... You really need to improve your processing skills if you want to impress people.
Having processed images professionally for fourteen years these problems really stick out.
Sorry, but basic image processing processing knowledge and skills are essential if you want to impress people.
You've got to be joking.
Blown highlights, blocked shadows, crappy processing, there is no excuse.
One thing comes to mind, Tom, the concept of "opening the door." By introducing the harsh and critical language, you opened the door for responses in kind:
Someone's processing skills is what impresses people!?
Which people, by the way? Photographers? Or just anal-retentive photographers?
Because ordinary folks (and non-anal-retentive photographers) could not care less about processing skills, blown highlights and dust spots. What impresses people, my friend, is the emotional power of the photograph. Get that right, and all else is forgiven, even among photographers.
I am sure you would have had equally harsh words for the D-Day photographs. After all, aren't they all blurry and grainy, indicating perhaps a total lack of not only processing, but also very basic photographic skills?
Have you ever seen ordinary folks going over family albums with tears in their eyes? I mean, most family albums are choke full of out-of-focus, blurry, overexposed, heads-cut-off pictures, but that is not what brings tears to people's eyes. It is the emotional impact of those moments and memories, not photographing or processing skills.
Have you ever seen anyone tearing up over the lack of dust spots or the lack of blown highlights?
In fairness to you, this is a critique section, thus bringing up dust spots and blocked shadows as a nitpick would be generally ok. But treating it as a pre-condition for "impressing people?" Seriously!?