with Courtney Slazinik
Critique Me – Jawn at Jawn Mallon Photography

Read How to Critique a Photo
Make a critique sandwich – something positive, something you would have done differently, something positive
My rule: no improvement tip = deleted comment
This will benefit the person leaving the photo critique just as much if not more than the person receiving the critique.
If you would like to have an image critiqued be sure to read How to submit an image for critique.

Thank you to Jawn at Jawn Mallon Photography for submitting the following image.
Settings: ISO 200, SS 1/80, f/5.6
Jawn Mallon Photography

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I really love the rule of thirds used here. I would have pushed it slightly more to the center to avoid chopping the tip of the ear off. My rule with shopping limbs is to look like you meant it – so either take the ear off entirely, or in this case, don’t tip it. Your depth of field also really works here. Overall lovely image!

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    Love this photo! The subject’s proximity to the camera focuses the viewer’s attention on the emotion and the details of the face. The water droplets look incredible. For improvement, I would have reduced the amount of eye whitening to give it a more naturalistic look while increasing the sharpness of the pupil to draw the viewer even more. I would have also added a sky overlay (very slightly) to make the background more engaging as well. Overall, great photograph and very strategic placement of your logo. Congrats!

  • Sherri Funk
    April 7, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I LOVE the approach here…the black and white makes you want more of those big adorable eyes!
    Even though I love the black and white…I would really like to see her eyes in color….
    The shot is so crisp and delicious. Thanks for the share…love it !

  • Laurel F.
    April 7, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Love the use of black and white. It makes sometimes otherwise mundane photographs pop. Bringing your subject’s face up close really makes your depth of field stand out. However, I would suggest carefully watching what gets cropped and what doesn’t. So moving the crop to the left to totally cut off the ear would be better (or leaving it in entirely). Nice shot. Simple subject matter we can all relate to: joys of childhood.

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I Love this photo. Such innocence of a child. I am with Nathalie… Maybe just bring down the eye whitening a little bit but I love the depth of field and the detail you captured in the face of the child. Great Job!

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I’m not quite sure where the point of focus is, it should be the eye/s but they look rather soft and pinning focus on the eye would have been an improvement. Whilst on the subject of the eyes, they look a little dead/dull, this appears to be due to a lack of light in them.
    On a child of this age I would also expect their teeth to be white rather than the Grey that they are in this shot.
    It would, for me at least, be a cracking shot but for these details

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    What a captivating image! You did a fantastic job on the focus and catchlights in her eyes and the depth of field really makes your subject pop off the background. I think this photo could handle some additional lighting to one side of her face to add a bit more depth, but I know sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got :) The cropping doesn’t bother me because you’re cropped both the ear and the top of the head a bit so it looks intentional. Great job!

  • Dee A
    April 7, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Love the composition and rule of thirds but i would have centered it more to avoid chopping the ear. First thing that i saw was her eyes , full of expression caught in perfect timing :) i love it

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    I would have centered the photograph a bit more, and maybe zoomed out some. It definitely takes away from the scenery of the shot. I do like the black and white of the photo; it makes a more profound statement and does not have the distracting colors from the scenery. I also like how it seems like she just came from under the surface and has an innocent feel to it.

  • Annie
    April 7, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    I love this photo. I agree that the eyes (irises) could be a little more clear, not sure if this is a focus or a processing issue. Might be easier to see in color? That being said, it is a beautiful shot & I love the expression!

  • Joni Rich
    April 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    This photo tells a story by having a close crop to the subject and shallow depth of field to focus on those big eyes but still have enough background to give the viewer a sense of place. I might add a little contrast by boosting the blacks a little. The composition and exposure are great. You got a wonderful expression on the girls face which conveys the naïveté of childhood at the lake on a summers day. I love it!

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    This is a great image. Depth is great with the background. I love the b/w. His eyes should be a little more in focus. When I first looked at the picture I was drawn to the cut off ear. I would either crop it in to where the whole ear is gone or pull back just enough to have it all in the picture. I would love to see it in color as well. Great job!

  • Jessi
    April 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    I love the black and white on this image, I think a tad zoomed out on the face would be good to include the ear and top of the head. The expression is just adorable and well captured. Great picture.

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I like the rule of thirds used here, and that the rule is echoed horizontally in the background. It looks like if you would have turned her around, the light would be better without being directly in her face, and you could have gotten specular highlights in her eyes. I like the use of the longer shutter speed, it makes the water look smooth and buttery.

  • JC
    April 7, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Using the rule of thirds for this portrait really makes it stand out – and adds much more interest. Great job! This is probably just personal preference, but I find myself wondering how green the trees were and how blue the lake and sky were, so it detracts slightly from the subject for me being in black and white. But I love the bokeh most of all! You nailed it!

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    I love the raw beauty of this photo. The water drops on her lobes are perfect! Her eyes do not look natural to me. Maybe eyes to white or not seeing a contrast between pupil and iris. The rules of thirds is awesome!

  • Terri
    April 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    I love the composition and B&W. It seems a little soft around the eye so I’d pushed my shutter up to 1/125 and maybe ISO to 400. Agree with adding contrast for more blacks. This makes me miss the Lake and Summer!

  • Christy Wersland
    April 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    I love the composition and depth of field in your photo. Since you did such a fabulous job with focus and clarity this tight in, I think I would have cropped it up tight to her right eye. And I would love to see it in color, just to compare. :) Just love it though!

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    It is a beautiful and striking image. I would have lightened the iris a little because her eyes are so dark that, in my opinion, it gives the image almost a sad or melancholy feel to it, but that could be what you are going for. I love the water, treeline and overall composition of the shot, as well at the water droplets on her face.

  • Lisa
    April 7, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    I am trying to make a critique sandwich. I just love this shot. Can’t make any suggestions but would like see it in color. Great photo!

  • Amy
    April 7, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    I love so much about this image! The depth of field is lovely. We can see just enough of the background to give information about the story. The only adjustment I would consider is to lighten the face just a bit. It would possibly add more contour and depth to her features. Otherwise beautiful job! It looks like she just came up out of the water for a breath. The dripping water on her face and ears is absolutely wonderful. You told a story with this image. Congrats!

  • mona
    April 7, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    Beautiful photo, I agree with the crop and eye whites comments- slightly distracting there but considering what would be lost in the background scenery with a closer crop, I would have left as is. I love the b&w, I agree that color may draw viewer to the scenery more and away from the subject. Nice job overall, I would definitely be a happy mama if this was my kiddo!

  • Ron Becker
    April 7, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Awesome shot. I think it’s just a little too close. I’d like to see her just slightly back from the camera. I agree it would be better not to clip the ear. I’d like to see the catch lights in the eyes pop a little better. Overall a really nice shot!

  • April 7, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    I really like this shot and the sharpness of the water droplets. I think I would have gotten more of her right ear (left if you are looking straight at the photo) in the frame. I like the processing here and use of B&W. Nice!

  • Debbie
    April 7, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    Nice! Maybe increase exposure on face a tad. Really cute.

  • Rosie
    April 7, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Gorgeous photo, I would agree with the crop being a little off. I love the composition of the image but would’ve pulled the subject a little more towards the middle. I would also lighten the face a little to make it pop more. Overall you did a wonderful job though!

  • Ali
    April 7, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    What a beautiful, unposed photo! It makes me think of a wonderfully carefree summer day, which is what childhood is all about. I agree with others that the crop on the ear is a little awkward. Also, as much as I love b&w photos, I can’t help but to think this one would be nice in color, to help evoke a warm summer feeling. But overall, what a clean, crisp image, with just the right amount of negative space.

  • Nic
    April 7, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    I am in love with this photo. Some black and white’s leave me wanting to see the picture in color to compare, but this one does not. It’s very sharp, shows emotion, and I really like the positioning. The only thing I can even think to critique is the tip of the ear, but that is so small in my opinion. Great job!

  • Jennifer Fuller
    April 7, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    The composition here is spot on. The background bokeh is smooth and nice as well. My suggestion for improvement is regarding the eyes. I suspect they are a bit over processed, the whites are too white and the entire eye is slightly oversharp, lending that unreal appearance. Fantastic choice to use B&W here, I always love it for a portrait. Great job nailing focus too!

  • Ana
    April 7, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    This is my first critique so I apologize in advance if it doesn’t seem very professional. I love the black and withe and the proximity of the little girl, although I would have step a little bit further or cropped a little bit less. Just to have the full right ear. I love the drops of water on her shoulders and ears and nice depth of field. Well done! :)

  • April 7, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Fabulous black and white! I would have pulled back a bit as to not make it so cropped. Wonderful job on capturing her emotion. Love it! :)

  • Schanelle
    April 7, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I love the background bokah. I would have brightened up the eyes. I love the amazing clarity on the face.

  • Patty
    April 7, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I like the black & white and the fact that this picture its not a pose picture, really warm and clean. I will love to see this picture in color. But all in all great picture

  • Beth W.
    April 7, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    What a sweet image! I love the stark expression and the use of negative space. To me, this is a perfect example of the rule of thirds; not only is the subject in the overall left-third of the image but the eyes are in the top left quadrant too, which really draw you in. The depth of field is perfect; not overly blurred. I love black and white, but I feel like this image could use a little more contrast. As some others have mentioned, the clipped ear is bothersome (but only to the most discerning eye). Overall a very charming image!

  • April 7, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Love the B&W composition, DOF and placement of the subject, although I would have positioned her just a bit more into the frame. What I would work on is her eyes, they are almost flat black making the whites appear too white, When I have that issue I sometimes use a Yellow Sky action called Iris Pop that helps bring out the light and sparkle. Lovely photo and you captured a lovely moment. Click on.

  • Cortney
    April 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Beautiful photo. Great background bokeh and great job with rule of thirds. The only thing I would have done differently is lighten the eyes. They are a little too dark and gloomy for me. I love how the ripples in the water and the tree line lead right to your main object in the photo. Great shot! :)

  • colleen eddy
    April 7, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Beautiful subject.. you definitely captured emotion… definitely would fix the processing of the red channels in bw, as it is showing muddy greys… it is important to remember Grey zones when using black and whites. MOST pictures should have an absolute black, a pure white and as many Grey zones that you can pull out. This picture sure stirs an emotion though

  • Luke
    April 7, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    I love the composition going on here. The chopped ear doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m on my phone, so I’m not seeing the softness in the eye that others are seeing. In fact, it’s the opposite. Almost too sharp to me. I do think it needs more contrast. The whites need to be increased. It looks just a little too gray. I do love this though. It has a very somber feel, which is something I always feel drawn to.

  • April 7, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    I love this shot; the aperature is perfect it’s perfectly sharp. I even love the crop I honestly feel that you don’t always have to have every part of the person in the shot.
    The only thing missing for me is the detail in her eyes.
    Other than that… it’s absolutely perfect.

  • Jessica
    April 7, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    I like the grey feel! It’s a beautiful shot! Love her beautiful eyes, I do agree about the ear chopping, (very minor) I think her eyes are a little to bright too..Overall, it’s lovely!

  • Kellie Scarbrough
    April 7, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    I love the framing of this shot. I would like to see a little more contrast in the photo as there is so much mid-tone gray or even a pop of color in the eyes.Her expression is awesome-very unique!

  • Nicole
    April 7, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Great shot! I think moving her over, like those above have already mentioned would be helpful. The logo placement is perfect. I’d love to see this in color, as the BW version doesn’t pop as much as I think it could.


  • Dawn Robinson
    April 7, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    This is a really neat picture!! I love the water droplets on the face and the crispness of the eyelashes. I personally would have liked to see the face less gray. Maybe bump up exposure a bit or lighten in editing. Other than that, it is very unique. Great job!!

  • Sarah
    April 7, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I love the composition of the photo and absolutely love the perfect blurriness of the water and background! Like some others have suggested I would have cropped a little on the left to crop the full ear off, to make it look intentional. Also, I feel like the shade of whites of her eyes should more closely match the shade of her teeth at that age, and the even though the matte of this is great, I think it’s too much on her face. Otherwise, I love her expression and I love the way you have captured her big beautiful eyes! Great job!

  • Erika
    April 7, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Oh this is very Sally Mann! I dont know that you should really change anything, I am taken by this pic.I think it need to be left as “raw” as it can be and maintain the purity of it. Hats off, job well done!

  • April 7, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Beautiful image! Great use of the rule of thirds and great focus. I would have lightened a bit the face and eyes. Her expression is unique. Great job!

  • April 7, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    Love that you got in the water for this idyllic child hood summer moment most don’t get! Off center sets the scene beautifully. Looks like you might have closed your aperture a bit to get the entire face in focus; maybe if u get to do this again – try speeding up your shutter speed (because water is bobby) and raise your ISO to 400+. The daylight might help w/ concerns you have for grain. Overexposure might give it an airy feel. In post processing, to make the face a little brighter and stand out from from the Background, I might try a radial filter and lay with raising your exposure / whites / highlights. And maybe darken the green of the forest so there’s more contrast. This is definitely a winning moment this child will treasure as an adult.

  • Grace Grogan
    April 7, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Great image, love the b & w and gives a more striking appeal to the child’s face, you are drawn to her eyes. The only thing I would have done differently is had the entire ear on the left side of the photo in the picture. I do like the rule of thirds you used with the image. Overall a great photo

  • April 7, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Beautiful photograph! Love the detail in the child’s face and focus on the eyes, it really draws you in to the photograph. The only thing i would of done differently, is have a bit more room on the left side of the photo, so the child’s ear isn’t slightly cropped off.

  • April 7, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    I just read through all the comments and wanted to take a minute to thank both Courtney for posting this (and continuing to run one of the best and most informative photography blogs/sites on the internet) and everyone for their comments.
    This is what makes this series so great. I think many of you brought up great points that would in fact improve this picture with the main comment being the right ear. The funny thing about that is, when I edited this picture I showed it to my son (its actually HIM in the pic and not a girl…but he used to get that all the time before he cut his long hair and we take it as a compliment with his pretty features!) told me that he didn’t like his ear there because it made his ear look big and he wanted me to cut the photo there! Guess my 6 year old has a better eye than I do!
    Again, I am new to photography and am just now getting a side business up and running so I REALLY appreciate all the feedback as I am trying to be the best I can….as I know we all are.

  • Jaime E.
    April 7, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    I really love how crisp the focus and the natural expression on the subjects face . Also I really like the awesome background blur , you can make out the mountains and water but its beautifully blurred at the same time. My only suggestion would be that the photographer could have zoomed out a little from the subject . It feels a little too close for me. But I love the black and white , makes this picture feel timeless.

  • April 7, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Love the composition! It’s like she’s in the middle of telling us a story. I want to hear more! Her skin is quite dark, almost like she has a sunburn, so perhaps you could even her skin tone by lightening the midtones with the dodge tool. Mostly on her shoulder and chin and a little on her cheeks and forehead. This will bring even more attention to her gorgeous eyes :-) The water looks amazing and she is in perfect focus! Great shot. Thanks for sharing.

  • April 7, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I love how the composition here- how you zoomed in so close & blurred the background. I feel like your subject is popping up & surprising me. :) I would try to make a stronger contrast in your B&W so the skin tones are not so gray. I’d also step back just a tad so you don’t chop off the ear. I adore the water drops- really well done!

  • Ruth Mahon
    April 7, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    I am automatically drawn to those BIG EYES! I would make the whites of those eyes a little more subtle. The chin area a little brighter, and get the child’s full head with left ear in the pic…. Such an amazing picture, would live to see it in color

  • April 7, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    I absolutely LOVE this image! Those eyes and the shallow depth of field are fantastic, as is the processing. The only thing I may have done differently was give the ear on the edge a little more room as the crop is a tiny bit distracting. Love the water droplets – overall great capture!

  • Lucy Sullivan
    April 7, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    Beautiful capture of a pretty young child. The whites of the eyes look a little over processed which causes the whites to stand out more than the pupils. I would also add just a little more touch of contrast to make the blacks more rich and the whites more true. It seems just a little flat. Otherwise it is a beautiful shot.

  • Katie Jean
    April 7, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    I love how close the photo is cropped and how this sweet face off to the left. I may have lightened her face a bit more to increase the contrast. Black and white is such a wonderful presentation for this image. It’s shows off the beads of water well.

  • April 7, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    great tip. i have always wondered how to do that and how to accept it.

  • Terri
    April 7, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    I love the composition of the picture. I would of liked to see it in color. I think that would make her eyes sparkle more and also let the water droplets show up better.

  • Whitney
    April 7, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    I really like how close the subject is it adds a lot of interest. I also love all the small details like the water droplets on the face. I think the eyes are a little over done they look a little unnatural but I really like the child’s expression it is very pure and real. Awesome job at capturing that innocence and emotion! I think one thing I would have done differently with the settings is the increase shutter speed. Maybe it’s just me but I never go below 125. I sometimes will sacrifice a little ISO so I can keep a slightly higher shutter speed to reduce camera shake and make sure I get those tack sharp images. Your image is pretty sharp though. I really do love the B&W but the skin tones looks a little flat maybe increasing the luminance of reds and yellows would make the skin tone a little brighter and add some contrast. Overall great image and great use of the rule of thirds to draw interest on the subject!

  • Terri
    April 7, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    I love the composition of the picture. I would of liked to seen it in color. I think it would let the eyes sparkle more and show up the water droplets better.

  • Steph
    April 7, 2014 at 11:44 PM


    This is a striking photograph. I think the B&W nails the emotion and timelessness of the image. If I were to change one thing, I would zoom out slightly more, thereby capturing the rest of the child’s ear and a little more of the top of her head. The expression you caught is great, and the water droplets add a super playful touch. All in all, a beautiful image.

  • April 7, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    Loving the concept of this photo! The exposure is great and the focus is sharp (spot on)! I do feel the eyes are almost so dark it is distracting but otherwise a great image!!

  • Stacy
    April 8, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    I love the DOF in this picture! Also being a lover of the “thirds” rule, I would crop that ear as well. I feel like it would bring more focus to the beautiful curve of the left side of his face. I also love the water droplets and especially on the left where the hair is on the collarbone. Beautiful shot!

  • Jennifer
    April 8, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    I think the black and white serves this picture really well and captures the water droplets very nicely. I would pull back a bit on the frame though, so the child’s face doesn’t look quite so “in your face”. I also feel like there’s perhaps a bit too much contrast in the eyes. Beautiful depth of field!

  • April 8, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Ooo! She is stunning!!! I love this image! there is not much left to critique but I do agree with toning down the eye whitening, but other then that I wouldn’t change a thing! Lovely capture!

  • April 9, 2014 at 1:28 AM

    the depth of field and black and white do a lot for the feel of the image. i really like it. i agree the ear should probably be in or out (and so funny that your son noticed that!). :) but, i think i would work on the skin tone a bit. it looks really grey. a few people have mentioned increasing the blacks. i think the main thing i notice is the left side of the face. it seems like the light is coming slightly from the right side of his face but the skin tones don’t reflect that enough… and especially his hair on the left. i think if you up the blacks (specifically on the left side of his face) it would give a lot more depth to the image. hope that makes sense. :) great job!

  • Melissa Kirkham
    April 9, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    I love how close up you are to your subject in the photograph. The look in their eyes, the slight opening of the mouth, and the black and white conversion all make me feel like the water is cold and the child just jumped in for the first time. I think I would have either cropped the ear off though in editing or stepped the picture back just a bit to show all of his face and slightly more of the background. I feel the would have enhanced the child’s expression. The depth of field in this photograph is wonderful! The attention is all drawn to the child but the blurred background compliments the child’s expression and makes you wonder just where he is.

  • April 11, 2014 at 2:28 AM

    I LOVE this picture in black and white. Love love love. I would personally soften the eyes a little bit so they’re not as accentuated and have more imperfections and sharpness. Beautiful photo!

  • April 11, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    I LOVE the crop on this photo. I would love to see some blacks and some whites in this picture (add some more contrast) because it looks a little grey and muddy to me. Also, it looks like you may have whitened the eyes a little too much so be very careful with that. I love the expression in this picture. It really caught my eye!

  • April 14, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Absolutely fantastic shot. I actually had to look at it for quite some time to even find a critique, so very well done! My one and ONLY critique is that I feel the eyes look slightly too edited for my taste. I would have brought back the whitening in the eyes to give it a bit more natural look. With that being said, I really am “nit-picking” because this image is near perfection in my eyes! Wonderful job.

  • Tom Savage
    April 15, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    This is a great photo, a wonderful example of what can be brought out in features and personality when shooting B&W. To me, the eyes are the main focus and because of that I would have lightened them more so we could see their detail, iris and pupil as well as the whites. Skin tone is great and DOF is spot on. I may have tried to even out the lighting on the upper lip, but that’s just personal preference.

    Great job, and congratulations!

  • Pamela Lewis
    April 15, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Fantastic shot! I only wish the tip of the ear werent missing. Love the eyes and the use of the black and white.

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