This image has the potential of creating controversy. What is art versus what is lack of technique. Unfortunately that is not an easy question to answer as only an artist creating the work has insight to that. Still, there are two sides to every image, that of the photographer's intent and the viewer's interpretation of it. A good photographer will be cognitive of how their image is perceived and will strive to make the meaning clear for the viewer, even if that meaning is controversial. If the latter is the case then the best thing for the image is to put it out there without questions or apologies and let the tides take it where it goes. Seeing as you posted it here and are asking questions tells us there are doubts to your choices, or so I assume.
Execution of an image, and subsequently its interpretation, is subjective. Ten different people will look at this image and give you ten different interpretations. We tend to superimpose emotional constructs onto the images we look at. Funny thing is that these constructs can, and do, change over time. Look at an image today and you'll see one thing. Look at it again in ten years and you'll see something totally different. Nothing about the image has changed except our perception of it. I mention this because we have to recognize the emotional aspect when offering and receiving criticism about our work and understand its influence on the feedback given. Now for a side step;
There are a great many number of 'rules' in photography. We've all heard the argument about photography rules and bending them or even breaking them. Some claim there are no rules just 'guidelines' or 'conventions'. In order to make a great image (versus taking a good snapshot) the photographer needs to understand certain rules and conventions and apply them (or ignore them) as needed in order to accomplish a desired result. Let me offer up this little analogy about my take on this argument.
Picture in your head a cake.
In order to bake a cake we need a list of materials that need to be blended in a certain order; flour, milk, eggs, sugar, baking powder, butter, vanilla (or chocolate) flavoring. Once blended it is poured into a mold and placed into a hot oven to cook for a set amount of time. After that time it is removed from the oven, set to cool and removed from the mold. A new set of ingredients is then selected, mixed and used as frosting over the outside of the cake that was just created. In simple terms, that's how you make a cake. The majority is convention while the chemical reaction due to the high heat is a rule based on physics.
Artistry comes in the finnes used in executing those series of steps (conventions and rules) to creating a cake. We understand that there is a certain level of leniency over what ingredients are used; ratio of one ingredient to another, substitution of one product for another, choice of mold used, number of layers, type of icing, method of decorating, etc. It is because of these interpretations that we can get a large variety of cakes but yet they all follow the same principal of cake baking.
If I were to break these conventions without understanding them I could do something like this; blend my ingredients (sand, motor oil, peanut butter, drywall spackle and vanilla flavoring - I love vanilla) pour it into a mold (a cardboard shoebox will do) and place the whole thing into the oven to bake. Once done I can then mix a new set of ingredients (toothpaste, peppercorns and crayon shavings for color) spread it over the outside and present it to the world as a cake.
Obviously anyone with common sense would look at the latter and disqualify it as a cake. I could then fire back that it's all subject to interpretation and that yes, indeed, it was a cake. Who would be right? The baker for not following established conventions or the pundit who dismissed it as cake without knowing the baker's intent?
The reality is that the latter is simply a mimicry of the first but is using the argument of 'artistic interpretation'
to try to force a different outcome. We see this over and over again in the arts and, unfortunately, it goes unchecked because the critic does not want to be confrontational and the artist does not want to admit failure. A conundrum to say the least.
Anyway, that is a long introduction to my critique. (Get used to it, I tend to do this and so does Ed Shapiro
) Actually, re reading this I think it makes for a nice dissertation on its own, but that's for another story.
As with the above example, my critique is based on my interpretation and is subjective. Take from it what you feel benefits you and discard the rest.
Your image has a certain charm created by the combination of the cuteness of the subject and the soft focus. this alone does not make for a strong enough image for me. By itself it seems to lack some element that would make this a great portrait. That element could be a shifting towards more conventional portrait techniques or going the opposite way and pushing the boundaries of artistic interpretation. It's hard to say as it can go any number of ways.
Overall as presented it has a commercial "pseudo artistic"
flair to it. Meaning I can picture it being used to sell something while conveying a feeling of nostalgic artistry. "Baby wipes. Because protecting your little one is special to you."
In this context the image would work. Remove it from the and the image does not convey the same sentiments.
I say this because I don't feel this image is wrong
in any real technical sense of the word, it just has a limited use. As a traditional portrait it would fail to measure up against the conventions of portraiture (eyes are not sharp) yet it can't be classified as a snapshot either as there are a lot of artistic qualities to it. While soft focus is a legitimate technique in portraiture there is an established parameter to that softness and how it's used. It's a combination of lens choice and focusing technique which I don't see being applied here.
With this image I get the impression that the face was heavily cropped into as I can clearly see grain, fringing and aberrations. One may be tempted to accuse you of applying some form of "instagram-like filter"
but we all know the stigma associated with that, right
. Although, that in itself is an artistic, and legitimate, choice nowadays. As a hipster
style portrait, it works. It has all the trappings of lomography or that instagram styling but, again, an element seems to be missing. In this paradigm what I imagine is missing is a collection of similar images. A unifying body of work that places this in direct correlation within its own community. Being able to compare this image alongside several others would give it the needed context that lends purpose to the image.
Is it a nice photo? Sure, there really isn't anything overtly terrible about it. Does it measure up to established conventions? It depends on the conventions used to measure against but as a traditional portrait I don't think so. Is the artist's intent clearly transmitted? I don't think so either as it leaves too many questions unanswered. In short, I don't see this image strong enough to stand on its own, but in a collection... that's a different story. I can see it being a great influence on the sum of its parts. I would love to see you follow up on a project like that and see what results you get.
Again, this is just my two bits worth. Take from it what you want, the rest is garbage anyway.