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!
I 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
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