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 ). ------ 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 its 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. Its 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 anothers 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. Its all part of the process. I think recognizing this is an important requirement for critiques, for both the giver and the receiver.