Photography : How to get criticism

In my previous article, I talked about how to handle criticism when you post or share your photos. While it’s true that some photo critics may not be tactful in providing feedback, it is always good to provide some context into what areas that you’re trying to improve upon. Simply showing a photo & ask for comments or criticism sometimes just doesn’t cut it. As photographers who are trying to improve oneself, we are the best people to know our own weaknesses & perhaps aspire to shoot images of a certain quality which we are not able to as yet due to lack of experience.

Get real, what are your true intentions?

You should really ask yourself that question. If you are part of a photographic community where you are absolutely the top guy when it comes to the landscape genre for instance, posting a top-notch landscape photo on your forum & asking for “criticism” is rather a vain gesture. Similarly a photographer who specializes in street photography, captures a once in a lifetime moment which obviously took experience, hard work & a keen understanding of the surroundings where he shoots…. posts a photo over Facebook & says, “It’s just a snapshot!” or one of the more annoying comments like “Simply shoot..”. Seriously, what are you trying to prove besides soliciting for LIKEs & admiration for your work? I honestly have very little respect for such people.

If you know you are good at something, share it with the rest in the form of a note explaining how you got the shot & what it took to get it. Share your experience with others. Do not portray your skill as something you are born with & little to no effort to reproduce. You will not be respected for that. We were once all beginners & noobs. It is the act of sharing & helping others that makes you a better person, someone people can look up to for guidance. If you are asking for input from someone or some group of photographers, please let it be because you know that there are areas to improve & you genuinely want to improve. Otherwise don’t bother!

Ask the right people

No-brainer, right? You don’t ask a plumber to fix your electrical outlets when they fail, so you shouldn’t ask people who know nuts about photography how to improve on your skills!

Don’t just ask anyone. It makes perfect sense to look for friends or people in your photographic group who has a sense of style in which you really like. Just because someone is a professional wedding photographer doesn’t mean he or she may take photos that you find to your liking. Professional does not equate to good, just that they are paid for what they do. Sometimes, amateurs shoot better because they shoot for the passion of photography, not the money!

Photographers in general are usually very poor at expressing themselves outside from the way of making a photograph. This is why we hide behind the viewfinder because we are basically introverts who prefer to capture the moment rather than being the moment itself. A good photographer with a keen sense of vision who can provide you constructive input, able to share his thoughts freely & willingly are hard to come by. These are the type of mentors you need to look for when you want your work evaluated to enable you to acquire the most out of their experience. They may be short on supply, but if you look hard enough, you will find a friend or a colleague who fits this description.

Ask for the right thing

When you ask for your work to be evaluated, provide context. When you ask someone to comment on your work, a simple “Can you give me some advice on how to improve?” just may not work. Likewise posting a photo on a group forum & asking a general, “Comments & criticism welcomed”, the infamous C&C! You will not get much useful input with that. More often than not you will attract stray comments which does little to help you.

Structure your ask on one or at the most two areas of improvement. Be specific. If you were having problems composing the image, tell your audience. If lighting was your concern & you need to learn new ways of solving the problem, ask about lighting. Give as much information about how you took the shot & what you used to get it. Be prepared for questions that your critic may ask you to learn more about your understanding of photography.

If you broke some of the basic photography rules, tell your audience! I sometimes frame my images with smack in the middle compositions. I wasn’t thinking of rules of 3rds because I intentionally wanted the photo to be different. I’d make sure that my audience knew that if I were to ask for comments. If you purposely ‘underexposed’ an image to obtain a certain effect, make sure you indicate it. This will avoid some annoying critics who will point out the obvious & ruin your day! Unless of course you don’t know what you’re doing then it’s ok.

At the end of the day, you will only benefit from this exercise if you listen. Learn to filter out what is bad & learn from what is good. Learn how to HANDLE CRITICISM! Done correctly, asking for comments on your work will help you be a better photographer!

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