It’s not always about the waterfall.

I came across this scene on the trail to the main attraction at a local state park. . The river was sad and the waterfall a bit diminished.

Specific Feedback Requested

Not having done this before, I guess all feedback welcome. This was a hard one.

Technical Details

Fujifilm X-T30, Viltrox 85mm, f1.8, 1/125, iso 400


Hi Pamela! Welcome to NPN! I know you’ll love it here. This is a nice image. I think your main subject looks lovely with the fresh green of the young looking tree in front of the nicely blurred older background trees. I know you’ll get some more helpful critique and guidance from others who are way more experienced than me! But I think you not only saw a nice scene but photographed it well. Hope to see more of your work!

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Thanks for the welcome!

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Welcome to NPN!
I like the feel of this image quite a lot! The use of bright light behind the main subject works here - I think you could even make it more obvious by recomposing and eliminating some of the stuff around the edges. I like how the bright and dark play off each other.

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Welcome to NPN, Pamela. I’m really new here as well, and have been enjoying it immensely so far.

You captured a beautiful little scene here. I really like the delicate small tree against the background of larger trees, as well as your use of shallow depth of field and the light filtering in from the back. You mentioned this was a hard one. I’m curious which specific editing techniques you used and which difficulties you encountered, especially for controlling light here. I’m guessing the foreground tree may have been relatively dark in the RAW image.

I like the composition, and how you’ve placed the small tree in a gap with the nice light in the background. I think you could crop in from the left to eliminate the bright band in the ULC, and also take a little off the right if you’d like to keep the tree centered.

Finding something like this is certainly a great consolation for the disappointment of the waterfall.


Nice look & feel to this Pamela!

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Welcome, Pamela! This is a lovely image with some magic light and velvety shallow DOF in the BG. The blues and yellows go so well with the greens. I would crop from the left just enough to eliminate the sliver of BG there and clone over the bright spots on the right edge and toward both the right and left sides of the top. That would focus the viewer even more at the lovely light in the center.


Thanks for your kind welcome and critique. I am pretty much a Lr user. I sometimes work in Camera Raw, but I find Photoshop intimidating! The tree just needed a wee brush. I tried vignetting as well, but that made it feel to much like a spot light, so I eliminated that - it also made the bush LLC too muddy. I also went back and forth on vibrancy, but nothing really seemed to tone it down… it’s really bright green!
Thanks again.

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Hello Pamela, welcome to NPN! I hope you learn some new things and enjoy your time here.

I really like the idea behind this image, and I am certain that you didn’t accidentally stumble upon it, but rather have quite a strong vision for it. The way I know this is because the processing to highlight your subject and darken the background is very intentional.

Unfortunately, I think it needs to be a bit more refined to work. It looks like perhaps the dodging was done by hand, so it kind of appears as if the rough shape of the tree is glowing, but not exact leaves on the edges. I would look into learning luminosity masks for these adjustments, as you can do the exact same brightening but without having to painstakingly trace every leaf! @Sean_Bagshaw and @Tony_Kuyper offer some wonderful tools and courses for these at

Beyond the dodging of the tree, I feel the background is still too busy. I would suggest trying to shoot a scene like this at a wider aperture, so the background falls further out of focus. However, it can also work more in-focus like this, but then you need to focus on the contrast back there, so it doesn’t distract. I think you’d need to darken all the light areas quite a bit (except maybe the center-bottom light-bluish area, which looks great and serves to highlight the main tree’s trunk). You’d also want to lighten all those dark trunks back there - the third one for the left looks like a good template, as it is still dark but not nearly black like the others.

So in summary, I think if the dodging of the main tree was more precise, and the background was less contrasty and busy, this could work really nicely! And again, I like the idea quite a bit and I appreciate that you had a specific vision for it that you’re trying to bring to life.

Thank you. I agree with what you suggest. I am loath to over edit (which personally I think I did, I think it’s over wrought, but hey, idk) and adding luminosity masks seems complex. Yikes! I include my first image that caught my attention for this shot. One note, I’m at the limit here on my lens at f1.8. I look forward to learning.

Hi Pamela! Welcome to NPN and I’d say this is a wonderful first post. I quite like this one.

You have some great feedback and discussions here so hopefully I’m not too repetitive. Here’s what I really like about what you’ve seen and captured. The vibrance and colors are very energetic - yes, even though they’re all hues of green and yellow, but guess what, a dominant color in nature! I also like and appreciate the shallow depth of field. If the bg was any more in focus this wouldn’t work hardly at all, relative to how this is working as presented. Yes, it is a little difficult to separate the little tree from the forest and light from the background, but I think you’ve pretty much maximized what you could do here.

I don’t know if it’s possible or if you have the chance to visit here again, but one suggestion might be to get farther away and try with a longer focal length. By doing this you could further separate the tree from the background. But you might not be able to do this again. just a thought. I really like what you have here, but I think the onlly way to gain a more clear separation of this little tree and the rest of the forest, is returning to get the perfect conditions, angle and perspective to better isolate.

Having said that, I made some quick edits. I think Alex mentioned Tony Kuyper, Luminosity masks and such - A couple things. First everyone who processes images started somewhere and learned - I learned Photoshop, by picking up one thing at a time. Learn ONE thing, incorporate in your workflow and then build over time. There’s no reason to learn the entire thing all at once. And a little secret? You say PS is intimidating… well… I’ve NEVER used Lightroom because it’s intimidating for me! :slight_smile: The second thing getting back to Tony - He has a fanastic tool, but he also has some wonderful philosophies that I’ve embraced over the years… One of them: “Make and image the best IT can be”.

I don’t consider this over processing, but taking the time to make the small edits is how one makes the image the best it can be . Some minor edits: 1. cropped a little to eliminate the strip on the left that someone mentioned, 2. did a few clones of some bright areas near the edges, 3. also some spot cloning to eliminate small bright spots. 4. Brights luminosity mask and a Levels layer to drop the brightness in the brigher areas of the background and finally 5. Blurred the entire image, then ‘painted’ back the tree on a mask. While this doesn’t completely isolate the tree, by blurring the bg just a little bit more, some separation is gained. My edit below does not change the image to some how miraculously separate the little tree… but I think by taking care of as many of the little things as you can, improves and makes the image better. Your mileage may vary!


Hi Lon,
Thank you so much for taking the time to critique and edit my photo. Wow. We are going back to the park next week! I need to learn how to drop a pin, but service is so spotty I don’t know if it will work? I’m at a loss for words for your work and information. I work mostly on my iPad, although my husband just sold his collector car so that I could get a MacBook (yikes - who does that? He does!!!) to work on editing. Thanks again for the support and again, wow!

Thanks Matt, I’m so glad I found NPN!

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Thanks Kevin.

Thanks Vanessa for your kind welcome and helpful critique.

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