Photo Reviews

Today I have 3 shots shared by a budding young photographer, Tori, who is all of 14 years old, almost 15. She came to me a few weeks ago wondering if I would give her some tips about what worked and what didn’t with her shots so far.

The three shots I selected from her gallery are, in my opinion, her best. They each stood out for me because they not only had artistic merit to them, they conveyed a message, a story, or an emotion, which is a long-sought-after goal of any artist, regardless of experience.

Following my comments below, I’d like to invite you to share some of your thoughts and ideas so we might help encourage a young person who is pursuing a growing passion.


This first shot really grabbed my attention because we are only given an impression of the horse, yet we see enough that we know exactly what it is. I really enjoy the almost monotone nature of the photo with mostly grays and subtle colors throughout. With the eye being the darkest part of the image, viewers are immediately drawn to it. Our eyes are first drawn to the areas where there is the most contrast – usually it’s the brightest portion of the image, but here it’s the darkest because everything else is so bright.

While I don’t get the feeling that Tori was using the Rule of Thirds, necessarily, the eye does seem to fall on the upper horizontal third line, which helps with the framing and overall proportions. If I were working on this same type of shot, I might have panned to the left slightly so that the eye was right about at the intersection of the upper horizontal third line and the left-hand third line, at least to see if that would be a better option. For my own personal taste, the eye is almost too far over to the edge of the frame, but it still works here.

Post-processing could also help here. I actually like how even the tones are across the image. There’s some depth with the sharpness so the even tones don’t make it seem too flat at all. I might suggest adding a little bit of sharpening and maybe a little more contrast or clarity (if you’re using Lightroom or Photoshop’s Camera Raw plugin).  All-in-all I think it’s a really nice shot and shows some real promise.


Another one that really struck me. I took a shot like this of a blurry Eiffel Tower last year when my wife and I were in Paris. I really like the overall blue color to the image and how the complimentary orange of the street lights play off of that. I think it’s great that the horizon line is not placed dead-center of the frame and it’s cropped to a wider aspect ratio.

The decision to push everything out of focus was a very good one for this type of photo. I wouldn’t use that style too often out of fear of overdoing it, but it works perfectly here and I think it’s a nice technique to hold on to for future shots.

I’m not sure how intentional it was, but the diagonal perspective lines created by the receding street lights, the headlights from the on-coming cars, and the illuminated lane lines in the road all work together to draw us in deeper. They take us to all of the different elements of the photo and through the to most distant point. Whenever there are angles or triangles created by the lines in a photo, they always make it more dynamic and interesting for the viewer.

If I were to do something different here, I’d say maybe tilt up ever so slightly so the horizon was a little lower in the frame. I might have also panned left just a tad, as well. I’m not sure much more post-processing is necessary. Well done!


Finally, we have a nice sunset shot to close out our examination of Tori’s work – which is also a little more representative of the majority of her photos. I really like how all of the trees are in silhouette so we can be really hit with the bright golds and oranges of the sky. I think it’s well framed with the tree on the left holding your eye in the frame. And, as I said above, I think having the diagonal line of the trees on the right adds some interest and it also has the added benefit of directing your eyes downward toward the glowing sun. I’m glad the larger clouds are there in the upper right of the frame because it would be a bit unbalanced if they weren’t there.

I’m not a stickler for rules of composition. For me, if it looks good, who cares if it follows the “proper” rules. I don’t think the horizon needs to be on the lower horizontal third line and I’m glad that the horizon isn’t on the bottom of the frame either. If the sun was setting at the bottom edge, it would feel wrong. With a little bit of the horizon showing we are treated to the suns rays coming down and we’re also given a little more context so the image has some stability to it.

If I were to shoot this scene, I might try taking a couple of steps to the left so that the sun was centered in the opening between the group of trees on the right and the tree on the left. Very good.

Overall, I think Tori really has something going on here. I’ll be honest that not every shot in her gallery is excellent, but there is certainly an obvious “creative eye” being developed there. For her age, she is well on her way. I only wish I had started getting serious about photography when I was 14 – instead of 21.

Tori is looking for some help to make her work better. Please leave a comment below about the shots above – what works, what she might consider trying next time, etc. – or with any tips you might have for a young photog just learning the ropes.

Thank you, Tori, for courageously sharing your photos with us! Keep up the good work, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!


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