My PSA Bronze Portfolio – The Not So Good

If you have not read my previous post, “My PSA Portfolio – The Good”, you should go back and read it since the background for the Photographic Society of America portfolio program is detailed. That post discusses the three images that were good enough to qualify for the portfolio honors. Below are the seven of ten images that did not qualify and, therefore, disqualified my portfolio from the Bronze distinction. As I indicated before, that stings, but I have learned from the experience and from the assessors’ comments. I will show their comments in italic.

The first is “Park Ranger”. Too tightly cropped. It actually was not cropped: I was very close to the subjects. Nevertheless, it would have been a better image if it had shown the rider of the horse rather than chopping the top of his torso and head off. That is distracting.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. My rationalization was that the horse was the subject and it is in sharp focus. I was shooting with an Olympus Pen-F and 25mm f/1.2 lens wide open. That was not a good choice for the subject. I need to be more conscious of my aperture and ISO settings. Maybe I should stick with my Nikon D750 at f/16 and ISO 3200. Just joking.

Loses detail in highlights or shadows. Very true, almost to the point of abstracting the background. Some areas almost seem blown out.

Park Ranger

The second, “Banned in China”, is the image of a Falun Gong who regularly meditates on the Boston Common. Weak relative to statement of intent. It was a bad choice of subject on my part because there is not strong connection between this image and Boston unless you were aware of the Falun Gong activities locally.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. The image was overly cropped to eliminate some of the other distractions that were going on in the frame. However, even the un-cropped image lacks sharpness, probably due to a poor focus point. The shutter speed was 1/2000 s.

Loses detail in highlights or shadows. This was also shot using the Pen-F 25 mm at f/1.2, causing too much abstraction in the background, especially with the poor lighting. Using an exposure compensation may have given me more detail and the option to brighten the foreground. More importantly, this was not a good situation to use such extreme bokeh.

Banned in China

The third image is called “Athletic Pants” and was shot at the annual Head of the Charles rowing event in Boston. Too tightly cropped. Having the boat cut off at both ends probably annoyed the assessors. This was as shot, without any cropping. I had the option to zoom out since I was using my D750 and 24-120 mm lens at 105 mm. The lesson here is to take many shots at different focal lengths.

Consider a different viewpoint. The idea here is that a frontal view would have captured the full length of the boat and the athlete’s face. In many cases, my access to the athletes was restricted so that my view point was limited. That is not an excuse, just a factor in street photography.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. In the case of this image, I think the sharpness is a fine point. I could argue that the subject is sharp, but the viewpoint detracts somewhat from that perception.

Athletic Pants

“The Wild One”, shot in the Boston North End, is a reference to the 1953 Marlon Brando movie and is the fourth image. I still love this image and I might be tempted to use it again for something.Crop to improve composition. This comment puzzles me a bit, because I can’t see a meaningful crop. I wouldn’t want to lose the motorcycles in the background or any of the motor scooter that the subject mounts. I suppose I could change the aspect ratio from 3:2 to 4:3 to crop the right side.

Loses detail in the highlights or shadows. This is definitely an exposure compensation issue. There are blown out areas in the background. What I saw was a background that was not critical to the message and what the assessors saw was a distraction.

Over-exposed partial. There are some portions of the images that can be adjusted to give more detail in the dark areas.

The Wild One

“Melons in the Sun” is the fifth image, shot at Boston Market. Consider a different viewpoint. I agree that a shot at about 90 degrees from where I was standing would have shown the customer. That would have added more interest to the image.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. The shutter speed was maybe not quite fast enough at 1/100 s and f/14. I also ripped off several shots and may have been in motion. There is some softness in the features of the subject.

Loses detail in the highlights or shadows. Some of the melons, in particular, are missing some detail. A little exposure compensation would have mitigated this.

Over-exposed partial. Some of the dark areas could have been adjusted.

Melons in the Sun

The sixth image, titled “Check!”, was a scene in Mary Soo Hoo Park in Chinatown. Consider a different viewpoint. Granted, a view that included more of the game board would have been better. However, I think the next comment is the most disqualifying.

Lacks sharpness on main subject. Yes. Although I am devoted to this image, it did not use the best camera settings. I was not paying attention to the conditions at the time. It was shot at 1/25 s and f/4. There was too much motion going on for that to work.


The seventh and final image, “i m skating – lol”, is at Frog Pond. While I like the humor of the shot, it falls short technically. Crop to improve composition. The aspect ratio can be changed and the frame reduced on the right to eliminate some of the expanse of ice.

Lacks sharpness on main subject. Since this was shot at 1/4000 s and f/1.4, it is likely that my focus point was off. At f/1.4 it wouldn’t take much.

Contrast too high. I am guilty of cranking the contrast in an effort to try to make the subject pop out of the frame. It was an inadequate method to compensate for other shortcomings of the image.

i m ice skating – lol

So, what have I learned? Since I shoot aperture priority on the street, I need to pay attention to aperture. It seems that I generally shoot too wide open. In difficult lighting situations, I need to use exposure compensation to get detail in the highlights, adjusting the exposure of the subject in post. Shutter priority may be a better choice for many street situations to get control of subject sharpness. I also want to experiment with higher ISO, although I have been reluctant to do that with my Pen-F since the focal plane is not as forgiving at high ISO as my D750.

Since I do a lot of street photography, I find it difficult to balance all of the things needed to create a truly great image. I know that it is not impossible because photojournalists do it successfully all the time. I can’t wait for Spring so that I can go out and try some more.