Can a critique be positive and critical at the same time?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Senor Hound, Jul 13, 2008.

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  1. Senor Hound

    Senor Hound TPF Noob!

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    There are a few threads where people post their critiques of someone else's photo(s) in a somewhat (imo) tactless way. They don't say what they like about the photo, only what they dislike, and even then they present it in a way that seems very negative to some.

    Then, I saw someone say "Be harsh with your critique, cause it helps me learn." This baffled me. I replied and said you can maintain a critical eye without being mean, harsh or rude to the OP. But the whole thing peaked my curiosity.

    So, do you think when critiquing a photo you can be nice and critical at the same time? Or do you think this is not possible? Its my personal belief that its quite easy to be both, and those who don't make the effort to be kind and courteous only do so because they like to be negative towards others (it makes them feel better). But I also cannot comprehend any reason to act this way towards someone else, so I'd like to hear the argument for this sort of behavior.

    Also, the argument of, "I shouldn't have to," doesn't make sense to me, either. You don't have to critique a photo at all, yet you do. If you don't care about the OP, then why are you posting a critique in the first place? How do you care enough about a person to want to help them out by means of critique, yet not care enough to present your opinion in a way where they'll actually take your advice? Its almost like the people who do this are just being rude because it makes them feel better (like some sort of e-bully). This argument seems very selfish, all the way around.

    Anyway, I just don't get any of it. If someone would help clarify this for me, I'd appreciate it.
     
  2. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You might have found out by now, Señor, that that is what I TRY to do anytime I either critique or only just comment on anyone else's photo here.

    I feel that I best ask questions.
    Make the poster think and wonder - and ultimately come to their own conclusion.
    I feel that is a way to pass a critique AND not be rude at the same time.

    And then rudeness seems to be "in the famous eye of the beholder" as much as beauty is: some can take more, some can take only considerably less. Some personalities are cut out for harsher wordings, some need things to be put in nicer ways. You personally don't deal well with harsh wordings (nor do I, for that matter), so anything a little more on the rough side will affect you more than it might affect others.

    It is hard to pass out any kind of critique when a photo is already being presented with the introduction "I LOVE this photo". I mean, if that is the case, then why not continue to simply love it? Why provoke the danger of getting one most beloved work shredded, and believe me, if you LOVE something, critique WILL sound harsher than it would if you were more or less neutral about your work.
     
  3. K8-90

    K8-90 TPF Noob!

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    I think know what post you are thinking of...

    Like you, I believe it is simple to be "nice", or at least polite, and critical. In fact, I think that it is the only way to really make your comments helpful. People, or at least myself, naturally become defensive and unresponsive when feeling "attacked".
     
  4. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "You're photo sucks in every conceivable way, but you're getting better!" - how's that? Although if they're not getting better either then I doubt you can have a positive critique.
     
  5. flygning

    flygning TPF Noob!

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    You can still deliver the dreaded "your photo sucks" in a polite way. "You should concentrate on improving [insert one subject or 100- doesn't really matter]" is much more helpful and puts the photographer in a less defensive state of mind than straight away telling them there is no hope.

    People asking for critiques on their photos, even if they love them, are still here to learn (for the most part...). I personally love every 'keeper' shot I get, but I'm also here to learn what others like and appreciate, and I know not all of my 'keepers' are good enough for the public eye. Getting useful critiques helps to learn that difference.
     
  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Certainly! I, as I'm sure many here know, pass out a good deal of critique. I always try and point out what I feel are the strong points of an image as well as the weak points. What I think is also important, besides just saying "You focus is wrong" is giving the person some suggestions on how to correct that.

    I think overall, most of my critique has been well received, so I think (perhaps somewhat immodestly) that I'm on the right track.

    There are some images for which the poster has requested critique that I stay away from, usually because I have the feeling (right or wrong) that what the person really wants to hear is "Ooooh what a wonderful image" when it has major technical flaws. As LaFoto mentioned, when the OP says, "I love this photo" or "this is my best work yet", it's hard to get around that.
     
  7. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  8. Jedo_03

    Jedo_03 TPF Noob!

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    Is that a friendly "yes" - it looks a little abrasive to me...
    Jedo
     
  9. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It was very friendly!
     
  10. Jedo_03

    Jedo_03 TPF Noob!

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    Mr Hound
    it is absolutely possible to critique someone's work without being rude...
    Think outside of photography for a moment - of how many teachers there are in this world teaching thousands of subjects to millions of people. And i'm not thinking kiddies in school...
    At work, I'm in a constant teaching mode - to post-grad students, peers, work colleagues in other disciplines, patients, relatives, carers............. And i would hardly expect to be respected if i opened my response to their questions with "Well... in answer to your lame, no-hoper question...."
    I won't go on and on... but that is WORK... and at WORK people expect professionalism. This is the wwwinternet... we are not at work... On a forum like this I think the gamut is "we are all equal - but some are more equal than others". No - I'm not being cheeky... fact is that there are photographers on this board at all skill-levels of their craft... and what a beginner or a layperson thinks about a particular photograph is often quite different to what a serious amateur or professional thinks... In addition, people have different ways of being able to express themselves. Some are succint... some verbose... some dominant... some submissive...
    Penultimately - we are anonymous... Apart from beer-joints and boozy night spots, the internet is probably the only venue where people "talk" to each other "in the face". The mods are the internet equivalent of "bouncers": they keep the peace.
    Last - to answer your question: critique that is constructive is what you are looking for - like we get at work (where people turn their backs before they roll their eyes).
    Jedo
     
  11. Bifurcator

    Bifurcator TPF Noob!

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    Hehehe Shcool's a good one... I wanna see a teacher say to a student: "Hey look, lovely! You got three out of a hundred right!!! What a wonderful student." :D

    But all seriousness aside, those galleries are busy! There's easily 100 new threads a day posted there and only a small percentage of the people posting also comment in other threads AND there's just not enough time for the people who do offer constructive critiques to always make sure it sounds positive. What ends up happening (at least since I've been here) is that if the photo contains obvious mistakes it ends up on page 2 with zero comments. To me that's much worse than a gruff or slightly negative sounding crit.

    So, what I usually try to do is look for the ones that make it way down to the bottom of page one or onto page two with zero replies and then I swoop. If it's OK or good I'll bump it for them, if it's poor and they don't have an ultra high post count I'll write a quicky crit. I assume everyone follows their own threads pretty close and knows that no one commented on it in 2 or 3 days.

    I try to make mine sound more positive by trying to remember to say "How to make it better" ot "What >I think< it needs" rather than what they did wrong or why it's poor. I may not always remember but I try.

    Also something for noobs to remember is that anytime someone takes the time to write anything at all that contains advice of any significance, it's likely because the critic cares enough to do so.

    --

    But I have a question... I keep seeing these threads (like this one) popping up and yet I have never ever seen a thread where there were unkind, harsh or even brisk words contained in it. So, do these even actually exist?
     
  12. Robin

    Robin TPF Noob!

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    Constructive criticism is specific and offers advice on how to improve.

    I do try to say something positive in my critiques but even those who don't, I don't believe they are necessarily being unconstructive, rude or "mean".

    As an example, I went to a photography school and every photo you hand in gets analyzed and picked apart by not only the instructor but also your fellow students. One time, one of my fellow students said about a photo of mine: "It's just.... boring." Nothing else, just "it's boring". It's the only time I took offensive to what someone has said about a photo of mine because I found it unconstructive. She didn't tell me what exactly made it boring or how I could have changed it to make it more interesting, therefore her comment didn't help whatsoever. It was a useless comment designed only to hurt me. I don't take offense to criticism, even if nothing positive is mentioned, as long as it's constructive.

    So, if someone wants to only tell me what is wrong with my photos and not say anything about what is good about them, that's fine, as long as they are being specific and offering ways to improve and therefore being constructive.
     
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