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9 July 2014

One of New Zealand’s leading photographer’s, Mike Langford, offers simple tips to improve D-Photo readers’ photos. If you would like to submit your image for consideration send it to [email protected] with the subject ‘Critique’.




The emotion and light in this shot are both great but I just feel like I want more from this story — especially about where they are. Remember this also could have been achieved in-camera with picture style by reducing the contrast so we can see into the shadows as well as the highlights.

In Photoshop, I have gone into Image > Adjustments > Shadows > Highlights, and adjusted the shadows by 10. This has allowed me to keep the highlights which I already liked, but allowed me to see more details in the shadow, which now gives me a greater sense of where they are.



Lake Wahapo

Lake Wahapo A


Just because the light is flat and uninteresting, there is no reason why you can’t get a really strong image, even from a JPEG straight out of the camera. By going into picture style and increasing the contrast as well as shooting for the shadows (high key), you can very easily create an image like I have recreated here in Photoshop.

To achieve this look in Photoshop I have first created a Curves layer and limited the tone to a much narrower width. I have then created a Contrast/Brightness layer and increased both of these until the image is mostly just about fine. Finally I have cropped into the image to make the graphics even stronger. The final image still has the misty mood but now also has strength in visual depth and form.

Lake Wahapo B


Manukau Sunset

Manukau Sunset A


The crop of this image into a panorama is very effective as I’m sure it is making us look at the subject, which is the sky. However, I’m not sure that the right-hand side of the image is adding much to the story, as most of the interest is on the left, where the person is. Funny the way our eye always gravitates to a figure if there is one in the landscape.

If the figure was cropped out then the story would be entirely about the sky and the shapes of the clouds, but having chosen to include the figure the story becomes much more about the reflective nature of the person in the landscape. By cropping the image on the right and flipping the image horizontally the person now becomes less reflective and more looking to the future. I have also dodged the area around the person a little to make them stand out more. None of this is right or wrong — it’s just another way of thinking.

Manukau Sunset B


Free advice:

Mike Langford of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography is here to offer free advice to help you take better pictures. Mike has been an international awards judge for over 20 years and has twice won Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year as well as New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year; he is also an EOS Master.

Do you have a photo that you know doesn’t look right but can’t work out how to improve it or how to do better next time? Send us your problem pictures and questions for Mike Langford to answer via the Critique column.

Email your digital pictures to [email protected] with the subject ‘Critique’.

Or post them on a CD to:
Critique, D-Photo,
PO Box 46020, Herne Bay,
Auckland 1147.

Please ensure your pictures are around A5 in size at 300dpi.