Photography Critique: 4 Shots That Could Have Been Better & The Reasons Why

By Geoff Harris

A few months ago I wrote a piece about five common photographic mistakes and how to avoid them (pop over here: if you want to have a look). Well, it's the first day of a new month, so it's as good a time as any to show you four more images that haven't quite worked and the reasons why.


Focusing errors

All camera lenses have a minimum focusing distance. If you're closer to your subject than this distance your camera's lens won't be able to focus and your subject won't be sharp. Most cameras will warn you of this fact and refuse to fire the shutter. Some don't however. That's what happened with this shot of a nautilus in a tank. Being clever I had the lens pressed against the tank glass to cut out reflections. However, this meant that the nautilus was closer than the lens' minimum focusing distance. Result? An unsharp shot that can't be rescued. If your subject is too close move until your camera can focus correctly. You could always zoom in slightly if your framing needs to be exact.


Don't snap

There are a number of things wrong with this shot. For one thing the light is awful (it was shot mid-afternoon on a cloudless day). However, the main problem is that it's just a record shot. I was enjoying looking at the waterfall and didn't think about the best way to convey this enjoyment in the photo. I was just snapping. This has resulted in a very ho-hum shot. Ideally I should have returned at a better time of day. But even if that wasn't possible I should have thought more about an appropriate shutter speed and looked for a more interesting composition.


Leave space for your subject to breathe

This shot oh so very nearly works. The colour of the early evening sky helps to convey a sense of freezing cold (and it was cold believe me). However, the lamp at the bottom of the image feels too close to the picture edge. I don't know about you but that makes me feel slight uncomfortable. If I'd thought more at the time I would have placed the lamp higher up the image, leaving room at the bottom for it to 'breathe'. Perhaps the cold had got to my critical faculties.

Monument to Admiral Lord Collingwood who served in the Royal Navy with Nelson and saw action on the 'Royal Sovereign' during the Battle of Trafalgar. Lord Collingwood was born in Newcastle, died in action in 1810 and is now buried in St Paul's Cathedral. The monument is situated near Tynemouth overlooking the River Tyne

Frontal light

The subject in this image was lit by frontal light, light that emanates from behind or just to the side of the camera. The big problem with frontal light is that it flattens shape and texture, making the subject look like a cardboard cut-out. This was one shot where I really needed to be there at a different time of day when the light was more sympathetic.

Style over a drystone wall leading to the summit of Wideopen Hill on the St. Cuthbert's Way long distance trail, Scottish Borders, Scotland

Be careful with filters

Filters are useful tools to help you achieve a shot that would otherwise be impossible. However, you have to think about how to use them correctly. A common mistake is to use too heavy an ND-graduate filter on a sky so that the sky looks unnaturally dark and dense. The mistake I made with this shot was to use a polariser on an extremely wide-angle lens. This has caused uneven polarisation across sky, resulting in an odd dark blue band centre-right.

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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