The first two images and info you see below, come from Landscape Photography Magazine’s photo critique section. This is offered by the magazine as a way for readers (not editors) to critique images. This is both a wonderful, constructive idea, and a dangerous one.
Frankly, I think for me to make any negative criticism of these excellent images, would say more about me than the pictures. It is true that all too often when somebody opens up one of their pictures for critique, it is not to learn something new, but because they think their image is perfect and they are actually fishing for compliments. Then if you add a few commenting photographers who are jealous of the work they see, hard feelings are sure to follow. Under any circumstances, submitting your picture for criticism at Landscape Photography Magazine, is a good way to get one of your pix on their website.
Axe en Provence, France
Bright Victoria, Australia
In the late 1990s early 2,000s I was involved in websites that specialized in open critiques. Those sites often proved how many nasty and jealous photographers there are in the world. It also proved there as just as many thoughtful and helpful photographers.
A suggestion. When you view the images of others, in a format that is not meant for criticism, don’t criticize unless asked. If you are asked, or are commenting in a forum designated for that purpose, genuinely try to help. Saying awesome, or great is of little help except for the image maker’s ego. Saying it stinks or it sucks, is of no value to anybody except to the over active ego of the comment maker. If you have something good or critical to say that you truly believe might help, then do so. Do so politely and with a sophisticated set of manners.
I use to say go ahead and criticize the imagery of working pros if you wish. The fact they call themselves pros means they should be able to defend their pictures. Yes I definitely included myself as being open to that criticism. I no longer feel that way. I now believe the rules (my rules I guess) that I began the previous paragraph with, should be observed for everybody. One purpose for my change in philosophy is that there are just too many rude and vulgar people today. They need to be rebuked or denied whenever possible. Secondly, it is very muddy as to who is the pro and who isn’t. Just look at Flickr Photos or Facebook. There are tens of millions of people calling themselves photographers, and using professional sounding business names. Most are good photographers but only hobbyists, and many are true amateurs who may make a picture once every couple of months. When you can’t tell the pros from the hobbyists, it is best to just treat everybody the same.
At one time I offered critiques (for a price) on my website. I also was willing to critique images at the end of workshops, although I never encouraged or advertised that fact. That is because I do not actually like critiquing photos. Just the same, I did so being as kind and constructive as possible.
Photo critiques sometimes do serve the purpose of education, although I believe the new photographer learns much more by studying and thoroughly thinking about the best images they see on the web, and in the marketplace. Ask yourself why they are good. That is the second most important thing they can do. The most important is to make lots of pictures. Over and over again. Using those two tools will make you better, and after that it will make you better again.
Lastly, yes you should critique your own images. Everybody already does this, but most people tend to agonize over their bad pictures, and then just accept their best. Spending more time thinking about your winners than your losers, is a shortcut to improvement. I know that seems counterintuitive to most of us, but trust me, I have seen the results of those to whom I have suggested this, and they get better faster by repeating and expanding on their great images, than by over-obsessing about their failures.
I wouldn’t say there is a lot wrong with the picture below, but what is wrong is significant. This image is quite weak in comparison to the images above. I love the old Juniper tree and I enjoy how the bush at the right frames a window to the canyon. Unfortunately, far too little of the canyon shows. This shot should either be about the tree and have a less distracting background, or about the canyon and forget about the tree.
The picture is mine and I did make other images that accomplished what I have suggested above. More exciting light would also help but there was nothing I could do about that fact. Returning was impossible.
If this was somebody else’s image and I was critiquing it, I would first complement them on their concept. The window to the world idea, while using natural frames, is time-honored and worthy of repetition. I would suggest another idea might have been to first make the tree the whole picture, and then in a second photo, make the canyon the whole picture. Two pictures. I would also compliment them on handling very difficult and contrast filled light. I would however, suggest a different angle to the canyon to make better use of that light. Noticing that there are clouds in the picture I would suggest that once she/he had the canyon framed in a way that showed the width and depth as best as possible, spend some time there and make a lot of pictures. Experience tells me that periodically, those clouds will cover the sun. They are not big enough clouds to shade the whole canyon, but they will likely cast layers of shadows across the valley. You will create an air of drama in the canyon. Your picture (my picture) will be more powerful.
I would then suggest that the previously mentioned image of the tree alone, should be done with maximum thought towards detail. Maybe a super wide-angle lens with the surface of the tree only inches from the lens. Compositionally treat the tree as if it were a path into the wilderness.
Do unto others as you would have them do, always applies when giving a critique, Wayne