Meg and I are back with critiques! Let’s discuss the rules of engagement here with critiques and how we do it so you know what to expect.

These are not drive by random critiques. If you want the chance to be part of these critiques email your web site, flickr, 500px, etc. link to [email protected]. I choose sites out of that inbox.

  • These are not “academic” critiques. Meaning, they aren’t boring and stiff and filled with discussions about chromatic aberrations and noise in the blue channel. These are far more conversational as though you came to our house, opened a bottle of wine, and we sat until late at night talking about photography.
  • That said — we say what we want and what we say online is exactly what we would say to you in person.
  • That said — do not take your critique personally. I understand how personal your work is to you. I know how passionate you are about your work. I know how much you have poured yourself into it. Yes. I get it. But this is critique and sometimes you will hear some hard things. Something you worked so hard for might get dismissed in 2 seconds by something we say. I’ve been crushed in critique in my life. I’ve walked away with tears in my eyes. You know what? I also walked away from those critiques a better photographer.
  • That said — we are here to help you. As much as we might have a laugh, crack jokes, and bust your chops about that girl on the train tracks photo you have, our heart of hearts is to give you something to think about so you can become a better photographer. We’re going to challenge you.
  • We do our best to build a shit sandwich for you. We try to identify strong points in your work (bread), we give constructive critique where needed (shit), and we try to send you off with something you can work on (bread). Please note that there might not be bread available for some photographs and you’ll just get the shit.
  • When we start a critique I, Zack, a photographer, have already gone through your site. Meg, not a photographer, will be seeing your site for the first time. I already have an idea of what I’m going to say. Meg is going to give you a true first impression feedback.
  • Anything I tell you that you need to work on is something I must work on myself. Anything I find wrong in your work can also be found in mine. I’m just giving you an outside perspective to your work because you are too close to it. I often get outside perspectives on my own work so I can grow. I don’t think I’m the Grand Poobah on the mountain top.

These public critiques on DEDPXL are free if chosen from the inbox. If you would like a personal critique from me then watch the store here at DEDPXL the first of each month. I take a look at my schedule and release X amount of critiques that can be purchased. Check them out on the store for more information. These are private critiques BTW. They will not be posted publicly.

Thanks for watching. If you would like to critique our critique we are always listening. I know I can wax poetic and ramble on and on too much. Meg always says inappropriate things so call her out on that. Anything you think can help our format we’d love to hear it.


PS – We don’t post a link to the work we critique so this critique, good or bad, doesn’t show up in search results for the photographer.

*PPS — I don’t always say inappropriate things. Just a lot of sometimes.  __m 😉

Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. Peter Steiner

    Hilarious! (Besides, also insightful.) More of that stuff, please! 🙂

  2. Daniel

    I was also tilting my head.

  3. Graham

    Love the critiques, keep it up guys!

  4. Enoch Ramal

    Enjoyed it, guilty of everything he was and have some great ideas for my own site, Thanks!

  5. Russell

    Very engaging and fun ! But I also like the direction it went to more serious critiquing. I think something lacking in my general work is consistency and creativity….and I think this critique showed me that.

    Enjoyed it greatly !

  6. Kristina

    “It’s late at night, we’re drinking beer, and the kids are in bed…”

    Hmmm….you two critique in the same manner I watch your critiques.

    Glad these are back and glad Dedpxl is here!

    Frack! One of them woke up. brb. (thank you pause button)

  7. David

    I love these. Once I upload my new website in the next couple weeks I will be submitting to do this! I struggle with places to find good, harsh yet true critiques. And you guys are hilarious, too!

    • David

      I have got to figure out where to change that stupid profile picture…

  8. Keef

    Harsh in places I thought & I personally like that flat contrast look but some of those shots definitely shouldn’t have been in his portfolio.

    Would be interesting to have Meg critique Zack’s portfolio!

  9. Derek Anson

    I watched the original critiques the first time around and they had an impact on me. When I’m culling my images I feel ruthless, ninja like.

  10. Bob K

    Your original critique series was my favorite thing on the Internet. But spending 45 minutes on one photographer is a bit much. It was more helpful to see you cover 2-3 different ones in a segment, that gave me a better perspective.

    Maybe spend more time going over the photos of the people who are “almost there”, and shorter bits on sites that need to address the basics.

    • Zack Arias

      I agree Bob. We’ve got to find our rhythm with these and I have to learn not to go on and on and on and on and on. I’ve got to find a formula or something to make these better for everyone.


    • Dade Freeman

      Yeah, I was surprised I got that long! Maybe thats why you managed to find SO many issues 😛

      I agree 3 reviews would be good and show a range of work and skills. Im just pleased Zack’s back!

  11. Phil Millard

    I guess if you put your work in front of Zack and Meg then you’re going to have to suffer the consequences Dade despite saying you’re a sensitive guy. You’re a braver man than me although in my mind it was a more than fair critique that I’m sure you’ll make good use of.

    I thought it more than interesting that Zack wanted to re-crop a lot of your work. I think thats just him working his eye and I’d have thought not too much to worry about as the re crops were only slight. I’m a TV cameraman and I’m constantly re framing things I see on TV in my head or worse doing it to colleagues framing on multi camera shoots that I run, pissing them off no end.

    One thing Dade lives in Brighton yet there is no sense of the city in his portfolio other than on the about page. Zack and Meg might not know Brighton but it could arguably be Europes coolest city, certainly one of the UK’s ( London by the sea and all that) Would it not be an idea to exploit the great location Dade lives in for even just a few portrait shots? Only 50 mins from London by train, I’d have thought there is the possibility to gain a clientele from the capital who would be willing to come down for the day to get a unique portrait away from their normal environment. Just don’t do it between November and March.

    Any way good luck moving on. Who’s up next ?

    • Dade Freeman

      All valid points Phil and trust me I have tried to entice the quirky clientele in to the studio, but not many are biting – so I am working on another way to get them in 😉

      Oh I am indeed sensitive, I cried for an hour afterwards 😛

      No honestly I needed someone who was not connected or friends with me to be this honest, did it hurt, sure did, did I learn, HELL YEAH!

      So I am VERY happy I submitted my site to Zack, I admire him, and still do.

  12. Dave Wilson

    I look forward to seeing more of these as there is always something to be learned from each one.

  13. Sam Cridlin

    I really liked the “…composed around the auto focus points….” comment!

    I learned on film cameras (early 80s) that only had a center focus – everyone focused and recomposed. The composition mantra then to watch frame edges and see your entire image.

    I blame auto focus, auto exposure, and lenses like the 200mm f2.0 for making “focus and recompose” a bad thing in many minds.

    Our focus is on the camera viewfinder display instead of beyond it on our our subjects.

    • Zack Arias

      “Our focus is on the camera viewfinder display instead of beyond it on our our subjects.”

      GREAT comment Sam. Thank you.


  14. Jeremy

    Thanks to all of you—Dade, too—that is not an easy thing to sign up for. These always makes me re-examine my own portfolio and make changes (for the better, I hope).

    • Dade Freeman

      Good luck with it, a huge learning curve, but at least if you learn from others mistakes it saves you the embarrassment 😉

  15. Michael Sladek

    Dade – thanks for the risk of sharing this with Zack & Meg and us.

    Meg – “What’s he doing? Praying for his crotch?” Best comment of the video!

    Zack – thanks for the reminder that we all need to find our voice and story we want to tell, and that it’s little things that make or break a photo.

    • Dade Freeman

      Thanks Michael, it was a risk, but one that paid off imo 😉

    • Dade Freeman

      I have had lots of feedback from this, some found the comments too harsh, others agree completely – I’m somewhere between the two, but I’ll be honest, it’s what I signed up for.

      I am flattered that Zack & Meg took the time to review my work (for free), to offer impartial advice, because my friends sure weren’t giving me that.

      There are some clunkers in there, but I switched from doing Commercial, Weddings, Events, Portraits, you name it, to one single theme – people portraits. I don’t have a massive catalogue so some images were padding, old work, and stuff that shouldn’t really be there – like the shots of my little girl in the Ramones T-shirt (but she looked so cool :P)

      Anyway, yup bits of it stung, bits of it I sat here shouting at the screen to justify, but at the end of the day, they don’t know me, they are judging my work on its merit and as someone I highly respect I have to listen, the choice is now mine as to what I do. But rest assured, it has been taken on board and changes are afoot 😉

      My site was also submitted to PEEK, for a layperson to look at, navigate and critique they had very different opinions and the lady reviewing said she would have booked me straight away, so that’s good. All this information will help me offer the best of myself and hopefully help you guys too along the way. I used to watch Zack critique other websites & images, then I’d go look at mine and ‘correct’ them, and I have only grown by doing that.

      I would like to thank the internet for it’s support comments and feedback. And a huge HOLLA at Zack and Meg for taking the time to review my work and for their candidness.

      I can’t wait to see who comes next, flak jacket at the ready 😉

      • Jeremy

        What a great attitude.

        I, too, have forced myself to eliminate unnecessary portfolios. Used to be: “Weddings, Food, Maternity, Aerial Surveillance…” slight exaggeration, but you get my meaning.

        Hey, Dade… could I be so forward as to maybe ask for a 10-second critique of my own site? Mostly looking for a really quick “You should consider ditching that shot” kinda thing. No sweat, if you not interested. Had to ask!

  16. Rebecca L. Bolam

    I enjoyed this critique video and the manner in which you two made it. Honest opinions are a good thing, especially when you’re just hanging out and drinkin’ some beers at the end of the day. And watching this makes me better understand how much I have to learn. Thanks for making me use my brain, guys! Also, I’ve been spending my first few years as a photographer with the Canon t2i, a speedlite and a new smooth as silk tripod. I’m on an incredibly limited budget, but I’m saving up for a full frame sensor camera. I mostly shoot in natural light (out of necessity- as I don’t own much gear at all) but I’m going to spend a few bucks on a small umbrella and off-camera flash cable. I think that’ll open up my world tremendously. So again, thanks for the advice on that (in one of your other vids).

  17. Si GUY

    You guys are a hard bunch to please, I found this very funny.

    No disrespect to the owner of the work. You have some excellent photographs.

  18. Patrick Dodds

    Thanks for being brave enough to put yourself forward Dade – can’t be easy hearing everything said but not only useful for you but also for others of us out here so cheers.

  19. Joshua Payne

    I enjoyed watching the critique. It has me thinking about my own site and what people think when they visit.

    I do have a couple of questions:
    1) Why is it important that the photos in his portfolio have a uniform look? I’m mainly talking about the hard/soft contrast comment. I don’t think my own photos all have a similar look after post-processing but honestly, I’ve never tried to make them look uniform. Should I? Why?

    2) I just finished the Peter Hurley DVD where all his headshots share the same background, similar cropping, ect. That was one of the critiques, that the close up portraits all had similar composition. Obviously Peter Hurley has made that his style, so I guess I could see an argument either way here. Thoughts?

    • Meghan Arias

      Great questions! Imma gonna go find Zack and see if he saw your comment.

    • Zack Arias

      Hey Joshua. Good questions.

      1) I feel it’s important for a photographer to show consistency. I understand the problem of liking two or more different kinds of looks/styles and I know it takes time to figure out where you want to end up with your style. As you progress through photography there is a lot of experimentation. I think that is a good thing but I think that you should put your best foot forward in what you show to the world. You might have a body of work in the background that you’re trying out before you release to the public. There’s also the fact that you need to manage the expectations of your clients. What look are they going to get from you? This one? That one? That other thing you do?

      2) Headshots is an area of our industry that not only accepts conformity in style and presentation it pretty much demands it. I had someone tell me once that you should be able to put one hundred headshots on a wall and NOT see the photography. You have to see the person. Hurley has perfected his style of photography and that get’s out of the way and you see the person. If Dade’s entire portfolio labeled headshots and had a consistent style in shooting and post production then my comments would have been different. While I feel headshots are technically portraits, they have a different purpose.


      • Joshua Payne

        Excellent points. Thank you for answering.

      • Peggy Yang

        I agree with Zack on point 1 completely. If I’m a client I would be totally confused with two distinct styles. Believe it or not, a savvy/ sophisticated client would feel like the photographer have dual personalities, which clearly is not a good thing for the business!

        Zack and Meg, love your critiques. You guys are so funny and it’s amazing that sometimes I have the same reactions as you – feels like you’re just sitting next to me and I am part of the conversation, LOL. Keep it up!

  20. Melly Lee

    These are so great thanks for bringing them back 🙂 Feels like I’m back in a critique circle from school.

  21. JC Ruiz

    I love the JC Penny’s Portrait studio quip. Great critique and a lot of valuable information was dispensed. Not sure I’m brave enough to submit my work for critique.

    • Rebecca L. Bolam

      I agree, JC. I definitely don’t think I’m ready for that…

  22. Sven

    If this new site had nothing but critiques, that would be fine with me. In fact, someone (providing they were as entertaining) could probably start a whole separate site just for that. There are so many people wanting them, and they are fun and educational to watch.

    Critiques are tough to endure for the artist, but I think it’s worth it – you can combine two quotes here: The truth hurts, but the truth will also set you free.

  23. Mikey

    Nice video. Meg, you are hilarious!

  24. Dade Freeman

    Zack & Meg,
    You will be pleased to hear that since your critique I have re-organised my website, replaced some of the images with more appropriate ones and reshot the zombie image with something more in keeping with my portfolio.
    I hope you like the changes –

    Thank you for your support 😉

  25. James Spencer

    Such a great attitude in the comments section! Hopefully that will remain and people will stay focused on the whole reason of this, to make us better photographers, but to do it together as a community. No fanboy crap, no YouTube-like nastiness, fantastic to see 🙂

  26. Simone Berna

    Really nice video! You two are hilarious but i love your critiques too!

  27. Tommi

    We want more!

  28. David D

    It’s cool to take a look at Dade’s website now and see the ways that he incorporated your feedback into its revision. It’s looking much batter than the version he submitted. Cool!

    • Dade Freeman

      Thank you David, it was a great way to grow and see things from an outsiders perspective. I am sure I am still making errors, just not the same ones (I hope) 😉

  29. Robert

    Dade, I agree with David D. Just took a look at your website and I like the way you changed it.