Giving and Receiving C&C

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Gaerek, Feb 3, 2010.

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  1. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    When I first started posting here, if someone posted a photo for C&C, you could usually, within the first 2 or 3 replies get some honest and direct feedback on your photo. A trend I've seen lately, as highlighted by some recent threads (that I will not mention here) is saying "Good job!" or "Nice Shot!" to what can be called mediocre, or even bad photographs. The justification to this is usually one of two things:

    1) "I'm not really experienced, and cannot give good feedback, but I like the shot!"
    2) "I don't want to hurt the feelings of a new photographer with negative feedback!"

    Although these all seem like legitimate excuses for poor C&C, which, by the way stands for Comments & Critique (emphasis intended), they really aren't. Let me address each of these individually.

    1) We were all new. We were all inexperienced. We all, at one time, would have trouble giving good feedback on a shot. Of the two, this one is probably the most legitimate. I personally have no problem with this excuse. I believe in order to become a better photographer yourself, you need to be able to look at someone else’s work and give honest feedback. If the extent of your C&C is, “I’m not very experienced so I don’t know if I can help you get better, but I like your shot,” then so be it! There is a caveat to this. If this is the only C&C you are giving, you are doing a disservice to your fellow photographers. Just as photographers photos should get progressively better the more they shoot, your C&C should be progressively better the more you post. Learn as much about the technical and compositional aspects of photography as possible, then apply that when giving C&C.

    2) I've actually seen this excuse before, and of the two, this one makes my blood boil. Let's say Jim (a fictional Jim) goes to the Doctors office because he's feeling sick. The Doctor checks Jim out and realizes that Jim has a week left to live. Jim says, "So Doc, what's wrong with me?" (Jim is basically asking for C&C on his health). The Doctor answers, "Jim, you're as fit as a fiddle, and there's nothing wrong with you." (In essence, the Doctor is giving Jim bad C&C) Jim leaves the Doctor's office in a great mood, and very happy, even though he doesn't know it, he will die in a week. When a collegue asks the Doctor why he didn't tell the truth, the Doctor just says, "I didn't want to hurt Jim's feelings by telling him he was going to die."

    It's a great thing, to make people happy. Unfortunately, if it's at the expense of helping them become a better photographer, you are hurting them in the long run, and may frustrate them out of this great hobby. Telling someone they took a good photo for the simple sake that it will make them feel good doesn't let them grow. If you want them to be a better photographer, and want them to be happier as a photographer in the future, then you need to give honest, direct feedback. Do you need to be snarky or rude? No, but just because someone gives nothing but negative feedback doesn't mean it's bad feedback and shouldn't be listened to.

    I thank all of the people who gave me direct and honest feedback when I was first beginning. Did I get my feelings hurt? Sometimes. Did I take things personally? At first, yep. Did I eventually realize that these people were only trying to help me, and that they weren't attacking me as a person? Yes, of course.

    One thing I continually hear is people saying that this is a beginners forum, and there are going to be a lot of bad shots. Because of this, people should be nicer. Unfortunately, this is a classic straw man. No one here has ever denied that. No one (that I know of) has told someone to post better pictures in the Beginners forum. The problem is people getting defensive about their photo being critiqued honestly, and not applying what people have told them they should do. Most of the time when even the most rude and abrasive posters (and you know who you are ;)) give critique to a new photographer for the first time, it’s actually pretty good, and they aren’t rude. They only get that way after it’s obvious this poster isn’t listening to the feedback he’s given. Here's an example of the problem, as I've observed it.

    1) New user posts pictures. He thinks they're great and he'll get lots of praise.
    2) Veteran photographer/poster replies and gives honest and direct C&C about the flaws of the shot, and how it can be made better.
    3) New user gets defensive and says that those flaws pointed out by the veteran were intentional, and that critique on those isn’t valid.
    4) Veteran posts again stating that even if the flaws he pointed out earlier were intentional, the photo, because of those flaws, intentional or not, still isn't good.
    5) Goody two shoes poster, who isn't very experienced, and just wants to make everyone happy chimes in with something along the lines of, "Don't let the Internet bullies get to you. You had a great shot for a beginner, and don't let anyone tell you different!"
    6) New user replies to goody two shoes with, Thanks for the kind words, I knew they were good shots, I appreciate your C&C.
    7) New user continues to post new threads, with new photos, without listening to good feedback, and without improvement.
    8) Veterans, who are tired of trying to help new user out, quit replying to his threads, and new user starts to only receive "Good shot!" and "Nice Work! I like your photo!" without ever improving.

    Please don’t insult my intelligence and say this hasn’t happened, because it does and has happened. I’ve seen it as recent as this last weekend. Let me end this thread with a few tips for giving and receiving C&C.

    Giving C&C
    1) Point out flaws in photo, while explaining how to go about fixing flaws
    2) If there’s something you like, mention it
    3) There's no need to be rude, or snarky, if someone isn't listening, just stop trying to help them

    Pretty simple and straightforward.

    Receiving C&C
    1) Don’t take it personally! People are trying to help you and negative (but constructive!) C&C isn’t a reflection on you as a person, just you as a beginning and learning photographer
    2) The people giving C&C were in your shoes before, and its comments like what they’re giving that will make you better. Don’t alienate them simply because you perceive what they are saying as rude, or abrasive.
    3) Ask for clarification if you aren’t sure what they are talking about
    4) Remember that emotion is difficult to convey on the Internet. Something may come out as rude, but was never intentioned that way. Give the benefit of the doubt!
    5) Thank them (or click the ‘Thank’ button) for the time they spent help YOU become a better photographer

    Please, I encourage everyone who reads this to just think about it. Maybe you don’t agree, but that’s ok, you’re allowed to not agree. I just want this to be a place of learning and growing as photographers, not a place where we sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya telling each other how great our mediocrity is.
     
  2. Bitter Jeweler

    Bitter Jeweler Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    :thumbup:
     
  3. Chris Stegner

    Chris Stegner TPF Noob!

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    Gaerek, You have some great points here! (not kissing up just to make you happy either :lol:).

    I guess I'm not as serious as some here. If I had to rate myself, I'd say I'm a decent photog... not a beginner... but not as good as many here. So I'm about in the middle, both as a photog and as a member. I see some on here all the time, that's good, lots of activity, lots of "usual suspects". I see some that are rarely here, some new, some that show up every now and then just to get feedback... I suppose that's cool as well.

    What I'm getting at (in my bad writing way of communicating) is that I come here and very much enjoy myself. I post images for feedback... good, bad, or indifferent, it doesn't matter to me. I learn TONS from the feedback. All the feedback, not just some. What I learn depends on the feedback of course, but I do learn from it.

    As for my feedback to others, I try to be nice as you said. But being nice doesn't include bull crapping people. And if I do have a problem with an image I try to give a solution. It's only my solution, but it's a solution.

    I guess I should just delete this reply and go on with it as is... I love it here. Don't make it by as often as I'd like, but what the hell, I like it when I do.

    Are we taking all this to serious? Or is it me? Must be me!
     
  4. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    That's the attitude people should be taking with this. And, I would say most of the newer members who actively post and continue to post, have this attitude. There are some, however, who are either new posters who can't take constructive criticism, or who think someones feelings are what make them a good photographer, and this was directed at those people.

    Keep posting, keep listening, keep improving.
     
  5. dearlybeloved

    dearlybeloved No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    awesome
     
  6. bigtwinky

    bigtwinky No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Great posts and you hit the nail on the head many times.

    I can only speak about myself, but its one of the reasons I stopped giving critique and comments on photos. I still lurk and random post, but if people were to give creative, honest and to the point feedback, this forum could turn around and be something great.

    I guess the topic of good CC comes round every once in a while. Probably the forum life cycle. Bunch of pros and good commentors leave CC. Community turns into something different, pros and good commentors leave the forum. After a bit, people realise there is a lack of good or even interesting CC. Someone makes a post about lack of CC to try and spark the community. Others pick up the reigns and start giving good CC until they get fed up and leave.

    The emergence of the PACT was one of these initial attempts at sparking CC (amongst other things on the forums, but lets not get into that please).

    Good on you for giving this a go... :)
     
  7. mdith4him

    mdith4him TPF Noob!

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    Nice post! I'm a newbie here and haven't had a chance to post anything for C&C yet, but hopefully will in the next week or so. I've read a lot of the C&C threads, though, to try to start noticing what people comment on and what I should be thinking about when I take pictures.

    I'm a 1st grade teacher and when I was in college, my profs told us that when talking to parents about their child, you should always "sandwich" negative comments or news with positive comments. Just like some people here think they've taken a great picture, some parents think their kid is the best thing since sliced bread. When talking to a parent, if I tell them all these negative things about their kid, their first response (usually) will be defense. Parents like to know good stuff about their kids, just like photographers here like to know some good stuff (along with the bad stuff) about their pictures.

    Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is perhaps if people made sure to include at least one positive and sincere comment per C&C post, it might make the photographer a little more receptive to the harsher critiques. Just like with my school kids, sometimes I have to dig deep to find that positive comment! But the effort is always worth it. Just my 2 cents :sillysmi:
     
  8. fokker

    fokker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Good points, it's just a pity that the noobs, who really need to read this before posting their pictures for c&c, won't read it and will continue to get upset at the 'internet meanies' who don't like their works of art. I haven't been here that long but I try to give good honest c&c whenever I actually have something worthwhile to say, but it often goes unacknowledged, or worse, results in highly defensive personal attacks with the OP going as far as trawling my flickr page looking for bad examples of my own work to try and bring me down with (that's actually happened to me twice on here in the space of about 4 months).

    Edit: Above poster may partly disprove my first statement there...
     
  9. erhard

    erhard TPF Noob!

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    I have been on and off photo forums for a good number of years now and in the early days I used to give C&C as well as ask for it, but pretty much given up on that for the negative reasons mentioned by Gaerek.

    These days I very rarely do so, unless the photo in question has a personal interest to me or is so different and unusual that I am compelled to give advise.
     
  10. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    @bigtwinky

    I was getting to the point of just not giving C&C anymore. I was tired of coming across a "Need C&C" thread, seeing 3 or 4 ok images, and seeing 10 replies about how great those shots were. At that point, it wasn't worth commenting on.

    I think you're right about the life cycle thing. I think good C&C was beginning on the downswing when I first started here, then it hit a low, the Pact came out and went back up, and we've hit the low again. Speaking of the pact, I always supported it, because I liked the premise, and what was trying to be done with it, but it always came off as arrogant. I think it also gave some people an excuse to really be jerks to others and simply reply, "Well, you should read the pact then!"

    @mdith4him

    Post away! Be prepared for direct and honest C&C. If you realize that people are simply trying to help, and you don't take it personally, you'll be amazed at the kind of photos you'll be taking in no time.

    As far as the positive/negative sandwich thing, I've heard about that too, in managerial courses I've taken. I think it has a time and a place. Here could certainly be the place. The big thing I was commenting on was the fact that people will give nothing but praise for mediocrity. And that doesn't help anyone. Give praise where it's deserved, give critique where it's deserved.

    @fokker

    Fortunately, this thread is still on the first page, so hopefully people will read it. Once it's on page 2 and beyond, however, that's when people won't read it anymore. I've linked this thread in my sig, replacing my link to the Pact. I would think that if anyone else agrees with what I've said to link to it also. Then hopefully it won't die too quickly and might actually help some people out.
     
  11. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    And unfortunately, that's what it has come to with a lot of good photographers. This post is my humble attempt to prevent anymore from not giving C&C. If this doesn't work, I can honestly say my days of giving C&C in the Beginners Forum will be over.
     
  12. mdith4him

    mdith4him TPF Noob!

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    I agree that nothing but praise isn't helpful at all, unless you're just looking for an ego boost. But of all the photos I've seen on here so far (which isn't a ton or anything, but I've spent awhile browsing), even the bad ones have something going for them. Maybe the lighting and composition is way off, but they chose an interesting subject. Maybe it's under/over exposed, but the angle at which they chose to take the picture was creative. You would have to have a seriously awful photo to not be able to pull at least one good thing from it.

    I do really like your ideas and hope that when I'm able to post some of my photos I get honest C&C. I fully expect that my first attempts will not be mind-blowing new levels of the art! I'm here because I want to be better; not because I'm trying to impress someone.
     
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