Critique the Community Episode 8: Automotive Images

Last week we asked the community to submit their automotive imagery to be critiqued by the Fstoppers team. Lee Morris and Patrick Hall went through a range of 20 images and gave their thoughts and feedback with the Fstoppers rating system. Check out the selection of pictures below and add your thoughts to the comments!

If you missed your chance to submit your images for critique, keep an eye out for future submission opportunities for "Critique the Community."

The Fstoppers Community Rating System

If you have an Fstoppers account, you are able to create your own profile and portfolio directly within the Fstoppers Community. Once you have a portfolio uploaded, you can browse images in the community and rate the photos of your peers. Even though art is usually a fairly subjective matter, we wanted to create a rating system that was as objective and unbiased as possible. This way if one of your images has been rated 50 times and has received an average rating of 2 stars, you could feel confident that maybe that particular image is not up to par. Below is a simple chart explaining the Fstoppers Community Rating System.

1 Star - The Snapshot

1 Star ratings are limited to snap shots only. Snap shots are usually taken to document a time or location but little to no thought has gone into the creation of the image. If an image has been "lit" with external light (besides a direct on camera flash) it is at least a 2 star picture. The majority of 1 star images have had no post production work done to them but do often have an "Instagram style" filter added to them. The average person these days snaps 1 star images every single day with their smart phones. Most 1 star images that pop up on sites like ours are images of flowers, pets, landscapes, sunsets, objects around a house, etc. If you read Fstoppers, you should not be sharing 1 star images for any reason. 

2 Stars - Needs Work

All images, besides maybe 5 star images, always have room for improvement but 2 star images "need work" before they should be included in your portfolio. As photographers we are snapping thousands of images per year but only a few of those images should ever be shared or put into our portfolio. A photographer who has taken a 2 star image has put some thought into the composition, exposure, and post production but for some reason has missed the mark. 2 star images should not be in the portfolio of a full time professional photographer, and amateur photographers should strive for something better. Even complete amateurs who don't understand photography at all are capable of taking 2 star images from time to time. 

3 Stars - Solid

A 3 star image is an all around good image. The photographer has a solid understanding of the basics; composition, color, focus, subject matter, and post production. A 3 star image is "good" but it's not great. Most part-time professional photographers have mostly 3 star images in their portfolios. Usually a level 3 image would have been rated 4 stars if it had been shot in a better location, or with a better model showing a better expressions, or there was better post production. A photographer capable of taking a 3 star image is capable of taking 4 and 5 star images if they would simply pay more attention to the details. 

4 Stars - Excellent

4 star images are fantastic. In most cases, 4 star images have a certain style to them that links them directly to their creator. 4 star images usually require planning and attention to extreme detail. It's almost impossible to shoot a 4 star image by getting lucky. 4 star images have almost flawless conception, composition, lighting, subject matter, and post production. If you have any 4 star images in your portfolio you should be very proud of yourself.

5 Stars - World Class

5 star images are flawless and unforgettable. The amount of time, energy, and talent that goes into the average 5 star image is staggering. In many cases these pictures require a team to produce including a professional retoucher. The concept, lighting, subject, location, and post production on these images has to be perfect. In some cases the jump from 4 to 5 stars may be as simple as changing the unknown model in the picture with a celebrity or bringing in a set designer or stylist to make the image slightly better. Although there are always exceptions, most 5 star images take days, if not weeks or months to produce.

Strengthening Your Own Portfolio

Even with our objective rating system, people are going to disagree with what they like because ultimately art is still a matter of opinion. However, we believe once an image has been rated over 25 times it will have a rating that is pretty fair and honest (We hope to deter trolls by giving negative Karma points when a vote is more than 1 star away from the community average). If one of your images in your own portfolio is rated lower than what you personally feel it should be rated, we would urge you to try to look at the image from an unbiased angle. Step back, erase your memory of the photo shoot itself, and try to imagine an art buyer, stock agency, potential client, or local gallery as they decided if they wanted to invest in your services. Would your image make the cut?

David Strauss's picture

David Strauss is a wedding photographer based in Charleston, SC.

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Just for anyone that doesn't know the Hoonicorn. (that background is Ken Block's shop, I believe also).

Good eye. That is indeed kens shop.

I'm just a giant car nerd. haha.

I'm surprised no one put a cgi car in there to trick you guys

Thanks for the outsider perceptive critiques on the images, I appreciate that. Would you mind critiquing my images?

Here's another one i'd love to get your critique on. Thanks again.

Stoked to have such great feedback! Here is a time lapse of the compositing of the car. A lot of the retouching work to the cars panels etc. was done before this video.

The car wasn't finished going through it's conversion to Right Hand Drive (for Australian roads) so we shot it in front of the shop and put it into the more interesting background.

Follow me on instagram for more :)

That's awesome Shaun, thanks for sharing the process!

Aw darn mine didn't get selected :\ oh well. As for the automotive photographers out there, do you find a lot of work in the industry or is it more hobby based? How hard is it to find paying clients for car shots? As for hte images, some great shots in this article, keep up the good work.

It is what I do full time. It is not for the faint of heart if your looking to do it full time. It is either professional commercial advertising work, which you really need to know what your doing, and have the equipment to back it up, and your work needs to be very "polished work" with a consistent style. The other option is finding collectors who love their cars, which again the photos still have to be very good, or they would do it themselves. Either high end cars which is harder to get into without a proven portfolio or best to approach car clubs and give them group deals and make money in bulk, but it gets your name out there. Even tho their are plenty shades of grays, eg... taking photos for a dealership or something. Like most photography, nobody wants to pay, which I made a decision a long time ago, I will not work for credit. Money only please, I did not care if I did not get any work unless it is to build your portfolio of course. Last big option is editorial work, not high paying, but paying non the less. It can be consistent if your work is good, but certainly more about getting your name out there and persistence. Nice photo btw, what was your technique on lighting the car? One thing I forgot, not to sound discouraging, but as I have been doing cars, the more you get into it, it is EXPENSIVE, equipment wise. To get very nice polished images, you need butterfly overheads, In my case, lots of elinchrom rangers, etc.... Tho, there are some things that can be done without spending a million.

Meh, shame mine didn't make it to the critique... i love some of the selected pictures, but others look a bit off...still, nice video and pictures. :)

It was funny
Thank you)

I think Andrew Link and I were the best) haha

Very excited to be included in this automotive Critique the Community. I felt like a father taking his child to their first day of school with the vulnerability of releasing my work to the wolves like this!! Great work, everyone. Wonderful feedback from Lee and Patrick that I'll certainly grow off of.

Hey patrick, hey lee thanks again for selecting one of my images. Although you gus had a completely opposite perspective on the quality of my image i still appreciate both of them. Ps. Patrick the car is originally really big:)

My only gripe is that it's painfully obvious that Lee and Patrick don't work or have much experience in this field of photography. I like the range of quality images chosen for the critique but I feel like the people giving the grades should have a stronger understanding of this practice.

Enjoyed Watching

Thank you guys for selecting my image. I enjoy the critique!

Thanks for the feedback! I really didn't think my picture was going to be critiqued.
Now I just cant un-see what you guys pointed out. As far as I'm concerned, you were spot on!

Just stick to weddings, guys. You don't have a clue about automotive photography.

This was a productive critique vid. Automobile photography ranks in the top level of the field and requires superior lighting, technique, post-production skills, and execution, as well as acute attention to details. Most of these images lack one to several of those components.

The shot of the Toyota MR2 was such a poorly executed rip-off of Tim Wallace's iconic Aston Martin image that it reminded me of when mediocre singers go on talent shows and try to cover complicated songs by world class vocalists.

This is the type of critique needed for people flooding the the marketplace with giveaway, inferior imagery. I hope that they hear what you have to say. Two of the contributors (Shaun Maluga and Andrew Link) clearly know what they are doing, and critiques of their work, IMO, boil down more to personal taste. They both have excellent work on their websites.