Critique the Community Episode 6a: Un-posed Wedding Photographs

Last week, we asked the community to submit their un-posed wedding images to be critiqued here at Fstoppers. Unlike past episodes, we promised to give feedback to EVERY image that was correctly submitted. Thank you everyone for all for posting your pictures! We had a total of 49 images that we covered in two separate videos. If you don't see your image in today's video, stay tuned for tomorrow's post.

Check out the image submissions from the first half of the critique:


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 photoshoot 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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LOL! The one with the bride almost catching on fire was mine. I put it up just because I think it's hilarious with all the bizarre elements, but still useful with a joyful bride. But I totally hear where you guys are coming from as far as it not being a portfolio shot. If I need a thorough explanation for a picture to make sense right away, strangers are just going to be confused and turned off. Glad you got a chuckle out of it though.

And thanks for the kind words about my dad-and-groom shot. And also just for doing this in the first place. Super cool.

Once I understood that bride catching fire shot, I loved it! Great work Graham, keep it up!

Thanks man! I definitely got a huge kick out of both of you being like "WTF are we even looking at?" What a blast.

Yours was my favorite! I would absolutely put it in my portfolio. I want to book clients that would love that kind of shot. Anytime prospective clients comment on my work, they comment on the ones with unique moments like this. You've seen one portrait, you've seen them all, it's stuff like this that tells the story.

Hey thanks Kristi! Very kind of you to say.

I think Lee should wear baggier shorts next time, we could only see about inch away from his junk. If he's going to sit like that with the camera at that height then just go for it and give us the soldier show.

Haha, Ya I'm not going to wear shorts for these again. I forgot we were filming and wasn't prepared ;)

Thank you Lee and David for advice to convert this image to B&W .It's definitely better:

Hi, Lee and David. So to clarify the "trick", what I did is I quite polished the bride's face, almost like for a beauty shot, so this might make it look unnatural. Thanks, I didn't think it would be so distracting. That said, what drew my attention to this photo and made me think it deserved a good retouch, and I admit this was a bit of a luck, is how the dark makeup artist's body fell into the right place and shaped the light bride's profile, creating this clearly defined silhouette, and I wanted to accentuate this. I didn't burn the dark side of the bride, I did a bit of contouring on her cheekbones. So after my usual retouch, I applied a Kodalith filter and it came up like this. Also, the sRGB conversion made it loose detail in the shadows. Bye the way, this was a real wedding, we were close to the window and nothing is posed or setup, maybe just my black t-shirt close to the bride blocking the environment's reflection on her face :) Because if you look on the very next frame I am posting here and where we were away from her, things look different. You can also see the color version of the photo here, maybe it helps, too:
Sorry for the long story, but your deep analysis made me rethink and evaluate everything once again. Thank you, it was fun, but most importantly, helpful!

Wow I like your color version more than your BW conversion. Very well done

Thanks. The reason I posted the BW version is that on 500px it had way more feedback than the color one, and you know how sometimes you tend to let yourself influenced by others.