Thank you, photographers, for participating in the recent Shoot to Serve photo assignment, Titus 3:5-6 VersPic Opportunity! Here’s an update from the VersePic director, Ben, on why he used the picture he used and why he didn’t use the pictures he didn’t use.

This is some extremely practical education that you folks who submitted photos won’t find anywhere else!  This is for you! Other readers can learn too, but really, for those of you who participated, you’re the ones who are going to grow the most from this post. This is stuff you won’t get by merely reading about photography…you’ve worked hard to pull together your submissions; you’ve put time into them; you put yourself into them! And to receive this critique is going to hurt; we don’t always agree with others’ perspectives. But that’s what makes it so helpful. It’s exactly what you need to really, truly grow as a photographer!


The first thing most of you will probably notice is that there isn’t a Lenspiration watermark with the photographer’s name in the bottom right corner this time, and that’s because I wasn’t able to use any of your submissions for different reasons. The photo in the VersePic is actually one of my own photos that I shot back in June, and don’t worry, I know there’s plenty wrong with it…but I thought I would walk quickly through some critique of the issues with my photo so it doesn’t feel like I only critique others’ photos!

DISCLAIMER: I’ll try to focus on things on the photography side of versus color adjustments and things that can be easily fixed in editing software. Additionally, please take all critique in the manner in which it was meant, to help you to grow as a photographer! I know I can be less than tactful sometimes, but I’m trying!

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Critiquing my photo

Here’s just a few of the problems that immediately jump out at me:

First, there are some extremely distracting over-exposed leaves off to the right. The over-exposure of the leaves was purposeful, as I wanted to make sure I would keep all of the detail in the shadows and in the water, but those up-close leaves really need to be taken care of as they are right now.

Second, there is some noticeable camera shake here. Even though my shutter speed was “only” at an 1/8 second, I wasn’t using a tripod, and the camera moved just a bit. This honestly makes the photo look like it went through an oil painting filter, which isn’t that helpful. Thankfully, the camera shake wasn’t so bad that the photo was unusable, but it certainly shouldn’t have been there.

Third, that 1/8 second Shutter Speed honestly looks a little odd to me. It freezes motion, yes, but I was honestly confused the first time I looked the photo. “Was I trying to freeze the water in time? (use a shorter shutter speed) or was I trying to blur the water? (use a longer shutter speed) At the moment, the photo looks like it’s trying to achieve both of those goals at once (frozen blur?) and looks odd because of that.

Now, on to your submissions!

It was exciting to see all of the submissions come in, and I really appreciate all of your support for what we do at Sharpening Character! I didn’t have much time to sit and write, so I do apologize if I don’t elaborate as much as I should on the critique of your photo, and for not being able to critique every one of the submissions.

1. Submission by @creative-click-photography

First I just want to thank @creative-click-photography for photographing quite a few shots of some water with a macro lens! You can view all six of her submissions here, but I’ve chosen an example image that shows the main issue I ran into with these images.

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Honestly the main issue I keep coming back to is that depth of field is just so shallow in all of the photos! Details I want to see such as where the water in the air connects to the rest of the water are obscured and I would have loved to see these macros with an Aperture that would allow more of the moving water to be in focus.

Now that I’ve said all of that, though, I do want to say that you did a much better job photographing water with a macro lens than I could have, and that I really appreciate you going the extra mile!

2. Submission by @blessingscaptured

@blessingscaptured submitted a photo of some zinnias in the rain. First, welcome to the VPO’s, and second, using a sprinkler to fake rain is an awesome idea! That also explains why the large leaves closest to the camera on the right don’t have any rain coming down in front of them! Seriously though, I would not have thought of doing that!

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I have two pieces of critique for you.

First, the photo feels a little off balance because of the arrangement of flowers to the left of the shot. Essentially there is a leading line in the arrangement of the zinnias that makes me look toward the left, and there isn’t any photo there to look at! Since there isn’t much to balance the photo on the right hand side, it feels as if the photo is “weighted” to the left. Really what I mean by that is you spend about 90% of your time looking at the flowers and maybe 10% looking around at the rest of the photo.

Second, when I say that there isn’t much to balance the photo on the right, I mean that I don’t really feel that those large leaves are adding much to the composition. My rule of thumb is to always have a reason for placing anything in my photo, and in this case there just isn’t a reason to have the leaves in the shot that I can think of. On the whole this shot works well with some cropping, but it might have worked really well with the vase to the right of the photo or even just shooting with a portrait orientation. You can see what I mean as tried cropping square below.

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3. Submissions by @frazer-family

@frazer-family submitted some great photos of completely different scenes.

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I just want to say first of all that I really like this photo. I love that wood in the bottom of the shot, the mossy surroundings, the green everywhere around the water… I do feel the photo would have benefited from a landscape orientation rather than the portrait orientation used here.

One quick thing: because the falls fall to the right, my eye is drawn to see where all that water is going, but there isn’t any photo there to look at. Motion tends to guide the eye toward where the motion is going, so we generally want to balance the photo out by giving some space to let the viewer see where the motion is going. You don’t need to use a landscape orientation to do this. You could have moved the camera just slightly to the right to balance the photo out a little more and that would have been enough. Not a huge issue, but something that would have been nice to see!

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Frankly, I’m a little confused by this photo. You have three subjects, the water, the forest, and the splash, but because everything is in focus, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to look at first. The main thing I would say about this photo is that I would have liked to see more sky to balance the composition out, and less of the water toward the bottom of the shot.

One thing that emphasizes your framing is that splash. In a shot with little movement you suddenly have this big rush of movement upwards and while you managed to capture all of the splash, you didn’t give any space beyond that movement. The splash directs me to the edge of your photo where you sky should be but isn’t. I just talked about the reasoning behind this with the last photo, so I won’t get into it here. … Again though, this isn’t a cemented rule, just a rule of thumb.

Following that rule of thumb, this is really what I would have liked to see: (it’s amazing what you can do with a gradient these days!)

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One other photo here!

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I don’t really have much to say about this. Framing largely is good, the water blur is great, and I’m loving the wet boulders…

You do have a problem with camera shake here, though, similar to the problem I had with my photo. At a guess I would say you weren’t using a tripod, but were balancing your camera on something, and the camera moved slightly when you hit the shutter button. (I had the same thing happen to me many times!) The difference between your photo and mine is that you used a much longer shutter speed of 2 seconds. Seriously though, if you weren’t using a tripod, you did a much better job of eliminating camera shake in the two seconds than I did in 1/8 second! (Something I only just thought of is that I should have used a 1 second timer so that the camera wouldn’t move when I hit the shutter button… I wonder if that would work…).

4. Submission by @jinnyschober

Just one more photo by @jonnyschober and we’re done!

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First, I appreciated how you underexposed the photo so that the water reflections wouldn’t lose any detail. Good job on thinking about even small details like that!

Something I would have liked to see is a little more of the bank of the creek. Maybe a zoom out a little bit more so we can see more of the large rock to on the top of the photo?

In Conclusion

Ultimately, none of the submissions worked out for what I was looking to do. One thing I do want to mention is that there were some submissions that I wanted to use, but I couldn’t because they were in a portrait orientation. Every one of the VPs photos has to look good cropped square for the Phone Version and in a 4:3 crop for the Tablet version, which some of the submissions couldn’t do. No matter how great a photo is, if I can’t crop it to what I need, I can’t use it! When shooting for the VPOs I’d appreciate it if you could keep that in mind. Thanks!

Even though none of the submissions worked out, I really do appreciate you all being willing to help out over here. Thank you!

VersePic Director


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