Landscape photo Critiques

This section of the site will be devoted to landscape photography critiques and ways to help make you a better photographer. We will review photos and portfolios, to show things to improve, and how to be a better editor. If you'd like to submit photos or a portfolio to be critiqued, fill out a form below and yours may be chosen for review.


Landscape/Seascape photo critique 

This photo location has huge potential and a tiny bit of working the scene could have made this good photo, into an amazing photo. What we have is an awesome foreground and leading line, an atmospheric sky and a white building that could be manipulated to draw the viewer in. The problem is that the building is in the centre of the frame.
The vibe I’m getting from this photo is fine art. The colours that already are present aren’t anything special. They’re nice, but ‘nice’ doesn’t cut it. So going down a black and white route with a little toning feels right.
I notice a sheer lack of contrast in the scene. That sky could look mean! Those rocks could look textured and sharp and really lead our eyes in. But at the moment, they don’t. Knowing we’re going down the black and white route too, we can really push the contrast too!
A decent clean up of the photo is also needed. We have a random boat poking in on the left edge of the frame and a few distractions in the sea near the buling.
Maybe we’ll smooth the sea slightly too.. 

Here's our landscape photo we're critiquing. A few distractions are already ringed.

Here's our landscape photo we're critiquing. A few distractions are already ringed.

Here, you can see the edit we’ve done to the previous photo. It looks like quite a drastic change doesn’t it, but infact it was only the few steps we mentioned before. 
We cleaned up the distractions that were ringed in the previous photo, extened the frame so the horizon line now sits on the lower third of the frame, and turned the photo into a black and white. Lastly, a little dodging and burning to bring a little dimentionality to the rocks and add a little vingette.
That’s all! Those few steps make a huge difference, right? From looking at the original photo, I already had an idea of which direction to take it. 

From looking at the original photo, I already had an idea of which direction to take it. Having a rough vision in mind of the direction you want to take a photo will help you save time in the editing process. 

And here's our edited landscape photo. The few steps makes a huge difference!

And here's our edited landscape photo. The few steps makes a huge difference!

Steps to achieve the photo

Removing small distractions in Photoshop is easy to do with the spot healing brush. Just create a new layer, select the spot healing tool and tick the “sample all layers” box. Make the brush a little bigger than the blemish you want to remove and click. 

To extend the sky, I grabbed the crop tool and dragged the top of the photo upwards. This left a little black rectangle. Using the rectangle marquee tool, I dragged over the black box to select it and then content aware filled it. A few little tweaks with the spot healing brush and it was finished!

The photo was desaturated and contrast was added as a global adjustment.

A very slight blur was added to the sea by duplicating the layer, adding a 30px guassian blur and masking the sea off. Layer opacity was dropped to around 30%.

Dodging and burning with curves layers was simple. Create a new curves layer and drag the center of the line diagonally upwards. Now invert the layer. Create another and drag the line digaonally downwards. Invert this too. Click the black layer mask, select the brush tool and paint on the mask with a white brush an low opacity. Set the blend modes to soft light.

A blue filter was finally added to the photo with a very low layer opacity.

  1. The first thing that got my attention was these electrical pylons. A super easy fixed with the clone stamp in photoshop, and usually quite unavoidable. Blame it on electricity availability... 
  2. A random patch of cloudless sky. It looks as though someone has ripped away some of the clouds to reveal the sky beneath. It happens, it's just nature. But it's something that can be fixed in post if you, like me, get anal about things like that . The 'purists' will hate on it but it's my art so I don't care. I'll generally fill holes in skies I don't like with a combination of the patch tool and clone stamp.
  3. There's a tree that looks more untidy than the rest of the scene to me, and it screams out for spot removal. Again, some would argue to keep it, but I say nope. It goes. After fixing them though, they were pretty much removed with my crop. So sometimes it pays to check first so you don't waste some time.

I noticed that the overall photo looked flat so I pumped up the contrast to make it pop a little. It just looks more alive. I also got a single adjustment brush with a very tiny exposure boost to bring a little more life to the foreground. A vignette was added to the outer corners to darken them and draw more attention to the photo.

A thing to note however, is there isn't really any foreground element. Nothing anchors you to the photo or makes your eye explore the photo. We want to be lead into the frame and shown what the subject is. This photo lacks that for me. But there is a ditch or trench type thing on the left of the frame that feels like I'm being lead in, follow the track and back out of the left of the frame. And because of this the right hand side of the frame feels awkward to look at. Like the left just fights for my attention. It would have been better to incorporate that ditch as a path or possible anchor point to guide the viewer's attention. This could have been by setting up the camera low in that ditch and shooting from there to get an interesting angle. Or by getting alot closer to those goats (probably goats) and making them a foreground anchor point. Just without getting eaten by one... 

There is also a slight crop of the photo. The horizon line was directly through the middle of the photo, seperating it with no real weight given to top or bottom half. While this is generally fine with reflection photos (lake a still lake reflecting a sky), choosing to place the sky or land in either the top third or bottom third of the image (the rule of thirds), we get a more powerful and pleasing photo.

You can't control alot on location in landscape photography due to it being mother nature. However you get to polish your photos in post, and any extra control is amazing. So have at it.