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Dec 02, 2011

AMAZING Portfolio Critique – Philippe Monaco

First Ever Portfolio Critique

Philippe and I are proud to bring you the first ever Portfolio Critique on Phlearn. Philippe contacted me a couple of weeks ago with the same issue that many of us face. People around you tell you that you are doing great, but you know you can do better. You just don’t know how. The purpose of this critique is to help the Phamily learn to see what it takes to improve, and how to succeed in business and photography.

This Episode is over 1:00HR long and took me over 8 hours to make. I know it is asking a LOT to give an hour of your day to this. Don’t feel like you must. We cover 8 images in this Critique, a perfect way to break it up! Watch one or two today, and come back for more later.

What You Will Learn

  • 1:00 – Intro with Philippe, and why this critique is important
  • 5:00 – Ending conversation with Philippe, and beginning of critique
  • 6:00 – Quick look through photos
  • 7:00 – General thoughts on portfolio as a whole
  • 8:00 – Business advice
  • 17:00 – Image 1 – Skateboarder
  • 21:00 – Image 2 – Self Portrait eating hand
  • 28:00 – Image 3 – Tattoo Artist
  • 35:00 – How to use lighting appropriately
  • 38:00 – Image 4 – Man at loading dock
  • 42:00 – Image 5 – Red Headed Female Portrait
  • 45:00 – Image 6 – Band Detail Shoot
  • 53:00 – Image 7 – Using Annie Leibovitz to help with composition
  • 58:00 – Image 8 – Band Shoot in Blue
  • 58:00 – Image 9 – Closing and questions

Your Critique

We need your help! A critique is best when it comes from many sources. Please post your ideas and comments on how to improve. Philippe has agreed to be around all weekend to answer questions and help out.

If you are someone who comes to Phlearn often, but doesn’t comment much, now is the perfect time to do so. This is a safe environment and everyone undersands our intentions are to help each other.

115 Comments


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    Sebastian Ortiz

    BrO! This critique alone has opened my eyes to a plethora of issues…. Issues that I will most certainly keep in mind for the rest of my life, for future shoots and images… making everything I’ve done, mistakes or not, up to now, seem like I am just a baby noob in the world of photography. You made sense in all your observations and critique. BravO! ….

    Mr. Monaco, is very lucky to have been critiqued by someone like yourself… I’m sure he will be inspired by your words and has probably learned a lot more in the hour, than he would’ve learned in some class… spending hard earned money. We have all learned from this critique…

    Oh by the way, you lost some focus on your camera there, at the end…

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    Bruce Lampros

    I think in his self portrait, the contrast between the culture he belongs too (at least what we can assume by the way he is dressed) and where he’s eating is interesting. I would encourage a play with that kind of  contrast. It will give the portfolio more variety. 
    Also more generally speaking I think that the HDR sort of look to the pictures should go. The pumped up contrast is killing me. Most teenagers I know who can use a camera can take pictures and edit pictures to give it that look. I think playing with the actual aesthetic could make you more of an individual. I’m really not trying to personally attack the Photographer. I just think that the overal aesthetic of the portfolio needs maturity. I feel as if the pictures are almost too well lit. I think playing with the techniques of lighting and using less of it could change the look for the better. I agree with the bit about lighting in here. Make sure the lighting makes sense. 

    @aknacer:disqus : The Annie Leibovitz example was great to illustrate your points.

    I love having my work critiqued, So yes. I would love you to critique my portfolio, especially since I’m going into art college next year. My problem would be is that I do more non-objective/less commercial photography which doesn’t necessarily meet with you aesthetic and I don’t know how much of your critique I would really head. Anyway, as always: Thanks for making these videos. I watched it all the way through. 🙂 And Good Luck @PhilippeMonaco:twitter 

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      Philippe Monaco

      Hi Bruce, thanks for the feedback.

      I would like to know what you mean by ‘playing with the actual aesthetic’, I’m interested to know and would like more details! Also, maturity in what way? Thanks again 🙂

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        Bruce Lampros

        Hey@twitter-155607663:disqus ! I’m glad to be of help! What I mean by playing with your aesthetic is challenging yourself. Working without any lighting at all. The flickr photos I’m linking below are all examples of styles I find to be very similar to yours. I think if you want to stand apart from everyone as a photographer, you must find a style that I cannot look-up on flickr. I know that may sound harsh, but here is what I’m thinking. Most of these pictures are taken of skateboarders.Their photo-streams are filled with HDR -esque pictures, which is a very ‘in’ thing right now. I could have found hundreds more photostreams with similar looks. What I was talking about, as far as maturity, is to me (and this is completely subjective I suppose) that these pictures are easily conceived, not a whole lot of story and or skill involved in them. I’m not saying that photography requires skill, but now that EVERYONE and their uncles brother has a nice camera, it is important, if you want to be a professional photographer, to develop a style that I have a hard time saying is like anyone else’s. What I meant in my first comment is that I have seen plenty of rich kids who’s parents bought them an expensive camera because they took a picture of the sunset once with their phone and then edited it in picnik one time, have similar photography. It’s easy to make a photo look good, it’s hard to make someone spend more than 5 seconds looking at it. SO. to wrap it all up. I think that you need to explore looking at many different types of photography: not on flickr, because they alltend to look the same but some photography art history. Look at what makes them memorable. Figure out what you want your pictures to do. If you want them to look pretty, then develop the most beautiful style possible. I have a friend who’s main goal is to make her pictures look beautiful. Just develop a style that people will have a hard time making comparisons to. And that’s all for now. Sorry for the ramble and terrible punctuation/grammar. It’s been a long day. Again, good luck. I hope I answered your question!

        Also, sorry to be so tough, just lookin out for you! I really hope this helped and is not just an annoying mean guy. :-/
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/evandellphotography/6432507309/in/pool-15363661 http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearandyeti/3921711752/in/set-72157622262039512N00/
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearandyeti/3359239182/
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/smash13/3881476749/
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/specialagent/3649557555/
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/youngwerther/

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          Philippe Monaco

          I challenged myself without lights I’m past this stage I think. Usually people will challenge themselves with no lighting when they are starting to get more technical into photography. Usually you play with natural lighting before buying strobes, once you get the hang of that, you start with one light and go from there. I think I’m past that…

          I understand what you’re saying, and I can see the link you’re trying to make with these images, but I’m sorry I see no resemblance to what I do lighting wise. Especially not the editing. Not even close. Look at the images you have compared me to that is attached to my reply. No offense to the person who took this image, but if I’m at this stage in my life and you can compare my work to this, I might as well and quit now.

          Flickr is not my source of inspiration, I haven’t been active on there in a long time!

          With that being said, thank you for taking some of your personal time to write such a long and detailed response! It is very much appreciated!

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          Tavis

          I think you have some encouraging and inspiring points! I can see Phil’s point though, because is art is better/creative than any of the compared photos. But I see what you are saying and that is awesome that you are trying to help.

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    Gregory

    I enjoyed the critique of Phillippe’s photographs.  It was truly a brave thing what Phillippe did, and much success to him.  I watch the full hour and nine minutes and phlearn a lot.

    Blessings,  Gregory

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    Duidreki

    loved your critique.
    and totaly give me some ide what i need, to step up my game.

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    Chris Deutscher

    Wow, you got balls Phil!

    I stumbled on your work not too long ago and I thought it was cool, edgy, exciting and represented you very well.  You’ve definitely got an eye for lighting. The placement, highlights, etc were all extremely well done.

    I thought Aaron gave you a lot of amazing feedback, I can only imagine it would be tough to hear because your work is like your “baby.”  I’m thinking his feedback pushes you harder than you’ve been pushed before and I bet within the next 6 months you grow more than the past 3 years.  Just a hunch.

    As feedback for Aaron, I’ve watched a lot of Zack Arias’ critiques before and I thought yours were more detailed, and constructive.  His critiques are great, but the time, and energy that you put into this was truly spectacular.  I think that by interviewing Phil at the start of the show, you really made it more personable.  You weren’t just hidden behind a computer monitor picking photos that you liked/disliked.  You were really improving this individuals life. Phil is a very lucky dude, and it goes to show how much you’re wanting to build and develop this community. 

    I think the tougher thing for “critiquees” is going to be the story aspect.  I think a lot of people, myself included, shoot a portrait, it looks cool and we’re like “yes a fricken rad portrait.” But where is the story?  IT’s a tough balance I think!  Perhaps you could do a couple episodes on making portraits tell certain stories, etc etc.  I imagine the more critiques you do the more we will learn that aspect.

    I loved the brutal honesty that you gave Phil.  That’s the only way this will ever work.  You have a load of credibility and you’re obviously a pro at what you do.  The honesty in your feedback can never waiver.  These critiques are going to help so many amazing photographers out there. 

    This was by far, the best episode of Phlearn that I’ve seen. 

    Phil, fellow MTL’er, rock on man.  I look forward to seeing your work popping up all over.  I’m a fan, more now than I was an hour ago because after Aaron’s critique, I’m seeing so much coming from you!

    I’ll be re-watching this tomorrow, probably Sunday, and maybe even Monday.  So many things in here hit home, hard.   Thanks for everything Phil and Aaron.

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      Philippe Monaco

      Hey Chris!

      You’re spot on, on everything you’ve said! It’s a hard thing to take, as you mentioned it’s our ‘babies’, and right now I want to throw those babies in the garbage, and start off with a clean slate! 🙂

      This will definitely make things harder for me now, but I think the results will show in my work!

      Thanks for taking the time to write so much! We’ll definitely be meeting up in the near future 😉

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    Jeni

    The beginning of the video where Aaron says “everyone’s telling me ‘good job’, but I don’t feel it.  I know I can get better.” hits right at home for me.  I feel like I’ve hit a wall with my photography and I’m trying to figure out how to break through that wall.  I’m trying to break of that “mom-tographer” mold. I don’t want to be viewed as another mom with a camera.

    As far as the band image is concerned…Aaron, it’s a very cliche (for lack of a better term) pose for band. (examples: http://www.lyrics-now.com/image/third_day.jpg, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbellphotography/5477251076/in/photostream, http://www.flickr.com/photos/accidentalphotography/4038717254/in/set-72157604197175716, etc…)

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        Jeni

        I completely agree. Sometimes it’s like trying to re-invent the wheel. lol 

        Aaron said something like, “Why would some dudes stand in a warehouse with a blue light?”
        I was just showing that it’s very common for band promos to have the band stand in a hallway, alley, warehouse, random field etc…

        By the way, you are a very brave man. =) I wouldn’t have the …er…balls….to have my work critiqued yet. haha

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    A.

    Wow this was a really great Phlearn episode! Thanks for it, Aaron! I’m so grateful for the time you spent making this for all of us and I found it extremely helpful.
    Also, Philip is really brave to have done that! I’m actually really afraid of letting the pros look at my work because it just feels so inadequate hahah. wishing you success 🙂

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    James Brown

    I would also like to thank Aaron for his time and dedication to this critique episode. I think you did a great job giving relevant, constructive criticisms, as well as positive feedback for Philippe’s photos. And also thanks to Philippe for being persistent and sticking your neck out there. 

    Aaron, I too really liked that you spoke with Philippe at the beginning of the episode. It definitely helps to get to know the photographer a bit more, and to let everyone know that both you and Philippe are on the same page about the critique.  I also think the post interview is great so any confusion or questions can be cleared up, but also just to see and hear what Philippe thinks/feels about the whole process. 

    Motivated lighting is the term used in the film industry to describe what Aaron was saying about having the lighting make sense. There is also a term they use for the actual lights in the scene that give purpose for the lighting, but I can’t remember it. Like most aspects of photography and art, I believe these things are subjective and personal. I don’t think you should adhere to this, or other “rules” all of the time. That being said, ultimately the lighting needs to help tell the story. All elements of the photograph need to emphasize the story.

    Speaking of story, David duChemin talks about how the story of a photo doesn’t need to be anything incredibly deep, or complex. It can be as simple as “lines”, or “color”, or “light”. So there doesn’t always need to be a huge narrative accompanying each photo.

    I also have to disagree with Aaron regarding the juxtaposition of scene and subject. I feel it can (and does in Philippe’s photos) really strengthen the image in a number of ways. It can help pop the image off of the screen/page, or pull the viewer in for a little longer to get deeper into the image. I also don’t think it is always a bad idea to leave viewers guessing, or asking questions. People need to think and not be spoon fed everything.

    Anyway, great job Philippe! I saw your work on 500px a little while back, and it made me stop to take a closer look.  Keep it up!

    I really hope these critiques become a regular part of Phlearn. It already seems like there is an overwhelming response. Keep it up Aaron!

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      Philippe Monaco

      It wasn’t an easy thing to put my neck out there, not just for people viewing it, but for myself. I will get more into details, I believe, of how I’m feeling right now in the follow-up! 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. It means the world to me to see people are getting something out of my work being “ripped apart” 😉

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    Anthony Phung

    Wow, I love this episode. One day I would like to be on the hot seat, but for now let me catch up to Phil’s level first. Aaron, your time doing this type of work for free does show your great generosity. Thank you man.

    The best hour I ever spend on my computer at 1am on Friday night.

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    Nathan Dunn

    This was an awesome episode. I only discovered the site last week and I’ve managed to watch half the episodes and 3 pro episodes. Kudos on all the great work you’ve helped me immensely in particular with my Photoshop stuff.

    First off I Phil I love the photos, and congratulations for having the guts to be critiqued. I definitely think the band photo has to be a tough thing because I would guess most bands want a standard cool lighting 5 guys hanging out being cool kinda look.

    I’m still a long ways from Phil’s technical skills but this episode helped point out one of the biggest issues I didn’t realize I have, and that is most of everything I’m doing is just playing with lighting and making a picture that looks kinda cool, but after the first 5 seconds of looking at it there isn’t anything to tell a story.

    For example just this last weekend I took a photo (below) and was pretty happy with it, but now I realize that all it does is make you wonder what the story is.

    Anyway, thanks to both of you for making this happen and I look forward to seeing more in the future!

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      Chris Todd

      Keep in mind Nathan that some photos use people as props to tell a story, and other photos the person is the story.  This would be a wonderful editorial image to accompany an article about the guy.

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        Nathan Dunn

        Yes I suppose that could be true. But I think that falls into a similar category as the picture that Phil took of the guy sitting on the backside of the building.

        Perhaps as an image its good, but as part of a portfolio not strong enough to stand on its own.

        Thanks for the reply Chris and Phil.

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    Tom Schaefer

    Hey, like the others, I really enjoyed this critique. One part of it though where I found myself disagreeing were a couple changes that Aaron made to the last band photo mentioned. Before I say anything, I want to make it clear that I understand that anything that was edited on the photo by Aaron was quick and sloppy, and that it was just a quick example.
    1. Regarding the blue light behind the legs/feet, I think that by lowering the luminosity of that area it sort of thew off the balance of that blue light source. It would make me think “why is that blue light so strong near the top and so dark and weak near the bottom?” I do think that dimming it down a little helps with focusing on what should be focused on, but that change should be something subtle. Also, by taking out some of the detail from the bottom left corner of the image and darkening it out, I feel like the guy on the left blended in too much into that side of the image.
    2. I feel like the ‘after’ version of the distortion correction made the subjects near the sides look distorted in a weirder way. But maybe that’s because it’s shown relative to the ‘before.’ (Again, I know that i was quick and not meant to be perfect).

    Overall, I thought it was inspiring and I would like to see more critiques in the future- especially ranging in different styles of photography.

    Kudos to Philippe, Aaron, and the rest of you for your input!

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      Philippe Monaco

      I have to agree with your first part, and this is where I actually had a dilemma. I toned down the blue light on the metal bars at the top of the image, not so much that people could tell, but it made a huge difference. As for under the legs, I thought about it. I told myself that if I brought it down, technically the lighting wouldn’t make sense, and this is another point Aaron brought up in some of my images “making sense”. So which one would be the right one to go for? Technicality, or aesthetics?

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    Tavis

    I watched it all the way through, great job on critiquing! I think you had some very valid points on removing distractions and telling a story. I liked the study of Annie’s shot too. Kudos to Phil for being brave enough to have someone do a serious critique on his work. I know it’s probably not easy, but I know he will grow from this!

     I’ve noticed the same thing on Flickr where everyone says the really nice comments, but doesn’t get down to the nitty-gritty and give honest feedback. I actually started giving in-depth critiques on Flickr, just to try and help others, and maybe get some help in return. It has helped in some cases, but some people really don’t seem to appreciative to hear an honest constructive critique. I will leave a link to the gallery of critiques so anyone can get an idea of what I’m talking about.

    Aaron, I would love to submit some pictures for you to critique!!!! I have huge ideas, and really want to be the best I can be. I have so much to learn, I watch videos, tutorials, study paintings, study inspiring photos, day-in and day-out! I’m a conceptual photographer, so it’s really hard to know how to improve when I get minimal feedback. Please help me become a better photographer, your feedback would mean the world!!

    Here’s a link to the critique gallery:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ipoxstudios/galleries/72157627629325070/

    You will have to click on the image, then look for my lengthy comment.
    I plan to do more when I get the time.

    Thanks again for all of the great videos, and this in-depth critique which has helped all of us.

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    Nicole Toohey

    I’ve honestly learned the most out of this episode than I have out of any other. Everything was very helpful and I give major props to Phil for putting himself out there. I think he is going to get amazing results and continue on his path of an incredible photographer. One think I noticed was that a continuing theme was skin tones and them being off, so I thought hey, why not make that a future phlearn episode or even a pro? 🙂 Just a thought.

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    Elaine

    This is just awesome!!! I just started photography and I totally don’t feel advanced enough to use any strobes…. Don’t even know where to start experimenting with it. Thanks Phil and Aaron for taking both your time to share this with us. Even though I just started, I already learned a lot about what to focus on. I love that you got into detail, Aaron, as with that everyone will understand how important it is to tell a story and create a sense in your images. Phil, don’t say you want to throw all your pics in the garbage and start all over, haha!! You are great, your work is great. Never “neglect” your “babies”… I love your style by the way.

    Take care… Wish you guys all the best

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      Philippe Monaco

      Thanks Elaine 🙂 Haha, I just want to trade those ‘babies’ in for new ones right now 😉 I don’t plan on changing my ‘style’ too much, but mostly working on aesthetics and refining my vision!

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    Mark ODonnell

    What this episode has reaffirmed for me is that attention to detail is more important than ever if you want to be successful.   In our heads we see a rough draft and often times the final outcome is a “rough draft”.  If we can take the extra time and focus on the details that were not apparent in our original thoughts then it becomes a truly superior image.  AND it’s not all about post processing.
    Wardrobe, props, location, and angles play just as an important role as composition, lighting, and post processing.
    @Aaron, amazing job on the critique and a question for both you and Philippe.  Who chose the photos you critiqued?
    @Philippe, I bow to you sir.  You have tremendous courage, it’s one thing to be open for critiques in small circles but to do it online, broadcast to the world, I hope to gain some of your courage and be as open as you.

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      Philippe Monaco

      Thank you Mark! As I’ve said, it wasn’t easy and I doubted myself a lot and almost went back when Aaron agreed to do this. But, I once heard a quote that said “If you’re scared and your knees are shaking, it means you’re on the right path”. I agree, and life shouldn’t be a smooth and ‘safe’ road. You have to take risks, and most of the time it benefits towards your goals AND happiness! I definitely had to work on my emotions when listening to this, but it has helped tremendously already and glad it is helping others!

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    Yo Mama

    As Aaron’s mother I want to commend him on his sensitivity to Phillipe and the professional way he critiqued without criticizing.  Proud of you, Aaron:)

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    Oliviabossert

    First of all, Phillipe, your work is really good 🙂 But Aaron I definitely think you were spot on in everything you said. I definitely relate to a lot of things that were said, especially the whole “who is going to buy this” aspect. I’d never really properly thought about it that way, so that was huge!

    Aaron, I would definitely be interested in having my work critiqued. I don’t get much critique at uni, which was what I came for, and online people just say its great, or i get lame hater comments on Formspring…

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, both of you, it was SO interesting

    xx Olivia

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    Anonymous

    Thanks Aaron and Philippe for this. It was really helpful. I agree that the photos are a little too busy most of the time. It’s really simple to erase some details, what draws more attention to the subject. I’d like to get critiqued. In all the comments I have on Flickr, there is one that had a constructive criticism. I’d like to see that change. 

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      Philippe Monaco

      Thank YOU for taking the time to reply to this critique! I would like more of your insight on what you mean that my photos are a little too busy?

      I know that the band shot with the bear is a ‘visually polluted’ but some photographers have built careers on “visual pollution”. When applied right, for example like David Lachapelle’s work, it works really great in his pieces. But besides my image with the band, I don’t see where my images are too busy and would like insight! Thank you! 🙂

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        Anonymous

        In the end, it’s all a matter of taste. The portrait of Patricia for example, the background is nice and even, so all my attention is going to her. But the one with the tattoo artist, my attention is going to the colored bottles of paint(?) and not to the arm/face first. When I’m looking at the arm, the bottles are saying ‘look at me, I’m bright and colorful’. And the photo where you are eating you own hand, my first attention goes to your shirt. I would crop the left side a little more on that photo, so everything is nice and balanced. And desaturate your shirt maybe a little. But that is what I should do, I like my photos so simple, clean and balanced as possible, because that is what I like. My eyes enjoy this: https://500px.com/photo/2754848 photo really much, because everything is in balance and calm. With the bear, my brain gets confused where I should look at. If that the thing is what you were going for, good job! 🙂

        The visual polluted style is not really my thing, but these images by Erwin Olaf are kind of really awesome: http://www.erwinolaf.com/#/portfolio/paradise_the_club,_2001/gallery/

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          Philippe Monaco

          Perfectly explained! Agreed that it’s question of personal taste in the end, as long as my initial idea is still properly brought across! 🙂 Thanks again for interacting! 🙂

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    Zach

    Philip, wow, I wish i had the guts for this, i think i’m almost there, but you get big “bravery” points for being first to go on the chopping block.  I like your lighting, it really pops.  I understand the comments about making it more motivated, and telling a clearer story, but I think your style shows through, and it’s a style and aesthetic I really like and would like to get under my belt as well.  Keep it up!

    And to Aaron, thanks for all the time and effort into this.  It really made me look at my own work in a new way.  Maybe one day I’ll ask for similar treatment. So far, I’ve been watching your videos for the past couple weeks, and they’ve already really improved my work, and inspired me to make my own website (from your website building week).  http://www.zachholzphotography.com.  It’s not as polished as yours, but with your ehlp, i was able to make mine look the way I wanted.  Thanks for all your effort!

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      Philippe Monaco

      Thanks Zach! I don’t plan on changing my personal ‘style’ too much! I like the aesthetic of my work, something I sometimes battle with and at times think it’s total crap, but I do like it! But even before this critique, I was looking into refining it more, Aaron has just made certain things much clearer!

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    Anan Adnan

    WOW that is so cool i loved it i think if you make it a weekly thing or even monthly i want this its very helpful and i like you to do my work too .. i dont have that amazing work but still  if you talk about it and say what ever you want i think it will help me and help a lot of people who is in the same level with me 🙂 
    pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeas  do me 😀 

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bastoony/

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/ANAN-Adnan-Photography/101109683322352

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    Alex

    This was absolutely amazing and I admire Phillippe for actually doing this. Our photos are like our babies and it takes a real desire to improve to actually put yourself forward for something like this – so props to him. And major props to you, Aaron, the feedback was really great to listen to – even though my photography is totally different, it was still incredibly relevant. Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

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    Mya

    Fantastic episode.i learnt so much from it.thanks to phil too. I would love more of these critiques.

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    Berniharris

    Philippe you are a brave brave man! but all the comments will just help you in the long run to be AMAZING :D! technically your work is great! you know all the technical, you have conceptual ideas and im pretty sure you have the motivation… this will just help make you think and take more time in creating photos with more of an impact 😀  I finished a degree in photography this year and your portfolio, particularly your lighting is stronger than people on my course that got first class honours! so don’t you forget about all the positive points mentioned aswell!

    aaron, as i just mentioned to phil, i just finished a degree in photography where it was 3 years of self directed study! If phlearn was up and running before i started, i SERIOUSLY wouldn’t have bothered and saved thousands! You are a very motivating and inspiring teacher 🙂

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      Philippe Monaco

      You are too kind, thank you 🙂 I’m looking to take everything Aaron said and applying it in a way that will not affect my vision too much. I need to balance both. As mentioned previously, Aaron has helped me so much, and we’re both so happy that it’s helping many others in the process!

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        Anonymous

        *big hugs!* yay! Thats exactly what you should do and what this whole episode was about! You can still keep you’re style and vision, it’s just you now know a few things you can do to help get it to its best :D… ask him to critique in another 6 months and i tenner bet there will be a lot less things that are pointed out! 

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    Anonymous

    *big hugs!* yay! Thats exactly what you should do and what this whole episode was about! You can still keep you’re style and vision, it’s just you now know a few things you can do to help get it to its best :D… ask him to critique in another 6 months and i tenner bet there will be a lot less things that are pointed out! 

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    Anonymous

    I’ll have to agree that this was THE best Phlearn episode so far.  Kudos to Phillipe for being brave and kudos to Aaron for giving his honest critique. 

    I just have one suggestion for future critiques (and I do hope there will be more) is to state the goal of the photographer. Are they intending to be a commercial photographer, a portrait photographer, a fine art photographer, etc. If that was stated and I just missed it, then my bad.

    Although every comment from Aaron made complete sense and will be applied (hopefully) to my work in the future, there were some that seemed more related to the goal of a commercial photographer and not necessarily a fine art photographer. I personally am still looking for my niche.

    One last comment to Phillipe, DON’T throw away your babies….just replace them in your portfolio as you accumulate better images.  You don’t have to do it all at once. And, you might want to look back at those babies sometime in the future.

    Great job guys!

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    Justin Quinton

    A great episode!  It really opened up my eyes to a lot of details I was personally overlooking in my own photos.  Thanks to Philippe for putting his work up there to be publicly picked apart, don’t know if I could do that.  I will be sharing this among my social network for sure! 

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    tcbcanon

    awesome critique, really helped put a few things into perspective. I really look forward to seeing more of these, and would actually like to do one myself someday!

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    Sean Webb

    Awesome episode Aaron and great photos Phillippe! Constructive criticism is so hard to give and like Aarron said, great job and nice work doesn’t really help anyone. I get that enough from my mom! You should definitely give more of these in the future Aaron. I think the whole phamily should post these types of comments to Flickr. It sure beats the stupid banners people post. What are we, 12? 

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    Anonymous

    YES YES YES – we want more of this!
    Big props to Philippe for putting his work on the spot, and thank you Aaron for helping us all become better artists!

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    Justin Bonaparte

    I think it would be helpful if we knew what the portfolio/images were to be used for (Is he a concept artist? Fashion photog? Band photographer?). Also it would be good to know from what angle Aaron was coming from when he was critiquing (As a potential client? An art buyer? An agent?)

    I found myself disagreeing with some of the points, most likely due to how I interpreted the intended usage/audience for the image. On the shot of the guy sitting on the loading dock, the Manchester Orchestra signage on his t-shirt gave me a sense of locale, and a blank shirt removed that clue. On the portrait of the redhead, cropping it down to a headshot removed the casual, flirty attitude of the image, along with removing a lot of jubilant colors, and reduced it’s impact immensely for me. On the band shot, it appears that they’re backstage (completely appropriate location) and the colored light added to the mood for me.

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      Tampa Band Photos

      Excellent points….I kept thinking to myself the whole time that it really depended on the intended audience for the images.  Clearly a Creative Director for a huge magazine or ad firm would have an entirely different set of criteria than a typical garage band or sk8r d00d.

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    Scot Scott

    Thank you Aaron and Philippe.  It’s not easy to improve your work on your own, I have tried to do many self evaluations and critiques, but nothing works better than someone approaching your work with fresh eyes and knowledge of how to actually improve.  It’s one things to say, “oh.. this photo sucks” It’s another thing to be able to explain WHY the photo sucks, and be able to show how to make it better.

    Philippe, I have no doubt that you are on your way to improving, you are already a very talented photographer.  To me, Aaron pointed out the areas you need to improve the most, and it starts with planning, and thinking through your entire process for each piece.  Slowing down to make sure you and the user will understand and believe the concept you put fourth.  I also think studying composition could help a lot too, that was the underlying success of the Annie Leibovitz shot, her composition was strong and every thing was thought out in advance and executed as so.

    Aaron your effort here was great and inspirational, It helped many more of us than just Philippe.  I would love to see more of these in time.

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      Philippe Monaco

      Aaron was so awesome in doing this and his critique is by far the best and detailed I’ve ever heard without being a complete ass about it. He was professional on all levels and tried to be the least subjective possible which is awesome.

      As for the compliments, thank you 😉

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    Victor

    I’ve only just recently found your site and I’ve been going through all your tutorials. Absolutely fantastic!

    This one is definitely the best though, the feedback applies to a lot of what I’m doing and there were so many things in there I just wouldn’t have even picked up. Great work Aaron and kudos to you Philippe for putting your work out there for critique!

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    Anonymous

    I’m not a photographer, and I only dabble in photo manipulation for fun. However, I LOVE Phlearn and I LOVE these webisodes, Aaron. You make me want to learn more about photography, and maybe even try it out as a hobby. I have a few amateur photographers in my circle of friends and family and I’m constantly telling them to check out this site. It’s such an amazing resource and a wonderfully helpful community.

    Kudos to Philippe for putting his work out there. It’s always tough to hear a critique, even more so in a public forum. Thank you for allowing us all to learn alongside you.

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    Jen

    Awwwwwwesome episode!  Lots of good stuff, can definitely tell you put the time into it =)  Great pace as well, didn’t feel like an hour.

    Would love to see more in the future!
    Thanks guys!!!!

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    Cassius

    great episode aaron i did learn a lot from this episode the only thing that really stuck with me though is your comment “make your image tell a story” im a little confused about that comment ive seen a lot of great images that doesnt really make sense but theyre still a really good image after this episode i went browsing the net for ideas/inspiration using everything you mentioned in this and the tell a story thing is probably the only thing im stuck on looking at other peoples images its hard to see what exactly the story is theyre trying to tell

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      Aaron Nace

      Totally Cassius, basically I mean have a reason of your viewer to relate to the image, this can be done through emotion, story, characters. action, and other techniques. Just as long as you establish a connection.

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    Demetrius

    Bravo to both Phil and Aaron..  I think this was an absolutely awesome critique and set of work to have reviewed.  I really learned a lot from this one and mainly lighting.  Not lighting a subject, but lighting a scene.  Some of these steps mentioned by Aaron I currently practice but others I definitely need to focus on a bit more.

    Regardless of the perspective in which Aaron approached, I see a lot of value in what was presented and believe from reading Phillippe’s responses this will propel him leaps and bounds in his work..

    For all of us, in the end, if your goal is to get better, take your work further than it currently is, see a different perspective in your work, it’s a good thing to have it critiqued.  Keeping in mind that you don’t have to agree with everything, but regardless something will be gleaned from the experience.

    I could work on my portfolio for years and never be truly “ready” to have a critique, but I think that would keep me in the space that I am currently in or at least moving forward at a slower pace.  Phillippe, keep up the good work and so glad you had the “balls” to be persistent with Aaron.

    I volunteer for the next one..

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      Philippe Monaco

      Right on the money for what you said! As for being “ready”, you will know. You will always be a little hesitant, and it’s normal to be scared, but you will definitely feel when the time is right.

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    Ronen segers

    I wish I would have gotten critiques like this in photography school. I would have been thousand times better by now. Nice Episode Aaron, Thanks for that.

    Thanks Philippe for pushing Aaron in to this Episode and let him use your work for it. I’ve learn’t a lot from this. I like your Photos and am looking forward to see your future works.

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      Philippe Monaco

      I hear you Ronen, this is exactly what Aaron and I discussed and one of the main reasons why I contacted him. Wasn’t getting the feedback I wanted / needed at school!

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    Sarahoneil

    I really enjoyed this video, helped me look at my photos and ask myself “why” a lot, or, does this make sense etc. and what the focal point is etc The advice of “if it doesn’t add to your photo, remove it from your photo” I am really hanging onto. 

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    Jason Wong

    Awesome episode again Aaron.  And good on you Philippe for putting your work out there for critique and also benefiting the community as a whole.

    I actually really enjoyed the dissection of the Annie Leibovitz photo as I’ve seen that photo before and it looked nice, but I had no idea as to why it “works”.

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    So

    Hi Aaron and Philippe,
    First of all, thank you very much for this critique. I really learned a lot, and I’m really impressed with Philippe’s work.There’s just one thing, I’m a little bit confused about..” tell a story”I love doing portrait of people especially in studio; at first the lights were setting up randomly and my challenge was to work on this in order to be focus on taking pictures. Sorry if it’s a stupid question, but how am I supposed to tell a story on each portrait I’m doing? I feel a bit lost on that one. Can’t a portrait just be a portrait? Or is it just bound to be a photo for Facebook profile?Please forgive my english..Thanks for that community, it’s amazing how addictive it can be!

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    Anonymous

    OMG.. that was for PRO episode..  :+) really great and so helpful for everyone..  :+) Iam a little bit scare to make photos now  :+) nice !

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    JoshLaiho

    What an amazing episode! The best ever, at least for me!
    Great, i learned a lot from phils portfolio critique.
    Awesome! Cant wait to see more of this episodes, if anyone dares to be critiqued by you aaron, lol.

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    Daniel Tuck

    Amazing episode Aaron – you point out so many things I just never would have noticed there, but as soon as you mention them, they become glaringly obvious! Such a helpful hour and nine minutes 🙂

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    Jeana

    Great Critique! I really appreciate all the tips and I think it is a gift of honesty you are giving and ultimately it will help everyone!

    How do I get you to critique my work?! 🙂 I truly value the information.

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    Anonymous

    The post title does not exaggerate! I did watch all the way through (in 2 sittings) 🙂 Thanks for being so vulnerable Philippe.

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    Darren Curtis

    Hey guys,
    thanks to you both for sharing the episode, it really hit a good spot!
    Part of being good is learning? We all have to start somewhere.
    nice one, thanks 

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    LNDavies

    Just finished watching the episode and I appreciate Philippe opening himself and his work to the critiques, and I appreciate Aaron’s insights. I knew there were a few things about the images that weren’t as pleasing, but I didn’t know what until Aaron pointed them out, now I am beginning to look at things the way Aaron does. Thank you both! Good work, Philippe!

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    TomSimone

    Just got round to watching this episode. Congratulations to you both for your bucketloads of awesomeness, damn good stuff.

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    AlexandriaLaNier

    Took the night off from the tattoo tutorial to check this out and watched it all the way through.  I love this kind of stuff because I learn so much from it.

    Thank you Philippe for allowing Aaron to take the time check out your work.  I think the images are really fun, creative, and full of character. Don’t throw them out! The average person would never have picked up on most of those things. 

    Truth be told, I actually feel like I need to sit back and absorb most of what I learned.

    I loved the part about making sure the image is focusing on what you are trying to sell.  In writing class they teach us how to stay focused and stay on topic, not to give TMI or over write.  That is why editing is so crucial.  I guess much about images fall in that same category. 

    Photography is a life long passion and it will always have new rules and challenges, that’s what makes it so interesting. 

    Keep up the good work.

    Blessings,
    Alexandria

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    Tampa Band Photos

    Philippe, I admire your willingness to put yourself out there like that.  I’m sure you regularly get lots of positive feedback from friends and fellow photographers (rightly so), but unfortunately this often has a tendency to inflate our confidence and make us a bit lazy.  Then, when we get eyeball-to-eyeball with somebody who really knows a thing or two about photography and retouching (as Aaron does), it can certainly be a humbling experience.  I’ll bet some of his comments were pretty tough to hear.

    I’m a commercial band photographer as well, so this critique really resonated with me on several levels.  I couldn’t help but mentally cycle through the images in my own portfolio, applying the same critical perspectives and schools of thought.  I know that my work relies much more heavily on Photoshop trickery (like compositing) than it does actual storytelling, so this is definitely something I’ll need to work on moving forward.  But alas, this isn’t about me– it’s about you and your work.

    I think your lighting skills are pretty respectable, and I also think that your images have a fairly consistent look and feel to them, which is something many photographers lack.  In terms of retouching, Aaron obviously pointed out some areas where your colors were a bit off and small details were missed, but these things aren’t very difficult to fix.  I *did* feel like perhaps you rely a bit too heavily on plugins (most likely Topaz Adjust, which I also use), but then again maybe the gritty, desaturated, hyper-contrasted look is what you want to be known for.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but if so, you’ve just gotta realize that you’re placing yourself into a pretty non-exclusive group.  In order to compete in that space, it’s going to require you to really step up your game.  Regardless, I trust that you’re fully up to the challenge.

    With that said, I enjoyed looking at your images in the video, and I definitely appreciate your sense of humor and visual style.  I think you’ve got a bright future ahead of you, and I’m sure that studying with guys like Aaron will only serve to help.  Best of luck to you, and I hope that we’ll cross paths someday.

    Peace,
    Russ

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      Philippe Monaco

      No plugins here! Everything I apply to my images is a style I developed myself  and do myself! I may resemble certain styles, but with time I’m gradually tweaking everything I do with how my “style” is evolving! Thanks for this great feedback! 🙂 I hope we can cross paths someday as well! 🙂

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        Philippe Monaco

        Just had a look at the Topaz Adjust plugin because I was curious. It just looks like levels/curves to increase contrast + intense high-pass on overylay/hard light + saturation up the wazoo.

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          Tampa Band Photos

          Yeah basically.  There’s lots of presets that do all sorts of whacked-out stuff, but I mainly just use it for a bump in tonal contrast.  Of course it’s possible to achieve a very similar result using native tools/filters, but that typically takes about 3x as long. 🙂

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        Tampa Band Photos

        Cool man.  More than one way to skin a cat.  🙂 

        My style is constantly evolving as well.  But I think that’s because people like us are never satisfied and we’re always trying to push the envelope.  I believe this is a good thing.  🙂

        Thanks again for putting yourself out there…I got mad respect for ya!

        -Russ

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          Philippe Monaco

          Ditto on everything you said! Oh and my pleasure. I needed the help, and if in the process it could help others, I was all for it! 🙂

          Take care! 🙂

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    Mark Alan Jones

    Hello there!

    This is my first comment on Phlearn, which I am posting simply because Aaron asked us to at the end of the video. I just want to thank you for putting the 8 hours into this. I really enjoyed watching it and as a viewer I can’t help but draw comparisons to my own photography. I loved the mix of image specific critique – the skin tones, the perspective, the halo’ing, and the overall things to think about – composition, focus, narrative. I would definitely put my own head on the block to hear another critique. 
    I think these critiques are really important because this is how we get better – and if we love photography enough to keep trying eventually you’ll have nothing left to criticize, and we’ll have some amazing images. I’m not a proffesional, I’m an English teacher, but from watching this I’m going to focus more on narrative and bringing some production value to my next shoot – and if I do – you’ve improved my photography, right? Victory.

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    Mark Alan Jones

    also – Phillippe – major respect for doing this. I’m looking forward to seeing what you put out next, with all this on board. A major leap in your photography I’m sure. 

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    Ian Barrar

    that was the longest i have sat in this chair at the computer, i need to go for a jog i think haha. but seriously, that was really valuable to me as a viewer, you mentioned a lot of things, that i never really realised, and maybe hasnt quite been covered in editting your images in previous tutorials because of a different use of images. Really valuable and i learnt a lot, thanks 🙂

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    Willbremridge

    Phil that took a lot of balls to do but i think you chose a fantastic person to do the critique. I learned a lot about my own work through watching this as we’re quite similar in a few areas. Its very easy for someone producing images like yours (which are to the general public: AWESOME) to assume they’re probably on the right track because they get so many compliments but it’s great that you’ve put yourself out there to be criticised. 

    Your work reminds of a UK band photographer called Tom Barnes. His site is tombarnesphoto.com .  He’s very accomplished now and having seen his work for the last 4 yrs I’d say your work looks like his did a few yrs ago which is by no means a bad thing. He does a ton of work in the rock music, alternative modelling and editorial portrait market. Definitely worth checking out. 

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    Andrea Peipe

    That was REALLY interesting! Phil, you are really brave to do that! Having your photos kind of taken apart is very hard, esp. since I am sure your heart is in all of them. 

    Aaron, it is amazing how you really see everything! I did not see that part about the rim light on his face in the skateboard shot until you pointed it out. But you are totally right! I think the light in general and the setup in this one really rocks though! It made me think whether that guy was famous 😉

    While I was watching this, I kept thinking “Wow, Aaron sees it all…” But in a good way! Because that makes us learn to see things that are “wrong” or at least could be done better (Don’t get me wrong Phil, I think you are AWESOME!!!!) and otherwise I would not even have seen them honestly… *-*

    I have to agree about the tattoo artist shot. I think it is great BUT my eyes only realized there was a bloody hand lying there after looking at it for a while because I looked at the guy first and his tattoos and a million other things… 

    Aaron, ever since you said “What does not add to the photo, takes away from the photo” quite a few episodes ago, this is like my mantra. I clean up way more than before but I think it helps and is very true.

    Now, I gotta go and work for a bit but I will come back later to finish watching this!

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      Philippe Monaco

      Thanks for taking the time to share some feedback Andrea! I discussed with Aaron after the critique that the tattoo artist shot was in fact his face who was the focus of the shot! It was for his business card, and presenting him FIRST before being a tattoo artist was the goal 😉 So I succeeded at my intentions, which is a good thing! 🙂

      I read your following comment as well, thanks for all the positive feedback, it’s very much appreciated! 🙂

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        Andrea Peipe

        You are very welcome Phil! 🙂 

        Ok, that makes sense then when the tattoo artist was the focus. Great job then 🙂

        I will also add you on twitter later, I have a feeling we will see great things from you! :))

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    Andrea Peipe

    Ok, back for the second part 😉

    I find what Aaron said really interesting…I never really thought about that it is good if a photo tells a story! I mean, of course a lot of times photos DO tell a story because they have to do sth with your life or whatever. But not always! And it is a really good idea to really think about why you take a shot and what you want to tell the viewer with it! 
    However, I kinda disagree on the photo of the girl with the red hair. To me that is just a well-done portrait and why not put those into a portfolio as well? I don’t think “normal” portraits have to tell a story! And red-haired skater girl may just have wanted a “normal” portrait! 😉

    Great tip on the hands Aaron! I never really thought about that but you are right, your eyes are drawn to the faces once the hands are “in the pockets”! Must remember that…

    Generally, I just want to say that I think Phil is really great with light! Phil, I think you did an awesome job there for sure, you know your stuff! And I think you had some awesome ideas here! I am honestly not sure if I would have even seen the things Aaron mentioned if I just looked at them by myself but of course now I do. So it is good that we are more trained now to see things that are very good but not perfect yet! 

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    Alan Dryer

    Amazed at the level of detail in this critique – so many things I wouldn’t ever have thought of!  Thought it was done very sensitively and supportively – would certainly be happy to have you critique some of my shots! Alan, UK

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    Carl Revell

    Very informative process Aaron, thank you for taking the time to put this together and of course a big thank you to Philippe for allowing Aaron to do so 🙂

    Aaron’s critique was certainly an eye–opener. A couple of things that Aaron spotted I spotted too which felt good 🙂 but probably only because they were pretty obvious (for want for a better word) such as the Mange Ta Main hand being cut off too high up the arm. But some of the colour/tonal stuff “too much green in his hand” I was like “WTH” and Aaron was spot on—”you may know something is off, but not exactly what.”

    I really liked Aaron’s crop on Particia’s portrait. Her eye’s are amazing and she’s so much prettier but not something I ever even noticed until Aaron cropped out the noisy tee and bright hair–light.

    The hands of the band 🙂 Prestige were distracting but again, only when Aaron removed them did it jump out at me how distracting they actually were. I’m not sure about the psycho–analysis of the band members though, maybe that’s taking critique a bit too far and personal?

    Anyway, all in all I thoroughly enjoyed this, albeit very long episode. I’d certainly like to see more like it Aaron. I felt a little dis–spirited that Aaron could find so much to improve Phillipe’s work knowing that I’ve made similar gaffs and worse in mine. Oh well, I guess that’s how we all grow 🙂

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    Chioma Ozuzu

    I’m pretty new at Phlearn and in general more on both Photography and Photoshop, but I’m really glad that is this the first time I saw a critique video on Phlearn! I really appreciate how Phil puts his work on the line for critique and ways to improve his photo, especially with distracting elements in the image (especially the brightness), lens distortion, and matching elements with the subjects. I also learned alot from this critique as well since I am relatively new and factors such as light placement, mood, and story are some critical things to plan ahead for the image. Aaron did quite an amazing job overall in really putting countless hours of critiquing for one person to benefit others. Thank you both Aaron and Philippe for quite an extensive, yet really helpful critique! It didn’t feel an hour because it was so engaging and energetic and cant wait to see more.