Image Critique: Umbrellas on the Promenade

Umbrellas on the Promenade

I should have realized, with the popularity of yesterday’s image critique, and of the “Umbrellas” iPhone image, that the result would be requests for a critique of that image as well. That seems only fair.


Square and near square images are less dynamic then more elongated forms, and are best suited to single, central subject; and perhaps for still, inactive subject matter. Here the heavy frame enhances the static nature of the image and assists in further isolating the image from it’s surroundings.


This is a relatively controlled and consistent palette, without a lot of color manipulation during editing. The image contains a lot of near blacks and near whites, producing strong contrast. The dominant color is an autumn yellow, in the trees, the fallen leaves, and fortuitously in the architecture as well. There is a secondary series of greens, and a series of cool, light gray tones. The warm accent color is the red of the bench. The main subject of the image is the gaggle of people and their umbrellas, in high contrast black clothing and white surrounding elements. None of this was by manipulation, though such manipulation can assist in strengthening an image with a weak pallette relationship; in this case it was just there for the seeing, and triggered that “I must shoot this” response. Given the fleeting nature of the scene, the only option close enough to hand was the iPhone.


This image contains a very strong one point perspective, with the convergence point on the center of the image, further reinforcing the square format and heavy framing. The rail and curb converging upward, and the buildings and bridge converging from the sides form key elements of the image.

Eye Movement

The movement of the eye in this image is controlled by the dominantly square shape of this image crop, the powerful one point perspective, and the strong forms of the trees. The eye is drawn towards the center by the perspective elements, takes in the subject at the center, arcs back out on the curve of the trees, and spirals around the soft edges, until the gravity of perspective Pulls it back towards the center again.


The primary theme here is the people writ small in the center of the image, with their white umbrellas. Their centering and location near the convergence point as well as their high contrast helps assure their importance, despite their small size and lack of detail in the image. The similarity of the color of their clothes and their umbrellas, package, and shoes, and their orientation away from the camera produces an anonymity which keeps them from becoming individuals, and distracting from the quiet, impersonal nature of the image.

The secondary theme of autumn foliage, above and below, and the strong forms of the trees surrounds the people with a powerful, colorful riot that contrasts to their calm walk down the promenade.
The tertiary theme is the lovely architecture sourounding the trees and the promenade. It reinforces the perspective, and reinforces the color scheme of the trees, blending these two themes into a powerful, colorful environment contrasting well with the tiny monotone group, shielding themselves with their umbrellas.Finally, the cool gray of the sky and water bleed nicely into the architecture and trees, due to the fog, and the increasing blur towards the edges of the image. The blur strengthens the focus of the composition, and the mood of the image.


This as a pastoral image, calm and quiet, but it plays on the classic theme of the smallness of humans against the scale of nature or of the city. Like many pleasant images, it has that “oh, I wish I was there” effect. The viewers are drawn into the image by the promenade at their feet, and can almost smell the decaying leaves, feel the mist, and hear the babbling stream. This combination of safe, nostalgic, inviting elements can create a very powerful emotional response in the viewer, which is particularly useful if the goal is the sale of images.

Technical Information

Shot with the Apple iPhone4. Processed with NIK Snapseed for the iPhone. Published the same day, directly from the iPhone.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website:   Return to Blog’s Main Page

3 responses to “Image Critique: Umbrellas on the Promenade

  1. Square images often work exactly like you say and for that reason, they are preferred by many.

    I don’t think that the house is adding to the image though and I actually want to see more of the road next to them in addition to some more saturation.

    However, the fact that they all have white umbrellas and those are the only real white objects in the piece make it visually interesting.

    • I have viewed this from multiple browsers, and sadly the results are not consistent. You might find the saturation more to your taste in a different browser (or in the original image). As for the architectural content; as an architect I plead guilty. The white umbrellas were quite a lucky quirk; I have other photos taken a bit later that morning, where the street is a bouquet of colorful umbrellas. As for seeing more of the street: there was probably more there before I cropped; the square format, and placing the umbrellas (and the vanishing point) at the center were my higher priorities.

  2. Pingback: This Week’s Highest Rated Photography Articles | CDTobie's Photo Blog

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