The Art Of Critique

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by One Sister, May 15, 2008.

  1. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    Since joining the forum I have received two distinct types of "critique". One type can be cranky, is always shooting from the hip, no holds barred, knee jerk, “I like it” or “I hate it”. This is not helpful. That sort of response (it’s not a critique) is likely to be taken personally: I am a good person; I am not a good person. It does not promote growth, it does not help the OP in any way and I’m not sure what it does for the person posting the critique…perhaps it makes them feel better about their own work or even themselves. In any case, this review is no good to me.

    The second type is why I even began posting images here. I need to get better. I enjoy photography, but I feel a certain urgency to know more and be able to create something I’m proud of in addition to having others admire it. But the admiration of my customers or my peers is not why I am a photographer. I do this first and foremost for the love of the medium. Although I do not do darkroom work any more, the smell of chemicals is in my blood, I love it. The digital age has brought me new controls and the ability to create all manner of images, some good and some not so much, but I am driven to improve my skills…always.

    I know I am not alone. I am a non posting member of several other forums; none of them are as chatty as this one. No games. Little or no double entendre and certainly no potty jokes to take up band width. There are very few or no tantrums. Banning seems to be reserved for true spammers and the wholesale closing of threads by the moderator because they want a discussion to stop…well…just doesn’t seem to happen. The forum is for adults, after all. If you want a playground in which this type of activity is nourished then you must accept those engaging in that activity. If you want a place to learn all manner of photographic techniques and be inspired by others executing those techniques then we need to get on with it.

    Good critique can be a tutorial in itself. Some of us are really not sure how to give a good one. I know there are those out there who cringe every time they see another OOF baby or another animal with no feet, ears or tail or an under or over exposed or over saturated face that the OP defends as…well, art. They and I need to be educated. Of course that does not mean they or I will learn. Education is not passive. It takes a willing recipient. Not just willing…learning it is an aggressive activity. Sometimes the OP will be so sure of an image’s value and quality that it is posted not for critique but for the roar of the crowd, the one in their own head. This is not me. I want the objective critique one might receive if they were in a classroom situation. At this point you are probably asking yourself why the hell don’t I just go find what I’m looking for in another place because this isn’t the place for me. Well, that’s the next step.


    Before I make that decision, I am asking those educators, those knowledgeable photographers, how to give a good critique. I know there must be objective elements and I’d like to know what they are. Start with the technical issues and move to the emotional, the artistry of the image. Because art is personal, how can we critique it? How does one critique an image that one hates for no other reason than a dislike for the subject? I know it would be critiqued if we were all in a classroom, let’s learn it here.

    We can turn the bus away from the children’s playground into an adult learning center if we want to. When I say this I do not mean chronological adulthood. There is a 14 year old regular contributor here whose parents must be very proud, I know I would be. I am speaking about the many so-called adults who must have huge problems navigating the world's communities for their immaturity, their bullying nature, their disregard for simple common courtesies and for their total inability to communicate. Let’s be examples to them, let’s not join them.

    I would add that currently there is a thread which is for serious critique so if you want one instead of a mindless attaboy/girl then post your image link here: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/s...d.php?t=122391 and we all can practice our critiquing skills…it will make us better photographers.
     
  2. Rachelsne

    Rachelsne TPF Noob!

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    I sometimes wonder how helpful my critiques are, I am a new still to photography, but I like to contribute because I feel it helps me learn and people are more likely to help me when I need it.

    If I dont like a picture, I say the reason, but I will always try and find something I like, because I know how dejected it can make you feel when you get a whole load of negatives.

    I love it when people tell me how to improve a shot, and for me that is the most important thing when I get critique-dont just tell me you like it, tell me why!

    Thanks for posting this thread, it makes a nice reminder for everyone, and sorry I hope you dont mind me adding my 2 cents :)
     
  3. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    [FONT=&quot]Don't apologize. There's no crying in photography.[/FONT]

    Rachelsne, if you want to learn how to properly critique an image then hold on, I believe we may learn. It is true that negative critique can hurt, but from that we will grow. I'm a tie-the-dangling-baby-tooth-with-a-thread-on-a-door-knob-and-yank-it-out kinda gal. Get it over with and get a new one (that may date me, I'm not sure anyone does that anymore). Many say they want an honest critique, but really only want to hear the positives. Watch those folks for a while. They do not change. Their images stagnate. At first you may think they’re good and then you realize that’s all they can do.

    And here's the kicker: A good critique doesn't have to come from a great photographer. It can come from anywhere. You will know if you've received one. You will feel something. It won't always feel great, but it will always be good for you. This critique can come from you and me. We just need to know how to do it. A wide variety of good critique can really be enlightening. It makes us reach. It makes us get out of our comfort zones. It makes us better photographers.
     
  4. jcolman

    jcolman TPF Noob!

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    Not that many people really want to hear the things that some of my old photography instructors use to say. Instructors are some of the hardest people to please and rightfully so. Their philosophy was that if you could please them then you should be able to please any client. Some people here have a hard time understanding that.
     
  5. caspertodd

    caspertodd TPF Noob!

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    That is a matter of personal opion. I definitely appreciate when someone takes the time just to even tell me they like (or do not like) a photo I took. If they don't like it, then I ask what I can do to improve on. While I agree that this is more of an adult attitude type forum, we should still be friendly and have fun, and telling someone you like their photo (if you do) promotes a positive attitude. I'm new to photography and may not be able to tell you why I like a photo, I just do.
     
  6. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    Yes, the critique may seem harsh. I would hope that the best ones are honest but objective, but they don't have to be hurtful or mean spirited. I would submit that if someone does not want an honest critique they should stop asking for such.

    If all you want is an attaboy, then you needn't be part of the honest critique seekers. This forum is full of fun seekers, you should hang with them. I think positive attitudes come from within, I certainly don't go to an online community to fulfill those needs. Good luck with that.
     
  7. kellylindseyphotography

    kellylindseyphotography TPF Noob!

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    I just bookmarked that critiquing page. I didn't reply to your thread with the bird cuz it's not my bag. I know nothing about wildlife photo's, don't look at them often, and would have very little meaning to a crique if I tryed to offer one.

    Sometimes, not saying anything at all REALLY IS *the* best thing someone can do if they are not educated enough to provide a responce.

    Like, I could reply and say "wow, these are crap. You should have stopped the water here, upped your fstop here, changed this color or that.." but if I'm talking out of my ass, really what good does it do for the photographer OR its picture? Especially if the photographer see's the critique and then trashes what could be a perfectly good photograph! Based on the spoutings of someone they don't know across a computer screen.

    In any case, it's just always important to consider the source. Hang around here a while and you notice who will give you straight up good critiques.

    I like the idea of that thread though. I'll keep it in mind.
     
  8. caspertodd

    caspertodd TPF Noob!

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    Don't worry, I'll stay away from your "serious" posts ;)
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    But photography is art - thus part of art is the end result - its never going to please all, but if it does not then there is no reason not to say anything. You just have to do so in a polite manner.
    Also if you give the "wrong" technical advice I would expect others to suddenly appear and "correct" it - or to give thier views because chances are that even if its not your area you are making these assessments based on your understanding which might very well be the same thoughts that the photographer is thinking but not saying.

    All in all I say say what you will and crit who and what you want - but in all cases speak (write) in a respectful manner and even if you hate a shot alwasy look for the good points in it -- there are very few shots which are all bad, most have a few good points which can be praised and then you can get on a say what and where the bad parts are
     
  10. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    Kelly, that is why I started this thread, because I feel that we both have something to offer as critique even if it's "not our bag". I think we can learn to be objective about subjects that we do not care about. It will help us improve all our skills. I wanted to know more about judging artistry. If we submitted our images for a juried exhibition you can be sure they will be judged by people who do not necessarily enjoy all the subjects they review. I want to know what that criteria is so I will stick around for some of the more experienced to assist.
     
  11. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think you already know how to do it and are simply encouraging us to try, your words are certainly elegant and have provoked an emotional response in me.

    I've recently discovered a passion for photography that I didn't know existed in me.

    Looking back at various criticisms I've received in my life, I've come to realize the one thing that was generally missing was a positive and/or encouraging aspect. I try very hard to take that lesson to heart and I would hope others will as well.

    Keeping that in mind, there really isn't anything magic about giving a critique.

    You can comment on a technical issue such as depth of field/bokeh or the rule of thirds. Sometimes just acknowledging that the poster has taken this into account is enough. It's still just a pat on the back but it has some substance and may encourage them to be aware of that aspect in future shots.

    I try to avoid absolutes such as "you need to do THIS". It may be true but it isn't encouraging. A suggestion to try it a different way may be more helpful. Say the post is a picture of a lovely landscape but it was a cloudy day. Perhaps you could ask if they had tried the image in black and white... Telling them to come back on a sunny day isn't that helpful especially if that is the mood they were looking for :mrgreen:

    You could comment on the crop of a picture, there may be something in the frame that you feel doesn't need to be there... if you're not sure it could be posed as a question.

    Please don't justify your comment by saying something like "I'm just a noobie". I hate that term and it's just as bad as saying "in my years of I'm so good experience"..

    If you are perceptive you should be able to read between the lines and feel that I'm struggling to express myself.

    Most of us do that but if we try to be honest and speak from the heart we will have offered a good critique.

    Cheers, Don
     
  12. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Oh boy. I love these topics.
     

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