Just A Thought Concerning Critique and Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by TCrowe, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. TCrowe, Jul 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2014

    TCrowe macrumors member

    TCrowe

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    Jul 14, 2014
    Location:
    Glen Ellen, CA.
    #1
    I don't want to step on anyones toes here but I thought I would pass along something I have learned in my old age, sort of old that is.

    I have been a professional photographer for over 46 years. I have done shoots for many people, some you may know. Over those years I have learned to be very cautious concerning giving photographic advice. It is a "step lightly" conundrum to critique anybody else's photographic attempts or skill. I was originally taught every phase of camera, lens, exposure, wet and dry darkroom in the years 1958 and again in 1960 by my uncle Steve in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. He was an exceptional photographer whom I doubt that I will ever match.

    Just today I had an unasked for critique on some forum I won't mention. I was told that I had made it to dark, the sky had uninteresting clouds that drew this persons eye and was a distraction, I had blown highlights, and I had cut the head off a person in the photo.

    First of all, there were no people in the photo, the clouds were mid summer lilting clouds (I don't think I have control over the weather. I could be wrong.) There were NO blown highlights and, AND, there were no people on the bridge that I had shot......!

    So, if you are going to critique a persons work the least one should do is LOOK!!! at the photograph before one opens ones mouth. Then, apologize for the ignorance. It is the right thing to do if you have any photographic knowledge. Don't critique and provide links to back yourself up if you are a knowledgeable photographer. Give personal advice from the wealth of knowledge that you have put together after many year of dealing with the ups and downs of the Photographic Profession. And, if you are that knowledgeable then why aren't you still doing it?

    The best critique for the average photographer to give is to ask questions, not make statements. Questions such as, "Why is the sky so bright?" or "Why can't I see the trees roots in the shadows"? There just might be some artistic license at play with that particular photo. Avoid going out of your photographic realm.

    The digital age has brought an awful lot of people into photography that would never have been here with film. Digital cameras do a lot of work for a person on full auto. This is wonderful, absolutely fantastic in my view. Just please settle down and don't think because one has learned the aperture priority control setting on a digital that you are an expert. Whoooaaaa to the ego. And the fact that you may have been fortunate enough to buy Pro style equipment only means that you had the money, not the skill.

    OK, I'm done. People like this person are the reason I started my own Photographic Forum in 2009. I am not a member of any forum and I don't provide links to give advice unless it is something that I have little or no experience with such as Architectural photography. I can shoot a knockout group of photos for a person on their property or in their homes. But I know and understand that this will NOT make me a good Architectural photographer.

    So, all this is merely to encourage equilibrium in your critique and advice. If you do you will have a really great place for discussing each others work. It will be fun and educational for the amateur trying to pick up hints to better themselves in the photographic medium. I wish you all smooth seas and friendly ports of call. TCrowe

    One final thing. The best approach to critique when a person posts a photo is to simply ask, "What do you think of your photo?" 99% of the time that person will let you know what that person thinks the problems are. Critique is ALL about teaching. You wouldn't teach Calculus if you didn't understand Algebra. The same goes in photography. Also remember that you have no idea of the other persons knowledge. So, stay within your own equilibrium concerning photography. That will make this segment of this forum a happy and beneficial experience for all. There is no fighting in photography. Only careful and positive thought. TC
     
  2. Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2009
    Location:
    Near Dallas, Texas, USA
    #2
    Nice post.

    People need to be open to hearing the whole critique too. If something was said that I didn't think was right, I'd probably let it slide and look at the other points and not get so defensive of the others.

    We were once at an art show and the guy who came to critique our work was pretty bad. We didn't say anything about it until we got back the following week, but we did talk as a class on how he didn't say anything worthwhile. I've also heard horror stories from college teachers about how one senseless person made another student quit their major over comments made during critique. So I don't necessary think it's an online thing.

    You have to give constructive criticism, and you have to accept it too. And if you can't, then why bother? It's not just about votes and likes, art is a form of communication.
     
  3. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #3
    Personally one of the reasons I post pictures in an online forum is to receive critique. Sometimes you agree with the person, sometimes you don't. But photography like art is very subjective. If people give you critique you don't like, just ignore it.
    Also shouldn't this thread be in the digital photography section, not the picture section?
     
  4. Acorn macrumors 68020

    Acorn

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    #4
    I think this was intended to be in the digital photography forum. Or maybe not. Ive been wrong before.
     
  5. TCrowe thread starter macrumors member

    TCrowe

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    Jul 14, 2014
    Location:
    Glen Ellen, CA.
    #5
    A moderator can certainly move it. Although I mentioned a digital photograph my roots are in film. That is why I posted it here as it cuts both ways. Digital and Film.
     
  6. Acorn macrumors 68020

    Acorn

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    #6
    its posted in the picture gallery. doesnt matter to me though whatever.
     
  7. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    Feb 21, 2012
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    #7
    The mods did move it. The picture sub forum is more for post a picture (snap) of your last purchase etc. Not really meant for photography chat.

    The digital photograph forum is fine for digital and film. We have a few film guys on here, some are even quite young.
     
  8. TCrowe thread starter macrumors member

    TCrowe

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    Jul 14, 2014
    Location:
    Glen Ellen, CA.
    #8
    That is good to hear! Young folks using film. IMHO film gives one a better understanding of exposure as you don't get to see immediately how the shot comes out. You have to wait and then mull over what went right or wrong when you get the proofs. No chimping with film. Thanks for the feedback.
     
  9. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #9
    I appreciate the OP's comments and intent. I also appreciate those that offer 'suggestions' on what to do different on a given image to critique. For the latter, it may be wise to choose our words carefully as this medium of posting often can get polarized very quickly and our intent is lost on our choice of wording.

    As someone who in a place far away and long long ago taught darkroom (b/w and Cibachrome), the class has one lesson devoted to how to present critiques and how to receive them. I didn't give a list but let them discuss among each other and merely guided the conversation. What I did note that those who had the least experience or confidence yearned for critiques that would include suggestions on what should be changed or considered and those that were far further along, were not that interested in critiques but rather, praise. - Perhaps this is just human nature.

    I'll just say that if someone on line presents an image that I have zero good to say about it (from subject to crop to exposure to ....) I don't bother commenting. If someone asks for some advice, I might suggest they revisit some typical facets of photography (cropping, dodge/burn) and some post processing via software changes that were not as readily 'doable' in the dark room of yore.

    Just more pixel peanuts tossed into the photo gallery

    PAX
    -Phrehdd
     
  10. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #10

    Why? If the photo is total junk, why not suggest a few why it could be better?

    Don't call the person an ideot but you might give them a few specific and actionable suggestions. things like

    1) look at the background, you know you can change it be moving the camera location, Walk a little left of right

    2) look at the edges of the frame,.....

    3) I think the automatic meter was looking at that white object,....

    Helpful comments on how to improve are never bad.
     
  11. kallisti, Jul 27, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014

    kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    Apr 22, 2003
    #11
    In general, I totally agree with the OP.

    However, this seems to be the thread which prompted this current thread.

    It is an uncomfortable thread to read as it turned into a pissing match. I personally don't care for the image in question for many of the reasons outlined by Compuwar. His critique is quite detailed and clearly wasn't what the OP wanted. But the thread rapidly devolved into "what gear do you own and what are your photography credentials?" The vibe I got was "Who are you to judge my work?"

    Often the photographer can be their own harshest critic. The flip side is that sometimes the opposite is true and we get blinded to the flaws in our own photos.
     
  12. Alphabetize macrumors 6502

    Alphabetize

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    Oct 6, 2013
    #12
    I'm not a photographer, but I'm studying illustration in college right now and many of these points are similar to what I've experienced when we critique. I know there are people who just don't know how to critique and just babble a bunch of stuff to get participation points.

    Kind of learned to filter good critiques from bad critiques. But if there's a general censuses from multiple people that something in a drawing/photo/whathaveyou could be improved, I'd take that in.
     
  13. needfx macrumors 68040

    needfx

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  14. Cheese&Apple macrumors 68000

    Cheese&Apple

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    Location:
    Toronto
    #14
    IMO, statements like this (from that other thread) should be posted carefully with the knowledge that you may receive more feedback than anticipated and that the feedback may or may not be constructive.

    As the artist, only you can decide what comments to take to heart and what comments to simply ignore and let go.

    ~ Peter
     
  15. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    Oct 25, 2008
    #15
    Logically, you have a point. On the other hand, providing nothing but negatives often defeats the purpose of the receiver taking it as constructive. This is more about people than about the images themselves. This is why I avoid commenting on images that have (for me) no impact of any sort or are just plain bad (again this is subjective). I do believe your notion is spot on for people that understand you are indeed offering "help" or being critical to help them improve their eye or technical abilities.

    Also, I'll just say that if others have already offered the suggestions (as you mentioned as examples) then I am offering little to the conversation.
     
  16. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #16

    Anyone can take constructive moments the wrong way. But look what I tried to write. I tried not to say "this photo is horrible" or "you are not any good at this." I'd give specific actions he could use next time. Comments about the existing photo are useless, the photo already is done. So talk about the next one.

    About that bridge. I might say "rules are meant to be broken. He broke most of the ones I know." I'd say that few viewers will understand the purpose of rule braking and will be confused with this image. Maybe he is trying to show us how ugly human objects are placed in natural settings and to make us see the contrast. This photo is slightly disturbing to look at maybe because it shows what we are doing to the world. It might be a statement.
     
  17. JDDavis macrumors 65816

    JDDavis

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    Jan 16, 2009
    #17
    The interewebs is a dangerous place to come and look for true feedback. You have to search (pun intended) for a relatively civil and competent group and then take the good and the bad with the right filter. I stick to the Macrumors forum because overall it's a solid group that generally provides useful feedback. I've also found that the more you try to be genuine in your critiques others will do the same for you. Of course one of the most difficult things with the web is it's very hard to understand the emotion or context that someone used when they typed. In the end though it's your photograph and if you like it then that's all that really matters (unless you're trying to sell it ;) )

    I think another aspect of life that the internet is killing is the role of a true mentor. That's just not for photography but for many skill based pursuits. When I learned to rock climb I had a mentor that taught me the ropes (pun intended again). He was someone I trusted and though I went to the web to learn and ask questions on forums the critique I got from my mentor was what I trusted as ground truth. I've been messing with guitar for years but my playing never really improved (or was tolerable) until I found someone I meshed with as a mentor. I wish I had a true mentor in photography but I haven't been that fortunate yet.

    My last .02 is that I find getting feedback from the contests and challenges a bit more useful than doing the "what do you think of this shot" posts. Perhaps because people participating are already engaged in the activity.
     
  18. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    Jul 18, 2008
    Location:
    Glasgow, UK
    #18

    I hope my comments didnt rub the wrong way. To be honest, I enjoy looking at the photographs that others post as it helps me to try and learn what i like and what I dont like. I meant no offense with my comments but as an novice appreciator of photography, I like people to tell me the bad points. Also, I did state that I couldnt do any better.

    I enjoyed looking at your work, I would like to see more of it but you need a code to access your site.

    I am a fan of a number of posters in here, namely MacRy, Doylem and Apple Fanboy as they seem to capture moments that resonate with me.

    It is all part of my learning as I am not a seasoned photographer but I enjoy trying to learn...

    Peace sir.

    One last thing, I went into my collection and I will be honest, I was looking for one of my nice pictures of the Tyne Bridge but based on the feedback you got, I felt I wasnt in a position to accept a flaming for my poor attempts so I have not posted. I suppose this is a downside to the process as I have declined to post based on the strength of critique you were given and while I know I am still a "toddler" in photographer years, I was hesitant to encourage a back lash of comments that I couldnt handle.

    Thanks,
    Ken.
     
  19. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    Location:
    Washington DC
    #19
    I completely disagree.

    The absolute BEST advice you can get is from the people who don't know a damn thing about you. That allows them to critique the work completely independently of the person who took it. That's what you should want. The photo is a document that needs to stand on its own, so why not get criticism under those same circumstances?

    Post photos. Let them speak for themselves.

    After that you can decide if the advice you've gotten is helpful or unhelpful. But that has nothing to do with which person has more experience. It all comes down to what you think is best.
     
  20. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #20
    Again, I appreciate your thought on this matter and certainly make no bones about people commenting. I just spoke for myself and what I do (or don't do at times). What I wills say that we are in total agreement that images created are ideally steps to the next image and ideally we learn from our experiences (images). Alas, some folks do not but my guess is that you do as to many others who strive to improve their own abilities and certainly have it culminate into an image statement.
     
  21. shinji macrumors 65816

    shinji

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    Mar 18, 2007
    #21
    At the end of the day, it's just the opinion of one person from the internet.

    Not exactly Ansel Adams telling you to sit down.
     
  22. kallisti, Jul 29, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014

    kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    #22
    Please don't walk away from this thread with that impression of the forum. It actually can be (and usually is) a fairly nurturing environment. I think there were a couple of mistakes that made the original thread go to hell in a hand basket:

    (1) Threads started posting a single image are usually taken to mean that the poster is asking for criticism on that image. This clearly wasn't the case for this particular thread. I don't know if the OP meant for it to be a thread with people posting bridge shots.

    (2) The wording of the post in the original thread was somewhat poor. If the intent was for critique (which I don't think it was) then it should have been stated. If the intent was for a thread of bridge pics, it should have been stated. As posted, the thread seemed to be about "this is my awesome bridge pic which is a stellar example of how to capture a bridge in difficult light." Or maybe, "I am a professional photographer, here is an example of my work with a link to my site." I am being hyperbolic and putting words into the OPs mouth, but that is the way the post (and subsequent comments) comes across, or at least can come across.

    The critique you get on this forum tends to be tailored to your perceived level of experience. If you state you are a beginner, you *won't* get flamed. The responses in general will try to nudge you in the right direction.

    If you state you are a professional then you will get critique appropriate to that claim. Usually not malicious or outright "flaming," but more detailed critique. Most people with experience already know what is wrong with their images and frame their questions accordingly. Or if they ask for general advice it's because they want an objective response even if it isn't positive. A different perspective on their images that may help them get out of a rut or advance to the "next level." The responses might be valuable or might be crap, but are generally food for thought.

    I'm glad you decided to post your bridge pics in the other thread. I'll try to post a constructive reply :)
     
  23. The Bad Guy macrumors 65816

    The Bad Guy

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    Australia
    #23
    This post is pretty much spot on the mark.
     
  24. mofunk macrumors 68020

    mofunk

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    Aug 26, 2009
    Location:
    Americas
    #24
    What I've learned from posting my photos on the web… the bottom line is how you like it. Sure everyone sees things different. But in the end if you and your client is happy. That's all that matters.

    Getting a critique or advice is someone's opinion. If the advice is in the direction that you want to go, then you should receive it. If not, then no worries.
     
  25. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2014
    #25
    I've also added quite a bit of grey hair over the years. I, along with others, used to post on a website that was open to comments. We now post on a site that's closed to anyone who's not specifically approved by us. Otherwise no access. Members of the site include family, friends and a few pro photographers, one in the rarified air of being a leading fashion photographer (now retired) and another very successful upstart who went from nowhere to a home in Brentwood, CA and a nice Mercedes in a couple of years.

    Photographs are highly subjective and strike people different.

    Some people need to think before they start re-editing other people's work. If shots are offered for the specific purpose of gathering advice/assistance, fine. However, I've run into far too many posts, especially on one particular photography site, that gather all sorts of reinterpretations of people's work. As if we don't consider what we want to do with an image before we start post, or have limited ability to execute. Being polite while making a point also appears a challenge to some, depending in the site.

    My advice, post to your intended audience. If that's the general public then accept the consequences. Otherwise, take it private.
     

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