Tag Archives: Critical

How to improve your photography by talking about it

Mum - the loving supporter

♥ Mum – the loving supporter ♥
The problem is loving feedback is not honest Joe advice…

Sometimes we should ignore the love option.

The people you love are wonderfully supportive but probably won’t give the appraisal of your photography that you need. An informed, impartial and analytical opinion will help you understand what you need to improve.

It seems hard, but your family or great friends are probably going to like your work or conceal that they don’t like it. They don’t want to offend you or spoil their relationship with you. If you want to improve your photography you need an objective assessment of your work. You want someone to sensitively point out the good, the bad and the potential.

So just how do you find people who can help you. Here are some ideas…

  • Join a photography club and ask other members to look at your photos.
  • Enter competitions at a club, the judges often give a technical appraisal.
  • Find a professional/semi-pro who is prepared to do a little mentor work.
  • Find someone on a photography website or forum who is prepared to swap candid appraisals with you.
  • Find an artist who would be able to give you composition help and advice.
  • Get to know an art or photography graduate who understands the principles of photography.

What you should look for from these people is advice that…

  • is sensitive and supportive – with your best interests at heart.
  • objective, trustworthy, honest and informed.
  • will not belittle or trash your work.
  • will be positive and upbeat about the successes and good points.
  • won’t pull any punches – will tell you if there is a problem or issue.
  • will give you ideas about how to tackle your mistakes/problems.
  • is able to command your respect.

It may not be easy to find these people. So you should get to know a range of people in photography. You will find people who fit these profiles in lots of places. You just need to be determined and interested in developing your photography. They will help you because they want to, you will both be of like mind, and ultimately it is to the benefit of photography if we all share. Besides, it is fun if we help each other.

The broad approach

Your family and friends opinions are valid and useful. So are the opinions of those you work with and even people you do not know. Everyone is entitled to have likes and dislikes about photographs they see. However, these are people who may not understand photography is an art. They…

  • may not be positive about your work.
  • might say upsetting things without realising the impact they are having.
  • might not like your photograph, but may not be able to tell you why.
  • come out with erroneous reasons for their dislikes.
  • may not be supportive or may even be openly hostile.
  • might make silly or inappropriate suggestions about how to improve.

Yet, despite these shortcomings they have a valid opinion. You need to make your own judgement about how much attention to pay to them. You also need to make up your mind about how valuable it is to have uninformed opinion. In short, if you want to improve your photography you need to understand that opinion in art (photography) is a broad spectrum. And, it is your call as to how much criticism or support you will take from the different people on that spectrum.

With time…

In the long run you will make up your own mind about the opinions you hear about your work. Other peoples’ opinions help you – no matter what their background. It is also important to understand the diversity of opinion how that impacts on you, the photographer. Learning about varied opinions helps you to pick out the good advice form the less useful. Understanding the different types of people and opinion involved is not something you will understand any time soon. It is something that artists and photographers think about every time they meet someone with an opinion. How you handle those opinions is a personal approach and one you develop with experience. Actively seek opinions and you will get the experience quicker.

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
daily email service.
                                                 Find out more

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
Find out more…
Write for Photokonnexion.

Doing a photo critique – Part 1: respect and sensitivity

Help yourself and others to improve

Photographers often have trouble expressing feelings about photographs. It is too easy to say “Great shot!”, “Nice image” or whatever limited phrase comes to mind. A constructive appraisal of a photograph needs the right language, approach and understanding. However, it is worth learning the language. If you can express your feelings about another persons photo it helps you also see a lot more in your own. This is about how to approach constructive criticism of photographs.


Giving a critical review of a photograph requires an approach. Make sure the person concerned actually wants your critique first. You risk creating an upset if you just go ahead and do it. They must be ready for it and open to your approach. You are going to be saying things about someone’s creation. We all feel connected to our photos, so tread carefully. You may not be criticising the photographer directly, but they may see it as a personal attack if you do it wrong. So only do a full critique if you are invited to do a proper one.

Be respectful, approach it gently and suggest things in a positive and reinforcing way. A verbal attack will not put your message across. Suggestions are better. If you say, “this is good” and “that can be improved by” – you helped support them into positive thinking about their next photo. If you say “this is awful, that is dire!”, you help them stick their heels in defensively – not helpful. You should be positive and supportive for a good reason. Your approach and advice will inform their photography into the future. You are helping to mould their artistic and technical future as an image maker.

Remember, your positive influence is aimed to help them as photographers. Make sure you feel comfortable reviewing the work. What you say is just an opinion. Hopefully, the person you are working with will take it as just that too. So don’t do anything to ruin their respect of you. Give an honest, gentle, appraisal. If you cannot, or if you don’t feel qualified to comment, then say nothing. If you step outside your own expertise you will be spotted very quickly and you will be breaking the trust relationship you have with that person. It is an honor to be trusted enough to review someones work. Treat them and the work with respect and care. Ensure you deliver a fair review, even if you don’t like the work. Stand back from the ownership and your personal likes/dislikes. Be impartial and express the appraisal in straight forward, artistic and technical terms. It is OK to say how you feel as long as you justify it with accurate and meaningful learning points (sensitively delivered).

Art can be anything…

Every photograph has its own character no matter what you, the reviewer, thinks. There is always someone who will like it no matter what. I have seen some pretty challenging technical errors turn out as pleasing images. And some pretty outstanding photographers have turned out really poor quality work. In the end anything can be said, but only good sense will prevail. There is no right or wrong with an image there is only your opinion. There is no such thing as intrinsic value – beauty is something you see. Other people may or may not agree. So you will have to argue your point with good sense and good artistic and technical analysis.

Be useful; be specific!

Our aim, to be a positive, reinforcing critic, means our points must be obvious and effective. One glance at a picture with comment “Great image” does little for our hapless photog. However, this tells the them more…

“The strongest element in the picture follows a dynamic angle and has strong colour – both act to pull the eye into the scene. The fact that this element is on a ‘third‘ in the picture also keeps the eye searching for balance in the shot. You are drawn into the page to see more. These strong composition points give the picture holding power and the eye works to appreciate them”.

Our photographer has learned a lot they can follow up and shows they have quite a lot right. The bad news is not so bad then! For example…

“You have a lot of strong highlights. Patches of white attract the eye first. So working light to reduce those would help the viewer see the important elements in the picture straight away. At present they are distracted. You want your viewer to go straight to the powerful part of the picture to really capture their attention”.

This shows the error, and shows how it can be reduced, making the image more effective overall. That sells itself to the photographer!

Take everything into account

Every picture has clues about the authorship. Distracting highlights tell you about their observation of light. Poor use of space tells you they have not understood implied movement… well, there are 100 rules to be followed or broken. The elementary ones are the most obvious. On the other hand, if you spot they have broken a rule to create emphasis then – bonus points!

Your assessment of the artistic and technical elements of the photograph tells you what you are dealing with. Then you can respond appropriately. Deal directly with the level you see in the picture. You should not sound off with over-bearing or overly technical assessments.

The way a photographer presents the picture is important too. My point at the beginning about sweet wrappers in the foreground tells us that either the observational skills are not there, or the author cannot use an image editor. These elementary mistakes also suggests that the author probably has little experience with critiques. So be even more gentle and sensitive. We want to encourage, not beat and bamboozle them to submission!

The title

It is my personal opinion that a title is important. Some photographers disagree. That’s fine. Either way, the presence or absence of a title tells us something. If it is there, take advantage of what you are being told. Your appraisal is going to be more successful if you go with their direction. If it is not there, then you need to say if the picture stands up as a powerful story without it. Equally you need to say why it would help if there was one.

I hope that I have explained how the approach to critical review helps and is important. In Part 2 I will be showing you my system for doing a critique.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

50 ways to improve your photography – every day!

The 50 a day habit is the best way to improve your photography!

Looking critically at photographs is the best way to improve your photography!

Start a 50 a day habit – your photography will never be the same

We started this weekend with a 50 shot inspirational video. So now the point… to learn is to improve. Make it a personal mission to understand the photography of others. Once you know how to look at other peoples photography you can take a variety of approaches to your own.

Being behind the camera can at once be both liberating and limiting. You can photograph anything. At the same time you can only photograph what is in front of you. The pressure is on you to get the shot. So, what do you shoot? What angle do you shoot it from? How do you approach the shot? What is the best way to compose the scene?

The photographs taken by other people are inspiration and guidance. Inspiring because you see how others see – gain insight into new ways to shoot. Your own approach is informed by the success of others.

The work of others is also guidance. When you know how to look at a photograph you see what makes it good or not so good. You see where others make mistakes. You understand how to avoid their mistakes. You know what to look for when composing your shots.

Two lessons come from this inside knowledge of photographs.

First, learn how to look at a picture. Learn to make a critical appraisal of its merits, its mistakes. Learn how to see into it.

Second, make it your daily mission to look at 50 photographs done by other people. The 50-a-day habit will open a new world of appreciation of photography. There are literally billions of photos online. Fill your boots and then some.

With time, new critical skills will develop. Your photography will improve. You will know how to look at a scene and compose to make the best of it.

In a future post I will be looking at critically appraising pictures to help you with your mission.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
Find out more…
Write for Photokonnexion.