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

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Overread, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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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".


     
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  2. KenC

    KenC Been spending a lot of time on here!

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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.
     
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  3. Vtec44

    Vtec44 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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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. :)
     
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  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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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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  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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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.
     
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  6. cherylynne1

    cherylynne1 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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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.
     
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  7. rexbobcat

    rexbobcat Been spending a lot of time on here!

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

    snowbear . Staff Member Supporting Member

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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.
     
  9. snowbear

    snowbear . Staff Member Supporting Member

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

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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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.
     
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  11. desertrattm2r12

    desertrattm2r12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Derrel is nuts. I like that. I am, too.
     
  12. dennybeall

    dennybeall No longer a newbie, moving up!

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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!!!!!!
     
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