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Thread: Towards Guidelines for Critiquing - A Discussion Thread

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    Towards Guidelines for Critiquing - A Discussion Thread

    This issue is currently topical and I thought it would be helpful to start the ball rolling on getting some consensus on such guidelines for AP in the light of some of the discussions in the Critics thread.

    The issue is central to all photo (and indeed art and literary) sites, so instead of re-inventing the wheel I have taken the liberty of reproducing a well-written set of guidelines from one of the relevant sites (http://www.photosig.com/go/main/help?name=tutorial/t10) for discussion here as a basis to build on:

    Guide To Critiquing Photographs

    Many people, when first joining a photo critique site, may not know where to begin when writing a critique. Some amateur photographers may even feel that they are not "worthy" to critique a professional's work. The fact is, it doesn't matter whether you are just staring out or are a seasoned professional--there are many different aspects of a photo that you can comment on. If you don't feel that you have a handle on the technical aspects of photography, then just comment on the composition, the story, or the emotional feeling behind the photo.

    Remember, writing critiques is beneficial not only for the photographer whose work you are critiquing, but it is tremendously helpful to you, the critique writer. By thinking about all the different aspects of what makes a photo "good" or "poor", you are adding to your own knowledge base to be used when it is you clicking the shutter!

    The purpose of this basic guide is to point you in the general direction of how to write a critique, and give you some things that you can look for when writing your critiques. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of every aspect of photography. You don't have to touch on all of these categories. Even writing a sentence or 2 covering just one of these categories can be tremendously helpful to both you and the photographer seeking feedback.

    1. Critique the technicals.

    Exposure.
    Is any area overexposed or underexposed? If so, can you say why you think that happened? How could the photographer prevent this problem in the future?

    Focus.
    Is the main subject in focus? Is it sharp focus, or a "soft" focus? Is the focus appropriate for the situation?

    Depth of Field (DOF).
    Is the DOF shallow or deep? Does the DOF work in this shot, or should more (or less) of the photo be in focus?

    Lighting / White balance.
    Is the light soft or harsh? Does the type of lighting enhance or detract from the things in the photo? Is the white balance set correctly? Is there a yellowish, orangish, or greenish cast to the photo?

    2. Critique the composition.

    Centered vs. "Rule of Thirds".
    Is the main subject in the center of the frame? Is it on a third? Somewhere else? Does the chosen composition work, or would you have done something differently?

    Fore, Middle, and Backgrounds.
    (Most applicable to landscape photos) Does the photo contain all three? If not, do you think it would be better if it did?

    Cropping/Framing.
    Is there wasted empty space is the photo? Should the crop have been tighter? Is it cropped so tightly that important parts of the photo have been cutoff?

    Color / Tonal Range.
    What type of colors do you see? Did the photographer use a lot of primary colors? Secondary? Complementary? Are the colors too vivid? Not vivid enough? If you are looking at a B&W photo, is there a true black, true white, with a large tonal range in between, or is the photo too "gray"?

    Diagonals, S-Curves, etc.
    Did the photographer make use of any visually-interesting elements, such as diagonal lines or S-curves?

    Leading lines.
    Do the lines and overall composition make you want to look deeper into the photo? Is your eye drawn into the photo, or out of it?

    Dark vs. Light areas.
    Are there too many bright areas? Too many dark areas?

    Balance.
    Is the photo "balanced"? Would it be better if there were other objects or other light/dark areas in the frame to improve the balance? If the photo is off balance, is there a reason for it?

    3. How does it make you feel?

    Even if you are a beginner, you are certainly qualified to critique based on these questions:

    What mood do you see in the photo?

    Do you think this mood is what the photographer intended?

    Does it make you happy? Sad? Angry?

    Did the photographer succeed in telling his/her story with the photograph? Why or why not?

    Do you like the photo? And, more importantly, say WHY you like the photo, or why you don't.

    Would you hang this photo on your wall? Why or why not?

    We'll close this tutorial with some words of wisdom from rickmoore/Rick:

    "There seems to be a general perception that "critique" means "to find fault with." It doesn't mean that at all. It means to critically analyze and respond to something, either positively or negatively, or both. Even when someone holds a camera in their hands for the first time, they have a lifetime of experience processing visual imagery. The success of an image in someone's eyes is how is works for them!"
    The last paragraph is particularly germane in relation to the feelings of a significant number here.
    Last edited by andrask; 05-03-2007 at 9:34pm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrask View Post
    This issue is currently topical and I thought it would be helpful to start the ball rolling on getting some consensus on such guidelines for AP in the light of some of the discussions in the Critics thread.

    The issue is central to all photo (and indeed art and literary) sites, so instead of re-inventing the wheel I have taken the liberty of reproducing a well-written set of guidelines from one of the relevant sites (http://www.photosig.com/go/main/help?name=tutorial/t10) for discussion here as a basis to build on:



    The last paragraph is particularly germane in relation to the feelings of a significant number here.
    did i not do that? http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...5151#post35151

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    Great post Andrask, well written.

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    @methd
    There is no intention to cast any aspersions on anyone here - just an suggestion to have these useful guidelines set up so those who are a bit inhibited about critiquing can have some basis to start out with.

    In other words if every APian can be encouraged to critique with the help of these signposts, we would all be getting some way to achieving our goal of mutually beneficial progression.
    Last edited by andrask; 05-03-2007 at 9:55pm.

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    Interesting to note that here is a constructive effort to get to the core of critiquing for everybody and yet there is only one positive response while all the heat is in the argument in the Critics thread.

    I might have to give up too.

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    I'm surprised as well about the lack of response, I would of thought the guidelines are what everyone would like to hear, certainly brightened my views up and made me feel better about my lack of expertise and ability to post critique here. The guidelines are pretty much what we have all been doing anyway without problems I would of thought These guidelines should give everyone, newb or pro a good sense of belonging and value here.........sometimes it needs to be spelt out to clarify.

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    Thanks Andrask, very informative. It's given me something to think about when I make comment on other peoples work now. I think it'll help me be more constructive with what I say rather than "I love it/don't like it"

    Excellent post.

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    thanks for sharing... some interesting tips there.
    peakey: spends too much time doing his day job!

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    Thank you very much for the time taken here andrask.

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    A fine guide there mate

    I actually missed this thread last night when I was browsing.

    I have started to make some sort of effort towards a more constructive critique myself. I was falling into the 1 liner pit, and unfortunately it took-me reading all the BS in the other thread to start making a conscious effort.

    It can be difficult to give an informative reply in every post, especially now that AP is growing like rabid grape vine. But from now on (OK maybe occasionally I will give a 1 liner) I’m going to have the mindset; if I cant think of anything constructive to write, then I wont write anything.

    Damn, I should have just written a 1 liner in here, that comment isn’t constructive at all

    Nice work buddy, maybe a condition of entry would be to read this guide before joining; not singling out the new members here, all of us. Just a though.

    -Michael

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    Don't worry SeeSee, I'm here ...I just missed it!


    And perfectly posted Andrask (even if a little plagiarized! )
    my thoughts exactly (and hopefully what I've achieved in my comments to date)

    In my role as 'critic', I generally tend to concentrate on the "mood" value, which involves all those things that encompass light, composition, feeling of sad/happy, story...etc.

    Because that's what photography means to me!

    Others may have a tendency to the technical aspects(I'm less informed on that), and I value their opinions from what I've come to know of them(Methd! )

    ..and just a small note to Ali(PP)! Just because you have teachers to help in your learning, doesn't mean you can't keep them on their toes(ie. teachers don't know everything!!! )
    I have a great(if not favorite) teacher in my exfather-in-law, that can help me in learning more about what I want to do.. but still value everyone elses' opinion.
    ***Not an attack, just an alternative POV and keeping an open mind***


    I hope we've all grown a little over the last few weeks, and can put this Guide into its proper perspective and make this site, the site to be on


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    very constructive input Andrask, well done.

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    Smile re.guidelines for critiquing

    Being the new kid on the block so to speak, I do not want to stand on anyones toes. but I generally agree with what has been said, that the topic in question be posted every so often, not only for the new folk but for everyone as a gentle reminder if i may use the term judge if I may use that losely, so that everyone has definate outline to follow like the word says guideline. Like I said I do not want to stand on anyones toes. ian

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    Great info

    Excellent post Andrask. I think you have highlighted a common problem with a lot of forums, particulary photography, in that everyone has there own thoughts on what they like or dislike in a photo but maybe thats not the information the OP is looking for. Having a set of guidlines to go to before critiquing will be very useful and hopefully avoid any accidental conflicts. Once again great Idea, Cheers Marty
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    Yes I think its about time I re-read this post mate.

    I'm slipping again - into that ugly place of one liners and oh! thats a nice picture.

    Cheers for the bump!

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    mmmm agreed..

    but it is so easy to be lazy and just say "nice shot"

    --Creation declares the glory of God--
    How can you look at creation and say there is no God?

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    I agree and i disagree.
    Critiquing as we do in Toastmaster's (public speaking group) should be

    Commend (positive comment)
    Reccommend ( 1 point where the shot could be improved)
    Commend (positive comment)

    Making a heap of comments about how the image "could?" be better is just one persons opinion. Also what credibility do some people have in making comments. I have been critiqued on some of my people images by APers who have NEVER posted a portrait.
    I don't comment alot unless i have something constructive to say.
    And hey I love people telling me they love the shot... 1 liners perk up your self esteem.
    However saying what you like is probably more of a positive step.
    Sometime there is too much critism of this forum and not enough support and encouragement....
    They guidelines though are great
    My 2 cents worth...
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    It's all about the Light!
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    This is always a vexed subject. In part due to differing personalities etc.
    Person A may want in your face direct CC, whereas person B of a more 'sensitive' nature would be offended.
    It is hard to meet everyone's needs esp. in a generic form.
    Sandwiching as per toastmasters is often seen for just that, I don't use it much at work in managing my team - they expect direct truthful assessment - not to say I'm mean - just accurate. That said they do listen and we get on well.
    I tend to 'suggest' improvements and praise the good things as a general approach.
    Given the artistic nature of our work encouragement is good; but needs to be real at the same time.
    It is not easy. But this sort of discussion is usually helpful.

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    I am with cypheroz. I see the "commend, recommend, commend" approach just a different way of stating what a majority of members here do, most say something good, and then make a suggestion for improvement. I personally like to finish with some praise, which is exactly what your protocol above states.

    I don't take many portraits, but I do take a few occasionally. I often do not post my portrait work, as the people involved are always asked if I can place their photo on the net. Often they request that I don't. So, just cause I don't post many portraits, doesn't mean I can't comment or critique another members portrait post effectively.

    Although its always warm and fuzzy to get the "great photo" comments, I like the solid critiques, cause I learn from those. In the end, as long as we are commenting on each others photos, it is all good. Wouldn't be much of a site, if we all got "nice photo" or minimal comments at all cause everyone thought "I don't comment a lot unless i have something constructive to say"

    Newbies often feel daunted by the photos on the site, and haven't developed any critiquing skills (threads like this help them understand critiquing a bit more), so when I see a newbie (look at their join date and post count, it appears at the top right of every post), say something like 'nice photo', that pleases me, they are making the effort, and hopefully reading what others say and learn from the comments made. Eventually they will start saying "nice photo, I like the dark sky with the storm coming in", it takes time, and should be encouraged. So always consider a members join date and post count when reading their comment as well.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
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    I have just been reading back over the thread Guidelines for Critiquing and there is some excellent advise it that for newer members who find it difficult to know what to say. I look at photo's and even though I love them, I still find it difficult to put into words what it is that actually appeals to me. I also think that being quite new to photography that I personally don't think I have the experience or knowledge to be judging anybody else's work. More often I do find myself saying nice shot, or something simple. I read a post some time back that said something about not just putting 'nice shot' and it took me a long time following that comment to put anything at all as I felt I had nothing worthwhile to say. So even though some newer members do not say much, I myself know that I love looking at all the posts and I am learning, and someday I may actually feel I have something worthwhile to contribute.

    Di
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