Why do I like it - one of the HARDEST questions in photography and critique!

Overread

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Or alternately the "how to sugar coat and cover it in shiny sparkles" guide to critique.



Ok no not really. However I felt that it would be prudent to talk about a side of critique which is often forgotten about; that of positive reinforcement and commentary.

Now many people often start to throw up their hands as soon as this subject is raised. They decry it as sugar coating; they say its not "telling the truth"; they say that their totally negative view is just "telling it as it is" and a multitude of other answers.

For some its about focusing on the problems and working to help others find the solutions to improve the overall quality of their work; for others its about focusing on the easier parts to comment on; for some I feel that its also because they've focused on the critical side of critique for so long that they've started to lose focus and vocabulary on how to talk about the positive side of photography.

We can see this latter problem very prevalent for many of us, indeed even myself, when we look at what comments we give and get which are positive; many just say "GREAT SHOT". To which, when we find ourselves writing it, we should pause and think - why.


WHY do I like this shot? What is the real honest reason I like it so much as to call it great; why is its positive side outweigh its imperfections to the point where I don't even see them (yes every shot has "imperfections" as life is not perfection in itself - though of course there reaches a point where those imperfections are inconsequential).




For those experienced through to those new to photography those positive sides need to be reinforced. They need to be said; not assumed or taken for granted. Furthermore I think that we as photographers need to learn the positive language and evaluation skills. We need to learn it so that we have the skill and capabilities to convey our thoughts to others and to ourselves - to be able to see works in a good light and to understand why - even if just a little.
Why is that important? Well I would argue that as important as it is to learn the problems with a shot; to be critical and improve upon imperfection - we also need to be able to look to the positive. To see what we like and why and to understand it and thus be able to follow through that train of thought; to let that side draw us to new compositions or refinement of a method.



If we are pushed by the negative then we should equally also be pulled by the positive. I feel that for too many of us we focus on the negative; on the push and pushing and not on the pull and pulling.





So no its not sugar-coating. It's not telling lies in the least. It is about looking for and understanding the positive and learning a new skill in commentary to that effect. It's about us improving the quality of our social skills on the site and in person - to be able to point and stand and say "I love this shot - and I know WHY".
 

KenC

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I agree that it's not sugar coating. Positive comments let someone know where they are doing relatively well so they don't get distracted by concentrating on an area that needs less attention. They may also teach a way of analyzing images that would be useful to the poster. These comments also balance the commentary so someone is less likely to feel picked on.

This of course is the ideal, although many of us often don't have time to do a real full critique, so sometimes we leave it at just commenting on what bothers us. For someone more experienced this is not that much of a problem. For the beginners who would most appreciate receiving detailed positive comments as well I make more of an effort to include some positive commentary, but can't always manage it. Thanks for the reminder to keep making the effort.
 

Vtec44

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There's no such thing as a perfect photo. You have to look at the photo as a whole, negatives and positives. Some people love to point out all the negatives as a way to flaunt their "expertise". Some photographers only see the flaws in their work and miss out the overall picture. Then you have people at the other spectrum that can't see the flaws. IMHO, look for the flaws, know the flaws, understand the flaws, but also look at the big picture. :)
 

Derrel

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Overread, I liked your commentary, but I felt like your excessive use of white space between the paragraphs seemed forced, and caused the composition to seem unbalanced. Your words were well and carefully chosen, and you did well in avoiding British English words like aluminium, whilst, motorway, and so on, which helped to make your essay more universally understandable by us, the Yanks. Your essay's reason for being, the reason for writing it, could possibly have used a bit more backstory. Overall, I liked your friendly tone, but again...that white space! Good post, and food for thought!
 
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Overread

Overread

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I blame white space on writing it out in notepad first and bad formatting ;)

As for why writing it its simple. It's one part trying to encourage us all to write more than just "good shot" when we enjoy something; to turn it into a learning process for the commenter and the photographer in one go. The second reason is the one most will easily catch onto which is positive reinforcement when specifically giving critique.
 

cherylynne1

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I think positive comments go beyond "a nice addition to a review." I think they're essential in providing guidance for future shots.

Think of it like this. You take a toddler to a store, and you start in on the "don'ts": Don't touch that, don't walk over there, don't scream! But if you don't give them some direction as to what they can and should do, they're going to keep doing all those things you told them not to. As an adult, it might be easy to see all the things that they could be doing, but for kids who have so little experience in the correct behavior it's much more difficult.

Beginners are the same way. If you never point out their strengths as a photographer, they won't know where to focus (no pun intended!) and will probably give up. Granted, that is the goal of many critiquers who are so insecure that they fear a beginner will steal business from them, but usually those jerks get called out by real photographers.

What I'm saying is, only pointing out the flaws can get a person to a point where they can be technically proficient, but that doesn't make them an artist. A photo can be technically correct and still be bad, and it can be technically flawed and still be moving. But we only refer to the latter as art.
 

rexbobcat

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One of the core tenets of effective critiquing and discussion in general is leading with the positives.
 

snowbear

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I try a balanced approach to critique. I start with what I like about an image, then go into what I don't like, usually saying what I'd do differently or why I don't like something.
 

snowbear

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One of the core tenets of effective critiquing and discussion in general is leading with the positives.

I guess "I'm positive this photo sucks" doesn't really fit into that model.:02.47-tranquillity:
 

Derrel

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I think so far, in this admittedly limited number of responses to the OP, is this gem:

"
We can see this latter problem very prevalent for many of us, indeed even myself, when we look at what comments we give and get which are positive; many just say "GREAT SHOT". To which, when we find ourselves writing it, we should pause and think - why.
WHY do I like this shot? What is the real honest reason I like it so much as to call it great; why is its positive side outweigh its imperfections to the point where I don't even see them (yes every shot has "imperfections" as life is not perfection in itself - though of course there reaches a point where those imperfections are inconsequential).
"

I think this segment of the OP is more important than the slant about critiques and negatives and imperfections.
 

dennybeall

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I try to keep the two aspects of photographs separate. The technical aspects, like focus, can be definitively critiqued but composition is such a personal opinion aspect that a person's opinion is worthwhile to hear, whether positive or negative.
I can say if I personally like a photo but certainly not that it's correct!!!!!!
 

jcdeboever

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I like this thread.

Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
 
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Overread

Overread

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I can say if I personally like a photo but certainly not that it's correct!!!!!!

Does it have to be a right or wrong viewpoint to be valid?
Composition certainly has theories and trends and standards otherwise the concept of the technical being right or wrong wouldn't hold any water either. If the subject being sharp is a technical correctness then it only is so because of a generalist desire for the subject to be sharp for the composition.

Composition might be more hazy and less well understood (and abysmally taught at schools in general), but its certainly there in the world.
 

JoeW

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Lots of people like to say "there are no rules" when it comes to art. I think that's wrong. and I think that also goes to the heart of "why I like it" when it comes to a particular photo.

First, let's set aside personal experiences. You may like a photo b/c it's of a location where you spent your honeymoon. Or the face of the model reminds you of the first person you ever fell in love with. Or the dog in the picture is a doppleganger for your first pet. Those are about personal experiences and happenstance...they aren't controlled by the photographer ("gee, I'm going to create a photo that Derrel likes by finding a model that resembles his niece and posing it in his favorite vacation setting and she'll be eating his favorite candy bar while wearing a sweater that matches one he gave his niece for Christmas").

Second, I would argue that there are thousands of rules when it comes to composition. The reason why photography is ART is that no rules are absolute, you can't follow all of them (in fact many of them contradict) so we are constantly choosing which rules to apply (and then how well we apply them) vs. which ones we ignore (intentionally or through ignorance). For instance, a basic rule of portraiture is "don't cut off the top of the head." But if I want a photo that exaggerates the size of the figure (I want him to look gigantic and imposing and threatening) then maybe I use a wide angle to get distortion, I add the appropriate grimace as my model (with a fake scar) leans to the camera, I crop off all other surroundings and I cut off the top of the head--and I have a claustrophobic portrait that makes you want to lean back to get more personal space. One of the Capa shots of Omaha beach http://pictify.saatchigallery.com/4...andy-france-by-robert-capa-from-magnum-photos violates most technical rules of good photography (fuzzy, not focused, horizon not level, over-exposed in most areas) but it's one of the most iconic photos of WW-2, it was used to create a feel for the Omaha Beach sequence of "Saving Private Ryan" and it leaves you with a feel of danger and desperation and frantic chaos. The right rules/guidelines when applied intelligently (either by design or accident) can create a photo that--if those rules really work for you, will have you going "wow--I really like this."

So my answer to the OP is this: if you discount the personal synchronicity (I like the photo b/c it's of a site in Yosemite where I spent an anniversary and shot the same picture at the same time of day), if you dig down deep you'd discover that the photo probably appeals to you (i.e.: "you LIKE it") b/c there is a combination of composition rules that the photo follows that work for you or that are appealing to you. That doesn't make it a great photo. But it could mean that you struggle to find natural "S" shapes in nature and then suddenly here's a photo of a lovely winding country road, shot with a 400mm zoom so the road is compressed, with high contrast so the road (gleaming with reflected sunlight) stands out like a silver ribbon around the black landscape.

Composition rules don't exist b/c some ancient group of artists decided this is how it must be and the rest of us just need to accept it. They describe how humans (most humans) react to particular visual and spatial arrangements and color combinations.

It's just that most of us don't know enough about rules of composition to say "well, I really like this photo b/c it show closely follows Cartier-Bresson's 'golden ratio' rule and even has a golden tint that works with a lovely contrasting palette." Nah, we usually just go "I really like it. It just caught my eye--can't say why."
 

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