I was captured by the way the light was reflecting off the ripples in some sand and water in a shallow tidal pool

Specific Feedback Requested

  • Would like general feedback on composition and processing.
  • The image is “about” the ripples, and I generally tried to obfuscate the sense of scale, so I’m not sure if the grainy-ness introduced by the sand adds to or detracts from the image in this respect. My hunch is that it detracts by adding more a sense of scale, but maybe I’m overthinking it. I actually do like the texture of the sand.
  • I had a hard time with the contrast on this image. The actual scene had a good amount of contrast, but it was tricky for me to get it right while processing. It felt like a fine line between too crunchy and not enough contrast to accentuate the ripples.
  • Colors were also tricky to get right in this one. I tried to subtly cool down the shadows while warming the highlights, but really only as subtly as I possibly could. Some of the spaces between the ripples feel a little muddy to me.

Technical Details

  • shot handheld with a 24-70mm + image stabilization
  • f/13
  • 1/160 sec
  • ISO 400
  • processed first in Lightroom for some global adjustments + color temp, then in Photoshop for finer contrast, dodging & burning, and color adjustments

This is great. The grainy texture works for me–even though you have explained what it is you captured I still view this as an abstract image about shapes and patterns. The contrast works for a somewhat subdued feel, in my opinion. The same for the colors. Of course if you want to portray something more intense you could push the contrast and saturation.

Hello Alexander, welcome to NPN. I know you’ll get a lot out of this community.

I like your image here and can recognize the water/sand combination. I too feel it works as an abstract, and it works well. Congrats.

Welcome to NPN, Alex. Very nice first post! Your title feels quite apt - the way you’ve processed this to accentuate the ripples (or at least I’m thinking that’s what you did) makes them feel like the vibrations of a struck bell. I think the graininess of the sand adds to the overall energy of this, rather than detracting from it. The larger blue-tinted spaces between the ripples don’t feel muddy to me, but the brownish-tinted areas do. Texture-wise they look the same as the other areas, so maybe they look muddy because of their color. Not sure which direction to adjust the color, or if you even want to. Anyway, this is just beautiful.

Hi Alexander, welcome to NPN! I really like this shot and I think it’s very well-balanced in terms of the placement of the ripples.

To your question about the sand texture, I know exactly what you mean - that’s why I don’t really have any close-up dune photos in my portfolio, despite shooting them all the time. It just gives too much away if the grains are too apparent. That said, I don’t think that’s the case here, because you framed it large/wide enough and the grain is fine enough that it’s not a distraction. The ripples easily command our attention as they should, and the image is still abstract even though it can be figured out upon close inspection.

My suggestions are just for balance - I would probably slightly brighten the top half of the image, as it seems a lot darker than the bottom. I would also darken and lower the contrast of the ripples that hit the right edge of the frame at the lower third, as they’re a bit bright and they kind of take a distractingly sharp turn near the edge.

Lastly, I feel like the middle section is a bit empty compared to the top and bottom, so depending on your comfort level in Photoshop, you could try taking that “slice” out of the middle and squishing it down a bit, just so it doesn’t take up as much space relative to the more dense top and bottom. Then the image could be fit into a vertical 5x7 rather than 2x3. But that’s not strictly necessary, just what I would do (I’d also probably then squish the whole thing down into 4x5 because I’m not a fan of tall verticals, but that’s totally personal preference.)

I hope this helps, and keep up the good work!


Welcome to NPN. What a wonderful, no outstanding image. Love this. Without your description, I’d be hard pressed to know this was a tidepool and ripples of sand. Could easily have been a drone image over some remote canyonlands of Utah…

Really enjoy the overall blue, cool tones here and the mixed in warmer browns make for a great color combo. The rippled highlights tie it all together.

I’m with Alex in that I personally don’t care for the digital format in the vertical (very much like the horizontal presentation ration). The good news, bad news with your image is that I don’t think there’s a clean place to crop - nor would I want to crop this. I just think the tall vertical isn’t conducive to these kind of images. Just me… but Ithink of tall trees or other subjects with vertical motion - waterfalls… all work well with this format. But this subject isn’t about tallness…

Anyway, not to drag that one out. But along the lines of Alex’s suggestions, you could “squish” the entire thing to a shorter format. But as Alex also mentions, this likely approaches things that many are unwilling to do - and that’s perfectly ok, because after all it’s YOUR image and you need to feel comfortable and confident with your own philosophies.

No matter how you slice this one, it’s a beautifully seen and captured image. Great first post! We look forward to more!


Thank you, Dean, for the feedback. It’s helpful to hear that the grain doesn’t detract from the goal of the image. I will probably keep the contrast as it is because I don’t want it to feel to intense.

Thanks, David, I appreciate the feedback!

Thank you, Bonnie! I’m glad you pointed out the example of the vibrations of a struck bell - it’s a great metaphor. I will keep playing around with the color to see if I can try to reduce the muddiness just a bit. Thanks again.

Thanks, Alex, for the detailed and helpful feedback. Now that you point those things out about the balance and ripples, I see exactly what you mean. Will try to adjust those bits as well as give the slicing/squishing idea a try too. Thanks again for taking the time to give me and everyone else feedback. I’ve probably learned more by reading your feedback of other images than my own!

Thank you, Lon, for the helpful and encouraging feedback. Really great point about the taller format not being as appropriate for this kind of shot. Makes total sense that a taller format is usually better suited for taller subjects where you want to highlight the tallness. Funny enough, most of my vertical shots are actually 4x5 or 5x7. I will give the slicing/squishing idea a try. Thanks again!

Hi all, I’ve implemented a few changes based on some of the great feedback from you all. Here are the adjustments I made, ordered by most impactful (in my opinion):

  • Did a perspective warp to squish the center portion of the image a bit so that it’s less visually dominant. At first I tried making 3 duplicate, flattened layers of the image, masking the top/middle/bottom portions, and then scaling/warping each. I found that I got cleaner results just using perspective warp and then some regular warp touch-ups.
  • Brightened the top half/top-left corner of the image to bring more tonal balance
  • Changed from 2x3 to 4x5 crop
  • Decontrasted and darkened the ripples hitting the bottom-right corner of the image
  • Slight color adjustments (desaturate & color shift the reds & yellows to make them slightly less muddy)
  • Slight overall increase in contrast (and also brought up the blacks a hair so it didn’t get too dark) in order to emphasize the ripples just a little bit more

Overall, I am happier with the image after the adjustments. Thanks again, everyone!


Wow, Alexander, I really like this. It reminds me of space telescope imagery, like a group of nebulae. I think the changes look great, really evening out this spectacular image.

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This looks great after the adjustments!

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