This photo was submitted by Becky Bourget for critique. This is an engaging photo that conveys the spirit of the child. Overall the image looks very sharp and properly exposed. I like that you used a wide aperture to produce a shallow depth of field that keeps the child’s face sharp but blurs the background.
The first place my eyes go when looking at the image is the child’s nose/mouth area, then the eyes. Then the hand on the cap. All these graphic elements are near the center of the frame, which is OK in this case… when you want to show symmetry (such as with a human face), placing elements in the center of the frame emphasises this. The photo would be more appealing if the child was smiling.
My eye then goes to the graphic on the shirt, which has lots of color contrast and interesting shapes and lines. To some degree, the graphic on the shirt fights against the kid’s face for attention. I think the image would have been stronger with either a different shirt or a composition that minimized the shirt’s effect.
The shadows on the top part of kid’s face are a bit problematic. The light is quite harsh and contrasty. You can handle this by using fill flash to add light into the dark areas. When shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, using flash can make a big difference on the overall quality of light in in a photo. It looks like there may be a small amount of fill flash used; using a stronger amount of flash would balance the highlights and shadows, and would also create more prominent catchlights in the eyes.
One trick you can use when shooting outdoors in harsh light is to use a large diffuser to create softer, shadowed light for the subject. Placing a diffuser to the upper right of the subject would create much more flattering light. You can also use a reflector to bounce into shadow areas.
Lastly, the dark elements in the background are somewhat distracting, especially because they are at or near the edges of the frame. Always keep an eye out for distracting elements along the edges and corners of the frame. In this case, the strong contrast between the light tan background and the dark blobs draws the eye away from the main subject. The photo would be stronger if these are eliminated; you can do this with software, but in the future you can improve your compositions by watching for these distracting elements and reframing the shot to remove them.
I think you’re on the right track; the image could be improved with just a little refinement of the composition and the manipulation of light to reduce contrast on the face and brighten the eyes.
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