What would you do in this situation?

Senor Hound

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I work with a girl at work who knows I like photography, so she told me she would bring in some photos she took with her point and shoot film camera that I could "critique for her."

So she brought them in, and they're just snapshots of stuff. They were nothing real special, but I couldn't tell her that. I told her I liked them, pointed out that she made good use of the rule of thirds (she didn't know what that was), and did a good job of not cutting off anybody's limbs in the photos. But the lighting was really harsh and subject placement wasn't good. So I didn't say anything. I just couldn't be critical for the life of me! I told her too, that before you take a photo you should identify your audience, and if that audience is her and she likes the photos, the shots are good. But other than that, I was at a loss. I just can't be un-nice to people intentionally!

So what would you do? She doesn't really aspire to be a great photographer, but she does want to be able to take more interesting snapshots. Would you give someone fitting this description both positive and negative criticism, or do what I did and bite my tongue?

BTW, I don't want to sound self-righteous by saying her photos weren't good in certain respects (besides, "good," is so subjective...), but they did have some issues. I should know cause my shots many times have the same ones... lol.
 

LaFoto

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Ooooooo, I've been in the very, very same situation the other day, a friend of mine who went on holidays to Morocco told me about the "absolutely wonderful, totally atmospheric photos" she took while there, about which she had to think long and hard WHAT to photograph and how, since they were short on batteries and hadn't brought their charger. So she invited me over to take a look at them - they still managed to take about 150 photos - and they basically were holiday snaps to me. Some stuck out from the rest that were really quite successful, and the good thing was that she had a good feeling for what was print-worthy, so she only had enlarged prints made out of the best. Good! Speaks for "an eye" of sorts. And I commented on those only, saying how well she did.

But sometimes also I was forced into silence when she gloated about the "wonderful atmosphere" that only she felt because she'd been there, and had recognised the place with more than only her visual sense, she still has memories of the sounds and smells, too, and all, but I didn't. So often all I could think is "Oh, nice!" But apart from say 5 or 6 out of the 150 photos there was no other about which I could have said "Wow, that's a stunning photo". I was so sorry, for she is sooooooo happy about her own photography.

And OF COURSE also I know that "good" is subjective. To her, they are the best photos she's ever taken, and she was so over the moon with them, and so happy that they had to "carefully choose when to use the camera and when not to use it for it could have failed for lack of batteries any time", and she still had a good many pics taken out of the window of a driving bus...

I could not be unkind to her, either.
It wasn't my task, I was invited to share her happiness, and I did just that.
 

taracor

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I've been in situations like that too. It's hard, like you said, being intentionally not nice to someone who you don't already dislike.

I guess the thing I do is comment on the good an keep my mouth shut about the rest.
 

Alex_B

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Oh, I have been in that situation many times myself.

Usually then the person tells me how bad my images are... but in a diplomatic way since they know my ego and how I like my own images.
 

tirediron

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It depends really, if someone just wants to show me their pictures, I won't generally comment on them from a technical point of view unless there's something really seriously out of whack. If they ask for critique because they want to improve, then I try and provide it as best I can. I usually start as Senor did by listing the good point of the image, and then move to showing what I believe could be improved; not "what they did wrong" but "what could be done differently". For instance, if they're suffering from harsh shadow's I'll use a line like, "Doing this earlier in the morning would have given you a nicer light and gentler shadows" or "If you focused on this point, you'd have all of this area in focus which would accentuate this..."
 

garboui

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Ask her out.

+1

but in all seriousness, I am also one of those people that cant/isn't good about directing negative critique at someone. allthough on the pics that could use improvements the critique can be done diplomatically and honestly. by this i mean not to just be like, "this picture is bad because (insert flaw)". butinstead you can go about the critiiques by saying more neutral comments like"well see thers (insert flaw), then proceed to explain why the the flaw is a flaw, causes of said flaw and technique to achieve better results next time."
 

Village Idiot

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+1

but in all seriousness, I am also one of those people that cant/isn't good about directing negative critique at someone. allthough on the pics that could use improvements the critique can be done diplomatically and honestly. by this i mean not to just be like, "this picture is bad because (insert flaw)". butinstead you can go about the critiiques by saying more neutral comments like"well see thers (insert flaw), then proceed to explain why the the flaw is a flaw, causes of said flaw and technique to achieve better results next time."

If my friends had one word to describe me with, it would probably be a*s*s. I'd probably most definitely tell her that they're snapshots. Of course, I'd then tell her what she could do to improve them and that her real limitation past the knowledge was that she was using a P&S. Being honest and straight forward isn't always the best approach to making friends.
 

Emerana

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it is un-nice to lie to people and make them think they are good when they arent. you can give honest C&C without growing horns....what you do is grow some testes and be honest. Make sure to give some good feedback too.
 

bhop

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Personally, I think you messed up by telling her they are good if you didn't really mean it. What you should've done was been honest about it. Don't come out and say "these suck", but show her what the problems are and tell her how she can be better. You say you couldn't be critical, but that's obviously (to me anyway) what she wanted. By lying about it, I think that's more "un-nice" than honesty would've been. I would go back and talk with her, tell her about some basics that she might not know (rule of thirds for example) and try to be helpful. Maybe offer to go out shooting with her to see if you can help her technique.
 

Alpha

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The type of critique you're geared for is wholly dependent up your eagerness to learn and your intelligence. I'll give an example I've given before. I once showed my work, just after I'd begun shooting seriously, to my quasi-mentor who is an unbelievably extraordinarily fabulous large format portrait photographer. I was hoping for something of a real critique, of the "this is what you need to improve upon" type. Instead, what I got what, "I like these lines here....I like what you've done here." I found this horribly frustrating. Clearly, there were things I was doing wrong, or not well enough, and I wanted to know what they were. Now, if I hadn't been smart enough to understand that, and both eager and intelligent enough to go out and figure out what they were, I probably would have been wetting myself over the excitement of approval.

Now I'm not trying to toot my own photographic or IQ horn here, but the fact of the matter is that there are people who would hear what I did and not understand that there was still work to be done. In fact, they abound. Or if they did understand that, they'd want to be spoon-fed a regimen of improvement.

So figure out what breed this person is, and decide whether it's worth your time to tell them what they need to hear.
 

LaFoto

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Neither Señor nor I lied to the ones who showed us their photos, I should think. We did not say those were good that weren't. The only thing we did was not say anything about those that were average, but say nice things about those that stood out from the rest.

OK, maybe our situations varied in so far as I was not asked to critique any photos for my friend who had spent her holidays in Morocco. She wanted to share the photos and her own happiness about how successful she was in taking them. So I did just that. Shared her joy with her...
 

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