Please help me get my artistic mojo back

We bought some flowers for my daughter’s recent high school graduation ceremony, and after we got home I thought they’d make a nice subject. It’s been a long time since I shot anything like this, and while I’m happy with the technical details (exposure, lighting, etc.) but none of these shots are what I’d call “artistic.”

I’m looking for a critique of the artistic elements - perhaps tell me what would you have done differently to make these shots more aesthetically pleasing.

Thank you.

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I disagree with the notion these are not artistic. Photography is an artistic medium. So the question is not whether they are artistic, but whether the art is good or bad, and what style was employed. To me these are certainly aesthetically pleasing photos (subject, light, skill) presented in a realistic manner. A realist painter of a couple hundred years ago would love to have captured all the colour and detail.

Perhaps if they dont feel aesthetically pleasing to you, you could either play with stylistic elements to break with realism (blur, odd colours, etc…), or change the elements within the photograph (eg. For many painting still life flowers, the choice of vase, and arrangement of flowers, was just important as the ability to paint them). Lighting effects also can be played with.

A personal pet peeve of mine is the water droplets on the flowers. I dont know if you used a spray bottle, but it is common to do so, and while its a nice effect, looks a bit too staged for my taste.

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This is the point por me. Personally, I find they look too clinical, with an illumination that’s too ‘perfect’. I would try to play with adding more shadows, and I would shift the white balance towards the warm side.

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I’ve found that shooting flowers in a naturally lit setting makes for more interesting compositions. Provides the opportunity to express more depth in the scene. I usually pick one flower as the subject, make sure it’s well lit, and use depth of field and less light to separate the others.


Some ideas (not that I could make “better” art :wink: ):

1609: Composition with too much empty space at the top. One flower cut the other complete. Not much relation (or contrast) between the flowers. The small white ones on the left are somewhat distracting.

6169: Much more interesting. The lower left corner and the white flowers in the foreground somewhat distracting. More isolation of the main subject would improve the image.

6208: To crowded. No main subject.

6204: Not bad :wink: . Maybe even zoom in some more.

6186: To crowded. No main subject.

6170: o crowded. No main subject.

Sorry for my straightforwardness but you asked. These flowers have potential.

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Ok, back at my computer, now I can post some examples.

For flowers, I think of it this way: In the dark, they aren’t that pretty. So, the light plays an important part in pictures of them. A bit cheesy, but it really influences my thinking regarding composition, meaning, I’m arranging the light as much as the flowers in the composition.

Here’s an example:


The direct light shown on the geranium flower, where the background foliage was indirect-lit. I put them both in the scene, the flower looking back into the scene, and crushed the shadows in post with the tone curve.


This one selects the foreground with somewhat-shallow depth-of field; I’ll be honest and tell you I didn’t plan that. I did put the subject bloom where I wanted in the frame, looking left so I could leave room for the interesting leaf tips. Again, tone curve crushes the dim background.

I think foliage is sometimes more interesting than the flowers they support. Here, the sweeping lines to a focal point caught my eye, accented by the directional light. The colorful flowers make good background…


Patterns also catch my eye. These unremarkable flowers nestled in their leafy cradles were arranged such that it reminded me of a Japanese silkscreen I’d seen somewhere.


My wife raises orchids, nice colors and patterns. Here’s where I pick a subject, let the rest go to blur in a pattern.

Anyway, this is what I do, hope it helps…


Post deleted by jimd

Thank you very much for the kind words; I think they’re “OK”, but they don’t really evoke any strong emotions for me (which in my mind is the definition of “good” art. :slight_smile: ). I confess I did use a spray bottle as I quite like the look.

Thank you - that’s pretty much my problem with them - too clinical. I tried adjusting the white balance, but was unhappy with the results.

Thanks Glen, and for your examples further down. After reading these responses I think the photos are too busy - there is not enough separation between the subject and surroundings.

Thank you very much - this is very valuable to me. And don’t be sorry, it’s exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping to receive.

I think that could be the main problem - I wasn’t able to do anything to arrange them so all I could manipulate was the lighting and the camera, and they were all very tight together.

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These specific words are absolutely not acceptable in a critique in any way, shape, or form.

Implicitly in accepting a critique is a want for improvement, and while you should point out what you feel the deficiencies are, doing so in a constructive way with constructive language is an absolute must.


Did the original flowers evoke emotions, or did they just look ‘pretty’? If they did, did they do so by themselves (e.g. did you marvel at their beauty?), or because they were related to a significant event in your daughter’s life?


Yea, I’ll take that. trying too hard to make a small point.
a bit of moderation in future

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  • On the first picture - I would just increase the brightness and contrast. Reduce brightness on the green parts. (this is my preference of course)

  • Second - same - goal would be to isolate the main red/white flower more so it is dominant

  • Third and forth - you can experiment with gradients - to darken some parts way more and highlight parts. I quite like the areas with pronounced droplets - again - looking for higher contrast.

  • I would likely re crop this - maybe focus on the top left portion

each time we pick the camera, point it and push the trigger - there is something that deep inside makes us do it. And even if you keep only 1 picture from the moment - when you look back you will remember the moment - your daughter’s high school graduation.

It is all worth it.

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Different crop and some slight changes.


hi there,

Earlier today I made a mistake, I started a reply to this request for critique with some ill-considered comment for which I apologise

I wish you all the best in your photography endeavors



I agree this is probably the main take away - with the last one being the exception, where busyness to me is it’s strength.

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Y’know I think @Thomas_Do has the right idea, there are interesting patterns and textures in these images:

The arrangement of the water drops make an interesting repetition.

The so-called “rules of composition” get much derision, but they really form useful guidelines for organizing objects in a composition.