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Up for Discussion – Critiquing

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about doing for a while.  I’ve also heard other people complaining about it, so I thought it is something that should be addressed and this forum seemed like the perfect place to do it. I am going to do it in two parts, asking for your images to be critiqued, then critiquing other peoples images when not invited to do so.

Asking to Have Your Images Critiqued

From time to time, well, maybe more often than that I get asked by various people if I will take a look at their photos, tell them what I think.  I always politely refuse, and try to find a good reason to not do it.  One of the main reasons is that I am very uncomfortable doing it.  I am not an expert on photos, and I don’t think I have the right to give my opinion just like that.

The other thing that people don’t seem to realise is the time it really takes to give a good critique.  It can take me an hour or two when I am doing it for other people, if I do it, I want to do it well.  I do offer critiquing as a service and it is often part of my online scschool-hpm5544-8courses, but it does take time.  You have to look at the images, and then seriously evaluate them, and sometimes write a report.

It is important to be careful about who you ask too.  I am kind, well I hope I am, but others may not be.  Your photography, anyone’s photography is something that is very personal, and people are attached to it.  The last thing you want is someone to critique your work that makes you want to give up photography altogether.  Positive sandwich, a term I heard recently and it is something I’ve always tried to follow.

There are lots of ways of getting your work critiqued without directly having someone do it.  Enter competitions, see how your work goes.  Find groups on Facebook and Google+ where you can put your images and see how many people like or +1 it.  There are lots of places like that.  Though you need to work out why you are taking photos too, if it is just for yourself, scschool-hpm5459-7then what does it matter what other people think?

Learn to be more critical yourself. I look at other peoples work and wonder what I like it about it, why I like it, and then how I can apply that to my own work.

Giving Critique When Not Ask to

This is one that I hear people complaining a lot about.  That they will put up photos and then someone else will go through their photos and tell them everything that is wrong with them.  This is unwanted criticism.

I have been the victim of it in the past, and sometimes it really upsets me, so I know why others get upset with it as well.  Often my first thought is, who the hell are you to be criticising my images, then I have to think of ways to get around it.  I don’t like upsetting people.  I tend to just respond with, but I like it like this, this is how I wanted it.

scschool-hpm4033-6It is hard to know what to say to people who do this and to get them to stop.  I have a couple of people that I love and trust, and if I really want an opinion on something I ask them. I know they will be honest with me and let me know.  It is good to have people in your life that are like that.  I had a friend from Uni and one of the things she used to say was, it’s good, but it’s not the best you’ve done.  I hated it at the time, but her opinion was valuable.

I also go by the old saying, “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all”.  I’ve had people saying things about my images and they have had nothing nice to say, and they are just being nasty, for whatever reason.

So what is my point, if you are critiquing peoples photos and telling them what you think they should do to them, then don’t.  Think about what your constant criticism of their work is doing to them, and I can tell you, the people aren’t sitting back and being happy about it, they may be too polite to tell you to just stop it. I can tell you they don’t like it.

scschool-hpm5434-5If you really want to help someone, ask first.  Ask them if they would mind you giving some advice.  One of the ways I’ve had people doing it to me is to suggest what they would do if the images was theirs.

I often see images and I think, oh I wish they had done this, or done that, but then I think, it isn’t my image, and I have to respect how the person has done it.  You can tell if someone is really happy with what they have done, if they are, then it is best to not say anything.

I think the best policy is don’t critique, unless invited to, and if you are invited and accept, then you still need to tread carefully, remember the positive sandwich, always put positives around negatives.  I had an art teacher once who was great, she would say what she liked about what you were doing, and then say what she thought you could work on to make the image better, or better next time.  I loved it and I have always tried to follow that way of doing it.

Wow, this has turned out far longer than I had expected.  I hope it all makes sense. Critiquing is a very personal thing, as are images, and whether critiquing or getting wanted critique there should always be a massive dose of respect.

The photos for today’s post were taken and processed a couple of years ago.  There were taken in an old school that has now been pulled down, apparently to make way for more houses.

 

168 Comments
  1. Yes, you’ve hit the thorny bits here. One of the hardest…and best…parts of my university art and design classes were the class critiques. You slap your work up on the wall and sit back while everyone was free to voice an opinion, though it was guided and moderated by the instructor. After the first few rocky attempts we all got very good at this. “I like it” or “yuck” were not helpful. “I like it because…” or “that line there detracts because…” were marvelous bits of help.

    I miss those terribly. But there were rules and you knew what to expect. I would LOVE critiquing on my fiction writing I’ve posted but people seem to be reticent, which I find odd considering this is the Internet, where trolls and flames live and breed and thrive!

    My personal view is that if I’ve posted something for public consumption then it is fair game for public comments. If someone is just being gratuitously snarky then I have the option to delete the comment. If someone is a frequent nay-sayer about everything, well, then their voice would stop having an impact on me after a while. Commenters need to parse their words well, too, as things lose tone in print. I’ve not had any of this on my current blog. A more topic-focused blog, where the community often acted like junior high students on bad days, was another story.

    November 21, 2014
    • We did the same thing when I was in art school, we all had to take turns to put up our work, but as you the comments were constructive and I think more so because we all knew that if one of us was horrible, there was a good chance others would be horrible back. You need to have people to look at things and give you opinions, but they have to be people you respect, I think.
      I think you are lucky if you haven’t had any of the trolls etc hit on you, they can be really nasty and they aren’t any help at all.
      I can take the comments, I know there are people who follow my blog that don’t like images like the ones in this post, I can handle that, it is the people who tell me what I should be doing with my work that I don’t like, that is what they would do, not me. I don’t mind suggestions, though not all the time. Deleting them is a good option, I started moderating comments for that reason, and I have black listed one person, sometimes you don’t need that crap.
      Thanks Laura for your thoughts on this.

      November 21, 2014
      • Quick PS: Oh, I’ve had trolls etc, just not on this blog I’m doing now. Not yet! Yet being the operative term. 🙂

        November 21, 2014
      • I’m glad they haven’t found you where you are now, I hope it stays that way. 😀

        November 21, 2014
      • I think the pics in the post are great.

        November 21, 2014
      • Thank you Sharon.

        November 21, 2014
      • I love the mood of these photos invoked by the tones and subject matter. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you process them to to get that effect. Of course, you began by capturing the images with well chosen angles and balanced design (something I’ve appreciated in all your photos that I’ve seen).
        I also love the fact that you are documenting history. Such an important role. I was fortunate to have been part of the (Secan) South Eastern Contemporary Arts Network’s documentation of the last ever Pakenham Cup. The exhibition is at the Cardinia Cultural Centre until January, if you are in the area.
        Cheers

        November 27, 2014
      • Thank you Jenni, I processed them in Photoshop, but to tell the truth, I did them over two years okay, so am not really sure what I did to them. I think they were all HDR’s orginally, though I never do them anymore. Well rarely.
        The school is gone now, so this is how it looked before it was bulldozed, so you are right, it is history, someone else recently told me I should be doing that sort of thing. I’ve never been to Pakenham, I might have to see if I can, you will have to remind me Jenni

        November 27, 2014
      • I think a lot of what you do is capturing history. As the green wedge moves further outward our country towns disappear in new developments.
        Keep doing what you are doing; it’s great!

        November 27, 2014
      • We have a lovely part of the green belt here and I know the community here will do everything they can to preserve what we have. Actually the grant I just got is to do a book on a environmentally sensitive area near me. Thanks Jenni, I really want to.

        November 28, 2014
      • Congratulations on the grant and best wishes withthe book.

        November 28, 2014
      • Thank you Jenni.

        November 28, 2014
  2. I love to look at your images Leanne.

    November 21, 2014
    • That’s wonderful Robert, thank you.

      November 21, 2014
  3. You’ve captured a feeling of mystery with these images.

    November 21, 2014
  4. Leanne, you’ve hit the nail on the head in this post. I see tons of pictures, especially in vehicles like Facebook, where people are saying how wonderful the picture is and I’m thinking maybe you should have left the lens cap on! Of course I keep that to myself. Part of the problem is that different people have different expectations of photos. I’ve done a couple of blog postings on just that.

    I also agree with you when it comes to getting GOOD criticism. I am always open to constructive criticism regardless of the source as everyone sees my images differently. To me the criticism must be taken based on the source. If my mother says that a picture is nice…well, she’s my mom.

    One other really great source for getting knowledge and good constructive criticism is local photo clubs. I am very fortunate to belong to such a club. It is sponsored by two extremely talented local pros who are very generous of their time, talent and knowledge. I’ve learned more about photography from them than anywhere else.

    November 21, 2014
    • I agree too John, I see some of those images and think the same, but keep the thoughts to myself. I think that is so true, what you expect from a photo can be so different. I’ve seen people with images that I don’t really like, but I can see how much the person whose image it is loves it and I’m not going to ruin that.
      I think good criticism is good, but as you said, it has to come from people you respect. My husband is my harshest critic, I don’t always take any notice of him, but when he says he likes something, it usually means I have something good.
      I was going to mention camera clubs, though you have to be careful, I was a member of one and it was really destructive, you need to find one that isn’t too focused on competitions, one that wants to help.
      Thanks John, great comment.

      November 21, 2014
      • I agree Leanne and John. A good camera club provides wonderful support and feedback. Our local club does have monthly completions with three different levels, but not everyone enters and that’s ok. We all benefit from the feedback that comes from the judge or from the judge’s notes if they aren’t at the meeting. Mind you, we don’t always agree with the judge and that, too is fine to speak about at supper – as long as it is done with respect. Judges have feelings, too, and they have taken time to consider our work and to give honest (though subjective) feedback.
        We also have an annual ‘venture’ where members form their own teams and work to produce images that meet the brief. These are always fun. Photographers learn from each other on their team, and the results are anonymously judged by everyone at the meeting afterwards (though no critique is given).
        We also have outings, talks, and classes for those who want to learn some basics or more advanced stuff. We interact with other clubs, helped out by taking photos of Narbethon after the Black Saturday bushfires, and each participating photographer gave them copies of the photos (as did photographers from other Victorian clubs who were also taken round the area by locals. We saw and felt much).
        Writing about this makes me realise how fortunate I am to have a good local club.

        November 27, 2014
      • I hope they have changed then Jenni, my experience was horrible, and I have never considered joining another one. I think you can give feedback that isn’t negative. I would suggest things to be improved on, but I don’t think there is any image that is that bad.
        It does sounds like you are with a good club, the one I was in was too competitive and a bit too clicky, and if you weren’t part of the click, then you lost out, guess where I was.
        So glad you found a good one Jenni, you are indeed very fortunate.

        November 27, 2014
  5. I like your photos alot and the images you capture!! They stir me inside and I am very inspired!!

    November 21, 2014
    • Thank you, wonderful that you are inspired by them.

      November 21, 2014
  6. I agree with your conclusion. I did have one blind suggestion on cropping on Cambridge in Color and given the person and his incredible background, I was prepared to listen and we got into a longer conversation. When you share your work on blogging sites like WordPress you invite comment and diplomatic suggestions are to be expected.

    November 21, 2014
    • I agree, and suggestions and comments can be good, but they don’t have to be critical, I do think there is a difference. Thanks Victor.

      November 21, 2014
  7. Wow great mood in your photos Leanne, they are so interesting. I see a draw open, was it left open by the last person working there or more than likely intruders looking for anything valuable left behind. I like them all but two of my favourites are the stairs with the sun shining in on the graffiti and looking through the window into the other area, nice perspective. I could also imagine what it was like as a school before it was desecrated. I also felt sadness too. Thanks for recording it before it was pulled down.

    I like your thoughts on critiquing. I don’t mind feedback which is constructive and helps me improve but wouldn’t like hurtful comments. If its from someone I look up to and I admire their work then anything they tell me will go on board. Sometimes you have to question someone critiquing if they are always judgemental as they may be feeling in adequate in their own work and it makes them feel better to judge others instead. I think it depends on their experience in photography and how good their work is, on how I take their comments. 🙂

    November 21, 2014
    • It has been open when I go there, I assumed by vandals, I don’t know really. I didn’t move anything for the photos, just walked around carefully and took photos. I love the staircase one, possibly my favourite. It was a nice school, shame what happened to it, and how it had to be removed for more housing. Just what we need.

      I am afraid, I don’t like it at all, haha, I don’t mind suggestions, and I can understand when people don’t like images, but I don’t like it when people start telling me what I should be doing with my images, I find that hard to take. You do have to question people who do it, unfortunately, best to nip it in the bud straight away. I think the same, Kaz. Thanks

      November 21, 2014
  8. I’m an author/illustrator and agree with your post to an extent. Don’t critique unless asked. Don’t ask unless you can handle both positive and negative comments.

    That said, critiques are a very valuable tool for anyone who wants to improve their craft whether it’s visual art such as photography, painting, and writing or performing art such as dancing, singing, or playing an instrument. Critiquing by peers is very beneficial. If we are never told how we can improve, we will never grow as an artist.

    Again as you stated, Leanne, don’t critique unless you are asked and you know something about the craft more than an observer. If you are wanting to improve our work, ask someone who is where you want to be or is at least traveling along the same path. And play nice…always include compliments, mention strengths, build the artisan up.

    Thanks, Leanne. Although this is the first I’ve commented, I enjoy your posts.

    November 21, 2014
    • That is true, I think people ask for your thoughts on, whatever, and really don’t want you to tell the truth, good point.
      I think they can be valuable, but it does depend who is giving the critique and what you think of them. I have to admit after spending three years getting a fine arts degree, and trying to please lecturers, now I just work, and I don’t really care what other people think, if that makes sense, I do it for me. Though people tend to like what I do, I think they do anyway, so that helps.
      I agree, you need to make sure you aren’t always being too negative, really should try not to be negative, but suggest ways to improve.
      Thanks Brenda, lovely to hear from you, I hope you will comment again.

      November 21, 2014
  9. Nelson #

    Unless someone ask for comments positive or negative then I will give some critique, if it is negativ but I always try to be a cosntructive comment.

    If she/he did not ask, the only comments I make are positive if I find something that brought me a “Wow”

    November 21, 2014
    • I think the way to do negative, is to make it a suggestion, like something they could try in the future, I know that works for me. That way it sounds like an idea for getting better rather than saying they messed up.
      I am the same, I tell people what I like, never what I don’t like, always better that way, unless asked, but rarely then too, I feel so uncomfortable doing it. Thanks Nelson.

      November 21, 2014
  10. I really like this images. Love the lighting and drama (your recipe). On criticism, I do not criticize others work unless asked and in private. Usually it does not mean I know more, just how different I look at things. Then we have the experts, the ones that know more about sensors, camera, noise…. You name it. I even heard that people criticized old masterpieces. Today we have too many ways to be critics!

    November 21, 2014
    • I like the idea of my recipe, I guess it is like that, that’s great. thank you.
      I think that is a great way to be Luis, and you are right, there are too many critics, but more importantly there are too many people out there that think they are experts too, I think they are the most dangerous, my husband says that people who think they are experts are using the worst, because they really know nothing but think they know everything.

      November 21, 2014
  11. Bruce Goodman #

    Interesting posting, thanks. I suppose the same goes for writing, and music, and so on. Some are keen to point out a “split infinitive on the third line” etc. It depends on the criteria. In the end, we could dismiss most great photographers, musicians, writers, dancers for “breaking the rules”. I love your photographs. Keep them coming, critiqued or not! And continue to push the boundaries beyond the edge.

    November 21, 2014
    • Thank you so much Bruce, I agree with you, there are always people who want to critic and I think most do it from a good place, but they don’t realise how harsh it comes across. Glad you enjoy seeing my photos, and I am sure you can count on me to keep going with it.

      November 21, 2014
  12. The lighting in these shots are great Leanne my fav is the stairs, I completely agree with your thoughts on critiquing constructive comments only when invited otherwise be quiet 🙂

    November 21, 2014
    • That is mine as well Christine. I agree, only when asked, thanks.

      November 21, 2014
  13. Can I ask where this is ?

    November 21, 2014
    • It was Banksia Secondary College in Heidelberg, or Bellfield, but it is now all gone.

      November 21, 2014
  14. As a newbie blogger inviting a bit of critique I found this one very interesting Leanne. I’m preparing for the worst :/

    November 21, 2014
    • I think there are much better ways of finding out about your images than just asking people randomly what they think, you might get some horrible responses. The other thing too, I don’t know if this is true, but people might be more willing to help if they think you aren’t any good, I don’t remember what your images are like, but if you start getting good, then people can turn nastier too because they don’t want you to be better than them. does that make sense. It might just be me seeing the worst in people. Good luck, nice to be a newbie, I hope you find blogging a rewarding experience, I certainly have. 😀

      November 21, 2014
  15. Indeed critiquing is a two-edged sword. Unfortunately, I must admit that I was one of the folks who victimized you when I misunderstood an invitation and made unwelcome comments. I used to be free with my opinion, but that mistake has taught me a lot.

    It can be extremely helpful to get someone else’s opinion. We tend to carry with us the experience of the photo occasion, the sounds, smells, warmth, and those feelings come back when looking at an image. But the image may carry and convey very little of that and others may get a vastly different impression. Learning how a photo impacts others can help us in our art. So critiques can be immensely helpful.

    My new-found critiquing “religion” is this:

    1) Never render uninvited critiques. They are unexpected, may be seem by way too many people, and thus hurt rather than help.

    2) Don’t offer critiques when invited in an inappropriate forum. I moderate the critique section in a Google+ community. Occasionally someone will submit a photo with a number of tags attached that assure that the photo is widely seen. Those photos do not get critiqued, it would be unfair in such a public venue.

    3) It takes time to do a critique, as you pointed out, Leanne. It is work. I try to think of the fellow photographer as a friend who asks for advise and do my best to be helpful. For example, saying that the shadows are too deep is not enough, explaining why I think that the detail in there would make the photo more successful, may help the photographer.

    4) I try to learn, and try to apply what is more easily seen in another’s photo to my own work. It is amazing what we can learn about ourselves by looking at the work of others.

    November 21, 2014
    • I don’t remember that Ludwig, I remember other people doing it, but not you, so it mustn’t have been too bad. I never ask for that sort of thing now, I learned too.
      I agree, that we can be too close to our images, though that then comes back to why do we do this. I think critiques can be helpful, but sometimes it depends on who they are coming from, for me it has to be someone I respect. Though these days, I just do what I want, if people like it, okay, if they don’t, that is okay too. I know my dark images, like the ones in this post, aren’t liked by a lot of people, they are too dark.
      I like your new found critiquing religion and think it all sounds really sensitive, and that is wonderful to hear.
      I think the last one, number 4 is one of the best things we can do, I agree with that one so much.
      I’m sorry if I gave you a hard time in the past, but glad if it helped you to come to this point, you have got some great opinions on critiquing, fantastic and thanks for sharing them Ludwig.

      November 21, 2014
  16. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

    You could tell people that any critique would be according to your standards, if that is really what they are looking for. My daughter does “crits” all the time in her job as a professor of art, but even she tells me that everyone has an opinion of what perfect is. What my father used to say for years is still true today, “Opinions are like butt holes – everybody’s got one.”

    When my daughter was still in high school, if I gave positive feedback (asked or not) she would love what I said. If I gave any negative feedback then she was sure I was wrong and she would be unhappy with it.

    We all have preferences, and as my daughter would say, there is no wrong answer, or art/photograph in this case. Perhaps people are looking for advice, which is something else entirely. Tact would be a key either way.

    November 21, 2014
    • I think your daughters situation is different and it would be expected of her to do that. I know when I am teaching, it is expected that I give some criticism as well, but I try and do it in a way that is about helping them to improve, without any negativity. I like what your father used to say and it is so true. You need to get opinions from people you respect.
      I get the same thing with my daughters, they like hearing that I like something they are wearing, but they don’t like hearing that I don’t like something.
      I agree, there is no right or wrong answer, and I think that can be the problem with critiquing, some people think their opinion is the right one, and it isn’t, I like suggestions, but I hate people telling me what I should do. Yes tact is definitely the key. Thanks Jackie, still laughing what your father said.

      November 21, 2014
  17. Great thoughts on critiquing, Leanne. Totally agree. I remember those photos, the local kids or whoever really trashed the place.

    November 21, 2014
    • Thank you John, and yes, the kids, they can be so destructive.

      November 21, 2014
  18. Agreed! Giving advice when it hasn’t been asked for is to assume they want it. And we all know what assumptions produce…a**es

    November 21, 2014
    • Great way of putting it Julia, it is a massive assumption, and yes we do know what they produce, LOL

      November 21, 2014
  19. Your photos – AH! How I adore your love affair with light in the darkness.

    November 21, 2014
    • I like that Julia, exactly what it is, thank you, I might have to write that in my book.

      November 21, 2014
      • Please do. You are a craftsman to be sure. I look fwd to your book! How exciting. I enjoy your voice very much.

        November 21, 2014
      • thanks again Julie, what a wonderful thing to say. 😀

        November 22, 2014
      • I wrote “craftsman” but I guess I was “corrected” lol

        November 22, 2014
      • LOL

        November 22, 2014
      • SH’T it happened again! Craftswoman!!

        November 22, 2014
      • LOL, you are cracking me up Julia.

        November 22, 2014
      • Haha haha haha! Now I’m the one cracking up. Literally. Going mad…lol lol lol

        November 22, 2014
      • You will make me go mad too, hahahahahaha

        November 22, 2014
      • *shaking fist at sky* Damn you auto correct!!!

        November 22, 2014
      • ya gotta love auto correct.

        November 22, 2014
      • Bloody rot! Have a great day. Leanne, always a pleasure xo

        November 22, 2014
      • You too Julia, thanks for the laugh.

        November 22, 2014
  20. I was going to say something about these pictures……..(it was something nice of course)

    November 21, 2014
  21. Good thoughts here – I just spoke to a group of high school students about my images and their photographic aspirations – I told them the things i say to people who ask me to critique their work: If this is what you wanted to do and you can explain that to me, then this is YOUR vision…not right, not wrong, just your perspective on reality…I will then say, if it were me, I’d do this…or that…
    I feel that a lot of unasked for criticism comes from a place of jealousy or inferiority – sort of one-upmanship…Most of the time I’m my own harshest critic.
    Thanks Leanne!

    November 21, 2014
    • I couldn’t agree more Robert, that is something we all have to remember, it is our vision, our perspective. I like the way you do it. I agree with that last part too, there is something about people who are harsh. I know I am my own harshest critic, my friends get annoyed with me when I talk that I don’t think my work is very good. Thanks Robert.

      November 21, 2014
  22. lensaddiction #

    Its an interesting subject and obviously a sensitive subject with potential for much controversy. Art is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

    Sometimes I comment because I don’t understand what an artist is trying to achieve with their image particularly if it is a very artistic process, and I hope that they will give me some clarity and understanding behind what they were thinking. I might not like the end result but if I am better able to understand the reasoning behind it, I can come to terms with that. Its artist choice after all 🙂

    I have been making a lot of comments on the recent One Four challenge, because so many people commented on my images, it was only polite to return the favour. However some images or variations were not to my taste but I tried to say something positive about each image in every comment.

    Where I felt an image demanded comment I asked a question instead “have you considered cropping this a bit” or something similar and leaving it up to them to decide what to do with that. Quite a few people came back and explained that they did X for a reason, and thats OK. They thought about it and made a concious choice, its different to one I would have made but they are not me 🙂

    Usually I don’t critique much but one of the points of the One Four challenge was it was a learning experience, and I am learning as much as anyone, but sometimes an extra set of eyes might point out something you missed because you are so immersed in the image you don’t always see it objectively.

    I would never intend to be deliberately harsh or offensive or hurtful, there is no benefit of that for anyone, and I know I’m not an expert!

    November 21, 2014
    • I think asking a question about a piece of work is different to criticising it, and I think that is good. I think asking people how something is done can be complimentary, well it can seem that way. 🙂
      I haven’t been doing much of that, I’m afraid, I should I suppose, I think what you are doing is the right thing and I do the same thing.
      Good attitude Stacey. I’ve never found you to be critical, I have to say, I know we have differences of opinions about processing, but I’ve never felt that you ever critiqued images in any way.
      I hate the idea of hurting people, and in the end it is their image, and if they love it, then who am I to take that away. There is always something good in an image.
      Thanks Stacey, you’ve made some great points.

      November 21, 2014
  23. mikew66 #

    This is something I have just recently experienced having participated in the Challenge Dead PXL’s (DEDPXL07) (The world has changed) challenge. http://dedpxl.com/blog/ run by Photographer Zack Arias.

    Having or asking to have your Photography critiqued is a double edge sword and you have to be prepared; there are some pretty harsh critics out there. A bad critique can be pretty demoralizing and have you questioning your own ability or creativity. I would say keep in mind that a critique is an opinion; it does not mean that it is right or wrong. A good critique will have a balance of positive and negative and give clear direction on improvement. Whatever happens don’t let a good or bad critique define your work, keep going, keep learning and most of all enjoy the journey.

    Oh and by the way my Photograph was passed over with the simple words (Nope No) it’s at 122:07 on the U Tube video if anyone is interested. “It’s a harsh world.”
    Mike W

    November 21, 2014
    • I agree Mike, When I am critiquing someone’s work, that is exactly what I say, that it is just my opinion and they can disagree with it if they like, I’m not an expert. I also think that some people who says things to be nasty are just nasty people and their opinions shouldn’t count, it needs to be constructive, otherwise they are just pompous a***s, that’s what I think.
      I think that is why I don’t like criticism, I want my work to be mine, as in something I enjoy and explore. I had a lecturer at uni that said I tried to get their approval too much, so now, I am away from that, I just want to do my own thing, and that is mainly what I do.
      thanks Mike, sorry that the comp was a horrible experience, I hate that too, they can be nice. I tried to find the video you were talking about, but couldn’t find it, sorry, perhaps just as well.

      November 21, 2014
  24. I love these images, Leanne. The dark mood is perfect for the subject. Your essay on critiques is most instructive and I particularly like your suggestion that permission to critique be requested before offering suggestions or comments other than positive remarks. But even when we get harsh comments solace can be taken in the notion that it is only an opinion and perhaps an opinion not widely shared. My favorite story along this line was related to me by a photographer friend who submitted an image to a camera club competition and received a harsh three-word dismissal from the judge. A few months later he submitted the same image to probably the best known photographic event in the region (Fotoweek DC in the Washington, DC metropolitan region) and he received not only a major award, his image was among the few selected for a year-long display in the one of the region’s heavily traveled transit stations.

    November 21, 2014
    • Thanks Robin. The problem is that many of us will get that harsh criticism and that’s it. I’ve had harsh criticism and it can me a while to get over it, my husband says I’m too sensitive, and I think that is the problem with people who give harsh criticism, they think they are just being honest, but they are being really rude and horrible. You don’t know how much it can upset a person when something horrible is said, especially when it seems random.
      I can tell you another story about a camera club. I entered a competition in the one I used to be a member of, it won the competition and all I could hear were people behind me saying it didn’t deserve to win, that the judge got it wrong, then I entered it again in another one, and it didn’t do so well, and there they were saying how they had been right, it wasn’t a good image. I don’t know if they realised I could hear them, but that pretty much made me leave the club and I haven’t been back. Camera clubs, or the people in them can be so horrible. I don’t enter competitions for the same reason now, who are they to tell me whether my image is any good? If I like it, then I like it and I don’t need to put myself through that. Yep, Dave is right, I am too sensitive, comes from a life full of getting criticism, you never really get used to it.

      November 21, 2014
  25. I agree with you Leanne, that if you can’t say anything positive then keep your opinions to yourself, unless you’re asked to provide critique. I think that in photography, as in any form of art, the individual vision is important and necessary. That’s what provides the diversity in arts, the actual value of it. Great post with great images! Ps. I always like to look at your images, I try to learn …

    November 21, 2014
    • Great way to be Tiny, to be like that. That is so true, there needs to be that diversity and you never quite know what someone was trying when they did an image. Thank you, I hope you pick up some tips with my images.

      November 21, 2014
  26. What you say here is very much my own approach. I do a lot of critique – and for me there is a big difference between when I am asked to critique pictures or when I just do it for instance when visiting any of the blogs I more or less follow. In the latter case I always and only say something positive, albeit something I honestly mean, not trying to only be nice. When someone asks for my critique, though, be it in one of my workshops where critique is part of it or in some other setting, I will always try to find something positive to highlight, but then again being honest, suggest ways that I see may strengthen the photo and also pointing to what doesn’t work. But it’s a delicate balance, isn’t it.

    November 21, 2014
    • It is a delicate balance, and you have to be so careful, nothing is gained by being nasty. I like your approach to both situations and that is the way I approach it as well. Thanks for your thoughts Otto.

      November 21, 2014
  27. I like people I know and trust providing feedback. I don’t see any point in critiquing if it isn’t done in a positive framework….great article and really enjoyed images ….the light quality is just brilliant!

    November 21, 2014
    • I have people that I like to get critiques from as well Trees. Thank you, glad you liked it, and I like your approach as well.

      November 21, 2014
  28. Reblogged this on Wild Children.

    November 21, 2014
  29. I like the darkness of your images, Leanne, very much in keeping with what happened to that building.

    I enjoyed reading your post on critiquing and the discussions from it. It made me think and reminded me to be sensitive…

    I agree that we need to tread carefully with commenting on other people’s work. In my view the rule with comments on general blog posts should be “be nice” or “say nothing”. You don’t have to like every post, you don’t have to comment on every post. The sandwich technique for feedback is spot on: a positive + a suggestion for improvement + a positive again. Packaging the feedback is another ‘nice’ way to soften the blow of a negative comment. “Forgive me for saying…”, or “this is just my own view”… I also think that there is a time and place to provide feedback and do so in a specific, usable, but not cutting way… The One Four Challenge for instance is a good venue because we are participating to learn and are seeking feedback… It gives some licence to others to give their thoughts on your work; but again, you need to be gentle and couch your words in a way that invites discussion rather than make a statement that can easily come across as harsher than you intended. The written word carries more power than the spoken word… people read and reread what you’ve sent! We are sensitive souls and should give people feedback in the way we’d like to receive it : considered, constructive, gentle!

    November 21, 2014
    • I like the idea of it being in keeping with the building.

      Being sensitive is so important, I hate upsetting people, so I try very hard to be sensitive and make sure that I am positive.
      I go on the premise that I don’t like people doing it to me, so I don’t do it to anyone, so I tend to keep my opinion to myself, though I will give positive feedback. I do critique work, but I am usually paid for that, as in teaching or someone paying me to do it. I agree you do need to be gentle, there is never any excuse for nastiness, and just being rude. Some people get such delight being like that, and I think that is horrible.
      I couldn’t agree more about your last sentence, so very true. Thanks for your thoughts on this and telling us what you do Chris.

      November 21, 2014
  30. This is a valuable discussion Leanne and as always wonderful images 🙂
    Like you, I too learned to critique in the classroom.. We were never to say we didn’t like something and our critique had to closely relate to the piece we were viewing and the words we used had to be thoughtful and considered and again relative to the piece.

    Critiquing also involves finding what is good about something and not only the negatives.
    I really like the positive sandwich.

    I wonder if we can really critique a work properly without knowing the artist and the story behind the piece and their intentions?

    Like you, I ask the people I trust and who know me and my work to give me their opinions.
    I believe there is much more growth through encouragement than there ever is through criticism (my thoughts).

    I agree about being kind and gentle.
    This is a really important discussion.

    November 21, 2014
    • I agree Robyn, going to art school is very good at teaching you how to critique, and it about how someone can improve what they are doing, what you don’t like.

      I learned about the positive sandwich on my kitchen rules, lol, but it is a great thing to remember. I think the key to critiquing is that you want to help people to improve, so you point out things they may not have noticed and how they can stop it from happening.

      Your thoughts are great Robyn, and I totally agree with what yo have said, all of it.
      Glad you found it an important discussion, I think it is as well.

      November 21, 2014
  31. Reblogged this on SKINNY X CHEF.

    November 21, 2014
  32. I think you are right on point here! Personally I love when photos I’m proud of gets “likes” and I love it when you’ve liked my posts (feels like a tap on the shoulder!). I had a post where I asked for comments and someone said contrasts need work, but when I asked for him to explain how I got no response, so I was left wondering what was wrong with the contrast! I’m in a Facebook group called “zambian photographers” which I have found to be a good place when you want to ask for people for advice. “Positive sandwich” -love it! http://www.lifeinzphotography.wordpress.com

    November 21, 2014
    • Make you wonder if the person who said even knows what contrast is, maybe just thought it sounded good, but when challenged had no idea. It is good if you have found some where to get some good feedback. Thanks Elina, I think we are all the same, especially when we love them.

      November 21, 2014
  33. You captured the last breathes of an ending era – great!

    November 21, 2014
    • Great way of putting it, thank you.

      November 21, 2014
  34. Leanne, I really like your photos a lot. Very professional indeed. I don’t critique others’ photos at all. I am very appreciative of the poet E. E. Cummings’ art. In life, he would get rather furious when others would critique his art negatively. He insisted that art is a blessing when it is created… and that anyone putting down someone’s blessing is rather like a miserable, dark cloud on a sunny day. If you have time, check out some of his art at eecummingsart.com

    November 21, 2014
    • I like that a lot, what a fantastic way of putting it. thanks for sharing it with us, I took a look at his art, some great stuff there.
      Thanks Thomas.

      November 21, 2014
  35. I agree with you Leanne, if you can’t say something nice, say nothing.

    November 21, 2014
    • Thanks Carol, it is a good thing to live by.

      November 21, 2014
  36. Your work is great 🙂

    I think the problem with showing people your work (for me it’s my writing) is that they assume that by showing them there is an implied request for critique. Or a lot of people think that if they just say oh that’s nice, you won’t think they’re genuine.

    It’s more of an attempt for them to sound smart, than it is a true reflection of your work.

    Keep it up!

    http://www.danikamaia.com

    November 21, 2014
    • Thank you Danika.

      I think you are right about that, and so many people don’t understand that if they are going to critique, then it should be positive, how it would be better. I don’t mind the it’s nice, as long as sometimes it is fantastic.
      I agree, there is something wrong with people that try to bring you down, their problem not yours, which is all very good, but we are sensitive beings and it is hard not to take it to heart.
      Thanks Danika, will do my best too.

      November 22, 2014
  37. I like public art but find tagging a wast of good paint.

    November 21, 2014
    • Oh so do I Mitch, it is so destructive and ugly.

      November 22, 2014
  38. I’m glad you posted this. The subject matter is very true. I think it comes down to choosing your mentorship on who you’ll let critique and then simply enjoying the rest. The images on this post are awesome by the way! That’s my critique. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    November 21, 2014
    • I like you critique here Sam 😉 thanks.
      I think so too, you have to pick some people that you think will be valuable and will have your best interests at heart. You want someone who will actually help you. so many of the critiques out there are not like that, someone who is nasty and says bad things is just being rude. You’re welcome Sam. 😀

      November 22, 2014
  39. Dear Leanne Cole, you are so nice and beautiful points you share with us. I almost agree with you. I am not a professional photographer, so I don’t critique any one. But as you mentioned, we all leave a note what we like, love or enjoy… And sometimes, I can see a photograph that is not very well, I mean not in good quality but I like it. But on the other hand, sometimes I can see a photograph in good quality but I don’t like it. I know, I am almost going in different part now… So, if we talk about to critique a photograph, is it only about techniqual part or everything about a photograph…? Anyway, as always your words being a guide to me as your photography. Thank you so much, have a nice day and weekend, love, nia

    November 21, 2014
    • I think when you look at a photography you should look at everything, the whole images, the composition, the exposure, the processing, does it all work together, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, but I guess the thing we all need to remember is that the person who posted it probably does love it, unless stated otherwise and to be rude about that is never to be done. You have a great day too Nia. thank you.

      November 22, 2014
  40. Critiquing is something I look to as a touchy subject. I find critiques as subjective because everyone has different tastes so no one will critique the same. I also find that critiques tend to hold more or less value based on who gave it, which I don’t think is right because a well known portrait or street photographer may not critique a landscape photo the same way as a well known landscape photographer. I’ve never actually critiqued a photo, that wasn’t my own at least, and don’t know if I ever will. I don’t consider myself an expert and never will. By doing so I label myself as someone who knows everything there is about a particular subject. On the other side of the coin though are opinions and tips which I will do on occasion from time to time if someone writes in their post that they were trying to achieve something but just couldn’t figure it out. In those cases I’ll post how they may have been able to do such a thing, but never imply that their photo is bad.

    There are two bloggers that I will voice my opinion on some of their photos sometimes and I do it to help them because they have told me many times before that they value my opinion. And like you stated, I will point out things to help them improve and move in the direction they want rather than talk them down. The way that I approach it is that I will say the things I like about the photo and then add in a few things that I would do to help make it portray what they are looking for. But I always include that what I say are only just my opinion and should not affect how they feel personally about the photo. I think if opinions are taken too personally it can have an adverse effect so wording on an opinion is also very important so the person doesn’t take it the wrong way.

    I also feel that if you have a specific vision and you have achieved that vision then you did nothing wrong regardless of how others feel about it. I never ask for critiques or opinions anymore because of that and when others tell me what I should have done I just tell them my reasons for why I did something a particular way because I’m going for a particular look. I have my own visions and they have theirs. I like to keep it like that because that’s what makes us unique. If we all had the same visions then photos would have become boring long ago because everyone would be doing the same thing.

    But, I do think that critiquing can be good if done correctly as it helps someone understand how to create what they want by having more experienced people help them out and understand what changes they need to make to get there. I think you did a good job with this post as it is something that people think about from time to time but don’t really give much thought about how it really affects others.

    November 21, 2014
    • I think that is something that many of us have, our visions for our work, and that people who criticise it don’t get. It is also very subjective and it is important to remember. whenever I get something horrible from someone, not that is happens very much anymore, I tend to get upset at first, then I get angry and then I dismiss what they say. I don’t have to listen, which has been a big learning curve for me.
      I think critiquing needs to be done by someone you trust and someone you know only has your best interests at heart. When I critique images, I am being paid to do it, and my objective is to help them become much better photographers, so that is always my goal, there are no bad photos, only ones that can be done better.
      Thanks Justin for sharing your thoughts on this.

      November 22, 2014
  41. It’s a very touchy subject. If we don’t get feedback from those who have more knowledge and experience, it takes much longer to learn, progress and improve. Yet if the feedback is not given constructively and/or not received with an open mind (and a thick skin!) it can do more harm than good.
    And then of course there is the fact that though everyone’s opinion can be valid, you have to qualify those opinions based on whether you are getting feedback soley on the tastes of others, or whether there is technical knowledge and understanding behind the opinion being given.
    You are correct though, unless specifically asked I keep my less positive opinions to myself. But I will happily point out and compliment when I see things that are done well.
    At worst when I see a terribly tilted horizon line, under or over exposure, or a blurry image, I simply don’t press the “Like” button.

    November 22, 2014
    • I think that is the problem with how it is given by some people, it can be so harmful, and that should never be allowed.
      I think there are places you can go where you can get that feedback, but it should always be because you asked for it, never unsolicited. When you are learning you do need to get feedback and it is good to find someone who will be like a mentor, someone who will actually help you. I mentor a couple of people. It is always my goal to help them achieve what they want in photography.
      I think that is a good way to be Norm, I am the same, I think it, but never say it. I think it sounds like you are a good person to have following you.
      thanks for that Norm, good to hear that other people do similar.

      November 22, 2014
  42. I read Otto’s response after reading this post and want to say that when he critiqued a photo for me I learned something I didn’t really understand before. He was very positive while pointing out flaws.

    I think that posting unsolicited critiques is just plain wrong. We are all touchy about our photos, I’m afraid, because we are passionate about photography.

    November 22, 2014
    • That is great to hear Robert, and it is nice to know that people can be really good at doing that.
      I think the same it is wrong. I agree, we are passionate about our work and it is close to us, it is like someone criticising your children to your face, it just isn’t on. thanks Robert for sharing that.

      November 22, 2014
  43. Wow. I love your article, and I love the images even more. They tell such a story; it makes me want to walk those halls and ponder who the students and teachers were and what has become of them. Love your work.

    November 22, 2014
    • Thank you so much, I had almost forgotten about these images, it is nice to look back, when I look at the images I can hear the bell ringing, the sound of students in the hallway and the buzz of activity.

      November 22, 2014
  44. The images are just gorgeous! I love the lighting and composition. And thank you for posting this about critiquing. While I love to improve and value the input of good photographers like you hehe, I really don’t like the unsolicited criticisms at all. Well I don’t mind a small thing here and there, but I don’t like someone to rip apart my images when I didn’t ask for it. I hope people read this and are more cognizant of how they sound. Thanks Leanne.

    November 22, 2014
    • Thank you Laura, glad you enjoyed the images, it was nice to bring them out again. I think we all love improve, but you do have to pick people that you can trust and people who give unsolicited critique could be coming from anywhere, and you never know what their motives are. Ripping apart your images should never be done. When I have critiqued I have always tried to find the good things about an image, and then talk about things to watch out for and avoid. Unfortunately I think the people who are nasty, won’t care and will just keep doing it.

      November 22, 2014
      • Yeah, it’s a shame but I’m glad you did this. Hopefully people will read and become aware of how they sound. You’re welcome 🙂

        November 22, 2014
      • I am glad I did it too, especially from the response. Let’s hope. Thanks Laura 😀

        November 22, 2014
      • You’re welcome. 🙂

        November 22, 2014
      • 🙂

        November 22, 2014
  45. I have always thought it better to use “I” statements instead of “you” because it doesn’t sound so accusatory. For instance, if I saw something I may say “I see what you were going for here, but I may have tried it more like this…” I do agree that when you put something out there, you have to be ready for whatever kind of comments you’re going to get–good or bad or really, really bad. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re sharing. If it’s to impress others, than prepare yourself. If it’s for yourself, than who gives a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks?

    November 22, 2014
    • Then again, is it up to us, the viewers to make assumptions why the people are putting the work out there. I blog because it helps me be productive, it makes me get out and take photos. It has been fantastic for that, but I don’t know that I state that anywhere. so if people start criticising my images, then I do get upset, especially when I haven’t asked for it. I do take critique, but I choose who I get it from, not necessarily from people I think will be nice, but from people I know who will be honest and aren’t out to take me down, which is what happens a lot on blogs, I’ve had that happen to me on more than one occasion. To me criticising my work is like criticising my children, they are both very dear to me, and it can be very hurtful.
      Thanks for sharing.

      November 22, 2014
  46. Excellent post as always, Leanne.

    I depend on external constructive criticism considerably.

    Many moons ago when my art career was just starting, and I was submitting original drawings to the art rentals and sales program of a major gallery while considering making prints of others, I was told to seriously have my work well critiqued by a wide range of people before attempting to print. From a commercial perspective, and I am a commercial artist, I need to have a realistic idea if whatever illustration or photograph I’ll invest expensive printing on will sell or not. I may make a piece that is well liked but it may not be marketable. It’s about that all important ROI.

    You’re absolutely right that it takes time to critique other’s work reasonably well, and even to receive constructive criticism.

    Constructive is an operative word here. You can usually tell the people who are eager to provide their opinions just to be nasty from those who are being constructive. At best, the comments of the wretched are blunt. At worse they’re digs, and you can see the issuers studying your face, body language and overall demeanor for the slightest sign of discomfort, doubt, sadness or anger. Ultimately, that’s what they want. To derive pleasure from seeing you suffer emotionally; they’re psychos.

    “. . . but I like it like this, this is how I wanted it.” That’s what I also say to unsolicited advice, and it’s THE best response that you can give under such circumstances.

    I find getting others to constructively criticize my work easier said than done because others are afraid that I’ll be offended by anything that they’ll say, and I’m usually not.

    I recently made two blog posts in which I was quite direct in inviting genuinely constructive criticism but most respondents gave very limited and indecisive feedback. They just hit the “Like” button:

    http://themofman.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/weekly-post-challenge-minimalist/

    http://themofman.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/calling-all-street-photography-critics/

    I won’t be offended if you edit out the links.

    Oh well. Whadaya gunna do?

    I did it that way because I am also reluctant to critique other’s work, and I’m largely inclined to do so when an artists gives me a serious, unmistakable green light to do so.

    As for your photography, I genuinely love it. In fact, I remember a post you did quite a while back in which clients of your for wedding photography were critical of some of your work and were afraid that you would make their wedding portrait too dark. I was actually critical of their opinion. I don’t feel that you’re work is too dark, and I am confident that you would give them exactly what they were looking for.

    November 22, 2014
    • I like the idea that those blunt horrible people are psychos, so true, they do derive so much pleasure from trying to bring you down. You see it on those television talent shows all the time, it is just rude and horrible.
      I saw similar Allan when someone says something to me, I let them know that I considered what they said when I was doing the image, but in the end decided against it.
      It is nice that people don’t like to be nasty, but they don’t have to be to critique work, they just need to be constructive. I do critique images, but because of the time it takes, I like to get paid, and generally do it within a course structure.
      Thank you Allan, that was a while ago, the wedding.
      You have made some fantastic points here, and I agree with you on them. I had so much critiquing at art school that now I just want to do stuff for myself, I don’t really want people to do it anymore, and if people continue to like it, then that is all I need.

      November 22, 2014
  47. Totally agree with you; it irritates me to death when someone feels like they just HAVE to tell me what’s wrong with my photos. Um, did I ask you?! It’s pretentious as well as obnoxious. If someone is happy with a photo they took, who am I to shoot them down? If I can’t say something nice, I say nothing. 🙂

    November 22, 2014
    • Oh yes, when just have to, and it is often not constructive, it is usually often about how they would have done it, with no concern about what you wanted. Great points Marey, thank you so much for contributing to the discussion. 😀

      November 22, 2014
  48. Sonel #

    Well said Leanne and I can’t think for one moment that anyone would say anything nasty about your stunning shots. If they do, it’s plain jealousy for sure. People that do know me, know I do not appreciate unwanted critique as I don’t see myself as a photographer at all. I just take photos for the fun of it and like to share it with those interested. That is why I don’t join forums or places where do their critique. One person invited me to a forum like that once and I found out afterwards that it was all planned. I was just wanted there to be made a fool of. Learned my lesson and now I don’t believe or trust anyone. But, if I was half as good as you are, things would have been different for sure. 😀 ♥

    November 22, 2014
    • It has been known to happen Sonel, I’ve even had people download my photos and reprocess them and send them back to me saying that they think what they did is better than what I did, there are some strange people out there. I think that what you have said is something we all have to remember, people take photos for different reasons, and you never know why, a lot of the time, so you shouldn’t assume anything. I feel the same way sonel, there are far too many people who want to bring us down, so I say, no, I don’t just anyone telling me what I should do to my images. I do them for me. Thank you Sonel, lovely thought, but I get it too, not as much as I used to, thankfully. 😀

      November 22, 2014
      • Sonel #

        Well, boo hoo for those people hon. They had no right to do that and you’re right, there are some strange folks out there. hahaha.

        Yes, we do indeed hon and one of my most pet peeves is the fact that some think that photography is a competition. I say if you want to take part in competition to win something, do it … but don’t bring others down because their shots might seem better than yours.

        You’re right and that is the way it should be Leanne. It’s your images and you have every right to do with them what you want to. You’re such a creative soul. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

        Thanks for the lovely chat and have a lovely weekend hon. 😀 ♥

        November 22, 2014
      • There certainly are Sonel.
        I couldn’t agree more, or if you want to critique images then go where it is acceptable.
        Thank you for that Sonal, such a lovely thing to say. I don’t listen to people who are trying to bring me down anymore, I delete their comments.
        You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed it.

        November 22, 2014
      • Sonel #

        I totally agree Leanne and you’re very welcome. 😀

        Yes, that is just the thing to do hon. Why should we care about the opinions we don’t want to hear. 😀

        ♥ Hugs ♥ and have a great weekend. ❤

        November 22, 2014
      • Exactly, we shouldn’t listen to them, though not always easy.
        You have a good one too Sonel, it is warm here, summer is most definitely coming and quickly.

        November 22, 2014
      • Sonel #

        Yeah, don’t I know that. 😀

        Thanks hon and the same here. We’re still waiting for more rain as well. ♥

        November 22, 2014
      • 😀

        November 22, 2014
  49. Great topic and a very fine line indeed! As I post photos on FB photo pages – I often ask for critique….most times it is generic and people are overly kind. I received a private message with a photographer friend who asked if I really wanted their opinion – which I did (I respect the work of this person) – well I was a bit over whelmed and thought – who are you?….I digested everything and over time as we went back and forth with other shots of mine – this person really had some valued visions. My point – it was done privately and respectfully – from both of us. I have also had similar experiences here with WordPress – private messages – respectfully.

    November 22, 2014
    • I think that is the bit that people forget it can be overwhelming and crushing, especially if it is harsh. I think that people who do it right make you realise that they are just trying to help and offer ways to make you see better and improve. That is great that the person had some valued visions. Yes it should be done privately I agree. Thanks for your contribution Debby.

      November 22, 2014
  50. Great post, Leanne! The same is true for writing.

    November 22, 2014
    • I thought so Nia, glad you enjoyed the post. thank you.

      November 22, 2014
  51. I’ve studied poet Paul Zarzykski; his rule in workshops is that he and the students begin each critique by saying, “If this were MY poem…” I like his approach – it makes it harder to give comments that are overly harsh because it makes it more personal. At the same time it acknowledges that there are many ways to write a poem, all of which may be valid.

    While this probably works better in person, I think the same approach could apply to critiquing photographs in a blog or other on-line forum.

    I liked what an earlier commenter said about asking questions. That gives the photographer a way to explain his/her intentions or reasons, which is good practice for all of us. If we work alone most of the time, it gives us an outlet to talk about our vision. And, if we pay attention to our answers, it can help us notice and correct weaknesses in our work – if you get the same kinds of questions often, there’s probably some inherent weakness, either technically or artistically.

    November 22, 2014
    • That is a great approach, I suppose like if this was my image what would I do differently. Great way of doing them.
      I think it could still be done on a blog, if you are asked to critique images, I think that is part of the problem though, people are doing them without being asked.
      Questions can be a good way of finding out what the intention was, I agree, though, what someone thinks is an inherent weakness in your image could just be the opinion of that person, I’m a strong believer that you should do work to satisfy yourself first, if you start doing what other people think you work should be, you won’t like what you are doing as much. Of course it is always different if someone is paying you to do the work, but when it is your own personal work, you biggest critic should be you.
      Thanks Melinda, you’ve made some great points.

      November 22, 2014
      • I don’t have any problem AT ALL being my own biggest critic! A cloud of self-doubt seems to be just over my shoulder!

        I guess I’m lucky in that I’ve not gotten much unsolicited “advice” on my images; it’s one thing to get comments from my followers who are around often and with whom I’ve got an established relationship, but it seems uncalled-for to just show up to make a bunch of (possibly unwarranted) suggestions.

        November 24, 2014
      • I am the same Melinda, I have friends telling me off all the time because I don’t think my photos are very good.
        Oh yes, I’ve had a couple of people who have said some horrible things to me, and when you say something to them, they deny it. I have only ever had to blacklist one person, thankfully. though I did have a guy once that liked one of my images, and said he wanted to write something to go with it, and I said go ahead, and then he wanted the full res image, and I said no, I don’t give those away, and then he just got nasty and started criticising everything I did, that wasn’t good.

        November 24, 2014
      • That guy sounds like you’re good to be rid of him.

        I was recently contacted by someone in Russia who wanted to produce a gallery show of my work, and *all* I had to do was email them the images. They’d do the rest! I didn’t have to print, or ship internationally, or anything!! I sort of never got around to taking them up on that amazing offer…

        November 24, 2014
      • Oh yes, it wasn’t good.
        Haha, I can’t imagine why you didn’t take up that offer, sounds too good to be true, LOL.

        November 24, 2014
  52. I can only agree with you Leanne. The same can be said for writing. Sometimes I think these critics enjoy the fact that they are anonymous and yet are able to hurt people’s feelings.

    November 22, 2014
    • Oh yes, the anonymity of the internet gives many people the bravado to say things that they wouldn’t say to people directly. shocking really. Thanks.

      November 22, 2014
  53. I totally agree with you. I have a twin sister who is very competitive with me. I have loved photography since I was a child. She only just got into it a couple of years ago and all of a sudden she was an expert. I take photos because I enjoy it. I also do a lot of editing because I enjoy it. She is a purist and the photo has to be perfect with no further editing. It really hurt me for her to tell me that I have only taken one photo that she considers a good photo. But should I do the same thing with her photos she gets all upset about it. I like to leave positive comments and highlight the good points on other blogs because people can be so mean about it. I just enjoy looking at other works without thinking about the processing or whatever. It is not about competition, who has the best photo. It is about sharing our love of photography. I have had exhibitions in Austria and Italy as well as won a couple of awards, and I had a photo featured on our weather progamme on TV. But that is not what drives me to take my photos. I just enjoy taking photos of what is around me. Takes for this though provoking post. 😀

    November 23, 2014
    • I don’t understand competitive people who want to bring those down that they are competing with, it doesn’t make sense to me, that is just dirty play. I’m sorry to hear your sister is like that, that must make it hard. It is also hard when someone new to something things they are instantly an expert and can advise everyone on what they are doing wrong. It usually comes from a sense of frustration, so many people think photography is so easy and that the camera does all the work. I’ve seen your work and I can tell you right now, your sister doesn’t know what she is talking about. It would seem obvious she is jealous of your talent, I would dismiss what she says. I am with you, leave only positive comments and I never make suggestions unless I am asked too. I think the final image is the most important thing, and it doesn’t matter how you got to it, in the end that is what you are always judged on. I often find people who say they are purists is because, one, they don’t understand photography, not really, no photographer has ever taken photos and not edited them some, it seems to be a new phenomenon with digital photography, even when you took rolls of film to the lab decisions were made about how they were printed. Two, they don’t understand editing software, don’t want to learn it, so become very high and mighty about others using it. I saw keep doing what you are doing Raewyn, you are doing a great job. I hope you know how to ignore your sister, sounds like you need to do something, hopefully she will move onto something else soon. take care. 😀

      November 23, 2014
  54. Any art, and photography is an art, has to touch. It does that instantly — to some and not to others. This it can do regardless of technique. You can touch by beauty, sadness, happiness and any other emotion. Touching by sadness, however, will not produce as much appreciation as the touch by beauty. Touching by disgust, still touches, but only seldom yields appreciation. Regarless, a technically perfect picture is not always able to touch.

    If I’d want to make professional pictures, then there are standards to adhere to depending on the use. If I would want to be evaluated, only working professionals could evaluate, and they should know in advance for what purpose I made the pictures. Then the evaluation can be framed with such in mind.

    November 23, 2014
    • That is a good point Bert, we have all seen technically perfect images which are boring. There has to be more in them than that.
      Good point, you should have peers critiquing your work, and not just anyone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, you have some good ones.

      November 24, 2014
  55. Urban dereliction looking strangely beautiful. The stair well, the open drawers… the ghosts of the people who spent their days in this building are still there. I LOVE this gallery. Xx

    November 23, 2014
    • Thank you Kerry, that is wonderful to hear. I love the idea of the ghosts of the past.

      November 24, 2014
  56. Interesting post – and some very dark photos! Maybe I’m reading too much into the ‘coincidence’ by interpreting some Freudian connection reflecting your thoughts on critique 🙂
    Sadly I don’t have time to read all the comments right now but I’ll try for a return visit.

    November 25, 2014
    • Yes, some dark images, done a while ago, I often wonder what they would look like if I did them now, I might have to try a couple. Thanks Noeline. 😀

      November 25, 2014
  57. The gallery of photos for this post is tremendous. Truly, it’s some of your best work.

    Critiques can be a double-edged sword, at least that’s how I see it. The criticism, though, has to be of the constructive kind – the kind as equals, one photographer to another. If it isn’t, it is of no value to either, whether be the one giving the criticism and the one receiving it. The one who criticizes for the sake of criticism, it would be better if they offer no criticism at all.

    Another issue I have with critiques is that each of us have and use different equipment, from cameras to computers. We also have different skill levels if post processing is done, whether it be with Adobe products, Corel products, etc. or if the preference is straight-out-of-the-camera. Essentially, it becomes a practice where the path is to tread lightly.

    November 25, 2014
    • Thank you David, seems I should get back to that type of processing.

      I totally agree David, I hope I respect other peoples work and I only critique if specifically asked.
      I think if you are ever critiquing someone’s work you have to do it with the intention of helping them improve their work, so finding out what they have, what processing they do is all key to that.

      November 25, 2014
  58. I was wondering how you go about getting inside images of this abandoned school? Do you need a permit or permission from the city? I have some abandoned buildings around my area and would love to go peaking around taking photographs.

    November 26, 2014
  59. I don’t know how common they are everywhere, but many communities have local camera clubs or photographic societies where you submit images and have them critiqued by a judge. That is a good way to get feedback. I am a judge for San Francisco Bay area camera clubs and what I try to do is identify things the artist could do to improve their images and suggest the artist experiment with my suggestions to see if they like the results. But in the final analysis, only the artist can decide what is right. When I took the “judging class”, the instructor snuck in famous photographs so we could be embarassed by the comments we made about the images’ “defects”.

    November 26, 2014
    • I have to say, I am not a big one on camera clubs, my own experience with my local one was just horrible. though, having said that, I know lots of people go to them and really enjoy them. Mine was too competitive, too much focus on competitions and winning. I’ve never heard of “judging classes” that is new to me. I was recently asked to judge a competition, it was an interesting experience, it was fun. Thanks Doug for sharing that information.

      November 26, 2014
      • Yes, I’ve heard of clubs that are mostly focused on how many “points” you accumulate. That hasn’t been my experience with Bay Area clubs. Although it is true that as a judge you only have a very short time to develop and provide your critique, and then in the end you have to make a decision on 1st, 2nd, 3rd … which is ridiculous, as if there is a one-dimensional scale of “goodness”. Most clubs here have seperate “competition” and “learning” nights as well.

        To get on the list of judges from which Bay Area camera clubs generally choose, you need to go through a 1-day judging class developed by the Photographic Society of America. Although it covers the rules of the specific divisions, it mostly talked about how to do a good critique. Then you have to have three 1 evening mentoring sessions with three different experienced judges. It’s a pretty good program, IMHO. And, as a judge, I get to see many great images and try to figure out what makes them “work”.

        November 26, 2014
      • I learned a lot about critiquing from studying art for 4 years, we had to do so much of it, and you do learn that sometimes it is about what you like, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I also found camera clubs to be a little bit too much with sticking to the rules, so if you tried to experiment and do something different, then you were often shot down. I remember doing an image once, in the darkroom, it was something I had seen in a magazine, I loved the process and the judge just dismissed it, was basically rude about it, and it was because it wasn’t typical of what they saw. Actually there were so many things that turned me off.

        I guess I am cynical as I think, well what I remember is that the rules were rules and you had to follow them, whereas in art school it was all about breaking them. It sounds like you love judging and that is fantastic Doug. I hope you are not condescending like the ones I have come across, though it was about 15 years ago. Maybe they should introduce the same sort of thing here, it is amazing how many people who judge take it as a power trip.

        November 26, 2014
      • I also take classes at the San Francisco Art Institute. I once commented in class about the “Camera Club Aesthetic” in contrast to what I saw in class.

        November 28, 2014
      • I think they both do it slightly differently, I think in camera clubs it can be more about the rules and following them, whereas in art, anything goes, and you can try anything, and as long as you get a good image, no one really cares. If that makes sense. Now I have only ever been in one camera club, it was a very good club, in that it was considered one of the best, but it was clicky and competitive. It is good to hear that they aren’t all like that. It was also about 15 years ago that I was a member. I wanted to experiment more, and I didn’t like how that sort of photography was treated.

        November 28, 2014
  60. Agree completely. On my side, I enjoy and encourage people to comment and share their thoughts on how I could improve, when I publish something on my blog. Although people seldom do go that way when commenting. Now, about providing some constructive criticism on other people’s pictures, I will always refrain, unless being prompted and I have something actually constructive to say. And always on blogs where I am a regular commenter, and where people will know I am not trying to be nasty, and really to help, if I can… 🙂
    Submitting pictures to groups or contests, counting the number of likes, on the other hand, is not such a good indicator for me. Of course, when you do get Likes/Faves/+1s it is a good indicator that I’m doing something right. But it doesn’t tell me what and where I can improve, which is why I prefer asking for comments on my blog directly, open the door to people on how I could get better 🙂

    November 27, 2014
    • I can understand that, I would never do it either, I don’t know, I just have a problem thinking I might be qualified to do it, well I have an opinion that is about it. I think people often don’t want to upset and if they comment they might think that means you might do it back to them. I think the reality is that most people don’t really want to know that anything is bad about their work.
      There are places where it can be good, and some contests help you sort out where you are, and there are ones that will give some critique as well, but counting the likes in a Facebook comp, no, that is just a popularity thing, really. Thanks for you sharing your thoughts on this.

      November 27, 2014
  61. I once had a guest judge at a photo club event pick up my photo of a duck and say “This is lovely. If I was a bird lover I’m sure this would be at the top of my picks however I am not……”
    I think critiquing is sometimes subjective. I am of the opinion that I will generally look for one thing in a photo that I like if it is difficult for me to like the photo. It may be the subject, it may the angle it was taken or any other thing but I will find something.
    I don’t like unasked for critiques if they are harsh. 😀 Perhaps I’m just a huge wuss lol

    November 27, 2014
    • That is ridiculous, the judge was really a moron, probably thought he was being clever, I’m not a bird lover really, but I can appreciate a good photo of one.
      I couldn’t agree more Suz, it is so subjective and there is always something good in any image, and you don’t have to like, but you should be positive.
      No not a wuss, critiques shouldn’t be harsh, they should make you want to improve and give you ideas on how to do that. Thanks for sharing your experiences Suz.

      November 27, 2014
  62. Reblogged this on From the Pen of Gazza! and commented:
    Great post, topic and discussion.

    November 28, 2014
  63. Reblogged this on I am Don Garcia.

    December 17, 2014

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