With the ease of the digital age and the internet, posting and sharing photos almost instantaneously, it is easy to critique photographs from other photographers. Proper constructive criticism can help a photographer grow and get stronger. When delivering or receiving critique know that many comments are opinions not facts. When critiquing, be helpful and detailed, not rude and insulting. When reading the evaluation and feedback on your images, don’t get defensive. Try to step away and take it as a learning experience.
So how do you offer critique that helps improve photographers without hurting their feelings?
Critique photographer who are asking for feedback.
Nothing is worse than posting a photo somewhere you think is fantastic and then another photographer swoops in and points out your imperfections when you did not ask for help.
When giving criticism and critique:
- Make sure the person asked for critique/constructive criticism (often referred to as CC). If you have something you want to tell them, and they did not ask, politely ask them if you can point some things out to help. Maybe they’ll say yes, and it will help them. Other times, they won’t want to know because they like it the way it is. It all depends on the person, but you should be the photographer who respects boundaries. Also remember every photographer is at a different stage and skill set.
If someone says: “I love how this photo turned out, and I hope you guys do too!” This is not the time to point out that this person underexposed their image or the horizon is crooked. They aren’t asking. They are just sharing. Even if you are ready to pounce on it, they may not want your feedback – not matter how helpful.
If the poster wrote, “I’m not sure how to properly expose this image because of the harsh sun. Can someone please tell me how to make sure that in this poor lighting situation my images are exposed properly? I would also like to know how to lighten this up in PS.” There’s your cue – you can jump in and let them know the specs of a properly lightened image, how to achieve it in low light situations, and how to fix the current image in Photoshop. Look for cues such as the photographer asking for advice, CC, etc.
Follow the “Rules of Conduct” by MCP. Click the NO MORE MEAN LOGO to read these:
Delivery: Be honest and helpful.
Make sure your feedback teaches the photographer something they can work on. Also, focus on the positives and things that have room for improvement.
- If your first thought is “I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but…” Then you probably need to rephrase the way you are talking to them. When you say a critique with an opinion that can be construed as negative, not only will the photographer not listen, but they could become defensive, or even feel you are wrong, even if you are right.
- Make the critique helpful and educational. Don’t just point out what is wrong. Tell them how they can improve.
- Highlight what you like about the image too. Most images have something good about them, so make sure to mention those along with the areas for improvement.
Don’t attack: “I don’t like the way you cropped this, it makes the whole photo look funny. It needs to be to the left.”
Instead explain, teach and encourage: “This may look better if it followed the rule of thirds. Perhaps if you cropped it to the left it would have more impact. In the future, try to encourage the mom to wear something that doesn’t have graphics on it as that is taking away from the baby. And I agree, that smoochy baby is just precious. Keep it up and come back and show us as you work on these or your next session.”
Draft your responses.
If you are dealing with a heated discussion, or someone has started to hurt feelings, draft a critique response first.
- Have a cup of tea or visit a funny website. Come back, and see how your response looks afterwards. You will have a clearer head and feel less emotional about it, and probably want to change your response.
- Whether it comes to giving or receiving CC, try to put yourself in the position of the other person.
When responding to rude feedback, try not to get defensive like this. “You’re really just an arrogant, mean, egotistical person. I doubt when you started out your images were perfect! How about you get off your high horse and show us one of the first photographs you took?! Bet they wouldn’t be so perfect then, would they?!”
Instead, remain level headed and try something like this. “Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion; however, could we please keep this to constructive criticism only? I’m just starting out and could really use some help on how to improve my photos. I am sure you understand.”
Don’t take images and alter them without permission.
- One of the biggest things we like to do, especially with the ease of software like MCP Actions, is to do a quick “fix” of other photographer’s photos. Unless the person has asked for it, don’t take their image and edit it. You may think you are trying to help the person, but your editing software may be something they don’t own, or they may not know how to follow your manual processing steps. If you feel you could help add to the image, let them know. Even when you say things like “I hope you don’t mind” or tell the person it’s something you like, that doesn’t always mean they are going to like that you edited their image without asking.
Don’t edit without asking. ” I took your image and played some of my own favorite edits on it, hope you don’t mind. They are in Photoshop and from Action Sets X and Y.”
Instead ask “May I show you a quick edit of this photo? I have an idea that would make your subject pop.” Then make sure when you post the image to explain how you got to the end results.
Realize that you are not the master of photography.
This is one of the most important parts. We ALL could learn more about photography, even if we have been shooting for several decades. It is important not to let your ego get a hold of you and to remember that even the newest photographer can sometimes humble people. Take your time, and choose polite, nice and even loving words when critiquing. It’s okay to point out a flaw in a photo – as long as you do it in a helpful way, you will be doing the right thing.
Where to go for advice, feedback and critique on your images.
If you are thinking, “all of this is great but where can I get helpful critique?” Come join the MCP Facebook Group here. The MCP Group is a large community of photographers who use MCP Products – the photographers love giving and receiving CC to grow their photography and editing skills using MCP products. All levels of photographers all welcome to request an invite and join in the learning.