Upload & Sell: Off
...and aunti, as usual, nails it!
Speaking of diplomacy, it's not my strong point. Sorry.
I'm typing now out of a genuine desire to see you produce better photos than the ones I've seen posted on this site. Bear that in mind. I'm being nice and not looking to give myself license to be rude or in any way personally attack you.
Charles, in general, do you ever suspect you might be overthinking your photography?
You have all the information and seem to try and cover every base and yet end up with photos that just don't do justice to your subjects. I'm basing this on the whole variety of shots you've put up on various threads.
I suspect you're so focused on the minutiae, that the overall image is escaping you.
I understand you've been shooting for 40 years, I understand you have theories on lighting worked out over time and passed down from elders, all based on goal dominated thinking, but right now, you're in dire need of some fairly honest c&c.
Since these shots are in the c&c forum, I'm going to give you my thoughts...
Goal: 'christmas greeting'.
In a silk evening dress, is it appropriate to do 'high street studio' lighting, or would, perhaps, softer lighting, redolent of candlight, or a ballroom, have brought out the best in both the frock and your wife, as well as setting a romantic mood. (Just sayin'...)
Couple that with a warm background and a soft smile and your christmas cards could be things of beauty rather than looking rather threatening. Of course, I don't know the recipients, so the look could be intentional! (I know, I know, they're messing around out-takes.) But if your intent was to create drama, then underlighting and generous use of shadows would surely be the order of the day.
In fact, I think it might be that, in winning your battle with shadows, you've lost the war for great photos. Make the shadows your friends, they are what creates the contrast that you want to create in order to create that single dominant Centre of Interest.
But there's more than that, composition has more than one element. There must be a symphony of shapes and colours, all linked in an aesthetically pleasing way. I don't see that in your photos, (except the mantis, that rocks.)
What I see is the results of blind rule following taken to extremes.
"The face must be all!" and all we're left with is face. It's not enough. We want context, we want drama and we want the story.
Here's an example of where your rules have tripped you up
When you vignette the bottom of the photo 'to stop the eye falling out of the shot' you killed the shot.
And not in a stylistic sense.
Very much in the sense of "yeuuuurghhh, why am I looking at a woman chopped in half?" dead.
Overall achievement: 'Death threat'
We can only judge your photographic skills, and from that, the validity of the information and advice you offer, by what you show.
Can I recommend a quiet period of self-reflection, research and listening.
There is a lot of awesome advice on this forum.
Sadly most of my really early shots are lost to the great internet void.
Take it from me, they were really terrible.
Now, I'm in demand.
Quality models come to me paying for shoots.
I don't deserve that yet, I don't ask them to, but I can't stop it.
I shoot my first minor film star next week. I'm excited, and scared.
How did this happen?
I listened to aunti, to Kaden, to Bob and the other regulars.
I listened to other people too. I went out and found information.
I didn't always agree, but I listened, and I practiced what I heard about, kept what worked for me, and discarded what didn't.
If I hadn't changed my ideas, I would still take photos that looked like crap.
Kindest regards, Paul Silver.