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I get asked to critique lots of portfolios. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to accept very often. But when I do, something magical happens. I learn something. Yep, every single time I critique someone else’s images I learn something. The more I critique, the more critical my eye, the better I become.
This happens because I am emotionally removed from the image. Since I am not the maker, it’s easier for me to spot both its strengths and weaknesses.
What do I look for?
I look for the basics. I want great light, a strong subject, a clean background, good exposure, proper camera technique, a story, punch, life, and power.
I look for images that tell stories. I want clarity, I want to see right away what the maker is trying to say. If I have to guess, the photo fails. I want images that have a beginning, middle and end. Again, just like a good story, I want the photo to pull me in, give me somewhere to hang out while I am there and a way to go home.
I want good use of color or contrast, form and shape. I want movement, vitality and life. I want to see photos that pop.
You? Maybe you want something entirely different and that’s fine. But note that the mere act of looking for these things rather than just seeing them, makes you a better photographer. It’s like jumping jacks for your visual eye. You train your brain on what to look for and it just naturally crosses over into your own work.
So if you have time and someone asks, critique some photographs. You never know what you may learn in the process. You may be motivated and inspired in ways you didn’t think possible.