What is constructive criticism?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by jim_cahoon|1, Sep 13, 2008.

  1. What is constructive criticism?
    I ask this, because I’ve been recently called on the mat, for my words. I hope I’m not sounding too defensive, but the
    mere fact, that I bring this question to you, is proof that I am defensive. That said, I will tell you I’m honest, when I
    respond to what I see, and I would hope that others are honest with my postings.

    I think, the work of most (all?) people who post on this site, is good. Some could be improved. Mine can be
    improved. Can yours be improved? I’m here to show some good (?) stuff, but more importantly, to get “constructive”
    hints, as how you guys, could make it better……..You know, something that might jog my memory, the next time I
    encountered the same situation. If I was here, for ONLY accolades, I could have stayed home, with friends and
    family, and gotten all the “oooh’s and ahaa’s, I wanted

    Your thoughts please – Jim Cahoon
  2. Constructive criticism begins by understanding the artist's goal in the work, by trying to understand where the she was
    trying to go and why she fell short. That way the entire effort is never trashed. Methodology, thinking and technique are
    open to analysis, to the enlightenment of all.

    Unfortunately our culture teaches us to worry about looking bad in front of others. It breeds defensiveness. (That said, I
    didn't read your posts and I hope you didn't wish for the demise of someone's dear relative)
  3. When you point out the bad, make sure you recognize the good also. Rarely is a shot totally one or the other but a mixture of both. Provide suggestions about how to resolve the problems you see.

    Even if the shot has few redeeming characteristics, point out what you find wrong and why, but try to make sure your comments reflect your thoughts and feelings. This is necessary especially when you are offended by the subject matter. Try not to use phrases like "you did this..., your composition really.... or don't you know anything about..."

    When you receive a critique that offends you, remember the "Disderata."
  4. isn't it something that can be helpful in one way or the other to the one being criticized? for example if you think one's work is total rubbish, that you'd take the time and explain why. the photographer might have a better understanding of your opinion than if you'd simply said; "what a piece of crap", or; "i don't like this photo".

    just as useless of course is the classic photo.net crit; "great photo!"
  5. I am always truly looking for criticism that will be helpful when I upload photos. However, there is usually a brutally honest and tactfully honest way to say the same thing. Written words can sometimes be difficult to determine the writer's tone from, and it is usually prudent to be aware of that. That being said I do enjoy sarcasm in any form. JR
  6. "I think, the work of most (all?) people who post on this site, is good"

    no it isn't There is far too great a diversity for that to be true. Most of it is mediocre at best which is perfectly normal.
    People of all walks of life with very diverse backgrounds upload their photo's here and so you'll find everything from
    bad snaps to top notch professional work. So it's also fair to say that there is a very limited amount of people who
    can really write a good and substantiated critique/comment.

    Is that a problem? No, it's not because what it often comes down to is whether you like a certain photo or you don't
    and I find that perfectly acceptable.

    Jim, you tell us you're honest. That for me is the best thing anyone can be here because a lot of people aren't, not
    really. They are afraid to start with or get afraid once they get a few favorable comments to thread on other people's
    toes or get flamed.

    Glen you're perfectly right in saying that one should also recognise the good things about any given work. That can
    become a bit difficult though when there isn't a lot of redeeming aspects to be found.

    Constructive criticism for me is all about honesty and respect. Mostly before commenting on work of people that I
    don't know I look at their portfolio as well to get a little perspective on things.

    Lastly, reading a lot of those threads here it's obvious that a lot of people are complaining about the amount and the
    quality of the feedback. But there are some who when they get it don't like it to be anything other than positive. You
    can't have it both ways though.
  7. Constructive critiques leave, or should leave the reader with ideas what went wrong, was insufficient, upsetting,
    not too well planned, misread ... etc. So that the picture taker can reflect on the way he/she constructed the

    Just what your high school English teacher did to your essays, sort of.

    Of course good criticism is hard to take and even harder to give. Especially if you think you are photography's
    god in waiting ... or become defensive and shut down your learning and growing process that way.
  8. "What is constructive criticism?"... unappreciated. These days you have to sugar coat everything to the point that it's almost unintelligible and useless in any practical sense. I find this to be especially true on photo.net where smiley faced emoticons are absolutely essential if you wish to avoid being tagged a "richard" (wait, make that a presumptuous, elitist, arrogant and unfeeling "richard"). If you want to offer honest constructive criticism here at photo.net, I suggest you get ahead of the game by changing your name to Dick... t
  9. Also people don't consider it constructive to point out spelling errors. Post-modernists, I suppose. JR
  10. i guess tom has a point, that many if not most come here looking for a pat on the back, and perhaps they get upset if they don't get it. personally i'd have nothing against having some serious "richards" all over me, but then i guess i'm a bit of a backpatter myself... ohwell
  11. Obviously someone has taken you to task for being a bottom liner. One can do so either in a poor manner where one
    cuts the shreds out of another individuals work or actions or they can be critical is a supportive way.

    The parent who smacks his child for spilling a glass of water is the type of person who is super critical and will not win
    friends and influence people. The parent that says "whoops!. let's wipe it up." and does not embaress the child will get
    much greater mileage out of the child in the future.

    How are you treated at work? Do you appreciate open criticism by your boss in front of the whole work crew?

    There is an old saying: you get more ants with honey then you get with vinegar.

    Constructive criticism is where one firsts finds the positive aspects of something and then says "I might have done so
    and so."

    None of us is perfect. Being kind is better then being nasty. The old saw "do unto to others as you would have done
    unto yourself" comes into play.
  12. Do you appreciate open criticism by your boss in front of the whole work crew?" this isn't a good analogy for posting images on an internet critique forum.
    In the bedroom when you ask your spouse "do these pants make my ass look fat" is a lot different than standing up in a room filled with thousands of people and yelling "do these pants make my ass look fat?"... t
  13. My point is, if someone wants discrete criticism, maybe an internet forum isn't the place to seek it... t
  14. I want to thank you all, for your remarks. When I’ve posted critiques, I don’t think I’ve done it in a spiteful manner. I have been, perhaps, a bit harsh, with my remarks on the work of a close friend. His work is far better than my own, and perhaps, I find myself living through his work, or something. I’ll, in the future, try to be more understanding of the artist’s feelings
  15. Something like, "Shut up, he explained."
  16. Being kind is better then being nasty. The old saw "do unto to others as you would have done unto yourself" comes into play.
    It's not that simple. I'm not bothered by direct, honest criticism of my photos, but I've seen plenty of people who will take any criticism of their work quite personally, no matter how accurate, relevant, insightful. well-thought, and clearly-explained that criticism is. As Tom Meyer noted, some people expect an apology if you offer anything less than unqualified praise for their shots.
  17. Criticism with suggestions.
    Example: Your lighting is harsh. Next time, consider waiting for the "magic hour."
  18. But Tim....maybe the photog wanted harsh lighting...
  19. I majored in Writing in college (still make every error known to man while posting on Pnet); I had many, many classes in
    which stories and papers were workshopped. Having a roundtable discussion about a few papers each week was an
    important component of the class; your buddy's opinion didn't affect your grade as an individual, but you still had to cope
    with a peer review during drafting.

    The rules for how we were to go about that were clearly established by our instructor before we began; everyone who
    was in the class had to write, review and revise many works. You had to be prepared to point out not only what went
    wrong and what went right, but also offer suggestions to the author for how to fix what you thought needed improvement.
    It got specific. This was the kind of situation where people would debate the punctuation in a sentence vs. intent.

    The author was not allowed to speak during his review. The only thing he could say during the discussion was, "Thank
    you." Afterwards, he'd get a few minutes to mop up some questions, but really all he could say was, "Thank you." He'd
    have to show his thanks by getting back to work on his paper.

    Point is, that was among a small group of people with clearly outlined intent. Kind of like the "No words" forum here;
    there were some established conventions. Some people say be honest; be brutally honest. Yeah, but there are also
    those times when that can go awry, too. We've got a worldwide general public here; you would almost need some kind
    of convention to communicate with your future critique givers.

    Try asking a specific question about your work when posting. Sometimes that helps.
  20. "Constructive criticism begins by understanding the artist's goal in the work"

    if true than it should work both ways. A photographer should be open to why someone comments the way he/she
    does. A good critique makes you sit back and review your own work. Ironically most people here don't know what a
    good critique is. There's nothing wrong with a direct and honest critique. When I was trained I got cut off by the
    knees more times than I wish to remember. I had really good teachers but some of the critiques we got were
    unbelievingly harsh. But as long as you can see that it's directed at reviewing your own approach and in general
    make you better than there's nothing wrong in that. We had group discussions as well and they more often than not
    were quite hard as well. It's true, most people will see that as a personal assault, even when it's clearly not. But
    that's why most of them will never get any better. Learning never stops.
  21. Words are a poor form of communication,but they are all we have.Everyones emotions are stirred in different ways
    when looking at a pic...At the end of the day constructive criticism,will always mean different things to different
    people.Apart from technical advice,which can be very specific.

    There doesn`t have to be a story in an an image for instance.It could be sublime without any one specific reason.All
    the words to try and understand or explain are often just stuff and nonsense.
    The Beatles wrote some fascinating songs and critics were endlessly evaluating what the true meaning of those
    words were.Well more times than not,there wasn`t any,they just sounded great and they all came together so well..
    In my mind it`s how we feel about something that matters and we are often not articulate enough to translate those
    feelings into words.
    I know Im not.
  22. Constructive criticism is when you suggest something that will make a sow's ear look a bit more like a silk purse without being offensive. (Assuming the sow is not wearing lipstick.)
  23. Constructive criticism is something very difficult and very rare. It is priceless in private lessons but may be useless in public view. In public view better: "great photo" (UNFORTUNATELY).
  24. "In public view better: "great photo" (UNFORTUNATELY)."

    Theo, I'll gladly refuse. Otherwise what's the point?
  25. Ton, I think you are right.
  26. I can only add that constructive criticism is what you wrote after you took the time to look at the picture and say what you liked and what you feel might have been better. Will it be received as constructive. No way of knowing unless there is a response that shows open mind.... There is as said an expectation that one will say there is at least some good otherwise why bother with something trite and what you yourself would have confined to the red discard button or the cutting room floor. If there must be sugar coating, yeah, I suppose that is the norm. Since most of the comments are "wow,wonderful capture" " best nude I have seen on Photo Net." This is known as political ass kissing. And I give a hero award to any poster that would like a bit more feedback, from those who can use words to translate ideas and feelings. Otherwise why not stick to the ratings or make up little gold, blue, and gray ribbons or paste stars as in elementary school " Nice work, gold star for you, Jamie..."
  27. The problem with looking at the photographer's "intent" is that often you can't tell what it was. When you post a photo, you want to know if the viewer liked it or didn't like it. If the criticism finds your intent, it means you did what you wanted to do. And if the criticism finds a different intent, you didn't.

    But many or most critiques don't even get to intent. If they're truly constructive, they talk about technical details such as lighting and cropping.

    Much of photography is done simply to record a scene. And that is the true intent. And to critique that intent is to say either the scene looks like what it looked like when the photo was shot, or that it didn't. But how would the critic know? He wasn't there.

    I would just like to see (and have gotten the most help and value from) are critiques telling me I'm a touch out of focus, or that there was motion blur, or that I could have framed the shot better, or that the background is cluttered. And I'm hoping I do these things less and less.
  28. I think critiques is as much a craft as photography itself. I hope the more I do it the better I will become, trying to tread carefully but being honest as I can be. I feel your experience of photography will depend on how credible or good your critiques is in many ways, I want to critiques in the hope that if I do it I will receive it. As Mike Dixon said The old saw "do unto to others as you would have done unto yourself" comes into play.
  29. The problem with critiques on individual photographs is the absence of context. Some photographs and photographers cannot be adequately evaluated apart from the context of a body of work, whether a lifetime's work or a specific theme. I always appreciate the folks who take the trouble to comment on a portfolio rather than taking a specific photo from a documentary project out of context and misinterpreting it. Sites like photo.net lend themselves very well to photos that stand on their own merits; not so well for photos that are only components of a multi-faceted statement.
  30. One good way to frame constructive criticism is to ask yourself what you would have done differently while shooting a subject, or, what you would like to see done to a photo if you yourself owned it, then suggest an actual action. Use language like: "... Try taking this shot from a lower angle next time..", or "...Consider cropping in such and such a way...", or ..."I'd like to see this photo sharper, or darker, or with more contrast...", or "...This subject would look good in a lower angle light, or without that object in the background..."

    Pretend you were there with your camera.
  31. so here I am again, in trouble again, for words I wrote.. I personally, would prefer to learn by my mistakes, and/or the opinions of others, on how they might have shot the picture, had they been there. I post to learn.

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