Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Image Critique #3

This is a tough one to talk about because I'm sure it is an emotional image to both the photographer and to the people it was done for. I'm sure that the parents of this image really loved it.

It appears that this was a spur of the moment idea that grew from a seed while doing a portrait shoot for this newly adopted child, that arrived while her new father was serving his third tour of duty in Iraq. I say that because, while I like the idea and can see the vision, there are quite a few little things that really turn me off as a non-attached viewer of this photograph.

These are in the order that I noticed them. Whether that carries any importance or not is up to you to decide.

1. Grab an iron. Iron the flag. It looks like it just came out of the package and the creases really stand out.

2. The flag is not parallel to the focal plane of the camera, causing the lines to converge. They aren't parallel to the edges of the frame.

3. I don't like the way the flag bleeds past the edges of the frame. Partial stars sticking into the frame and half a stripe on the right hand side, and a missing stripe on the left hand side are distracting at the least.

4. The toe of the bag that the child is in sticks into the blue field of stars.

5. This one is last; the baby in the bag kind of gives me the creeps.

Good Things

1. The lighting is very nice. Soft and even.

2. The colors are very nicely rendered. I might brighten the white just a bit, but it is certainly very nice as it is.

3. I'm sure that the parents loved it, and that is important.

What I would suggest:

Forgive my clumsy cutting and pasting, but believe me, this looks better than my clumsy cloning did.

Keeping the child in the bag, I would include the entire field of stars on the left and eliminate the partial stripes that were beneath it. Include all the stripes on the right. This balances the background. You can see how my "nicely ironed" flag looks much cleaner. Make sure that the flag is completely parallel with the focal plane of the camera to make sure that none of the lines are converging. I would also raise the child up, so that she was mostly above the horizontal center line, effectively splitting this image into three parts. make sure you keep her toes out of the blue.

There is a lot of symbolism in this image, and symbolism is always open to interpretation. I think I would have laid the flag down flat and let the child lay on it, wrapping it gently over her body to symbolize the way that she would be protected and comforted. In this presentation, with the flag behind and the child in a bag (constrained), I get a sense of foreboding and doom, like the overwhelming power of the flag (government) is hovering over her.

Bottom Line: Good idea that I'm sure the parents loved. My nit-pickiness is only to help you think of these things in the future. Take your time and prepare. Don't rush. Symbolically, my interpretation is just that, only my interpretation and feeling. Others, including the parents and you might just as accurately feel differently, and since it really isn't an image for public display, the interpretation of the parents is the one that matters here. But don't discount the compositional and preparational issues just because the parents like it. This is where you will really shine.


Anonymous said...

I don't think every image needs to be uniform and exact...although I did find the suggestion to iron the lines out of the flag may have been a good idea because flags that are waved or hung don't typically have crease lines. Otherwise, i find the image to be outstanding the way it appears to be!

Rosebud Collection said...

I have to be truthful..A unique idea, but the bag with baby bothered me also..

Scott Bulger Photography said...

You are right Leah, every image does not need to be uniform and exact, but calling this particular image outstanding is reserved for the parents of the child.

When you include straight lines or other geometric patterns into an image, you have two choices; keep them straight, or make them so crooked that it is obvious that it is intentional. A horizon line that is tipped 30 degrees looks like it was done for effect and purpose. a horizon line that is tipped 2 degrees looks like the photographer was too lazy to do it right or just didn't notice it.

Photography isn't just about looking, it's about seeing. There is a big difference.

Jeremy Shane said...

Good critique. I agree with everything you pointed out, though I would have probably missed giving advice on the cropping of the flag. I liked the way you did it with the blue filling the left side totally.

The flag definitely needed to be ironed. And it definitely needed to be straight. Being a hair crooked just looks lazy and messy, not artistic. And the baby in the bag thing is a bit weird, not sure what the message is here really.

GreenSpaceGoods said...

Great critique. I'm in agreement mostly, although I don't particularly care for the flat view of the flag in either version. I do think the photography must commit to either completely flat uniform and parallel flag or a waving bunched flag so that it looks like a decision rather than a mistake.

The baby kind of creeps me out too. But I like the symbolism.

Kristen said...

I can't stop laughing about #5(the baby gives you the creeps!)that is too funny!
I didn't notice that the flag needed ironing until you pointed it out... but you're right, could have been a spur of the moment thing.
Thanks for sharing that, pretty interesting.

Anonymous said...

I can't get past the baby in the bag. Wasn't sure if he/she was alive or not. First thought was that it was some kind of anti-abortion deal. Knowing the story behind it, I would like to see the flag laid out flat with a free to move, smiling, lively baby playing on it. The stripes would look great on the diagonal. Interesting post.

Ed Spadoni said...

I think your points are valid Scott. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who didn't see this as patriotic but as something to do with abortion (pro? con?). If the photog's intent was to create something disturbing, I'd say mission accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for critiquing my image Scott, and everyone else!!!

I couldn't have ever imagined that the baby in the bag would be disturbing or creep people out. It has nothing to do with (that's funny to me).

On this particular shoot, I brought my bag of goodies (blankets, towels, ect.) with me. I brought the bag and intended on using it for the baby to be put inside. My inspiration for this idea was to make the baby appear as if were still in the mothers womb...all scrunched up. As for the flag, I decided to use it for the backdrop due to this family being a military family. Even after reading all of your comments I still don't see how it could be seen as disturbing or having something to do with abortion. But I do understand how other people can see what I don't see. Art is percieved differently to everyone.

However, I do agree with all of the other critiques. It was a last minute idea to use the flag and while I was shooting I didn't even think about the wrinkles. When I got home and I began to edit all of my images, I did notice the creases in the flag BUT I was unsure if it was acceptable or not. I have seen many images where the backdrop had many many wrinkles. That one reason alone is why I decided to submit this image for critique. Another reason I submitted THIS image is because I also wondered if it would be percieved as how I saw it in my mind and not corny.

While I was editing, I did rotate the canvas but due to the creases in the flag I was unable to straighten all of the lines. That was until I took a second look at the image in photoshop (after submitting this to you) and I decided to use the Liquify tool to push some of the straight lines into place. That image will appear in my blog when I get it up. I turned over 40 images to this mother and this one was the only one that had the baby fully inside the bag like that. I did get some shots of the baby wrapped up in the flag. I knew they were okay, it was this one that I wanted other opinions on.

So, to sum it all up today I learned:

1) Take my time while shooting making sure everything is just right before pressing the shutter button.

2) Always be prepared. I should have gotten the flag ready at home before the shoot. It had never been used. OR I could have asked the mother if I could have used her iron real quick. (All of my shoots are on location).

3) Baby's inside bags creep most people

4) Pay more attention to my compostion (the corner of the flag inside the blue).

Thanks everyone for your input. It is appreciated more than you could ever know. My goal is to be the best photographer I can be so honest critique is always what I'm looking for.


Scott Bulger Photography said...

Thanks for chiming in Stephanie. I'm glad you are using this information in the spirit in which it was provided.

Tasha Early said...

I was definitely also distracted by the creases in the flag.

And definitely a little creeped out..:)

Lady Kelley Bracken-Rainey said...

See, this is why I love your blogs....when I get the chance to read them! lol You really teach!!!!! That's what I need.

I've yet to really have a chance to try out my new camera. My daughter is keeping me busy. I want to try and get out this weekend and take some cool shots. Hope you'll drop by and take a look at mine when you can!

Best wishes Scott,

April H said...

While I agree with some of your points and I'm sure its a lovely photo.... the stork carrying the baby the US... but I find it strange. And the first thing I noticed after the baby in the bag, were the creases. I agree whole heartedly on that tip!
Neat concept though.

Meg said...

I've seen the "baby in the bag" thing done before, and I do think it is sometimes creepy, but sometimes not as creepy. I am definitely in agreement about the line! That's a pet peeve of mine that I always avoid at all costs in my own photos, and always notice in someone elses. I did not notice the toe end of the bag going into the blue though- very well seen, Scott. I often find that even though we see things afterwards, in the heat of the moment of shooting it can be hard to notice/think of everything (particularly when one has to work pretty quickly, like with a baby). Excellent critique. :)

Nanette said...

I enjoy reading your blog and appreciate the photography tips and help. I've nominated your blog for the Brilliance Award 2008.

Ashley said...

Great points! And I very heavily agree with it being creepy. I would think there would be some other way than a bag to get the message across. The picture weirds me out.

Learning Spanish at 41 said...

Baby in the The concept might be nice but not sure about how it was executed. Doesn't strike me as something about adoption at all. It actually looks rather political if you had not explained the back story...

Alison Du Bois said...

I am learning so much from this blog - I look forward to checking it every day and can't wait for the next installments! Thanks, Scott ☺

Garrity Photography said...

I have tried to comment on this one before now but I had a problem with my password on here... grr! LOL! Anyway I like the intensity of this image. I saw the baby in the "womb" but had to think about what was the baby feeling at the time since I remember how my little ones never kept that still. But I felt like it was an image as you said Scott that was pretty personal to the parents. I always find something useful in these Scott to apply to my own photography. Thank you again for your time!

Athena said...

"the baby in the bag kind of gives me the creeps"

Haha! I have some friends who just had a baby and they took some photographs of their baby in netting like this. The mom loves the pictures but the dad finds them to be disturbing.