I’m not sure if it’s the best, but based on the feedback we’ve been getting,it certainly may be one of our most helpful ever.

Wednesday’s “Reverse Critiques” were a bigger hit than any of us imagined, and I think it’s been one of the best learning techniques for photographers we’ve even shown on the show, because seeing these images side-by-side visually brings it home in a way that really struck a chord with people.

We also kick things off with “The Five Images You Should NEVER Have In Your Portfolio” and exactly why.

I really hope you enjoy it, and get something out of it you can use in your own photography. And best of all — you can watch the show right here. :-)

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About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.

79 Comments

  1. Certainly was a very educational episode of “The Grid”.  If you haven’t seen it, go check it out, you’ll come away a better photographer………. mayebe :)

    • Agreed! Cats, flowers, etc. But homeless? I’ve shot homeless for 20 years. JoeyL seemed to make a name for himself with homeless images. Just sayin’! 

      Keep up the great work!

      • Studying photojournalism in college, our prof gave us three rolls for 36 (Tri-X film) and we were to shoot those three rolls of ONE subject. I’ve taught in my workshops this same technique – and make them turn off their LCD display! No “chimping!” Learn to see by taking just 90 shots of one thing. Teach them to see.

  2. Hey Scott

    Lighten up on Brad.  At least you have your D800.  I ordered mine the same time you did but mine won’t be here until mid May.  Bummer!

    Regards,
    Dave

  3. Scott,
    great episode indeed. Was it “the best”? Not sure, I liked all of them so far, but maybe I’m easy to please ;)

    If I may, in addition to the 2 major points you guys made, I’d ad 3 more:

    1 – practice like a crazy person, so when you get to point 2 and 3, you know what to do.
    2/3 – shoot great subjects in great locations
    4 – realise that some shots require not just 2 and 3, but also a great team (like beauty/fashion)
    5 – enjoy the process, and go back to step 1

    I guess, many of the shots in your live critiques were produced during step 1. Nothing wrong with taking any sort of pictures of dead trees as practice, but the “portfolio shots” are produced in step 2 and 3. Once we become better self-editors, our work will improve.

    For me personally, a lot of the magic happens in point 4. Without a great and very talented team, I couldn’t create most of my (beauty & fashion) work.

    Anyway, great episode, and say “hi” to RC from me ;)

  4. This episode did make me check my portfolio for flower photos and there weren’t any!!

  5. Loved the advice, along with the ‘before’ and ‘after’ type style. Very easy to understand your point of view with the visuals. Brilliant, I came for a quick look and stayed for the whole hour and 12 mintues! You’ve got me thinking about so many things, thank you.

  6. Hey Scott,
    I do have to agree.  I don’t get to watch The Grid Live often, but was able to catch this one.  I was blown away with the show.  I learned probably as much with this show as with several other lessons I’ve seen.  This show was incredible.  I especially liked the fact that I was late, but alas, you guys were too so it all worked out.
    Rock on with your bad selves!
    MIke

  7. I watched it yesterday and couldn’t agree more.  Great episode.  I’d like to see you do all the “critique” shows in this manner.  Sort of a “not this, but this” type of thing.  People could submit their images for your review (as in the first two critique shows) and then you could scour either 500PX or NAPP’s own member’s portfolios to find examples of “a better way” to approach the subject.  Not necessarily THE way, but a better way.  That would be almost as great an educational tool as your “Digital Photography Book” series.  If it were a studio shot, you could also reproduce a similar shot in the studio, suggesting a possible better alternative to what was sent in.  All sorts of fun. !!!

  8. I had never heard of 500 px, so I went there … and guess what I saw in the first row of images?  A cat and a flower!   LOL  (if you watch the above episode, you will understand).

  9. Where’s the video? There’s just a big blank space. Viewing in Safari.

  10. Excellent episode – going to go through my portfolio and take out that pesky dead fallen tree! 

  11. Soooo, Scott, are you going to remove the video of David Ziser on Kelby training shooting a couple on railroad tracks???? haha. Love you guys!

  12. Uh, oh. Looks like I have have to have two portfolios, Scott, one with railroad track shots and one without. I shoot mostly high school seniors, and they pretty much ALL, girls especially, want railroad track shots. Guess it doesn’t help that the studio where we shoot backs up onto railroad tracks. :) But to get clients, I pretty much have to have some of these shots in my website portfolio.

  13. Matt covered my thought about the portfolio critiques (as I watch the Grid even now)

  14. For me it’s the best episode ever. I’d like to see more episodes like that in the future, fully of advices for beginner like me :)
    Thanks

  15. Scott,

    Great episode! You and Matt did a wonderful job with the critiques and I especially like the images you guys used from 500PX. Watching this episode actually made me upgrade my account and yes, I have indeed uploaded some flower shots ;0) I look forward to your future episodes. Happy Holidays!

  16. I appreciate that you took my comments about the last show seriously enough to re-watch the episode. I recognize that we can disagree about its tone. Please understand that I did not provide my feedback lightly and I still stand by my initial reaction to the episode.

    I found the format of this episode a great improvement. You were very clear about the purpose of the critique, why certain subjects should be excluded from your portfolio. The side-by-side comparisons were a very effective way to understand what could improve a particular photo. In this way, the educational nature of critique was the focus of the show – which is all I was asking for.

    And if you stop by my blog in the future, please leave a comment. I am open to feedback. 

    • I’m just now watching this episode, but have to stop and say that I agree with your comments on the original episode.   My criticism wasn’t that they were “mean” in the original episode, but that they weren’t helpful.   On several of their critiques, I could see simple things the photographer could have done to improve a mediocre image.   I was surprised that Scott and Matt sometimes gave a harsh critique of those same images while neglecting to see (or maybe just neglecting to point out) the simple things that would have improved it.      

      I was left with the impression that Scott and Matt are really better at post-processing and providing education and inspiration to hobbyists, than photography.   

  17. Very educational! Thank you!

  18. Denise Kane
    ThisIsDenise@me.com
    great episode
    I would love to win a 500px account

  19. What’s there to say, there is a difference between photographers and “snapshoters”. Any day I don’t have to see more of the sunset shot with an frozen still shot sea as a foreground element and a crooked horizon, the better the day is.

  20. on Kebly.tv you have this episode list as #47 and its still not available to be downloaded in iTunes.
     please fix asap! thank you.

  21. This is really one of your best episodes! Well … I’m watching The Grid and D-Town TV from the very beginning, I am also a subscriber and  a big fan of Kelby Training and want to say: guys you made my photography much much better!

  22. I halfway agree that this was one of the best GRID episodes.  I personally think that your “Harsh Reality” about today’s photography world (with RC) was also a great episode.  So I’ll rank these 2 as my top 2 Grid-pisodes.  Keep up the great work guys!!!

  23. Fine show.  The most valuable parts were at the end.  The importance of your subject and the light cannot be overstated; a great subject and great light gets you at least 75% there.  Where people viewing your portfolio live seems to me more important than the 5 subjects you believe should be excluded.  If those viewing your portfolio live in Western Oregon, NEVER, EVER include a photograph of Multnomah Falls; or, for that matter, any waterfalls (unless it is stunning; stunning trumps everything).  Also in that list would be photographs of coastal sunsets, sea stacks and lighthouses.  An exquisite photograph of a flower would be more appropriate and more compelling.

  24. Scott and Dave thanks for a show with a welcome change of pace. Although I use my pics as reference for my PS paintings I will keep in mind to improve on three key elements – subject matter, location and lighting. All of these elements can be improved in PS with a little imagination. This is the one ingredient that can take everyday subject matter and transform it into something worthwhile. It is that extra step that makes the difference between average and great. Looking at some of the best on 500px for example, can help nudge us in the right direction. (As a facetious aside, I only have to look at the majority of NAPP portfolio members’ pics, mine included, to see that we need to re-think our shooting strategy.)

  25. I’d never watched The Grid before, but with so much acclaim for this episode I had to give it a try. I can see why people like this show, but I have a criticism. As a first-time watcher I really wanted you to get to the content so I could see what the show is like. But the first 10+ minutes were basically just ads, intros, and promos. I know it’s how you pay the bills, but as a person trying to get into the show for the first time, I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the content. So my suggestion, I guess, would be that you have a little bit more content up front to grab newcomers like me, and then go into the pitches, and then get back to the content. (Once the show really got underway, the ratio of content to ads did not bother me.)

    • Sorry Bro — that first 10 minutes is how we pay for the show and without it, there’s no show. (though in reality all 10 minutes wasn’t ads — we did a slew of giveaways, talked with Nancy, I gave away a free App, and lots of other stuff that wasn’t an ad). Sorry man, but that’s unlikely to change. If that’s a deal-breaker for ya, I understand. :)

      • Fair enough. I guess it’s not a dealbreaker because I stuck with it based on the promise of an especially good episode, and ultimately I didn’t feel I wasted my time. But I’m not sure all first-timers have as much patience as I do. Either way, I totally get it. So do what you gotta do and keep up the good work!

  26. Terrific episode, Scott and Matt! I really enjoyed it. It is refreshing to hear straightforward, honest critiques on photos and discussion about what separates the photographers who make terrific images from those who are stuck with average ones. Who cares that you went overtime? It was worth it. 

  27. I have to say, I take a slight exception to one thing – the part about going to extraordinary places to get the pics.  It goes to the point Matt made – perception/frame of reference.  In a previous show you said that you won’t get a good pic in Orlando and yet Trey Ratcliff goes to Orlando and gets great pics.  I think that we need to stop and look around us with different eyes rather than taking the view that the grass is greener somewhere else.  My cousin and I have a running gag on the pitfalls of this.  There is never a beautiful sunset when she has her camera in a beautiful place.  I always tell folks that they will never see a whale if I go whale watching with them.  I think that all the other tips about lighting, angle, composition and camera settings are right on and would make some of those photos better if not perfect.  

    • Here’s the problem with your story —- you’re not Trey Ratcliff. Or Joe McNally or Jay Maisel, or any of those people that can take a great photo anywhere. Like me, you’re a regular shooter, and that means to get the kind of shots you want you’re going to have to work harder than Trey Ratcliff, Joe McNally or Jay Maisel. It’s like Joe McNally’s Editor at Life magazine told him, “If you want to take more interesting photos, stand in front of more interesting things.” Of course, like you’re saying here, Joe’s Editor is probably wrong. ;-)

      • A bit presumptuous that seems, Scott. Great work is not limited to those in the public eye. Look inward.

      • I agree about the work harder bit.  I just think that part of that is looking around you at what is there and really seeing it – or looking at it differently.  If you were to distill each of your critiques down to one word, I think the word that best describes the issues in nearly all the photos you reviewed would be vision.  What was the photographer looking at?  What was he not seeing?   Would it have looked better from a different angle, height, time of day?  I can understand the vision problem because it is my issue too.  
        I have no expectation of making a living at photography but I love it and my goal is to learn and grow as a photographer, for my own satisfaction and enjoyment.   

      • Seriously guys, are you really complaining about statements made on a FREE show, presented by people who are working with some of THE BEST in their fields, people who are WORKING PRO’s themselves, and people who have seen talents come and go? Seriously? 

        Of course you can shoot whatever you like, whenever you like, kittens climbing over rail tracks shot midday, and I am sure it will be a cute photograph, but you have to realise that you won’t win a price with it, it will never be published, it will not get your name out there, it will never hand in a gallery. Once again, nothing wrong with that either, if you love your photography, and you just shoot around to have fun. BUT (and this is the BIG “but”): If you WANT to improve your work, if you WANT to play where the big guns play, if you WANT to be recognised for your PHOTOGRAPHY (not your snapshots), you will ultimately be compared with those who follow the rules, who shoot the exciting subjects, in exciting spaces, at the right time, with a team of great talents, and the snapshots WILL fall apart in comparison.

        So, what’s the deal? Go and shoot whatever you want, whenever you want, and enjoy it. But if this is you, then DON’T submit your images to a portfolio review, as a matter of fact, don’t even start a portfolio in the first place. Enjoy your photography, like million others do, and be happy. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a brilliant hobby.

      •  Thanks for a great show. Took me a few hours to download as I live in Kenya where the internet is slow…slow…slow. May have bad internet access, but do have some wonderful cats to take pictures of! I guess it’s one of those places you mention where you must go to get great pictures. But, like Matt mentioned in the show, what is extraordinary to you is just ordinary to many others. So it’s got to be more than just the extraordinary places. Which leaves the question: what is it that makes Trey Ratcliff’s pictures so good? Or Joe McNally’s? What did they learn through their hard work? I think one of the answers may be what you pointed out with the landscape picture with the foreground flowers and road leading to the horizon. That was not only an extraordinary place, but composition made it different. The other picture of the tree and the water in the background lacked a foreground. So with better composition, could that ordinary scene not have been made to look more extraordinary? Would love to hear more pointers on composition in a future show – what makes an average place great!

  28. I hate to say it but I like the old days where no photoshop was needed to get a good photograph. But this works as well.
    Watch Videos Here!

  29. Hi Scott,  

    First time I’ve watched a full episode. Really enjoyed the show!While I agree with alot of your key points I’m also a firm believer in the ethos of ‘Vision First’ – about seeing the potential for amazing shots, even in the ordinary and mundane. Think of the work of Australlia’s Trent Parke or Jeff Hutchens – these guys are able to find beauty in the everyday. Having recently been named Australia’s Top Emerging Architectural Photographer – I believe some of my success comes from being able to – or at least striving to – see the the world through fresh eyes – even in ordinary locations or less-than-perfect lighting conditions. A series of mine of was recently featured on a couple of high-profile blogs ( http://www.ignant.de/2012/03/01/gary-annett/ ) and some of the work was shot under mid-afternoon sun, after dark, and often in very ordinary locations. I think what distinguishes the work is infusing it with a little imganiation and creativity. Beautiful light and awesome locations are certainly an added bonus (sometimes a luxury) but creativity and imagination can also go a long way!I’m a long-time fan of the blog, the books and Kelby Training. Keep up the good work!Cheers!Gary AnnettMelbourne, Australia

  30. Scott, this was an awesome one. I took down my shot of the homeless guy chasing the cat with a flower in his mouth running down the tracks getting ready to jump into a dead tree. I would add a sixth rule, no dead people pics. :)

  31. Great show. Our camera
    club has always wrestled with how to do critiques that were helpful and honest
    without hurting feelings. You have shown us a great way to overcome this
    problem. I think you took one point way too far: that was to improve your
    photography you need to go the beautiful places. Remember “Crush the
    Composition” (work the scene, setting and sharpening) there are a lot
    of great images right in your back yard, neighborhood, town and state you just
    have work at it. Thanks for another very helpful program.

  32. This was a great!!!! episode!!! and i cant wait for the next Critique. I think Critiques are necessary for everyone in this industry even how hurtful they can be to get your portfolio ripped apart its all for the better.

  33. Thank you for pronouncing my name correctly, Scott. ;-)

  34. No cats huh? Better take a look at 500px’s homepage:-)

  35. Hi Scot,

    nice show, but regarding cat shots, have you searched “Cats” the domestic variety on 500px? ;) 
    When is the next open critique session and how can I submit my images?

    Regards
    Michael

    Munich/Germany

  36. this episode is still not available in the feed from iTunes.  anyone know what the problem is????

  37. Are you a 

    Photographer?

    Imagemaker?

    Snapper?

    As a working pro, I am all three, Photographer on location, studio.  Image maker whilst designing, matte painting.  I also snap, I have tons of bad photos of family, my cats and places.  

    However, I still follow the rules:  Composition, light, colour, contrast, texture, framing,  

    I use my method for shooting round a subject I call it CUBE

    Corners, Up, Beneath, Everything else.  You compose by using this method after a while it becomes second nature.  After a tedious drive, late flight prickly clients.  I step back and think CUBE. Jobs a good un. 

    Rich 

  38. Great show! I liked the 5 photos not to have in your potrtfolio. 500px is a great site thanks for sharing that.

    However I went to the 500px home page and guess what… A cat picture and a flower picture… Go figure!

  39. Superb Episode Guys!
    So many times all we hear is what’s ‘wrong’ with a photo but judging by the response this got and all the great comments, you nailed it by discussing what’s ‘good’…nice one!

    Cheers,
    Glyn

  40. Matt, I too, want to thank you for letting me try out Scott’s D800.  Hope it got back to you in one piece.  Great Grid!!

  41. Scott/Matt,

    Thanks for another great episode
    of The Grid.   I always find them informative and
    entertaining but this one has more than the usual take-away lessons.  In particular, I found RC’s analogy about
    playing basketball in the driveway to be very thought provoking.    One can’t always be “standing in front of
    more interesting stuff”  and so I think
    the message is that while photographing in our normal surroundings (playing in
    the driveway) it’s OK to experiment, break or ignore the rules sometimes but not
    all the time.   Better to work on some
    fundamentals as well as challenging oneself to see more creatively so that when we get to the big game we’re prepared.   I might not be able to make a prize winning
    shot from my driveway, but the more I try, the better photographer I will
    become.

  42. A significant portion of my business is portrait photography, specifically pet photography.  It is therefore, impossible for me NOT to have a client’s cat photo in my portfolio.  If that makes me one of the “chumps” then so be it.  At least I’m a chump with a healthy bank account, instead of starving for some artificial and highly arbitrary artistic baseline.

    • Normally really nice Omar: Ya didn’t really listen to the show now, did ya? If you had, you would have heard us say that if your business is shooting families or pets, then of course you have to put them in your portfolio and that’s different. 

      Maybe some of that “healthy bank account” can be used on a listening retention course? (Just kidding, Omar. wink). ;-)

      • Sorry man, I got only 2/3 through the show, ironically because I had to go to a pet shoot.  Heh, heh, I stand humbly corrected my friend.

  43. I have been telling people for years…it’s not the equipment!!!

  44. Great show, learned a lot :)

  45. Great episode Scott. I loved the previous blind critique show but this is just as insightful if not more. Thanks for the time you and Matt put into this.

  46. Funny, I have never heard of 500px until this video. So I go there and the first photo that shows up is a cat..lol!

  47. “…fly to where the landscape shots are.” is proably the best quote I´ve heard in a long time.

    Keep up the fantastic work and many thanks for showing and sharing!!

    Cheers from Bavaria! Werner

  48. Hello Scott, as you mentioned about your Photo Recipes Live app from the Apple store; I tried to get it, however it is not Free anymore. It is a charge of $19.99 now
    So sadly, I didn’t got it :'(

    Tx. anyway
    and loooove all your info about photoshop and photography !!!

  49. Hi scott ,
    Can you tell me the logical reason for not cats in the portfolio.

  50. Wow!  I have never been to a print competition where it was done this way.  Excellent.  Very helpful.

  51. so no cats/dogs in my portfolio? What are animal photographers suppose to do then? Not have a portfolio? Same goes for flower photographers..

    You also mention the modeling shots..you need better people to photo.. ok I get that.. however, suppose that “cute” little girl holding the snow, wants some outside portraits.. then what? yeah, start with a better location.. but I next time.. I would like to see the same person used in the bad photo vs good photo and no, I don’t want paid models, how about every day/normal people, +size people. etc

    now, all of that.. loved it! great stuff..

    it reminds me about the story of how “they” teach people how to spot counterfeit money.. buy getting them to know the real money so well, that anything out of line, sticks out.. this is right on the money!

  52. This was the most inspiring and informative show i’ve seen

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