I am a street-photographer interested in photography as an art forum. I've been photographing longer than most people are alive, have a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and have work in several major collections. My work can be seen on my website (www.line17.com).
Here is what I found out. There are thousands of web sites that offer critiques (although this is not one of them). There are tens of thousands of photographers critiquing other people's work. And, with a few exceptions, the critiques read, "Great photo. I especially like the trees on the left."
Not too helpful. So I added a public album and a bb to my site and set out to find people who want to 1) discuss what makes a useful critique and 2) improve their work as art photographers. I have had no luck at critique forums and so am posting this rather long introduction to ask for help. Where can I find these people and how can I contact them? Please? Help?
What kind of critique WOULD you find to be "Helpful"?
Originally Posted by ginsberg
I can try to describe my reaction, through MY eyes of your work ... I cannot offer some sort of "Rosetta Stone" where I can map out the entire path for you to follow to obtain photographic godliness.
You'll probably find more help here - from mature participants (I would suggest that the GREAT majority here deserve "mature" - FAR more than anywhere else that I know of) ... on everything from approach to aesthetics, to technical procedures.
We have to have some idea where to start... how CAN we help you?
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Well, to begin with, at least half the critiques that I read say something like, "nice photo. I especially like the trees." Imagine that you are the photographer and want to improve your work. I don't see how this can help. However, a critique that includes at least some of the elements of composition, light, texture, negative space, angle, tension, closeness-to-subject, technique (such as areas that seem too dark or too light), movement ... give the photographer something concrete to think about. I also think its important for a photographer to start to think about what type of work interests him/her. Often people take a photo because the scene reminds them of another photo, not because they particularly like what they are photographing. It takes time but the work of any artist has to, at some point, become a personal expression.
Critiqued art shows hire reviewers who have studied (formally or informally), the various elements of photography. I've even seen some university classes on the subject of how to critique a photograph.
My experience with asking for critiques here has been that people will offer as much input as I ask for. It seems to be a matter of simply asking for the type of critique you desire. I will pass on the same advice given to me, if you see someone on APUG who does what you would like to achieve, PM them and ask that person for specific input.
I've been through any number of boards seeking critiques and input and every one of them led to frustration and disappointment. I feel I have gotten valueable and useable input here.
This is a place to discuss photography (other than how to do all things digital), I believe every topic is open to discussion including thoughts on what makes a good critique.
That narrows things down a bit.
Originally Posted by ginsberg
I've studied Photographic Composition - a great deal - and I've been spending most of the last --- years trying NOT to let the "rules" consciously influence my work (n.b. consciously). I've found (IMHO, IMHO... every justification indicating an individual choice... ) that to do so only removes the human element - the "soul" - from my work. I suppose I could "grade your work" according to the "rules" - but I will not - I just don't believe in the activity.
There ARE formal classes in Art Critique ... you might want to read "The invisible Dragon", by Dave Hickey (Art Issues, Press - copyright 1993 - The Foundation for Advanced Critical Studies) ISBN 0-9637264-0-4.
A typical quote from that book (chosen at random) - p.24:
"... Critique of the mainstream ennobles the therapeutic institution's ostensible role as shadow government and disguises its unacknowledged mandate to neutralize dissent by first ghettoizing it, and then mystifying it. Confronted by images like Mappelthorpe's that, by virtue of their direct appeal to the beholder, disdain its umbrella of "care," the therapeutic institution is immediately disclosed for what it is: the moralistic junkyard of a pluralistic civilization."
I don't have much faith in critiques as an infallible way to "improve" one's work - not because I don't understand the modus operandi ... but more ... because I do.
I think Stillman Clarke had it right - to improve in photography ... "Shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. It will come - it WILL!"
BTW - I don't WANT my thoughts about photography to be "concrete" ... I'm trying to keep them fluid -- A hell of a lot more fun.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
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This is a simple proactive site not solely dedicated to the critique of photographs. People comment as they see fit if they feel a need to. If you want a serious critique ask for one. I am sure there are those, me included, who will rake your work over the coals if you so desire. But you need to be proactive in your quest. Expecting to post a photo and have it automatically critiqued in the manner you want is, well, very presumptuous.
I also do not think there are any professional critiquers in our midst nor would I trust the word of anyone who has taken "university classes on the subject of how to critique a photograph." I can't remember the site but you can pay to have a photo critiqued by an industry professional. The critiques appear to be thurough but nothing I would pay money for. You are the ultimate master of your photograph. You know what you are struggling. Take the initiative and ask specific questions about what you want to happen. If you don't take the initiative ya gets what ya gets.
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI
So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004
Formal criticism can be so B*O*R*I*N*G, as Ed has shown. It also can get quite "Egotistical."
I have been on both sides of the fence for over 25 years and have developed a tendency to only hear that which I feel has any relevence to what I am trying to accomplish. And I have learned to try and understand what the artist is trying to accomplish to temper my analysis of his/her work.
The best teacher I had told those of us who were interested in teaching not to evaluate someone's work solely on your own, but on what you understand of all different types of work, past and present.
So to sum up and stop my rambling: I agree with the others in that the more info you give about you and your work, the more likely you are to get feedback.
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
"I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc
I have found that if I put my photos in the critique gallery, something similar to magic happens!!! They get critiqued!!! By people who actually know what they are talking about! I am amazed at this!
But, as a non-formally educated really amateur photographer, here's something that amazes me even more... I am actually encouraged to comment on other people's photos!!! More likely than not, you will NEVER find the following phrases in my critique... "tight grain"; "blown highlights"; "reciprocity failure"; etc...the list is endless. I have some understanding of those things from reading and having the wonderful, gentle souls here help me out, but I am in no way ready to use them in a critique of anything! BUT... I DO know what I like, and I DO know if something is too dark or too light for my tastes. I know what I like, and I am just so happy that everyone here thinks it's ok if I contribute that much to the critique.
Please post some pictures! I would love to see if I like the tree on the left (or was it the right???) !!
Also, you have to consider that the small, digital scans in the gallery are only pale representations of the actual prints. It's hard to comment on blown out highlights or lack of shadow detail when they are most likely an affect of the scan or the monitor on which it is being viewed. I think that the people here recognise that there are only a few elements of the gallery images, such as composition and subject matter or perhaps general tone and lighting effects, that can really be meaningfully commented on.
Also, it requires a lot more time to compose a detailed critique so I think that there is a tendency to type a quick initial impression.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
I agree with Neal (Flotsam). I feel an initial reaction/impression of a photograph is more useful than a thought out and loooooong critique. The initial reaction is most likely more honest and less bumptious.
And as Neal said... anything you see on the net is scanned and is therefore probably not an accurate representation of the actual print (ie colour, grain and tone), so the most useful critique will most likely be on composition, cropping etc.
I suggest you try the 'suck it and see' method, put a couple of your shots in the critique gallery and see what happens.
Good luck and welcome to APUG!
Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh.