Critique

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

Camera Metadata:                                                                                                   Photographer Bob Shirey                                                                                                                  Website none                                                                                                                           Camera Nikon D800                                                                                                                       Lens  Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 @ 24mm                                                                                    Aperture  f/11                                                                                                                          Shutter Speed 1 sec.                                                                                                                       ISO  400                                                                                                                                       Filters  none                                                                                                                                  Other Equipment  tripodPhoto-Critique-And-Advice-Picture-20-450x673

Bright Victoria, Australia                                                                                             

Camera Metadata:                                                                                               Photographer Clyde Hulme                                                                                                       Website none                                                                                                                          Camera Canon 40D                                                                                                                    Lens  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 25mm                                                                            Aperture  f/16                                                                                                                          Shutter Speed 1/100                                                                                                              ISO 100                                                                                                                                        Filters none                                                                                                                                  Other  tripodPhoto-Critique-And-Advice-Picture-19

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.

Picture Critique

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.ANatWRef 105

Do unto others as you would have them do, always applies when giving a critique,             Wayne

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2 Responses to Critique

  1. ron says:

    Critiquing….The very first time I attended a professional photographer seminar, I took some slides along. After the seminar I when to the photographer and asked if he would critique them for me. He answered with a very emphatic no, but I will look at them. He took them and laid them on a light table and looked. “very interesting” was his only words for most of the slides. When he handed them back to me, I asked why he would not critique them. He pointed to his nose and said “I like this guy.” The last time I critiqued a image, I got punched in the nose. I understood why he no longer did it.
    Most people are attached to their images, and that is why the ego gets involved. To be a really good photographer (in my opinion), one has to get past the ego. Then comes the open mind, and the images get better, because one starts to SEE.

    • I remember you telling me that story not long after I met you. John Gerlach as I remember.

      Critiquing images is a slippery slope for both parties. When I charged for it I would always first explain that any negatives I will give are only for improvement but they will still sting.

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