Steve Cowell Steve Cowell 38 posts

Canon Digital Rebel
ISO 100
f 3.5

Jason Kiely Jason Kiely 97 posts

hi Steve,
I’m a newbie, but I’ll give my two cents( I’m only at this lark 3 months).
Tis a lovely shot, but I’d have straightened the horizon or cropped the far bank. The boat is really cool subject, if you used a long exposure to smooth out the ripples it might have made the focus on the boat stronger. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I just wish I’d remember these things myself when I’m out.

rickvohra rickvohra 37 posts

Hi Steve,

I really like the composition, well done there! In addition I can suggest a few things:

- If possible try to retake this shot with the horizon leveled.
- I would also try a larger aperture (say around f/8 to f/11) to get a wide depth of field.
- Long exposure would look cool as it’ll give a sort of ghostly feel to the image, so see if you can get your hands on a natural density filter or wait till its a bit dark :) (you will need a tripod though).


John Peel John Peel 183 posts

Gday Steve

If you have the oppurtunity to reshoot (at the same time of day) try using a fill flash or even a reflector to bounce a bit more light on your main subject……the boat. Shooting into the sun is tricky without the use of either of those two tools.

The horizon looks OK to me, it suggests a bend in the river……..but your foreground subject matter is just too dim.

Hope this helps.


Steve Cowell Steve Cowell 38 posts

Cool, thanks all. Great suggestions.

BYRON BYRON 12475 posts

F I R S T – I M P R E S S I O N S:


Brand / Manufacturer: CANON




Aperture / F-Stop: f3.5

Shutter Speed: 1/200sec

ISO/ASA: 100



Exposure: Predominantly over-exposed. But some areas are under-exposed

Lighting: The sun is pointing almost directly into the lens and this is causing most of the exposure problems with this image.

Colour Saturations: Generally poor in the overexposed regions. Some of the darker areas however have nice colour saturations – specifically the blue on the hull of the boat.

Focus / Depth of Field: Hard to determine. The image is very “flat”

Sharpness: reasonably so.

Score (out of 10 points): 3


Aesthetics / General appearance: Shooting front-on to a boat like this is not going to create a lot of long term interest. The very overexposed water grabs our attention away from the boat itself, but contains no detail and nothing of interest.

Emotional Content: I have no particular emotional reaction to this image. It doesn’t really inspire me at all.

Storytelling ability / Creative communication of a concept or idea: Its a boat, in fact just the front of the hull of a boat, and a lot of overexposed water. It doesn’t say anything about the boat or the location. Its more of a record shot than anything else.

Originality: Not very original

Score (out of 10 points): 3

Look at this image by GEORGE SWANN

This image has been used for the purposes of demonstrating certain points only. No critique of this image is implied by its use.

While George has shot this boat predominantly front-on it is slightly off-set giving us a better sense of the size and shape of the subject. He has also shot from slightly above giving us some detail of the inside of the boat and therefore creating more interest.

George has maintained a clean simple composition of the boat and the water, but has made the boat smaller within the frame to create a more pleasing balance. Sideways lighting allows for a pleasant transition of light from one side of the boat to the other.

The bright blue water and the reflection of the boat finish off the clean simple composition to create a simple yet stunningly effective image.


Framing / Cropping: Steve, the Framing in your image is just too tight. Not enough space has been left on the LHS and the bottom of the boat has been cut off. This is generally not a good idea. Your subject should be comfortably framed unless you are trying to make a specific statement by using close framing & cropping.

Simplicity of Design: Its a boat, and some [overexposed] water. Very simple compositionally, with potential that has not been utilised.

Points of Interest: A boat. That’s it. Nothing else.

Rule of Thirds: N/A

Lines & Diagonals: N/A

Balance / Use of Negative Space: Negative space has been poorly used here. Splitting an image 50:50 between subject and Negative Space is generally not the best option. Especially here as the Negative Space is badly overexposed.

A more pleasing balance is created if you give your subject 1/3rd of the frame and the Negative Space 2/3rds of the frame. This would also help give us a greater sense of place.

Score (out of 10 points): 3

Look at this image by NAOMI FROST

This image has been used for the purposes of demonstrating certain points only. No critique of this image is implied by its use.

See how Naomi has framed the boat within the landscape in such a way as to create feelings of peace and restfullness. Naomi has also used the interior of the boat to help create long-term interest, and the inclusion of the tree gives us something else to look at after the boat.

The Subject and the POI [the tree] are framed in a stunning landscape, and we have a real sense of place and an understanding of the environment in which we find the subject.


Steve, there are quite a few problems with your image. But this is a good thing because it is a great opportunity to learn what not to do, and how to avoid doing it.

Firstly – Exposure

This scene is predominantly white due to the sun pointing into the lens and also reflecting off the water.

When a scene is predominantly white your camera will try to expose the white at what is called 18% Grey. Essentially your camera is exposing for the brightest part of the image, and to get an even exposure it *under*exposes so the brightest areas are as bright as something that would be 18% Grey. This is completely normal.

To resolve this issue you need to overexpose since your camera is trying to *under*expose. [This applies especially when shooting snow.]

For this reason [underexposure] the hull of the boat is dark and lacking in detail. It is in shadow and then also underexposed because of the reflection off the water.

It really doesn’t help that the sun is pointing into the lens causing unattractive lens flare which is also washing out a lot of colour and detail. Generally, avoid shooting directly into the sun. Always try to keep the sun off your right or left shoulder. This way you will not get lens flare, and you will also get nice long shadows which are almost always attractive.

A Circular Polarising Filter or Neutral Density [ND] Filter can be very handy in a situation like this. A CP Filter will help reduce the amount of light coming in but primarily reduce reflections on the water. A ND Filter will dramatically reduce the incoming light allowing you to shoot in very bright environments. These filters will also dramatically increase your colour saturations.

Check out the work of BENSOUND Bensound is an incredibly talented artist who uses ND Filters to create stunning colour-filled images.

Secondly – Composition

Shooting front-on as you have here creates a very “flat” image. After we have looked at the front of the boat there is no-where else for us to go. We sort of “stop” right there wanting more but getting nothing. This really destroys long-term interest. If you are going to shoot front-on like this, try shooting from a bit higher so we get some detail of the inside of the boat – since there is a lot of interesting lines and shapes in there.

Typically, with a boat, the side is more interesting than the front [unless you are showing some really interesting detail]. The side shows us the length and shape of the boat, it gives us some depth to the subject and the image. Try shooting on an angle using the boat to create a strong diagonal line across the frame.

A secondary subject or Point of Interest [POI] is also a good idea in a landscape shot like this since it moves our eyes from the prinary subjet to another part of the image. Someone or some thing on the water would be a good idea.

Thirdly – Framing

You have displayed a very common problem here… you are not close enough to get interesting detail from the boat, and not far enough away to give us a sense of place and create a story or narrative… you are sort of stuck in between. Shooting from this distance feels … indecisive.

I would recommend pulling waaaaay back so that the boat takes up less of the frame, and create a lot of Negative Space. This would give us a feel for the environment and give us an understanding of your subject by understanding its surroundings. Try to balance your subject to Negative Space at a ratio of 1:2.

There is potential here to show us a lonely old fishing boat in a vast open expanse. This would create feelings of isolation which could well suit the subject.

In conclusion…

If you have the opportunity I would love to see you re-shoot this subject. I would recommend trying it just after the sun has gone below the horizon. Use a tripod, ISO400, a small aperture like f11 and a longer exposure of 30seconds to a minute or two [you may need to experiment with these settings]. Step back from the subject and include a lot of the scenery.

Essentially, I feel this is a landscape shot – and for a good landscape shot you need to have an interesting subject or POI framed by an interesting environment.

Checkout this critique 3 BOAT ENDS Particularly note the difference in framing between the original image and the final image.

Total Score (out of 30 points): 9

Peggy Berger Peggy Berger 802 posts

As always Byron, that was very helpful to me as well as Steve (and no doubt others) … thanks for doing these!

Steve Cowell Steve Cowell 38 posts

As always Byron, thanks for taking the time with your feedback. I appreciate the honesty and good tips. I am not afraid of constructive criticism.