difference between good an bad photography – methodology to evaluate your photos

How to critique your own photography work

definition of good photography versus bad


Since I am receiving an increasing number of photos for comments every day and it already exceeds my capacity to provide feedback, I would like to help everyone out there to evaluate their own work first. this education will help any emerging photographer or even more advanced ones to rate their own work in an objective manner and help them improve themselves.

In this article I would like to propose a systematic evaluation tool to help people judge the quality of their own work and of others. I hope you have already seen me in many videos and you understand something about me:  I like to have a systematic approach to photography, I like having a model, tools and recipes that eliminate the guess work, the risk of failing the shots. Despite the claimed subjectivity of an art form, like anything else, there is a methodology to help you get across the line. Having a method will ensure quality in your work, just like any other activity. For those of you who are in the corporate world, and are aware how to implement quality into a business, this will sound familiar. Photography like any other art is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Today I will teach you how to get the 99% done properly.

Advantages of having a methodology are clear to me: you will have a recipe applicable in 99% of the cases, your system is proven to work, and I will call it the Tudor Rating System in photography.

Elements that define good photography:

1. Content or subject, the story

Photography tells a story, one picture is worth a thousands words. I am sure you have heard that before. It is a known fact that content is the king. The quality of your story will define the quality of the photograph. Content can impress and leave the viewer with a emotional reaction.

Examples: photojournalistic images of human events, war, hunger, actions, events etc. Everything interesting that happens in the world and captured on film. It does not matter much if you have a composition or the image is sharp if you see a someone hurt on a death bed, or you see the lyon attacking the gazelle. It is drama that sells, that appeals to people. The more people relate to your image, the better value. Also to more difficult to recreate your image, the higher the value as it will be less likely to be copied an duplicated by others.

Like any movies, music, painting, a strong content can promote a photograph. Imaging music created just for the message, I terms of quality, it does not have to be the best, but the message behind it will make people connect.

2. Language – how you want the tell the story – composition

this aspects addresses to human understanding of beauty. This appeals to the subconscious level telling us that the image is beautiful or not and also support the content and visual arrangements in a photograh. Not having a composition creates a chaotic arrangements and prevents us understanding the subject and creates difficulty identifying the story. I have provided a comprehensive composition article and video already. You might want to have a look at it again to refresh your understanding of composition as a language to convey a message

A story told in a poor language destroys the experience.

As a funny example, I have watched the Terminator movie in german and hungarian voice overs…you have any  idea how bad that is?

3. Visual quality – sharpness, contrast, colours, quality of the presentation – in one work the packaging

Last but not least, the packaging is the quality of the image, the sharpness, the focus, the colour range, the brightness contrast, and everything else that requires a good tool, a good knowledge of your camera. This can raise or destroy a photo. what point is to photograph something dramatic it is completely out of focus. The technical ability to produce a high quality image, will support the other elements but plays also a critical role in the final value of photography.

Tudor Rating System

I am proposing a rating system from 1 to 10, for each element above and the final rating will be the average of the 3. I would say that a full 10 is very difficult to achieve from many reasons. One of them is also from the  fact that not everyone has the same perception and the same value in terms of content. For example a wedding photo with a perfect execution in terms of quality and composition will rate 10 for the bride and 4 for anyone else in the world as the wedding is not an event which is that special in the world context.

I would rate the value of a photograph between 1-4 – not valuable at all, 5-6 mediocre, 7,8,9 good quality and 10, the best which will be rarely achieved

Practical advice for people wishing to send photos for critique.

If you do intend to send me your photos for critique, I would like you to sit still for a moment, rate your images from 1-10 for the content, (1 being the most average uninteresting subject like people walking on the street and 10 should be something extraordinary like man shaking hands with an alien) for composition ( 1 not having any consideration for composition to 10 following successfully few rules of composition in the same time and complementing also the subject) and also the visual quality (1 taking photo with a webcam, iphone to 10 the sharpest well lit image taken with a DLSR)

Since I am flooded with many submissions, I would like you to rate your images first, send me only the ones you believe are above 5 mark and tell me why you believe so, show me your rating process and we’ll talk. there are plenty of enthusiast just grabbing their cameras and shoot whatever and send it to me for comments. Please remember that my time is valuable and I wish to bring value and quality to others. Sending me photos with no consideration for my time is a waste and I will ignore them. But i am also receiving a fair share of great photos that I even cannot take and that makes me happy. Please check the critique section of the website for a variety of submissions. My intention is quality step up and if you rate your images first, you will help yourself to improve, think and try to do a better photography.

Ask yourself the following basic questions before pressing the send button:

– what do I want to tell with this photo

– how do I make myself clear in the photo

– why is this image an not other

– is anyone else able to take the same image

– why is this image mine and how that reflects me, and me only?

 

Examples of critiques and comments:

I will finish this article with 3 critiques of 3 different photos that vary in content composition and delivery skills:

SAMSUNG CSC

Portrait of girl under the bridge

Content – 5 : A portrait of a girls sitting in the rocks is a portrait and it is a normal subject. I am sure the photographer and the model can rate this higher as this relates the themselves, and that is a fair proof that photography is subjective, but this rating is trying to be as objecgive as possible and eliminate the speech I like you like they like……with no reasons behind it

Composition 4-5 – I can recognise the diagonal tilting as a tool to create a interesting visual effect but I do not believe it complements the best the subject. I see the subject is the girl and that is lost in translation and overpowered by the heavy bridge support. The girl would have been better off larger in the image and perhaps following another compositional element, as now it is not in the middle neither on he side. The image has composition but it is not finished.The lack of balance is disturbing and I do not think it is the best choice

Image quality 6 – i can see some image quality and a bit of editing. The general tones are nice, the red a bit contrasting with the rest of the image, the face of the girl is lost and overpowered by the other elements

General rating 5 

 

132

 

Girls in the bar with bottles

Content 2

Composition 1

Image quality 3

I believe this is an obvious rating as I do not see anything in the picture that makes me like it. Subject is not interesting, there are bars everywhere, people drinking and enjoying a concert. there is no composition consideration, at least I do no see one, is this about one girl or both, is this an accident? I see the flash on top of camera and I do not like it. The second girls is in more shadows not from intent but from the flash low power. I see random

Overall rating is 2.

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Sunset and tree

Content – 6: Sunset is a pretty overused topic but in this case it is a little bit more than that. there is a obvious dialogue with another elements and that makes it above average

Composition- 8: I can see the intention that the 2 contrasting elements are complementing each other. there is Yin and Yang,light and dark  there is a dialogue and both elements breath nicely into the image

Image quality – 8 : the image qualoty is great, smooth, beautiful, warm…maybe a little to warm but it is pleasant to the eyes.

Overall rating it is 6.66, which puts it into the above average towrds good photography category and I am happy to receive such images

 

I hope the tool above is not for those of you who want to send me submission, but all people out there trying to take better photos. I believe this system will force you to think more before you press the button and flood your hard drive with images

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About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and owner and principal photographer of Tudor Photography