Criticism Improves Your Photography

This Is How Criticism Improves Your Photography

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Criticism Improves Your Photography

Image by Christiane

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As photographers, we love to be praised. It's our artistic nature that craves recognition for our own imagination. Fortunately, in this world of digital imaging and social media, we can get it. Get it in abundance.

Post a picture to your Facebook timeline and within minutes one of your peers will be praising it to the rafters. Put an image up on 500px not only will you get likes and loves, but also a wave of endearingly positive comments about your “magnificent capture”.

Incidentally, does anyone else here hate the word “capture” in this context? This adulation strokes our egos and encourages us to go out and shoot more and more. The problem is, we go out and shoot more and more of the same.

Herein lies the problem with photo critique in the internet era. It does not show us the error of our ways. We think that because we get this constant praise, we have become a great photographer.

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1. Not All Praise Of Your Photography Is Good Praise

The problem is that there is a fundamental flaw with a great deal of image-posting sites, 500px, Flickr to name but two. That flaw can be summed up in one sentence. To be liked I must like others.

To get noticed by peers, people constantly praise, like and love other peoples work. Its a kind of peer pressure, making you feel more inclined to praise the praiser, because he or she was so nice.

The chances are good that if you follow someone, they will follow you back. This slowly builds up a nice base of like minded people so that the next time you post, you will get some instant love.

Making a realistic critique on one of those sites is likely to be met not only with derision from the photographer themselves – after all the picture must be brilliant as it has so many likes and comments – but even worse, abuse from the people that did like or comment.

I have experienced this first hand when pointing out that an image must have been a composite despite strenuous denials that it wasn’t. The abuse I got was very disheartening despite the overwhelming evidence I presented.

So enough of this false praise, how do you get realistic, constructive critique for your images?

A sea of constant praise does not make you a great photographer

A sea of constant praise does not make you a great photographer

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2. Getting Constructive Criticism Of Your Images

1. First and foremost, go offline and mix with fellow photographers in the real world. Camera clubs are a great place for this, not only do you meet like minded people in a social environment but you will also be able to enter competitions.

These competitions are often judged by local professionals who are more than willing to give a realistic overview of your image. Don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism yourself as well. Even if you are a newbie to photography, point out why you think there might be an issue with a photograph.

Do it politely and respectfully and the person you are critiquing will either agree with you, or point out that you are missing an important element in the image. In this case you will have learnt something new, just by commenting.

Photography clubs are a great way to get face to face critiques of your work. By Max Wei

2. Continuing in the real world, amongst your family and friends, there will be photographers. Approach them and ask them to be brutally honest with you. The key is to get an honest appraisal warts and all and to understand and learn from the mistakes pointed out.

As hard as it may seem, try not to get defensive. It's a natural emotion and one difficult to suppress when we are hearing negative things.

However, if you disagree with a point, explain in a calm and rational way what you disagree with. There is no reason why critique cannot be a two-way discussion, especially in offline real world situations.

An experienced relative or friend can be invaluable. By Roman Boed

3. There are of course many places to display your image online but fewer where you can get an honest critique. That said, a Google search will reveal a number of good sites where the main reason for its existence is to receive an honest appraisal from your peers.

Like all social media, these sites are online communities. Don’t just join, bombard the site with your very best images and watch the comments. Join in, introduce yourself with a single image. One that may not be your best but that you like.

Look at other people’s work and give them your own thoughts. Be honest but not nasty and you will find more people will give you an honest appraisal too.

Take onboard, the comments you receive but look for themes within those comments. For example, you might find that a number people are commenting on several images that they look over saturated.

If this is the case, then its time to tone down your post production. The comments that come up the most often will be the areas that you need to work on the most.

There are communities that provide constructive criticism

There are communities that provide constructive criticism

FREE BONUS MATERIAL: If you want to take your Sunset photography even further, try downloading our free Sunset Photography Cheat Sheet. Ensure you've got the skills and knowledge to produce those images to be proud of when you're back at your computer. Download it here.

Summary

One thing to be very aware of with online critique is that online words have no voice intonation. This means that comments can easily be mistaken for being nasty, when in fact, they are not.

The other thing to remember is that the Internet is a global community and not everyone may be speaking your language as their mother tongue. Getting honest, creative critique is a vital way that we as photographers can grow.

This is especially true for those of us that are self-taught and have not had the guiding hand of mentor showing us the error of our ways.



Pick up this great course on “Beautiful Photo Editing Made Easy”. It's from the guys over at Photography Concentrate and they really know their stuff, so grab some of that knowledge in this easy-to-follow course.

Further Resources

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Profile photo of Jason Row
Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. His images have been licensed to companies such as Cunard, Ethiad and Virgin Atlantic as well as multiple newspapers and magazines. As well as shooting stills he is now creating travel stock video in 4K. He maintains a travel stock photography site at Jason Row Photography You can also catch up with him on Facebook at Facebook/TheOdessaFiles

3 thoughts on “This Is How Criticism Improves Your Photography

  1. EM

    Thanks for the good article. I got into photography more seriously about a year ago and set up an Instagram account for the city I live in Africa. I was getting a lot of followers and a lot of likes but it felt a bit empty. With 2000+ followers after about 6 months I deleted all my pics and am giving it a rest. I am now using 1x.com which is seriously way above my league, but people are nice and give constructive criticism. You have to pay a subscription so it is not for everyone.

  2. Philippa Dodds

    I am a member of a couple of Facebook groups that are specifically designed for constructive criticism. And the comments are given with that framework – helpful, honest and kind suggestions for improvement.

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