Disclaimer: I know what they say, “don’t criticize other people’s work.” I’m sorry, I have to part with that. As an educator in photography, I feel it is necessary to inform my students of both the good and bad. Our professional magazines should be upholding the standard of quality in this industry. What appears in the magazines is seen by the aspiring photographer as the standard to attain. When our magazines publish sub-standard material, this needs to be called out, so that the new people in the industry understand what true quality is. If we allow sub-standard to become the acceptable as “professional” then we are for not.
This is the cover of the November 2011 issue of Professional Photographer. This portrait is not flattering. It is lit with a small light source placed above the subject’s head. This type of lighting, called “butterfly” or “glamor” lighting and is not unique; but it is reserved for faces that are perfect because there are no shadows to hide the flaws in the face. You will most often see this type of lighting used in advertising for cosmetics. The subject of this portrait does not have a perfect face. Furthermore, there is no post production work. Every wrinkle and pore on this woman is painfully visible.
What really baffles me about this cover is that it was a contest, and this was the image selected by a skilled photographer that I used to have respect for.
Here is second place image. A wonderful portrait that is beautifully lit with a large light source (same type of lighting used on the cover shot, but with a larger light source). The face is beautifully sculpted and the hands do not interfere with the face.
Third place. A wonderful image with some excellent tonal control. Here detail and pores are not a bad thing. Wonderful composition with the hood and the eyes just penetrate out of the darkness.
Yancy had better images to select from. To place that image on the cover is a slap in the face to professional photography.
From time to time I will visit other photographer’s websites. It amazes me how “casual” wedding photography has become. I saw a sample album on site that contained no nice photos of the bride and her mother (she appears in the candids as the bride is getting dressed), the groom’s parents are absent from all the photos (maybe they didn’t come to the wedding) and there are no images of the families that traveled to this event. Sure, there are lots of photographs of the wedding party having fun and it looked like everybody had a good time; but there are key people that I’m sure were important to the bride and groom who are absent from the photographs.
Another photographer claimed to have “World Class Photography”. Dig a little deeper and you will not find any awards from their peers or the professional organizations. In fact, you won’t even find memberships in the professional organizations.
Possessing a scalpel does not make one a surgeon. Possessing a nice digital camera does not make one a professional photographer. A true professional photographer controls exposure, focus, composition and lighting to produce consistent and repeatable results.
“So who’s photographing your wedding in Dallas?”, I casually asked an acquaintance of mine. “Oh, my roommate. He’s got a nice camera.” I cringed on the inside. A nice camera does not qualify one to be a photographer any more than a volt meter qualifies me to be an electrician. A good photographer can make you look great, a bad photographer, well… The following is a great example. Copied from the February issue Professional Photography Magazine, the article is about one couple that went to three different professional photographers for their engagement portrait. Though the article focused on the experience, I will focus on the quality of the photographs. (BTW: I did not take either image, so I have nothing vested in this.)
Let’s start with the left one. Pose: The way she is positioned in front of him, she looks larger. The way she is leaning on her forward leg (the one closest to the camera), she looks heavier. Her leading arm is smashed against her body causing to forearm squish out and it looks wider than her face. Clothing: At least they have solid colors; but she is brighter and therefor perceived [again] as larger. Light: The light is totally wrong. The hot spot coming in on her forehead makes it look like she has a receding hair line, the splash of light on her forearm increases – once again – its perceived size. Light should sculpt a face, not show off areas you don’t want emphasis. Focus: background is too sharp and the couple does not separate from it sufficiently.
Compare this to the image on the right. Pose: Nicely done. Even though she is in front, you can see him on both sides of her so he looks larger than her. Clothing: Nice choice. I always tell my couples to match your clothing – now you see why. The long sleeves helped too. Light: Perfect. This is what a properly lit face looks like. Notice how much slimmer her face looks on the right than the left. Focus: Nicely blurred background. The emphasis is on the couple.
Not all photographers – even professional ones – are created equal.