I just finished watching a recent episode of The Grid, where they discuss critiquing the work of  amateur photographers and how it is easy to be led astray. I’m sure we’ve all seen awful photos posted online and wondered what the photographer was thinking when they decided to share it. Sure, we all have to start somewhere, but no one is telling these people the truth! They have all been led to believe that their photographs are gorgeous, when in fact they have much to be desired.

This got me thinking. When I started photography, my only “critique” was through the inspectors at iStock. I would upload a photograph to my portfolio, and it was reviewed for technical and artistic merit before it could be available to be licensed. Social media sharing was also still in its infancy, and so I didn’t have hoards of people telling me only good things about my photographs. I grew on my own, and rarely had the chance to be critiqued.

Then, at my first Photoshop World in 2008, I finally had the opportunity to be critiqued in the “Portfolio Review” booth on the expo floor. The photographer looked at my portfolio, and had nothing bad to say. All of my photos, according to them, were great! I knew I wasn’t awful, but I was hoping to hear something that was wrong, something I could have done better. I guess it’s possible that my photos were, in fact, really good, but I was disappointed. I personally believe that nearly any photograph can be improved upon.

With any form of art, there is a learning process. When we first begin something new, we sometimes get lucky with a “perfect” creation. However, consistently creating something with very few technical flaws takes time and a LOT of practice. And when we share our work on Facebook, you will probably only hear the good feedback. The unskilled can see through the flaws to the beauty, but there are still going to be flaws. And when we only hear the good, we start to think that we are amazing. And those who do post negative comments are usually shunned (and they are oftentimes trolls, so their opinions should not even be respected). I personally will never give negative critique unless it is requested, and I assume that most reasonable people follow that way of thinking as well.

So here is my request: If you are asked to critique someone’s work, PLEASE BE HONEST! Tell them the good, and the bad. Give constructive critique, it will help them grow.

Editors Note: Join our G+ Community for critiques and inspiration.

In my opinion, we need balance. I may be an experienced photographer, but when it comes to pottery, a very serious hobby of mine, I am still in the early learning stages. I recently posted a few photos on Facebook of some mug designs I have been working on, and while I know they are flawed, I only heard wonderful things in the comments on Facebook. Not that I’m complaining, it’s always great to hear positive feedback! Yet I know that they are not perfect and could use a lot of refinement (technically and aesthetically), and while that doesn’t necessarily make them less beautiful, I know they could be improved. I would love to have my work critiqued by a professional potter, a real, honest critique! I can take it. After all, how else am I going to improve?

These are a few of my recent pottery mugs, in case you were wondering. :)

lavender-square-150pxNicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several print books and eBooks, and runs her own online store for photographers, the “Nicolesy Store“.

You can read more of Nicole’s articles HERE, and view her work and website HERE.

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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. Great article! One of the positives of going through formal training is formal critique. Critique days can be difficult for both the artist and the critics, but the outcome can be so outstanding.

  2. So true! I like the unusual combination of the cloudy LE sea with an animal

  3. Just remember there is never a “crappy” photo except a photo not taken. Every picture is a learning experience whether you’re a amateur photographer or a seasoned vet. We learn new things every day and that photography is a lot like yoga it’s a practice with every session getting better and bettet.

  4. Nice post Nicole and very true. I believe it is very difficult to become a good photographer without getting honest critique. My photography is where is today because I was lucky enough when I started out to find several groups of photographers who would give me honest (sometimes brutal) critique. I would much rather you tear my photograph apart then tell me “nice shot”.

    As for the pottery I can’t tell you about the craftsmanship but the designs seem well above average to me. :)

  5. I joint a photoclub, and we analyse our photo’s together and I learned a lot. My speciality is concertphotography and often the photo’s are analysed as a (studio)portrait and there don’t keep the situation in mind. So I also try to get some critiques by some concertphotographers to tell me where I can improve

  6. I have never minded the honest critique. I hate the “now I’ve got my shot at taking him down” critique. One of the clubs I’m in had the monthly competition night where some members left in tears! That is not helpful.


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About Nicole S. Young

Photographer, author, entrepreneur. I love photographing food and landscapes, and have written several how-to books on Photography, post-processing, and creative inspiration. You can find more about me on my blog, online store, as well as on Google+ and Twitter.


Opinion, Photography


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