Photo School Critiques

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by igot2n0, Oct 20, 2008.

  1. igot2n0

    igot2n0 TPF Noob!

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    Hello Folks,

    Remember critiques from photo school? I teach a job preparatory class in Commercial Photography at a publicly run tech school. Recently, I have experienced students that do not respond appropriately to print critique. I know that critique, if given improperly, can be a bitting experience. What I am talking about is students who only want to hear what they did right. I am not talking about kids, I am talking about adults.

    My question for discussion is whether today, critique is a relevant exercise in an educational environment? Should I shelve future plans for print critiques?

    Specifically, my question is motivated by an image of a squirrel, posed on the side of a tree. It was not a bad image but possessed no qualities that distinguished it from an image that could have been captured by an amateur.

    Let me know what you think.
     
  2. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    I say that critiques are vital to learning photography or any other medium. They are especially effective in a classroom environment. Commercial photography is particular in that you are (arguably) shooting to please the client. If the students can not handle crit from their peers, they certainly will not be able to handle it from their clients.

    Love & Bass
     
  3. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    ^^agreed, I find it ridiculous for someone not to be able to handle a tough crit and expect it to be easy. I've been told my pictures are complete junk from teachers before, they explained why, and I agreed with them.

    When I was attending AI in Seattle, when we had a crit, the first thing our teacher would say when we put all our prints on the wall was "Out of these, who would you hire?"

    Granted we only would have about 8 people in the class and each assignment was only one picture, but that one picture needed to be damn good.



    C'mon, this ain't the YMCA, not everyone is a winner.
     
  4. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Even as an amateur, thorough critiques were part of the learning process and they were certainly mostly negative in the beginning, before you started to really learn about what you were doing.

    You are however right about the attitude and it changes some photography sites more into a "Share your photo" site along the lines of Utube and the like, where photography is not really taken seriously and all you read is "Great shot!" The blind leading the inept would describe it.

    Having taught photography, you need to begin by teaching students how to really "see" colour, lighting, details etc. with their eyes and in looking at photos to notice technical weaknesses. Next comes the what to shoot and how to shoot it which is the compositional and artistic element. Somewhere along the line it has to all be put together into how to critique, as well as how to learn from a critique without the emotional, temperamental and ego issues preventing the person from ever learning how to be a good photographer. Too few potential photographers get past the ego issues, which is probably why the number of really good and highly successful commercial photographers out there is much lower than one would expect.

    skieur
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2008
  5. igot2n0

    igot2n0 TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Because one student behaved badly I do not want other students to think this is an appropriate way to respond. We have had open discussions about it and I have told a personal story about a fine art photography class that I took while in college.

    I am not a fine artist but I took the class so that I would have access to a b&w darkroom. The professor seemed to hate me. He called my work crass commercialism and told me it was not art. I never fought back. At the end of the semester I passed the grade with a "C", which I was perfectly happy with. Afterall, I had my own agenda, an agenda that was opposite of the objectives of the course.

    The point being, had I responded inappropriately to the professor, my response would have been a poor reflection of me; not a poor reflection of the professor or the institution.

    Thank you again.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  6. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    EXACTLY what happened to me in my Studio Lighting class last year. I got docked on one of my projects because it "looked too commercial". I got a C on the assignment while another one of my classmates used direct flash for shooting tarps at night for her entire project and got an A, and they were honestly some of the worst photographs I have ever seen in my life, they were flat out horrible, and done on a lousy point and shoot digital on auto the night before.

    [​IMG]

    I guess somewhat even and clean lighting isn't acceptable in "fine art" school. Some thing happened to me, except that instead of a C, I got a C-. Hell if I care, When we split into groups, me and the other student who transferred from AI were the only two who could completely reverse engineer lighting from looking at a photograph. We could do it better and faster then the rest of the class.

    I remember one time when we split up, our group of about 5 people had to redo jill greenberg's lighting. The other group had to reverse engineer a two light set up which was blatantly obvious. We had it set up and shot before they finished figuring out diagrams.


    We got the lighting down, but have no idea whatsoever on the post production..

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  7. igot2n0

    igot2n0 TPF Noob!

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    Yep, I do get it. Your experience was a year ago. My experience was more than 30 years ago. The problem of divergent styles is as old as the ages. I made the point because I wanted my students to know that I understand what it is like when the instructor does not 'dig' your work. Additionally, I wanted to model a proper response.
     
  8. 3312easy

    3312easy TPF Noob!

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    "They are especially effective in a classroom environment"


    think so...
     
  9. hiointernat

    hiointernat TPF Noob!

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    The thing about critiques is that they need to be balanced. I think if you make sure to approach it in a certain way then you might have more luck. Even if a photo has very little good qualities about it, I think you do need to say something positive about it. If you don't, then you come across as being better than the other person. And it doesn't matter if it is for the greater good of improving skills, it's just human nature to respond that way.

    So if you point out what they have going right, or what they were close to getting right, then they'll probably realize you are on their side and you want to help them improve on what they have, not make them change completely who they are. Does that make sense? I think critiques are very important, but they are a delicate matter.
     
  10. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Balanced critique however sounds very phony and silly on forums, such as

    "I like the way you got it in focus but unfortunately it was not worth taking a picture of in the first place, it is over-exposed, framing is sloppy, and you got all kinds of visual distractions in the background."

    or

    "I really like this shot, but I would suggest that you pick a different main subject, take the shot on a cloudy day when the shadows are not as harsh, use a different camera angle, and convert it to black and white."

    Now, please....does this sound believable and credible because the negative part of the critique suits some posts.

    skieur
     
  11. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There is no picture that is the epitomy of useless without some redeeming factor... unless you take all your pics with the cap on. ;)

    It is therefore not useless to show a little maturity and politeness, and comment on something that you feel is positive in a critique. However, as a general rule, I offer the bad news first and finish on a good note.

    Critique is important. Without it, there is ZERO possibility of growth. Where the critique comes from is debatable in terms of it's usefulness or validity.
     
  12. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    I think critique is vital to improvement. On the other hand, comments like "That is crap" are out of place. One can be critical without being insulting.
     

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