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 courses, 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, then 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.
It 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.
If 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.