The value of critique


When we post our images online for people to look at, for example on Flickr, do we take this action knowing that at worse we will get no comment and at best we will get a ‘fave’ and the ubiquitous “love this”, comment? This and other forms of photographic display on the internet do not actively encourage truthful critique of an image as this can lead then lead to trolling and vindictive postings.

But how is this passive viewing on the internet helping our photography? If we only ask for approval and not critique then our development as artists will surely be stilted. It is by constructive comments, insightful critique and intelligent coaching that our true abilities will be highlighted and guided.

David duChemin has posted an excellent article on just how valuable critique is.

When do any of us ask our peers for their opinion before we post an image onto web media? You might say that it is only Flickr or 500px or whatever, but it is possible that more people are looking at that picture of yours at that time than are likely to see it at any other time or in any other media.

If that is the case, why put up sub-standard work? If you are not putting your best images onto photo websites then you are not getting your best images out to the viewing public. That surely is a waste of time. Most of us are probably amateur photographers, and websites like 500px, Flickr, and others are the only real outlet for our work. You should be honest with yourself and only upload those images that comply with your vision, don’t put up so-so pictures because you think you will get more faves or likes.  If only three people like or comment on your image but it’s the best you could do and it’s what you wanted to do, to the best of your ability, then that’s great. But was it the best that you could do? What if you missed something?

I like to think I scrutinize my photographs in the same way, but I’m sure some must get through. We all have a blind spot to our own work – we are too close to it. Photography is art and because of that if we prepare, take and then process our images with a full investment of our vision, time and concentration any criticism will hurt whether it is constructive or not. But it’s the only way we will get better.

When I was doing an OCA photography course, I had worked on a picture project for hours. I thought it was good. When it was marked, the tutor said that technically it was excellent, but it missed the point. It didn’t answer the project brief sufficiently. That hurt! But it helped me in that I realised that critique is an important part of growing as a photographer. A good critique will help you not just in the perspective of that one image but should help you see better ways of seeing or working – or both.



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