Critique or encouragement?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by markc, Mar 9, 2004.

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  1. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    I've seen a few posts where people ask for thoughts on their work. I tend to be the kind of person that will take another person's image and try different crops with it, play with curves in Photoshop, or whatever, just to see what pops up. When I've posted ideas (not here) after someone has asked for a critique, I've sometimes accidentally made them feel bad. They really didn't want a critique, they wanted encouragement. Before I posted anything of the like here, I was wondering what people though of this distinction. Below I've posted the way I approach it. Any thoughts would be appreciated (and yes, feel free to critique this ;)).

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    Critique or encouragement?

    Both giving and receiving critiques on an image can be a tricky thing. How open is the person that is asking to really hearing your opinions? How much can you really stomach receiving when you ask? How much do you really want to know?

    While it’s always nice to hear good things about your work, if you are not comfortable with constructive criticism, you may not want to ask for a critique. The main goal of a critique is not to get affirmations that you did a good job, but to hear how others might do things differently. It is then up to you to decide if “different” equals “better” and how to apply this knowledge.

    Art is all about choices, and hearing what another person would have choosen can help an artist grow, but only if they are in a place that they feel comfortable with hearing about choices that conflict with their own. Someone new to a field often just needs encouragement that they are on the right track. It's important to recognize this in ourselves and ask for the approriate feedback.

    It’s only an opinion.

    No matter what anyone says, remember that it is only their opinion. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to art. Even with the technical aspects of photography, there are always dissenting views to whatever is proposed. It is up to you to decide if what it said applies to your work. There are many choices to be made, and they can be rather daunting. Sometimes it's best to simply concentrate on a few. If you don't think what's being mentioned applies to you yet, feel free to ignore it and work on what does.

    Remember your audience.

    When giving a critique of another’s work, it will usually be better received if you keep in mind where this person is in their skill-set. I've found that in giving my own critiques, suggesting small, incremental changes are seen as much more helpful than going on about high-level ideals or simply brushing the image off as a snapshot. Bringing up the rule-of-thirds or mentioning that it is usually best not to shoot into the sun (or whatever applies) usually goes a long way for new photographers, whereas a dissertation on the zone system would probably result in a puzzled look and frustration.

    There seems to be certain types of photos that everyone makes as they go through their learning curve. It’s all part of the process. I think recognizing this is an important requirement for critiques, for both the giver and the receiver.
     
  2. vonnagy

    vonnagy have kiwi, will travel...

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    very well said mark :thumbsup:

    I guess alot of us here know each other quite well, so if someone says 'that pic is shiite - try doing it this way...' we know they have the best of intentions, just because we are used to their style and I suppose a newbie might be a bit intimidated by that.

    For myself, its all about knowing the photographer. I would critique a newbie a heck of alot differently than a more experienced person.

    I do however, think that frustration plays an important part of of the learning process. I used to a teacher, there are sometimes you help and other times 'its sink or swim'. I figure if you give up photography because you are frustrated with it, then its probably not for you. You learn alot through struggling to get something right. I think the best critiques will make you 'frustrated' enough to do something to improve your craft. :)
     
  3. Dew

    Dew TPF Noob!

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    well said,

    let me just say, i think its quite rude to download someone's photo and repost the revised version ... i would be highly offended if someone did this to my photo .. and since its copyrighted, its against the law :lol:

    now that i've gotten that off my chest :roll: ... im still learning photography and i need to move forward ... it wouldnt help me a lot to surround myself with people who are just starting out ... i need to surround myself with more experienced photographers to continue to learn and perfect my craft as an artist :D

    some people dont know what to look for in a critique ..
    i dont mind sharing knowledge that i've acquired along the way .. but u cant stay in 6th grade forever (and i wont), its suffocating :D ... people need new challenges ... and i need a challenge ... i dont mind giving advice, but im no teacher ... im always a student :wink: .... I NEED TO BREATHE!!!
     
  4. vonnagy

    vonnagy have kiwi, will travel...

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    hrrm dew, i've done this several times, my intention was never to steal their work - just show to them something I see in there photo. I would never get offended if someone took something of mine and reposted so show me how i can improve - this is a learning place (if they were saying it was there own thats a different story!)

    Basically one can talk till your blue in the face of how you can improve a picture - but when you can see - it makes all the difference in the world. Most photographer/painters are visual learners - talking about saturation/dodging/burning especially if you are beginning will not make sense unless you see an example - and its more powerful if you see it in your own work. Would you be offended by this, or am I misunderstanding your point?

    In realisation, I was wrong perhaps not asking first, but my heart was never to offend anyone or take away from their work. Mainly because I have learned alot from folks who revised my work who shared their vision to do something differently with the photo. But I should always ask first.
     
  5. metroshane

    metroshane TPF Noob!

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    I agree that we are pretty good about encouraging. And I think that if you post a pic in the gallery you should be clear on what you are looking for and the rest of us should be courteous in making sure we are giving good feedback.

    I have a repoir with some of the folks and feel as if I can give and take harsh critisism as long as it's constructive. Others I feel are just looking for a pat on the back and that's ok too.

    As far as downloading a pic and changing it....I did that once and felt like an ass later. I think the appopriate way to handle this situation is via private messaging. Discuss it with the poster first.
     
  6. graigdavis

    graigdavis TPF Noob!

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    I know in my case when I critique Im not going to flower it up. I am known for being extremely straight forward and sometimes it comes of harsh. But I really only mean the best.

    But if you are getting critiqued you have to realize that what the person is saying is their opinion. The person is only giving another angle at how to take the picture again. I have taken pictures that my result is exactly what I wanted. Then someone will rip it appart and I realize thats just another way I could have taken it, sometimes it is better.

    I know I love when you guys tear my work appart. I have noticed that my work has only gotten better since I have been in this forum. And I have you guys to thank!
     
  7. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

    This has been my approach, also. There's no other good way of saying, "I'd crop here and here", as we aren't in the same room and can't just flip over a few handy photos to use as an easel to demonstrate. But I will definitely keep it in mind to ask someone first.
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Excellent post markc.

    Any work I post on the internet, where ever I post it, is up for critique. I may not change a darn thing, but I'm always glad to hear other folks' opinions on my work. I won't take it personal, although I may defend my choices if I feel that the person isn't understanding why I did something the way I did it.

    I expect people to understand that constructive criticism is not personal, and heck, they asked for it. They don't have to listen to me. I'm just telling them how I'd do it, and that may not work for them.

    As far as this forum goes, I feel that anything posted in the Photo Gallery is open for critique, although I did just notice that the header says "ask for comments and feedback", so maybe it's for critique if asked?

    If folks don't want their stuff open for critique it can be posted in the "Themes" section (from the header inside the Themes section - "this is NOT a critique forum. save that for the Photo Gallery please").

    I'm with Dew on the whole re-edit issue (sorry, Vonn). It is never appropriate to rework someone's stuff and repost it unless they specifically ask you to do it. I wouldn't get mad about it, but I personally think it's annoying and rude. I approach critique as I experienced it in school. People talked; no one got up, took the work into the darkroom, and re- printed it in their style.

    I'm sure folks have different reasons for replying to various photo posts. I usually only reply with encouragement (great job, nice work, etc...) if the image really strikes me. I will usually only critique an image where I feel the poster really wants a serious critique. Most images I make no comment on because:

    1) The image doesn't interest me. There's not much point in me posting "your stuff bores me, get more exciting, shoot something else"

    2) It looks like a snapshot. The whole thing needs to be re-done in a completely different manner; where do I start? If the poster doesn't see this already, then there is no point in me tearing the entire image down. Go to www.kodak.com and check out the tips section. It's full of great info.

    3) I feel that the image is a nice photo, with a few minor problems (IMHO), but I don't think the poster really wants me digging in and nit-picking every little thing.
     
  9. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, I can see how posting a rework could be grating. It really takes away from the "mine"-ness of the image, so to speak. I've had people do that with my own, and while I didn't get upset, I guess it did take away from it being my image if I stop to think about it. I'm guessing that people would be a lot less likely to follow the advice, since it would be like copying, even though it's your own work. I'm going to pretty much stop doing that now, unless I've talked with the person about it explicitly. Thanks for the insight!
     
  10. zio

    zio TPF Noob!

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    i think its important to give both constructively. i know personally, that as a budding amateur photographer, i'd like to hear the good and the bad of my pictures so that i can continue one thing and improve another. now if my picture is absolutely terrible i'd like to know. i'm not that far enough along in photography where i'd actually get upset if somebody said my photo sucked...
     
  11. voodoocat

    voodoocat ))<>(( Supporting Member

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    I'm going to address the issue of reposting work. Ksmattfish and Dew, I don't think anyone would get the itch to rework your photos and repost them. The only reason I will ever do it is to display to the poster a different crop or if the color balance is off. Technical aspects that can be explained much better by revising the image. It's just another tool to help the person posting the photo get better. Matt, you're right, someone in a class wouldn't reprint it, but we're not in a classroom.

    With that said, I pretty much stick to PMing the person the finished product. I don't ask if I can edit it first. If I see something and feel like a quick fix in Photoshop is available, I take it. I don't do any cropping anymore either.
     
  12. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    What first came to my mind when reading the initial post has already been said here - that it is one thing to suggest a different crop or angle of composition, and quite another to actually re-do anyone's image. It IS just a critique, not photo 101-102.

    That said, I enjoy most of the critiques I've read here because on most occasions, the "critiquer" makes it clear that the image itself is fundamentally interesting, but this-or-that might take it to the next level. I agree with Dew that the more experienced photographers have the most to offer in this regard.

    And I also agree with Matt; if you just want to post an image and aren't seeking any feedback of any kind, we have the "themes" section for that.

    Good thread, MarkC.
     
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