Image Critique and Approach – What’s Important to You?

I often wonder how and why people judge photography, what constitutes a “good” photo versus a “bad” photo?  What gives anyone or me the right to express his or her opinion on anyone’s photography?

Firstly, photography is a visual art form both in the way it’s created, and the way it’s appreciated.  The nature of photography is that it is something we do for others to look at. As photographers we hope our images will leave an impression on their viewers. Secondly, most people want to know what others think of their efforts.  This feedback is vital to grow as an artist and become better photographers.

The Value of Constructive Criticism

So what is constructive criticism, or at least was is most beneficial to developing the art of photography?  As a Wedding Photography instructor at Sheridan College, I would regularly critique and grade students’ work. Critiquing someone’s work is not an easy task. Several things need to be considered:

  • Experience of the photographer.
  • Equipment being used, stylistic influences,
  • Ability to execute the assignment, and technical photographic execution

Most feedback is valuable, however, which is the most important?  I’ve given this matter a lot of thought over the years. I’d like to share with you some background on how I approach taking a photograph. This article will hopefully give you a better idea on what kind of feedback is important. I want to help you become the photographer you want to be. I also hope to illustrate what is not so important.

Lets reflect on a few things first…

Why did you press the button?

Photographers have the ability to freeze time, and preserve emotion. This ability can bring back those who are far away or no longer with us, even if for a moment.   Photography captures emotion, and emotion, brings on more emotions when viewing an image.  Regardless of your subject, the opportunity exists for all photographers to preserve that emotion in their images.

What emotion did you see or anticipate as you made the decision to release the shutter? How did you feel as the scene developed before you, what quality of light were you waiting so long for; how did you feel at that moment?

More importantly how do you want your audience to feel when you show that masterful shot, that crafted image?

If we’re honest with ourselves as photographers this is the feedback we typically fear the most.  Because these are the skills we cannot learn, we can only develop this skill through experience.

Now the technical stuff is important. I think the technical aspects less important than the emotional components. Anyone can learn exposure, appropriate DOF, and shutter speed etc.   A perfect execution of an emotionless subject matter is simply forgettable – It’s emotion that makes images powerful – period.

What Now?

So what’s the compelling message? The next time you have the honour of offering a critique, tell the artist how it made you feel.  Only the photographer will know how close they came to evoking the feelings from the viewer. Ultimately the most valuable gift your critique could offer.  It teaches the photographer how to see, how to develop not learn the art of seeing.

Before I conclude a few words of advice, focus yourself before you focus the camera. I grew up shooting film. When I was young film was the only medium. There was a sense of scarcity when shooting, each release of the shutter cost about $.50 cents; in the digital world of abundance today it costs nothing to press the button.  I suggest changing your photographic paradigm from abundance to sufficiency.  Sufficiency not an amount it’s an experience. You as the photographer are an artist only you know if you did enough.

I hope this brings a new perspective on your approach whether you agree or not  I hope it helps… now get out there and start seeing first.



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