The 5 C’s Of Photography

I was putting together a group of photos for a Level 2 Critique at The Arcanum where I am apprenticed to none other than world famous photographer, Laurie Rubin, my master and mentor, under the cohort of Wildlife and Nature Photography. Each section or level in The Arcanum infrastructure of learning has special assignments, critiques or challenges for the Apprentices like myself. This gallery displays some of the photos I submitted for my critique.

Laurie Rubin is an international award-winning photographer specializing in nature and landscape photography and Senior Education Manager at Macphun Software. Most recently Laurie won 1st place in the Windland Smith Rice International Awards for the Zoo and Aquarium category. Her image is in the Fall Awards issue of Nature’s Best and is displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. As she says, “Photography, nature, wildlife and finding happiness along the way … that’s what I’m all about!”
Laurie Rubin

So, before attempting to level up, I thought I’d review several recent Critiques to see what I was getting myself into. These are my notes after watching these intriguing video conference critiques held as Google+ Hangouts. I’ve been watching critiques from Laurie Rubin, Varina Patel, Trey Ratcliff, and James Brandon, among others. I have learned so many things from these critiques that I have gone back to my images and I am working on applying the lessons!

Here are the most salient points so far from all I’m learning from these critiques.

  1. Take time carefully choosing your images for critique. Does it have impact? It’s the WOW factor, according to Laurie Rubin. And Varina Patel calls it an image that “grabs me, slaps me up the side of the face, and says I’m amazing.” I noticed that sometimes Varina Patel would say, “Yes, I’d include that in my portfolio.” I need to take care with my choice of images. In one of the critiques, there was the thought that I could choose an image I’m having trouble with and I would like input.
  2. Pay attention to every detail in post-processing — my master will pick up all the flaws and faults (you can depend on it) — absolutely no noise. And if I content-aware or clone in the background, make sure I’ve done a good job of it. Laurie Rubin noticed a seam in one of the backgrounds and repetition in another. This made me go back to one image and completely re-work it. Also I must look for chromatic aberrations or fringing.
  3. Make sure the eye is drawn to the subject in the photo and that distractions are downplayed or eliminated. Laurie Rubin has you squint your eyes to see if there are bright areas that distract you from the subject. This is a great exercise and made me re-work another image to darken some bright areas.
  4. Make certain no areas that are blown out. Amazing how I can overlook these kinds of things in my own photos. I’ve got to be brutal in my critical eye when it comes to my photos. Varina Patel actually took some of the photos she was critiquing into Adobe Photoshop to make sure areas weren’t blown out.
  5. Composition is key. I learned from the critiques that some of the composition can be altered by cropping. Some can only come by going out and shooting better the next time. Pay attention to background. I have been keenly aware of this in the last year and it is making me slow down to compose better. In the critiques the background was almost always a subject up for discussion.
  6. Make sure my horizons are dead-on straight. If it’s not, it will be noticed!
  7. Keep doing well all the things I’m doing right — lots of generous words in all the critiques about each photograph. Every critique leaves you feeling encouraged and excited to venture on in this great journey of photography.
  8. At the end of the day it’s all about the joy of it – this is all about learning and getting better and having fun in my photography, and also about pursuing excellence and being the best I can be at what I do.

I am motivated to write out my goals and become very intentional on this Arcanum journey.

The 5 C’s of Photography

  • Composition
  • Clarity
  • Craft
  • Creativity
  • Coolness

My goals right now in capturing and post-processing my photographs are the 5 C’s — Composition, Clarity, Craft, Creativity, and Coolness. To be a good artist, I have to be self-aware. I realize that I am unique and I have my own style. And I must develop that unique style with the help of God, my cohorts at The Arcanum, and my fantastic mentor/master Laurie Rubin. And I must experience the joy and appreciate the beauty of this journey of photography all along the way. 

♥ God bless you in the great adventure of knowing Him!


P.S. I passed Level 2. Nothing is impossible with God.

Trey Ratcliff, the world renowned professional photographer of (the #1 Travel Photography Blog on the Internet) with the first HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo ever to hang in the Smithsonian Institution, founded The Arcanum, dedicated to teaching the artistic disciplines of photography through a Master and Apprentice relationship. Masters include such notables as Laurie Rubin, Dallas Nagata White, Catherine Hall, Jeremy Cowart, Lisa Bettany, Jaime Ibarra, Karen Hutton, Thomas Hawk, Rick Sammon, Dave Cross, Alex Koloskov, Varina Patel, and many more. Each Arcanum level has special assignments, critiques or challenges for the Apprentices with the goal to become a Master.
Trey Ratcliff’s THE ARCANUM

— myPhotoWalk

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