Photo Critique: Portraits 2 (Part 1)

In this two-part live critique show (watch part 2 here) Karl reviews portrait images submitted by members, offering his advice and feedback on each.

This first part of the show (where Karl looks at images submitted by members with first names A-J), covers easy ways to quickly improve your portrait photography, including finer details such as separation between the subject and background, positioning of hands and more.

Karl also covers techniques such as lighting and composition, offering advice on how these can be used to create strong images.

Topics covered in this show include:

  • Portrait photography tips
  • What makes effective portrait imagery
  • Lighting tips for portrait photography
  • Posing models and positioning hands
  • Separation between the subject and background
  • Post-production techniques for portrait photography

To learn more about portrait photography, visit our Portrait page, where you’ll find over 40 different lighting setups for portrait photography, ranging from simple one light setups to four light setups.

If you have any questions about this show, please use the comments section below.


  1. Hi
    Karl, sorry I couldn’t be on during the live critique, my photo had no filters in post when I sent my photo for the critique I had some trouble submitting it so I emailed it to one of your team and told them that I used “Fractal Filter” in front of the lens when I took this shot. It was taken like that with multiple hands on camera. All I did in post is to refine the skin and retouching it with healing tool and burn and dodge..
    I asked them to give you this message cause everyone thinks it was done in post.
    Thank you for the comments.

  2. Thank you very much for your compliments and critique. I did want to make it look 70’s but apparently that did not come thru. What could I do in post to make it feel more of the decade look?

    1. Hi Alberto, it was a good shot, I liked the look of it but felt the gloves didn’t totally work. You could give it a sort of 70’s filmic grade but I’m not a big fan of these type of filters.

  3. Just a question about polarising filters with portaits on skin tones. I saw a discussion that some photographers do not like the affect on the skin tones. Whats your thoughts on this Karl?

    1. Hi Chris, it must be used with care. It can be quite interesting it makes skin look like it’s underwater.

  4. Comments were very fair and constructive. Thank you Karl. On a side note, you did exceptionally well getting through that many images.

  5. Thanks Karl, My submission was of a friend, I’ve taken on-board you comments and have made the adjustments to the photo.
    It was a quick test of some very old Broncolor impact 41 lights to show they still work.

    John Houghton

  6. Thanks Karl, you were spot on with the movie style look I was trying to get of my wife, my key light was a spot from the left (Snooted) but had a small spot on the right to get the shoulders but it was too low, I can see that now. I tried shooting wide open but my lights were blowing out as I was also at 200th/s and don’t have any decent ND filters and could not position the lights any further away due to space restrictions. I was struggling to get the pools of light you achieved in your brilliant live tutorial, think I need to watch it again to see where I was going wrong.
    Great critique Karl, really love these as I learn so much.

  7. Thanks for the comments, mine was taken as a corporate portrait in the middle of an office. I didn’t have a background set up so the black was just to get rid of the office clutter.

  8. Thanks Karl for another helpful session.

    My submission was of an older woman who has been through some difficult times recently and my awkward crop was me, unsuccessfully, trying to convey that. Your emotion course (lighting) was most useful but further education covering the use of expression and composition to portray emotion would be most welcome. Your reference to the lack of separation in my photo is obvious now you mention it. 

    I’ve been concentrating on creating soft and flattering light for older, female subjects. I appreciate you cover softness of light in its broader sense often, but any extra tips for capturing older, especially female, faces would be appreciated. 

    Many thanks for your perceptive comments. 

      1. Hi Karl, thanks for taking the time to reply.

        I’ll do as you suggest and look into some extra global illumination to reduce the impact of wrinkle shadows.

        Maybe I should find a textured, older male (selfie?) for a subject and make things easier for myself with harsh, side lighting and go with the wrinkles …

        Keep up the good work. I’m learning a lot …

  9. Hallo
    I wanted to watch the live feed today. But I am confused: you are talking about two parts A-J and the rest. I just saw one part, but my submissed image was not there. Where can I review both parts?
    Paul Merki

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