How to critique a photograph

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Sim, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. Sim

    Sim TPF Noob!

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    I came across this post in the "Are photographers snobs" thread (sorry to bring it up again) and the opinion Skieur voices in it is actually the reason that I've avoided posting much cc in the past. I kind of got the feeling that many people share this opinion and figured there wasn't any point in me giving me two cents on pictures.

    Lately, though, I've decided that I should make more of an effort to give constructive criticism because maybe by giving it I'll start seeing more of where my criticism falls short and I think I can learn a lot that way. Even if reading my comments will make some people roll their eyes ;) But I thought I might as well ask directly too: what "rules" do you use? There's the obvious stuff such as proper framing etc. (I've been reading books too!), but what's everyone looking for?
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    1) Always speak/type in a polite manner - I try to avoid being very direct and quick since online this can sometimes appear to be rude when its just a manner of speaking

    2) Look for the good as well as the bad - it does not matter what level you are or how much you do or do not know, but what does matter is looking for both sides of the critique - those areas where the shot had worked and those where the shot has not

    3) If you suggest a change explain the how as well - even if you think the OP knows how explain it anyway - this is important as sometimes there is more than one way to an effect, but also this is a forum - open to all - and whilst the OP might know what you mean others might not and they can benefit greatly from a description of methodology

    3b) if you don't know the how then say so - its polite and it means you don't look like a snob hiding info

    4) Remember that there is no such thing as a "snapshot" -that is a shot taken without thought. What might appear snatshotty could infact be a well thought out and planned shot - that went wrong or was planned badly. Treat each shot as well planned (unless the OP tells you in the thread of course) and respond likewise

    That is mostly the way I operate when commenting and I have not been doing this for a year yet (very soon will be a year though - my how time flies!). Experience is not a factor in like or dislike = though it is a clear factor in explaining the how of what can improve as well as understanding limitations on kit and shooting conditions
     
  3. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Oh god, not this **** again.
     
  4. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    just take deep breaths Alpha - and unsubscribe the thread ;)
     
  5. Sim

    Sim TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Overread! That's really helpful.

    Sorry to annoy you Alpha. I did a search before I posted the thread but unfortunately critique is a pretty popular word on this forum so I didn't come up with anything. So I posted the question anyway with the hopes that other people starting out would find it helpful too.
     
  6. Zada

    Zada TPF Noob!

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    Very helpful Overread :)

    Sim - just for the record, you have excellent cc
     
  7. Sim

    Sim TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Zada!
     
  8. Joves

    Joves No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I agree. Much like the way people say something is soft or, swing around the whole IQ BS. Sometimes you try to shoot a soft photo or one that is harsh.
     
  9. Sabin

    Sabin TPF Noob!

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    There's a writing forum I'm at frequently, and they have a unique position that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to be able to critique it, so they very heavily stress giving good critiques, to the point that a new member is required to give at leas three critiques of someone else's works before putting up their own for review. When they don't follow that rule one of the admin's puts up a form post saying that the thread is locked until they meet the requirement. It's very effective at weeding out the people who want to get better and the people who just want to have others praise their work. Also, the reviews are almost always helpful. They are more than just "I really like that," because of the heavy stress on being specific about what you thought worked and didn't work. This is one of the few forums I've found that actually helped me get better at something.

    This is one of the stickied posts that I think works very well no matter what you are critiquing. Just replace poetry with photograph. ;)

    To help you offer constructive comments/criticism to authors, here are some things you may like to consider in the preparations towards your respones.

    ~OFFER PRAISE
    Well-written poems should receive acknowledgment.
    Successful poetry be noted as such.
    Remember that these are drafts, no one expects you to post finished work.
    Also complimenting the author on images, passages and word usage that are meaningful or striking to you is another thing that you may wish to do.

    ~COMMENT ON CLARITY
    In order to evoke emotion in the reader, the poem's images must be clear. Bring to the attention of the author points you find unclear, lines, words and images. Spellling, grammatr and punctuation are crucial to the poems clarity; if you spot any errors, point them out, but avoid the nit-pick.

    ~LOCATE THE SUBJECT
    What is the poem really talking about? Is it implied or stated? State what you feel is taking place in the poem. If the subject of the poem is unclear or appears to be obscure, then your comments on the work may not benefit the author.

    ~LOOK FOR THE HEART OF THE POEM
    Address the issue of the occassion for the poem. Why was the poem written? The reason that the author wrote the poem must be clear and visible somewhere in the poem for the reader to determine whether the author has effectively treated the subject.

    ~OFFER SUGGESTION FOR REVISION
    The more specific you are inyour comments about lines, images, stanzas, the greater chance the author will find your ideas helpful with revision. Many times, fewer lines are better--which lines could be cut from the poem without changing its intent or integrity? Which ideas or images need expansion?
    Sometimes the addition of just a word or two can help to clarify the authors intent.
    To help you offer constructive comments/criticism to authors, here are some things you may like to consider in the preparations towards your respones.
     
  10. Yemme

    Yemme No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :popcorn:Just in case this thread goes haywire I'm ready.
     
  11. Chris of Arabia

    Chris of Arabia Herding cats since 1988... Supporting Member

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    Don't know whether this is of use, but when I submitted my panel of photographs for the OU course I did last year, they were looking for the following:

    Part 1 (i) Visual Awareness - unique comments on panel and overall grade achieved (e.g. emerging strengths, weaknesses, visual creativity, variety in use of camera/image editing, overall impact)

    Part 1 (ii) Technical Quality - unique comments on panel and overall grade achieved (e.g. emerging strengths, weaknesses, technical creativity)

    Does that help?
     
  12. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    As far as I know, that idea is far from unique: I think that it is quite common.

    Here's a suggested framework for critiques. I think of it as being Henry James' method.

    What is the perceived intent? (This needs to be answered before proceeding)

    Has the intent been realised?

    Was it worth it?


    This gets the technical stuff into the background and reduces the influence of the reviewers' personal preferences. It does, however, assume intentionalism*. This may or may not be a valid assumption. I think that it is preferable to starting by assuming that you already know the photographer's intent. That's my main criticism with most of the critiques I read on the web, and why I think that the web can often be stultifying and homogenising.

    Best,
    Helen

    *"the notion that authorial intention can provide a guide to interpretation, a criterion of textual meaning, or a standard for the validation of criticism."
     

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