The sandwich critique (a how to guide)

Let me confess one thing right away; I have been scolded, trashed and even threatened for giving critique on a photo. Not for using a excuse but I’m Dutch (The Netherlands or Holland) it’s like a New Yorker that will tell you straight out and blunt what they think. After a lot of years now living in the US I came to understand that telling it straight out is not that much appreciated.  It’s the “How are you doing” greeting we use in Minnesota, nobody really wants to know that you feel crappy or sick or whatever, you always say something like “Fine, how about you” It’s a concept foreign to foreigners.

Ok so I did read up about this why people were so much upset with my critique because when I say the horizon is crooked, it is!

hamburger-critiqueI stumbled across the Sandwich technique people used to critique writers but also art. I recommend the sandwich approach, where you start with a positive point, give an honest opinion of what doesn’t work for you (may be multiple points), and then end with another positive point or words of encouragement. I’ve found that the sandwich approach helps put recipients at ease (especially if they are hungry). It makes people more receptive to constructive criticism and keeps them from getting overly defensive. If you are taking the time to provide the feedback, you should want the person to actually do something with it.

Here is my interpretation with the rules I will go by;

  • Tell them the positive aspects of the image for content and technique. Like the composition, colors, focus and depth of field. Also see if there is an intention on what the subject is and if your eyes are drawn into that.
  • Mention elements that require attention and/or improvement. This can be the use of a lens (Wide Angle or zoom) but also placing of objects, clutter and disturbing obstacles. Sometimes you just need a editor to fix a little glitch.
  • Why those elements do not work or could be improved. If your focus is on the nose instead the eyes in a portrait, point that out. Often a landscape horizon is balanced in the middle, they should try putting it in the upper or lower halve. And a horizon should be straight/level in most cases. Some people always have their horizon tilted to the right because they push to hard on the shutterbutton.
  • Notes on possible solutions. Give them pointers what to look for but be aware that breaking the rules can be fun too.
  • Next steps, maybe an article or book they should read.
  • Additional comments.
  • Words of encouragement. Keep playing with that concept, use your wide angle more, see what they general do right and let them add a new challenge.

But this also means that receiving critique needs to have some rules:

Receiving a Critique

  • Don’t pout if you hear something negative. Somebody else s opinion might be just that, different.
  • Wait until all the feedback is in before you seriously contemplate your changes.
  • Seriously contemplate your changes. Take time. Work through it. You never microwave a roast. Slow cooking always turns out better.
  • Look for common threads in the feedback and start there. The advice of the many outweighs the advice of the few.
  • Re-do (If possible) . If someone provides a re-do as an example, don’t just copy it. Try to understand why they suggested those changes. Otherwise you may dilute your own voice and you miss the opportunity to learn something.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something.
  • Thank the people who took the time to offer their feedback, and pay it forward by offering a critique to someone else

Remember the feedback is to let you improve your work, not to tell you you did it wrong.

Please let me know if you dare to let me critique an image, I will be happy to help you help me :)

You can use the contact form here: CONTACT FORM or leave a comment.

The sandwich critique (a how to guide) was originally published on


9 thoughts on “The sandwich critique (a how to guide)

  1. Very good advise. Love the horizon comment…a pet peeve of mine too, although sometimes it works 😉 I find it funny how your list of receivers rules is much more detailed. If you have time take a look at my photo101 posts. I haven`t had any critiques so it would be refreshing….and thanks! =^,,^=

  2. Thanks for your comment.
    You are right on the receivers rules being more specific then the critique rules, I work on that a little so it is more balanced and understandable.
    I will take a look at your blog too and do some critique.

  3. Hi there, I made the same experience. I am Austrian – if someone wants to know my opinion, I say it. Otherwise they should ask me to compliment 😉 Mostly, I stick to some sandwich concept as well to not intimidate anybody. So if you like to give feedback on my blog, I would really be happy to get honest and direct comments – I can take them 😉

  4. It was very interesting to read your post as I was just thinking that there doesn’t seem to be much commenting going on of pictures so far in Photography 101, just a lot of liking (in my case anyway). Maybe people are too scared to comment for fear of being taken as too negative or critical. If I have time I like to make a comment, if I have something to add or even just to compliment their photo selection for the day’s theme. 😊

  5. I agree. I’d rather hoped for more constructive criticism in our assignment feedback. Even in the Commons, they gave guidelines for criticism (if only I could find it now). It’s hard to grow your technique when most comments are only likes.

    If you don’t mind, I’m going to reblog this on my site for my readers thoughts as well.

  6. Reblogged this on Random Acts of Photography and commented:
    So far the Photo101 assignments have been interesting, certainly, but generally void of real critique. New followers and/or likes on our assignment posts can be an ego boost, but will those types of feedback help you grow as a photographer? blips posted a guide to critiquing your fellow Photo101 participants’ photos without falling into the trap of Minnesota “nice”. A worthy read.

  7. Very good post with good tips.I don’t get that much feedback, which is OK but sometimes it would be nice to get more than a ‘Like’ Hard to improve when you don’t know what or how. I don’t mind negative comments as long as there’s something positive too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s