Discussion: Critiquing Images


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 I should address it 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

I often 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 not do it.  One of the main reasons is that I am not comfortable 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.

People also 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 scschool-hpm5544-8courses, 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 as well.  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, scschool-hpm5459-7then 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 about a lot.  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.

scschool-hpm4033-6It 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 without being asked to 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.

scschool-hpm5434-5If 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.


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  1. Enjoyed this post (and many of your other posts) – I agree with the sentiment ‘if you haven’t any thing good to say, stay silent’ – We percieve images in differing ways. For many years (10+ is all I’m admitting to) I earned an excellent living as a fulltime photographer. On occasions a client would asked why the ‘images’ looked diffferent to thier snapshots. My answer was always the same: “Understanding the camera, lens, film relationship and recording an image which tells a story” Your images of the school fufils this reply. Great site, great imagery – Ian

    1. Thank you Ian, nice to hear. It is incredible how many people don’t fully understand that you still control the camera, that you have to know what you are doing.

  2. Thank you for reposting, Leanne! I think your images do tell a story about change and they are very dramatic. As for the UFD topic, I agree that you have to choose the people you receive critiques from wisely so that you don’t get hurt and discouraged.

  3. Hey Leanne .. something my Mum always said .. if you done have anything nice to say don’t say it! So true. I guess being in he public forum opens the door for comments and criticism .. human nature. I love your work .. always have! 😃

    1. I totally agree with what your mum said Julie, it is so true. Sometimes I think there is a lack of respect and the internet is bad for doing that, people are anonymous and it gives them courage.Thank you, I never tire of hearing that people like my work.

  4. First, Leanne, thanks for sharing these photos from your collection. They are kind of haunting and tell an interesting story of “progress” which isn’t always a happy one. I appreciate the moody treatment, most appropriate for the subject.

    As for your blog on critiquing, you are correct on so many levels. I will work for hours on capturing and post-processing to get a shot just the way I want it. If in the end I am unhappy with the image, no one else will ever see it. But if I am pleased with the outcome, these I share. If people like what I’ve done, I’m happy for them to say so. But if they don’t like the photo, I would just as soon they said nothing. I don’t react well to uninvited criticism. The majority of photos I post on FaceBook get positive feedback. I assume those friends who don’t comment ether don’t like the photo, haven’t seen my post, or are too busing to bother.

    I’m involved in a small website photo-community where photos are posted for two reasons, either to share, or to seek criticism. Some respond well with helpful suggestions to which I give full consideration. Some take out their flame throwers and go for it, leaving me feeling very discouraged. What I hate is when I post a photo in the share section and members climb all over the photo as though I’d requested a critique. But what I hate most is when members who seldom posts any photos, or posts photos of dubious merit, criticise as though they were the end-all and be-all of photography.

    1. Thank you Don, I really had to hunt for them, couldn’t remember which year I took them, lol. It was good to get there and take photos, of course it is all gone now.

      I’m with you, keep your nasty opinions to yourself. I don’t react well to it either, I’ve learned ways of dealing with it, which has been great. I get mostly positive comments, which is nice.

      I don’t like people like that either, it is seriously bad form. If you think you are so good at it then put your stuff out there. They are cowards if you ask me. You know they are too scared to put their work out there because they don’t want to get negative comments ten fold.

  5. In my Toastmasters clubs, certain members would become offended when they were ‘critiqued’ by other members for ideas on how to improve their speaking skills–that positive sandwich you speak about–to the point where no one wanted to do it. That was a shame because how do you learn if you don’t listen to your peers? This post makes absolute sense to me, Leanne….and yet it doesn’t. You know what I mean? Either you want to learn to improve or you don’t. And if you think a photo is just as you want it, then don’t ask for someone’s opinion. Good post.

    1. There are always going to be people that think they are perfect and don’t need to be critiqued. Maybe that is the point, they might just want to do it their way, though I really don’t know how Toastmasters work. Some people don’t want to improve and they are very happy doing what they do. I don’t like getting critiqued now, I’m happy and I love what I’m working on now. I don’t care if others like it or not, I do. I never ask for an opinion on it, it is what it is. I like that saying. Thank you Lois.

  6. This is a very interesting article,Leanne ! I think there is also the matter of taste and understanding that it is not always just what we see, what we are looking at…
    My English is not so good, I hope it makes sense what I try to write…

  7. I like receiving criticism on my images. Unfortunately, most folks don’t like to give it so I feel I am getting a one sided response to my work. I feel that honestly is a good thing and that criticism delivered kindly helps one grow and learn. No one has to be an expert to give an honest opinion. It is important to say why one has that opinion. We all feel and see things in our own way. I like to know what others see. That includes both good and bad.

    1. I think it is important to all understand the difference between criticism and critiquing, the first is negative and the second positive. When you open yourself up for criticism then you can get all sorts of comments that are very destructive and not helpful at all. Especially in the competitive world of photography. It is best to find a couple or few people who will give you constructive critiquing, people who don’t want to be horrible. People you trust. Perhaps you are asking too much from people and demanding to know things they don’t want to tell you. However, there are facebook groups where you can put up your work and people will comment on them. Maybe you need to find those.

    2. I don’t demand, I welcome constructive critasism :-). I looked for Facebook groups that offer critiques but didn’t find them. I find it easy to share my opinion, with tact, and back it up with reasons based on my years of education and experience as an artist.

    3. Then I don’t know what to suggest, surely if you have years of education and experience as an artist you must know people, friends who can help you in that.

    4. I do think there has to come a point where you just work for yourself and do what you want. I think if you are always looking for people to critique your work then you may be looking for something else. I had a lecturer who once said that I had to stop trying to get approval from everyone about what I was doing and do what I wanted. I have never forgotten that and that is how I work now.

  8. Interesting post. Thank you. I hope you don’t mind me making a general comment about photography and how I see it. My relationship with photography is usually from the point of view of art and storytelling. I like your pictures – they instantly give me a story. From a photography point of view, it is not always easy to find a shot that I (as photographer) am totally satisfied with. I believe that is why the pros take several hundreds when they are hired, before clients pick what they like. I had two photography teachers in my early years – one was a super technical pro and the other was very artistic. Their photos appealed to different clients. I worked with both. I understand what you are saying and I think as a photographer, if you are satisfied with your pictures – that’s what matters (unless the client is paying you and complains – 🙂 …I find most pictures (from yourself and others on WordPress very inspiring for my writing) and ‘affect’ me in some way, triggering instant memories of people, places or stories. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you, it is good to hear that, I try to tell stories with my images. I think it is all about evolving and what I took yesterday is not necessarily what I think is good now, if you know what I mean. I agree, in the end it should be all about what you like yourself and pleasing yourself. That is lovely to hear thank you again.

  9. Great topic Leanne! It is all so personal and really subjective – as are other froms of art. With social media we have followers – some who are lets says fans – they always have kind words which is very encouraging. While I also have a couple of people whose opinions I will ask – respect their visions – for myself I like it when someone who I have never heard from before gives a comment – that is inspiring for myself – for myself it means I have captured an outside viewers attention. FYI – I love your work and it is indeed inspiring for myself.

    1. It really is, I think people forget about that.I think it is good to have a couple of people who’s opinion you can really respect. Oh yes, I know what you mean, it is nice when something thinks you work is good enough to come out and say something. That is so nice of you to say Debby, thank you so much.

  10. I love this post. It applies to writing too. It makes me very happy to read it because it is about respect. I love how you say trust me they don’t like it. Thank you for reposting it. I hope you are busy with good things. PS I did your sky tutorial from the magazine today. It’s great. Thanks so much.

    1. I can see how it would to that as well Nicci. Totally about respect. I am busy, though finding it hard to get out of holiday mode, but will get there eventually. That’s is great to hear, thank you for letting me know.

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