Photojournalism Critique

Now that my own novice photojournalism project is behind me, I find that I’m my own worst critic.  In hindsight, mistakes and missteps stand out, but with photography, it’s the reality of the moment that matters.  With this post, I’ll check out two of my classmates’ photos for the same project, which both eclipse my effort in certain ways.  What better way to learn what I should have done differently than analyzing what my peers did do more effectively?

Sara Whittle's photo "Honor" showcases an interesting approach to the sports feature category.

First under the microscope is Sara Whittle’s blog whittlebywhittle.  Sara’s at home behind a camera, and her confidence shows in her photos.  Thirds lines and unusual angles are used effortlessly, and, most importantly, she has a good sense for where to look for interesting subjects. While it was tough to pick a favorite of Sara’s top five photos, I think the one entitled Honor stands out for its unique perspective on a slightly comical, or solemn, moment at the civic center (right).

Warm colors draw the eye down a row of students in black toward the sensai in the white gi. Tall windows and tic-tac-toe sunlight are reflected in lines on the gym floor, and the whole scene is slightly off-kilter.  It’s like Sara saw the symmetry possible for the photo but decided to tweak the angle just enough to prevent it from being too obvious.  The basketball hoop to the upper right helps to balance the shot and eliminate what would have otherwise been a healthy chunk of dead space in the lower right. All in all, this is a refreshingly odd sports feature photo.

Another standout shot by Sara is one she named Do You See What I See? I stared at this shot for at least 30 seconds before seeing the eyes of a small redheaded person staring back at me.  Excellent framing and focus make this a photo worthy of publication, perhaps alongside a story about Irish gypsy orphans.

While none of Sara’s photos are even mediocre, I think a couple could benefit from closer cropping.  Specifically, the shot called High-lighting suffers from dead space behind the subject, who is placed in the center of the the frame.  Also, the brick wall, ceiling vent and cluttered work-table distract from an otherwise solid shot.  A ten degree shift to the left might have corrected the vectors and thirds lines while including the woman in the chair, whose legs have been truncated.  In fact, I’m describing the following image in Sara’s photostream, which wasn’t chosen for her final five photos.  Another picture, Kick It, captures a hilarious expression on the subject’s face and a great action moment, but background bodies are somewhat distracting and could, to some extent, be cropped out or blurred by using a smaller aperture.

A crowd gathers at the Wyoming Capitol to observe the tenth anniversary of 9/11. UW student Bridget Wilson photographed the event.

Classmate Bridget Wilson‘s photojournalism project took her to the state capitol building in Cheyenne to attend a 9/11 memorial event.  Classic colonial architecture juxtaposed with vivid red, white and blue, nestled among late summer trees gave Bridget the chance to get some amazing photos!  Two are included in Bridget’s final five, and they’re the strongest of the bunch.

There’s so much to see in these shots, and lines, thirds, repetition and framing are used to great effect.  One of the final five, entitled Paying Respects(left), catches subtle shadows that add texture to the street and prominent American flag.  Again, symmetry is avoided where it could have been embraced(as in later photos in the set), but I think its asymmetry complements the sober energy of the moment.  The cranes frame the shot well, allowing space in the foreground to add to the feeling of really being there.

Downtown Cheyenne, another photograph from the event, combines the repetition of a row  of cherry red fire engines and tree-scattered sunlight to create a beautiful image of hard-working men relaxing into a bittersweet afternoon.  This photo might have been better if the men’s faces could be seen, but then again, I’m here to critique!

Two of Bridget’s other shots, Composition Assignment and School Board Meeting, are identical angles of people on laptops.  The former is a good photo that simply needs cropping to remove background distractions, such as the other woman working at her laptop across the room.  The subject of this photo is intently focused on the screen in front of her, and the viewer should share that intensity without being drawn to other people or reflected camera flashes. For the latter, I wish Bridget would have stepped forward to eliminate the foreground and gotten a profile view of this important-looking man surfing the web, even if just to distance it compositionally from the earlier photo.

Overall, I’m impressed with my peers’ efforts, and I’ll certainly be checking back with their blogs this semester!

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