Photo Critique: Still Life

In this live show, Karl reviewed still life images submitted by members.

Throughout the critique Karl offered his feedback and advice on the images, highlighting the positives and offering suggestions for improvement. He also demonstrated some quick but effective Photoshop adjustments that can be applied to enhance any image.

Topics covered in this show include:

  • Still life photography tips
  • What is still life photography
  • Photoshop tricks for better photography
  • Composition and guiding the viewer’s eye
  • How to make the subject stand out

If you have any questions about this show, please post in the comment section below.


  1. What great show. I really liked it because the high variance of images. This gave me a lot of input but I agree that this cannot done in a higher frequency but would appreciate to have such sessions may be 2-3 time in the year. I also really love the brief assignments as they give cleared advise what is expected which is supporting my personal work style. As a technical engineer I’m better in problem solving than being creative 😄.
    I would like more about visual perception is there any lesson where talk about this in detail?
    Any other stuff to recommend in this matter?

    Thanks for all the input.

  2. Two comments:

    1) On the photograph of the flower petal toward the end, you say that it needs focus stacking. Earlier, you had commented on “some kind of Photoshop error” that I think was an artifact of focus stacking. The reason I bring these up is that I recently tried to use focus stacking on a subject that resisted every attempt to get it done without the “Photoshop error” you pointed out. After looking at the subject very closely, it appeared as if certain types of shapes and compositions resist attempts to get a clean result with focus stacking.

    The problem had to do with overlapping objects or structure. For instance, one bicycle rim in front of another. The spokes are very thin and in those areas, the blurred edge between areas of focus is prominent. Another example is a dish where the forward edge curls up somewhat. In that case, just as with the spokes, there is a sharp jump from one area of focus (the leading edge of the dish) and the next (the first part of the dish not occluded by the raised edge). Because there is a sharp jump between those two areas of focus, it is not possible to blend them smoothly.

    The reason is that in the shoot where the leading edge is sharp (Sharp Edge), the flat part of the dish is completely blurred. In the shot where the flat part of the dish is sharp (Flat), the edge is completely blurred. When the shots are laid over each other, the goal is to use pixels from Flat to fill in the blurred part of Sharp Edge. However, because it is not a smooth transition, but a sharp one, there is a boundary several pixels wide around the sharp edge of the dish that cannot be filled in with sharp pixels from the flat part of the dish. There is, therefore, overlapping blur in both photos. I call this a “focus overlap” problem. As far as I know, the only way to fix it is to paint in the missing information by hand. The problem is that the information is invented, so it is bound to be unconvincing unless a great deal of skill is used to make the fix.

    For this reason, I avoid focus stacking objects that have overlap, either between two or more objects or within an object. One way around it that would likely work but I haven’t tried yet, is to shoot each object separately and then put them together in Photoshop. That way, objects in the background will have all the needed sharp focus pixels to fill in the blurred edge around overlapping objects. I don’t know how to deal with it in cases like the dish example, short of using two identical dishes, one of which has its front edge cut off.

    2) Have you considered doing a second round of live critiques on past subjects, so that photographers can have a second try after hearing the previous critique of their work?

    3) Some excellent shots in this critique btw. I very much enjoyed the top down complicated cheese and grapes shot, but several others as well.

    1. Hi Apaq, I wouldn’t worry about focus stacking where there are overlaps, if you use Helicon and switch to Method C it often does a better job. Also remember you already have each shoot of what you need so it’s very simple just to find the layer and fix it manually. Avoiding overlapping subjects would be counter productive as you are immediately eliminating the majority of more interesting compositions for the sake of automation rather than just accepting that you should fix it manually. 2) We do repeat many of the critique subjects such as portraiture, product etc. 3) Glad you enjoyed it!

      1. Hello Karl,
        I stayed up until five this morning putting this method to the test on an enormous image. It was composed of eight stitched images, each of which was made of forty-nine stacked images. The “C” method worked beautifully! I am amazed at what a difference it makes. There were a couple spots that needed to be adjusted, but not many compared to before. The funny thing is that I had tried “A” and “B” first, but was so disappointed that I didn’t bother with C.

        1. Hi, Great to hear. The only thing I’ve noticed with the C-Method is that it sometimes changes the contrast slightly of the image compared to the original, just keep this in mind incase you need to adjust it back again with curves or levels in post.

  3. I really love how you look at a photo Karl and can determine very quickly to see the problems. I would love more of the quick changes you make with, for instance, using the Liquify tool or selecting something to increase the highlights. instead of going through so many photos, I would prefer fewer photos and then you very quickly go over how you would crop-high light-vignette or shadow more.
    As always, thank you for your content

    1. Hi Elliot, I would also prefer to spend longer on fewer shots and really show what can be done with them but the problem is everyone wants to see their work shown and these shows already last for several hours.

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