Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. – Bernard Meltzer
As an aspiring photographer, you have undoubtedly discovered the wonderful world of social media resources available to guide you on your journey. This post is going to offer an insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media guidance. While there are many individuals in these groups who can speak as an authority towards your questions, there are many more who may be grasping blindly for people to lead who do not know better. I have seen this first hand and it has motivated me to create a cautionary post towards it.
Every so often you will stumble upon a group that seems fitting for your level of photography. Perhaps this group specializes in beginner’s posts, concerts, portraits, or just feedback in general. These groups exist for every possible category that exists. While most are started with good intentions, many become home to some of the most spiteful people on the Internet. It is very easy to fall into the trap of inadequate critiques and spewing information that isn’t well founded. If a photographer of any level can properly critique, it will help mold them into a better artist themselves. This includes people who are looking to get their first DSLR camera and people who have been shooting since Ansel Adams and everyone in between.
As most people start in this area, I am going to describe what a good post looks like from the person posting the image and then the critique of the image.
POSTING AN IMAGE
1. Criteria for a great post of an image.
a. Title with byline.
i. This is a short phrase that sums up the feeling of the image in a way that others can relate to. It is best to name images something intriguing. (This image of Charlie Daniels, titled “Best There’s Ever Been”, has a dual meaning to the viewer. It doubles as lyrics to one of his most well know hits, “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and it is also in reference to the fiddle player, Daniels, himself being a true legend on the country instrument.)
ii. Byline being a short description of what is going on in the image. Try to think the 5 w’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why), only use those that apply.
i. Posting the settings (Camera, ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, flash used, any cropping done, and Focal Length) can help people properly critique your work by trying to understand your goal in obtaining your exposure.
ii. You can also post limited information on post processing. Such as “Done in Lightroom 5 or Photoshop CS6)
c. Questions and Goals
i. Include something as simple as CC welcome (Constructive Criticism)
ii. Ask a specific question
1. Perhaps you were attempting a specific look and couldn’t quite obtain it. e.g. “I was trying to underexpose the background but it still looks blown out, any tips?”
a. This allows people to know where the focus of the CC needs to go and where it doesn’t.
2. Asking things like “What would you do different?”
a. This will entice engagement on the post to get more people involved to get more feedback.
3. Do Not’
i. Try to refrain from posting images that aren’t a good representation of your finished product. You can tell this when people will say, “CC everything but the masking on the hair, I will be fixing that later.” You need to be posting s perfect as possible images before submitting for others to criticize.
e. Example Post:
“…Best There’s Ever Been.”
Legendary fiddle player Charlie Daniels running "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" during a show in Southern Illinois on September 2nd 2015.
No Flash Fired
Shot in Raw
Processed in Adobe Lightroom 5
Slight Crop to straighten horizon
What would you have done differently?
A post like the example above is a great start at getting good feedback from your images. It gives the viewers enough information to get straight to the critique and now wonder about settings.
Now that we know a great way to share our photos, now we get to look at others images. This is an opportunity to HELP other people get better or to share your opinions on their art.
CRITIQUING AN IMAGE
· What is a photo critique?
Although it may appear to be an opportunity to destroy a photographer on how terrible their image is, it is the opposite. It is an opportunity to offer advice to improve a photo in which you may have better training or understanding. It can range from suggestions on composition, color, subject, focus, modeling, processing, gear, and so on.
· Who should critique a photo?
Leave it to the professional’s right? Wrong.
Photo critiques are an important part for new photographers to understand what could be different in an image and how the person behind the camera controls it. As a new photographer it is important to be respectful and not speak information you don't understand yet.
· Critiquing etiquette?
Every photographer, regardless of experience, is sensitive to his/her work. Using language that could be compared to bullying or belittling is frowned upon and can have a lasting effect on the original artist. Stick to specifics when pointing out areas of improvement and offer solutions.
· Can’t find anything you like in an image or don’t know how to help?
Simple, Keep scrolling.
· Tips on critiquing
o Ask yourself some questions
§ Where do my eyes go on the image?
§ Does the composition make sense?
§ Do the colors look right (over saturated, under saturated, good WB)?
§ Do the settings make sense?
§ Is the focus point sharp?
§ Does the image feel complete or is it lacking something?
§ Does the modeling looked natural?
§ Did the lens choice make sense?
§ Is this the best focal length to get the image?
o If anything could be better offer a solution
§ Does the composition make sense?
· No, I would recommend a tighter shot to get some of the distracting elements out of the background. Perhaps getting closer, or a longer focal length. I would refrain from cropping to fix this issue, reshoot if at all possible.
§ This approach allows a problem to be address and immediately showered with suggestions. You can even offer a personal story that proves you have the authority to speak to this type of adjustment.
Do I expect the Internet to magically turn into polite and friendly place for online photo critiquing? Not in my wildest dreams. I am simply trying to better prepare photographers to receive the best feedback from their fellow artists and earn their respect through offering courteous advice. If you find someone harshly critiquing your work, try not to take it too hard. We all start somewhere and we should all be humble in our advice.
So next time you find yourself looking to post an image or giving feedback on the interwebs, please do yourself a favor and follow these simply steps for critique etiquette.
Please leave your website or a link to your images (max of 15 in an album) in the comments section and I may include the in a video critique or a blog post coming soon.
Here is an album of mine, critique in the comments below.