be a really challenging composition to use neutral density filters so this might be a place where having multiple layers like let's say hypothetically you really wanted to open up the detail and he's inside cliffs if you wanted to do that you would you would be challenged by putting on a filter that went across the whole horizon teo to try and bring down this because this would even get darker on dh however to get a good exposure between the two I'm guessing there's probably some uh maybe some dodging a burning maybe not though it could be just the photographer richard may have exposed for both elements overall I think it's beautiful it's an exquisite place I love thee placement of the rocks throughout the frame in the foreground on dh quite frankly I think this is one of those instances where the dark edges on the mountain really just guide and push your your vision toe look forward through the frame um so this might be a great spot where I probably wouldn't even focus on bringing up any detail in there if anything maybe actually bringing any detail completely losing it um through contrast and uh well, this isn't a beautiful road sparks lane at sunrise um center composition I really like it I think it's gorgeous it looks like a greeting card or an image in a counter or just a great piece of fine art for the wall great depth of field great color. You know, I think the the the vote focal length was very well chosen I'm going to guess that it was probably, you know, medium telephoto teo somewhat telephoto gets around fifty two seven millimetre because you could tell the trees that's very compressed but I think it's just really beautiful and I think putting the road actually in the dead center with the fences on the right on left side work really well, I probably would have centered the road almost a little bit more even actually it seems like it might just be a little maybe a little off to the left but not not much otherwise is I think it's very well done yeah I think it's good the light that's nice and soft but I agree I think if you're gonna hit the road in the middle make it under sent smack dab in the middle so it looks like you did on purpose but yeah it's a nice it's a nice for I think a car would have room this I think that a person riding a red bicycle probably would have made it very great but you'd probably be waiting a long time for that moment me being really picky e scott laughing at me I'm ridiculous. I like those kinds of things all right, clint another black and white from mammoth mine arizona um interesting interesting. Not super compelling to me it's not working I like I think again as an art image in black and white it works well, I think that the telephone lines that are running through the bottom are a little distracting and I feel like I see the roots of some houses and some other sort of structures throughout the frame and I did they're just want to see them and make it part of it or not at all and just either get lower in your composition or find more brush to cover them really helped bring up the contrast in the accentuate the scene a little bit more um so it's kind of ah neither here nor there as faras the foreground otherwise you know I mean, it seems like a really great moment in in arizona yeah I mean I love the clouds I think the clubs, the background and the way they're making the light playing the mount is awesome but yeah, I think the same thing I thought about those buildings there and I noticed that the wires later and I think that's one of the things that separates good foot of great photos you know photographers will say well, you know it's where I was standing I pulled over inside or what can I do? Well, professional type would stand on their car or go drive up to the mountains behind them or getting closer so that all the rush kind of covers up the buildings you know kind of if there's something in the photo is to be there because you basically put it there not not on accidents yeah, but I think because of me great uh sunset looks like the sky's on fire and this one paradise valley I mean I guess that's paradise valley, montana but might not be certainly a beautiful sunset. Um scott, what do you think they start on this one suit you think? Yeah. It's beautiful the skies darkened looks like it's on fire. I mean, it looks like it looks like the details are blown out on the bottom and then where the mountain hits the sky looks like it's a little bit blurry I'm sorry that was motion or just yeah that's the thing that doesn't work for me it's the highlights are blown out you know, I wish that was either just the mountain was brought up through that if it was so bright like that then I would have tried to get lower put more foreground to cover that up so that you can really just make sure that your eyes focused on the on that really great sunset I think it goes to one of your points about if we're going to run the salon magazine francis wanted to scream paradise valley and this just looks like a beautiful clouds that could have been anywhere so that would be that's hard to achieve but I think what we're as negative wise looking for sentiment screams that specific place yeah, that could be anywhere yusa right? And this really doesn't necessarily give you a strong sense of place on dh that's and being a landscape photo it should achieve that on dh that also again might be sort of that emotional attachment to holy wow look at that sky what a great sunset I've seen one of those in six months well ok, but still out of context we didn't get to experience it with you might have been one of those things that feels a little bit better in person than necessarily photographed but still so a cool moment and there's nothing wrong with sharing the uh sharing that work let's take a look at aviva's photo a leaf in the magic kingdom florida wondering if that's the magic um you know at first when I saw this I thought it was going to be like a frog or a lizard or some sort of a silhouette of a creature it's a little difficult for me to know exactly what I'm uh looking at as faras what that shadow it were silhouette is there in the middle that's that I mean I do like the texture of the leaf in the very dark background you know, I just wish there is uh something a little bit more of a subject matter more clearly pronounced in it um in general yeah, the same thing I think I love close ups of leaves and having the let compare the texture of the color is beautiful but I made it a lot ok, what is that it's basically like you're putting a big spotlight on whatever that is in the middle and I don't know what it is then yeah that makes me wonder why you chose that thing so yeah, I think it would make more sense if it was an animal like that or another clearly another leaf but it looks like it's a random lethal just happens to be coming through the cracks you know random leaves only I want the good leads jonathan seoul, duke falls soul doc falls and olympic national park uh certainly where we just were on dh looking like maybe a slightly better day as faras weather this's a gorgeous photograph I love the colors on dh generally speaking I really like the composition I think the inclusion of the log is great because it's so drastically different in color that foreground logged the red one in the left front part of the frame um you know, I would have liked to have seen more of the scene just to really I really personally can't give almost any more clear advice on what I would do to improve this because I think it's a beautiful shot you know the water is a great nice smooth exposure it's lush green very well balanced and executed the something about the bottom left hand corner maybe just his feels a little and in a little empty or so but I'm not I'm not necessarily sure I think that might be actually just the best composition pops before that scene and and quite frankly I think it's gorgeous and really reflects exactly what we think of an olympic national park that said soul duck falls I know that this is along the trail you know, if we're photographing a story there you know you might actually want to see the falls itself but this is obviously could be it doesn't actually super specific to place other than olympic it's great till we see images like this yeah I think it's great the first thing I noticed two with log like seven I think yeah reddish color pops against green which is great only thing I might change is like propping maybe an inch off left because there's not much just the same shrub in the same log it all just kind of repeats itself but I think it might be a little tighter some of those crops but yeah it's it's really good yeah, I agree brooks natural faces air forces protecting nature it creeped me out if I was walk around the world and so face looking out of me I don't know you start to see a lot of things in the trees he spent enough time out there for sure it's fun it's playful it's you know this isn't you know this isn't something that I think we would see necessarily selling is a stock photo but I think it's fun it's playful I think even the caption really implies the playfulness of it and it's just kind of a generally I would just kind of call of a cute photo yeah it's just something that someone found its special photo itself its greatest wonders far yeah yeah why not have fun when you're photographing right let's take a look at alicia's photo lake crescent I'm also olympic national park and where we were way crescent were over on the nature bridge campus over the last few days and uh it looks like a photo of someone taking a photo or blocking the sun coming out of their eyes coming into their eyes in general for me this is a cz muchas this lake is incredibly beautiful this isn't this isn't working for me in the sense that I think the bridge is very distracting in the right hand side of the frame I rather alicia just pushed further into the frame closer to the subject eliminated the person on the left it's not like we're seeing their face and it was like a family vacation photo we know who it is and it's a memory and said they looked just more distracted by the sun and the kayaker, which is really the centre of focus that's the thing that really catches my eyes, the kayaker and then the mountains that are in the distance and that is because that is the area that attracts mean actually is the area I would want to hone in on and really focus on yeah, I mean, I like the clouds in the light dark time where the bridge doesn't bother me as much as it bothers you, I think the guy bothers me most and I know I have a lot of photos of the backs of people in for my park trips and I think we don't really run a lot of those magazines tried together make sure there's no one there or they're very tiny dot in the distance where they're looking towards you having someone looking away from you isn't usually that confirm but I think there's also some flair that sun spot in the middle but I would really not be there yeah I hear you on that lorry has indigo bunting here um it is a fun looking bird uh that's cool cool looking bird you know it's sort of the center again you know we've had a lot of objects that are sort of the center if you're going to go it's scott said earlier with something centered either center it completely or moving off to the left you know the first thing that that this seems to me is maybe feeling more like in captivity but I'm not one hundred percent sure on that so and part of it is that the lighting seems a little unusual now I don't know if that is a dodging and burning and it looks like maybe the bird has been very artificially brightened in postproduction or you know I'm gonna actually probably air on this side of saying that's probably what it is or there was some sort of an unusual light area kind of getting there but it's a little abrupt in the sense that the bird is much brighter than its background on dh seems to sort of stand out to me a little bit yeah I think it be nicer if it was so left kind of like that branch that's on the right side that leads toward looks like a nice swoop on the little tendrils are kind of cool but um so I moved to the left and yeah like you said something seems locked with lighting and also seems like he's got kind of a look posture about him lance it's not so weird that it's funny but it's not so normal that it's like classic so maybe wait a second see if you change this posture is something that's just a little bit feathers are ruffled tax in her theo audience thinks maybe some taxidermy might have been involved maria picture from last year on yellowstone national park um scott what you think I left the clouds it does seem like it was still maybe a little early in the day looks still pretty right I mean, that pool is beautiful you can see the color to the left there but something about it this way I don't know yeah, I figure out something something that's like right? Yeah I'm gonna go with probably time a day I feel like it's just maybe a little too earlier in the day I think you could wait a little bit longer until the white little more contrast and maybe even just a little more contrast in the post production I would have helped you know and these pools air so vibrant, so colorful that I think that would have made a difference those kinds of cloudy days in yellowstone especially when I've spent a tremendous amount of time um are the days that you hope for as a photographer they had so much texture so much death to your sky on dso I agree I love the clouds as well and I think that could definitely there's just something a little off about it I think it could be time of day but generally speaking you know I like what maria was going after scott's image scott was this you? Did you submit this? You didn't submit your own image for a pretty uh early morning at a thousand steps beach first thing that hits me is this is just very cold as faras color temperature it's down on the kelvin scale into the blues and to me that's very distracting on dh takes away from what otherwise could have been I think a very beautiful shot in captures it really does capture the location you get a sense of the fact that their coastal cliffs if you knew that you are and I'm guessing it looks like southern california you know it would jump out at you as being that would be very familiar with people walking on the beach good island with rocks so I think compositionally it's good I think the post production needs to be worked a little bit warmed up maybe, you know, a little yellows, maybe little dodging and burning here and there, andi also the horizon line looks a little crooked as well. It's leaning down to the left. I would probably be careful and fix that. Yeah, I mean, I like it. I think it was two rocks that's awful after a little bit distracting, my have changed the focus or cross him out a little bit. And I guess maybe I like the people who recognize that there are some more people kind of in that pocket where between the rocks in the foreground bar, but overall experience. So I always I always have mixed feelings about shots with no clouds at all if they got a huge blue sky clouds it's just kind of gets boring after us is sometimes I think you do you pop it out imagining here on the coast of his plug pretty windy you're just not going to see a lot of clubs, so I don't know yeah, I agree it's a it's a tricky thing in general, you know, I live in southern california weed we don't get many cloudy days down there on def. We do, they're usually just overcast in the ocean and you really can't do much with it so that's a big challenge, I think with photographing it I think, you know, like I remember my first day inside and I was thinking, but it's a little place and there were no clouds, no peace photos, they're amazing that the next day there were clouds and I realized all my finishing first they were terrible, so sometimes I think somebody some tigers occurred one, even if there are no clouds, they want to take photos because they realize they're just not they're not going to be so good that they love being published, so sometimes deciding one toe not take photos. Yeah, that's a good point to the quarries image of southern vermont on the long trail, october twenty eleven certainly beautiful fall colors, I think compositionally I really liked it looks like it might be an aerial. Um, you know, I like the fact that barnes on the right hand side, and I think that just in general, the eye line direction, everything really worked well, something about the image feels like the resolutions may be a little low or something on those lines looking at it on a smaller monitor, the image seems a little richer to me, but there's also that road in the background, which I'm not sure it doesn't actually distract me, but I'm I'm a little unsure of it. Yeah, it does look of the color is like a little contract to be almost fake maybe it was just crazy amazing fall they've been even the bar looks almost kind of look at me on so it's a click the colors are turned up too much and be nice to see all of the road or even just the right side of the road scenes everyone come and goes a little distracted whilst I'm what you could do about that I think the contrast would be the biggest thing but I like the composition great let's take a look at ursula's image of frozen world it's interesting takes me a second to figure out what I'm actually even looking at yeah it's dynamic cool image the bird is the birds really you're the only thing that seemed to give it a sense of scale and an immediate first I thought this was actually a detail shop and it actually looks like it could be quite the quite the large landscape, huh? Yeah something I don't really know what I was looking at first I usually don't like that as a doctor I'd like to be like him between the eyes with something I want maybe just you know looking at you reminds you of the other the iceberg one where I'm not sure of the scale I'm not sure where to look you do enough damage the bird but I don't know that that's yeah, not that tired thinks I want you to look at this bird so yeah, yeah, I agree. I think that it's it's interesting and I could see what ursula was attracted to. I don't know that I necessarily feels though it's um has enough context jeffs image sunset over the surface of the towers. Um we'll let you, uh, run with this one. Scott curiously, here is a landscape photographer. I tend to get very part. I mean, that's beautiful, I think I mean that's the kind of shot we've run in the magazine, I guess while the critique and I love the clouds, the only critique might be lightening up a little bit of the dark spaces on the right side. Yeah, already thinking yeah, I agree I agree with you on that, I think that's exactly right it's the centre of focus is great, but I would look for more a little more equilibrium of ah light throughout the throughout the images also looks a little magenta to may andi, I don't know if that's maybe the lighting were just how the image was processed in in postproduction so let's, take another look at this image or take a look at this image from wheat song the bun mountains I like it it's abstract feels more like fine art to me pretty cool straight horizon line you really your eye has to sort of wander around and look at the different textures I like that there's sort of a gap in those reeds in the in the foreground sort of midway through the frame almost, um, generally speaking artistically, I think it's a really wonderful shot. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing and sickly case definitely sets a mood and you've got three layers of foreground thinking, yeah, well done. Brent beluga point and a k alaska um not not working for me necessarily. Mostly because it feels like it's just very, very contrast it with no real clear senator focus or subject matter. I like the idea that it's sort of alluding to the idea of, like, a secret beach or something that's just beyond, you know, a secret path or something along those lines, but really, really punchy on dh again, no real clear, real clear center of focus for me, it just seems like it's a very busy ah lot of shadows lot of contrasts and also a lot of highlights that air very blown out. Yeah, it is contrast. It looks like the horizon is a little crooked tooth and I do like like the closet like sunburst, but you're right there's no central focus here, but it does give a good sense the place where I can feel like you're about you're walking through that about a walk yeah yeah I agree with that um let's take a look att debbie's image of spring morning and sheep lakes what do you think I like the lighting I get lacks a central focus my chi go so that green patch of grass or left which is in probably exactly where I'm supposed to look on the trails off the screen which I don't like I just I think it just needs a central focus like a boat or something something more too yeah yeah I agree you know, one of the things I think we both keep saying a lot is a lot of these images needs some sort of almost a human element to give him a sense of scale of perspective and I don't know if we've just become really accustomed to that or you know, maybe I'm a little jaded in the landscape world these days that I always need that that element something that really draws your eye into there into the scene I'm not sure I like the shot I mean it feels very blue to me which could be fine it could be you know, late evening and I love that I love when you really kind of develop on those colors and bring him up but again I'm not really sure where my eyes supposed toe looking kind of wanders around aimlessly on dh instead of wandering around through the frame on its quest. Tio really understand the place, dimitri. A really beautiful spot. Really beautiful shot. Um, scott, what do you think? You like it? I mean, I love the clouds. I like lighting. I mean, the little fence posts probably grabbed my high. Or that I would have liked to think if those were off a little bit to the right side that you're better again, people would would answer this, but I think it's yeah, it's great. Seems like it's leaning a little bit to the right. That's, you know, sometimes could be an optical illusion. That's, an issue with mountains of symptoms angled themselves. I had trouble, uh, reflection lakes were trying to photograph the lake kind of came in and circled around on dh, gave me a tough time and I agree about the fence. I think maybe it was played down a little bit more. I don't mind it actually like it because it gives that human context to it. But it might be played up a little, uh, a little too much.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Field Guide to Photographing the American Wilderness
Icons of Nature Keynote
National Park Photography Intro and Setup
Photo Editing Keynote
10 Steps to Processing Perfect Star Trail Images
Business of Photography Keynote
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


I have taken quite a few courses with createlive and this was by far one of the best. Ian is a fantastic teacher and remarkable at describing what he is doing and his thought process clearly. There is so much good information in this course, I definitely plan on buying this class. Not only is Ian a great teacher, but he also seems to genuinely want to help other photographers and see them succeed. You can tell he cares more about seeing good pictures of nature than anything else. I cannot recommend this course enough. Whether you are a beginner who shoots landscape photography as a hobby or a professional who already specializes in landscape photography, this class has something to offer and will expand your skill set. Can't thank Ian enough and I hope he does another course soon.


Ian is a great teacher and it is great when some one who "can do", can also explain how he does it. Clearly, his experience and commitment are why he is good at what he does. There is a lot more to a great photo than getting the camera settings and filters right. Ian did his best to help us understand what to look for when "working the scene" and finding a good composition without distractions. A great course. Thank you, Creative Live and Ian Shive.


Amazing course. Ian Shive is a wonderful teacher, as well as photographer, and it all comes across. I was glued to my computer for the entire 3 days when the class was live, and just had to purchase it so I don't lose any of it. The bonus materials alone are worth the purchase price. I've got a trip coming up soon and will have the opportunity to put some of what Ian said into practice; and love that I can have it with me on my portable devices so I can refresh my memory and reinforce it all. Great to have on a long plane ride. If you are on the fence, get off that fence and go purchase this great course!!! You won't be sorry. My thanks to CreativeLive, and Ian Shive for giving us this wonderful opportunity to not only learn, but to actually be in the field with Ian.

Student Work