What Makes A Photo Work?

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A Path In The Woods

The original image as presented for feedback.

We have an excellent image submitted by our Anonymous Photographer and, up front, there is very little I would do to improve this photograph. It is great. The 'leading line' of the pathway leads us somewhat erratically into the scene, while the subdued light and simple colour palette compliment the strong composition.

May I make two observations.

The first is that for this photo to do well in a photography competition, it needs something more. As it is, I'd score it a Silver Award, but to go that extra step, it needs (for example) a human or an animal figure, or a coloured tree - something additional to grab our attention and our imagination. But this is only if the Anonymous Photographer wants to win a competition. For a book, an exhibition or a web page, it's already a very strong image.

The second observation may be difficult to see on your monitor. When I viewed this image on a profiled and calibrated Eizo monitor, I felt the image was a little overexposed in places. Whether you will see this with your browser and on your monitor, I'm not sure, but if you compare the photo below with the submitted image above, you'll see that I have darkened down the middle ground - the green mosses. To my eye, this makes it a much stronger image.

The next adjustment is also very subtle. I have darkened down the fallen tree branches on the left of the image. It's only a slight change, but now if you compare the image below with the original, hopefully you can see a slightly stronger rendering of tones that in turn gives more strength to that wonderful path. 

Small and subtle adjustments are just as important as big ones when you reach this standard of work. And as always, these are just my 'opinions' for what they are worth. I know we all have our own!

Request: I am again asking for photographs to critique in this blog. The critique will be anonymous (unless you request me to credit you, of course) and will be written with the best of intentions for both the photographer and the wider audience. If you're thick skinned enough to take a little constructive criticism, shoot me through a JPEG, 2000 pixels on the longest edge, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I will be selecting images which allow me to write something of interest, so if your photograph is already great, there's a good chance I won't use it for a critique because there's nothing to say!

Check out our e-book on How To Win Photo Competitions - you can find it here.

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