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Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 13:48
How bad must a picture be before you say so? I submitted quite a few absolutely rotten pictures to competitions when I was in my 20s, because I didn't realize how awful they were.

On RFF I try not to criticize bloody awful shots -- oversharpened portraits that look like skin diseases, appalling shadows, incredibly busy backgrounds, etc. -- because I don't want to discourage people. I reckon it's better to come to an appreciation of competence slowly, as I did, rather than frightening people off by even gentle criticism.

Even so, I wonder if I'm right. I might frighten some people off, but others, I might save years of fart-arsing about with abysmal images. I suspect that I go for the kind route (aesthetically, not technically) because I'd not have understood the 'cruel to be kind' route myself in my 20s.

Any others' thoughts on this?

Note: this is not aimed at anyone specific. This week I'm working on the web-site, with several new modules to be added over the next few months, and believe it or not, RFF is a form of relaxation from this. Next week, back to writing fiction...

Tashi delek,

R.

Brian Sweeney
08-10-2009, 13:55
Photographs that I regard as "truly Awful", others will call "Art".

I'm not saying that all Photographs that are called "Art" are awful. But a lot of awful ones, are.

As one example, one of the first "Pop Photo" grand prize winners was IMO truly awful. Many readers wrote in to state as much after the winning photograph was published. Many good photographs were passed over, in favor of this busy photograph of kids in a living room. Somebody must have liked it.

brachal
08-10-2009, 14:02
Everybody's entitled to an opinion. I don't have a problem with anybody critiquing other people's work as long as it's done in a civilized manner. It's OK to say, "I think the background is too busy." Unfortunately, most people, fortified with Internet Courage, simply say, "Your picture sucks!!!"

maddoc
08-10-2009, 14:06
... 99% of "HDR" labeled pictures.

vincentbenoit
08-10-2009, 14:09
... 99% of "HDR" labeled pictures.
Make that 99.99%...

Vincent

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 14:09
Photographs that I regard as "truly Awful", others will call "Art".

Dear Brian,

Oh, sure. No argument there.

But equally, maybe some of the really awful 'art photographers' de nos jours might have quit while they were ahead if they had been subject to harsher criticism, so only the ones who really believed in their own work (however misguidedly at first) would have carried in. Do we make it too easy to pursue incompetence for too long?

This is NOT the same as equating 'art' and 'incompetence': merely questioning the correlation. It's a classic omitted middle. "A great deal of good 'new art' breaks the rules" is not the same as "a great deal of 'new art' that 'breaks the rules' is good."

And then there are those who cannot even claim art: who post muddy, unsharp pictures under the impression that their photographs are neither muddy nor unsharp.

Edit: Bill, I love 'internet courage'. And Wiggy: Bless you, my son.

Cheers,

R.

Andy Kibber
08-10-2009, 14:11
There are plenty of bad pictures on the internet. I don't give my opinion on them unless I'm asked for it. Even then I often don't bother. It's less frustrating to say good things about good pictures.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 14:15
There are plenty of bad pictures on the internet. I don't give my opinion on them unless I'm asked for it. Even then I often don't bother. It's less frustrating to say good things about good pictures.

Dear Andy,

This is indeed an easier path, and better for the soul. Even so, you can't help wondering, some times, if people realize how utterly awful some of their pictures are. I certainly didn't (and no doubt, I sometimes don't now, but at least I have the consolation of being paid for some of them).

Cheers,

R.

peterm1
08-10-2009, 14:16
I wonder also if we are talking about critiquing the technical aspects of the photo or the choice of subject. I have been subscribing to a photo mag in which they have a monthly competition. While the photos chosen for publication are technically fine many seem to have kitsch or boring subjects - probably that's what they think the readership wants. (Look at any stock photo site and see how popular the pictures of the "glorious sunset" or the "cute puppy" are - the answer is "very" by the way so the magazine is probably right.)

On a site like ours I think its OK to be critical if someone asks for criticism. But not otherwise. I see many photos here and on other forums that I do not like (I may think the subject is just plain bland) or think are poorly executed sometimes obviously so (not in focus, poor exposure etc.) I would not dream of offering criticism to the the subject unless asked to do so - its damn rude. And if I do offer it, then it must be constructive and offered in polite terms. These are the kind of rules by which any society live.

brachal
08-10-2009, 14:16
Internet Courage is closely related to "Guinness Muscles", but much less likely to result in a trip to the emergency room at 3 am. :)

antiquark
08-10-2009, 14:16
If someone begs for a critique, then let 'em have it!

However, I get the impression that many people post pictures for reasons other than artistic development, and are likely to take criticism the wrong way.

Brian Sweeney
08-10-2009, 14:19
There are many degrees of "bad". The image of the cow riding the exercise bike winning a Pop Photo contest just came to mind.

I'm making the assumption that the person knows how to use the camera and get the intended image. It's easy to assist and help people to use equipment, such as correctly holding the camera, getting the correct exposure, selectively focus a subject, or to "freeze" action with shutter-speed selection. Those are more mechanical. It's much more difficult to offer advice regarding composing the image. Once you get beyond, "don't always put the subjects head in the center of the photo", "try to fill the frame", or "rule of thirds", someone is likely to get feelings hurt.

mackigator
08-10-2009, 14:22
I think a lot has to do with the outlook of the photographer. Since there is no way to judge that over the Internet usually, I would refrain.

As far as outlook, I'd divide people into two categories: life-long learners and the rest. A life long learner can take it, and in fact needs the feedback. In this way all criticism is sort of life's way of finding those who can be great. So even though I refrain, I guess this is the logic of offering the critique, damn-the-torpedoes: it discourages people who need to be discouraged and equips those who need it.

Which reminds me of a favorite expression: "Those who can be discouraged, should be."

Dave Wilkinson
08-10-2009, 14:26
I don't foist many of my own dubious efforts on to RFF - It's usually just to illustrate a point, but one thing I'm pleased about the lack of here is - those awful 'cotton wool' waves, surrounding black beach rocks - under a strange purple sky!. Over here you can't pick up a photo mag. without getting 'em :bang:
-apart from that, it's just the majority of pinhole 'artworks' that make me cry "bloody awful".....ooops! should'nt have said that!:(
Cheers, Dave.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 14:28
All hail the messiah!
I really need your help. I couldn't stand to be "fart-arsing" about with "abysmal" images.:rolleyes:


If you really mean it, post some pictures (on this thread) and I (and I hope others) will try to help. But don't do it unless you mean it. We'll all try to be polite (or at least, I will) but if you've never fart-arsed about with abysmal images I'm surprised we don't already know you as one of the greatest photographers of all time.

That's one reason I don't ask for criticism. I know there are plenty of people who would be only too willing. I also know that some would be better photographers than I, and some worse. So I'll go my own way, and earn a modest living, and bite my tongue (or keyboard finger) when I see pictures by people who are as bad as I was at (say) 25.

I'm not saying I'm great at 59: merely that I'm not as bad as I was at 25. And (by definition) I don't know if I'd have got better, faster, with harsher criticism than I in fact received. EDIT after Post 15: If you think this is patronizing, it's your problem, not mine. Some photographers are better than others. Do you deny this? And maybe those who are better can help those who are worse. Do you deny this? I don't claim to be great, but I do claim some experience and publishability. I'm wondering about the limits of criticism. What are you wondering about?

Cheers,

R.

tbarker13
08-10-2009, 14:28
I'd say it depends on the context.
In the critique/photo display areas, that's what people should expect.

But when someone tosses out a photo in the midst of a discussion about bokeh, there's really no point in critiquing the overall photo. Likewise, when someone says something like "My 35 summicron sure is sharp" and posts an image to support it, I don't think they're asking to have the photo critiqued.

Personally, I do think there is something worse than offering discouraging words. And that's when someone offers strong praise for a weak image. That does no one any good.

Steveh
08-10-2009, 14:29
This is an interesting debate Roger. I have over 1,000 photos in my Pbase galleries, which have received (as at now) 8,223 comments. And as far as I can remember not one of those comments is even slightly negative. And a lot of the pics certainly weren't that great!

I think Peter sums up most people's instinctive position - that unless people ask to be criticised you don't do it. Personally, I'd always welcome it, but it seems to be taboo.

BTW Roger I always used to really enjoy your AP column - do you still write for them or did you get swept away in one of their revamps?!

peterm1
08-10-2009, 14:30
I forgot to mention. A couple of years ago I stopped contributing to the Leica forum over at PhotoNet. It had a big problem - unwanted criticism that often turned into flame wars. (I acknowledeg that it has since returned to better times.)

A few trolls nearly ruined the site either because they thought it funny to provoke other posters with intemperate criticism or perhaps some thought they were being constructive (not that there is anything constructive in saying that someones wife looks like a dog or that someones photo skill are on par with a chimp.) This is the sort of level it degenerated to predictably perhaps when the moderators failed to pull up the culprits. There is a slippery slope when unwanted or intemperate criticism is offered. I would truly hate to see it start here.

functus
08-10-2009, 14:30
I have to admit to some curiousity about what makes a photo truly awful ... What elements are so bad -- lighting? exposure? focus? If so, these suggest that maybe with practice and awareness, the person can learn, and perhaps what is needed (if the person is genuinely asking) is guidance/advice ("this would work better if you used a spot meter to get the proper exposure for the face rather than the sky").

If you're talking composition and subject-matter ... people will (even if they say they welcome criticism) be a lot less inclined to accept negative comment. People can live with the idea that they may be technically not able to make their images look like what they envision. People don't typically want to be told that although they have the technical skills to realize their vision, that vision is mundane and boring.

kermaier
08-10-2009, 14:36
I'm no longer in my 20s, and I'm under no illusions about my meager abilities. Unless I'm posting an image for its technical qualities alone, please feel free to be honestly, civilly critical of any picture of mine.

::Ari

mfogiel
08-10-2009, 14:43
I have often thought, looking at single photograph of acclaimed masters, that if I copied this or that shot and put it on flickr, it would most likely end up with this sort of comments:

http://theonlinephotographer.blogspot.com/2006/06/great-photographers-on-internet.html

In fact, it is seldom that a single photograph can tell it all -one great photograph does not make a master. It usually takes a body of CONSISTENT work, to be able to appreciate the single most iconic images as pieces of art.
For example, I am far too busy exploring various subjects and visual aspects of shooting, to be able to produce anything decent - it does not bother me much, because I take the photography as enjoyment, but for people who take themselves seriously it would be beneficial if someone pointed them in the right direction.

On the other extreme, a lot of members here want to enjoy the shot of their cat or kids, and I do not see anything wrong with that, even if at times the heated discussions about the superiority of some very expensive piece of gear, backed by this type of photographs make me shrug my shoulders... But, do these people really want to proggress photographically?

P.S. @ Wiggy

Would you mind wigging off from this forum please ?

Keith
08-10-2009, 14:47
I hate to have to point it out Roger ... but you're feeding a troll.

Just ignore mate! :p

NathanJD
08-10-2009, 14:47
A picture can't be awful it can only be a picture that you like or that you don’t. It can be naive, not to ones taste, but never awful. Just like art and music. In fact the only thing I know for a fact can be awful is a human being's actions.

Who was that photographer who used a big large format camera about 100 years ago in America to photograph crime scenes where murders had occurred only for those images to take on a merit, I believe he is now revered although I can't remember his name (not my strong point).

So I think a photo can be a technical failure but never awful.

Someone show me one and prove me wrong :D

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 14:53
I'm wondering about the limits of your arrogance.


Illimitable. I get poison pen letters about it. Of course, I don't see it as arrogance, merely as evidence of an inquiring mind. But if it alarms you, there's an easy solution. Put me on ignore.

Cheers,

R.

Dave Wilkinson
08-10-2009, 14:53
I hate to have to point it out Roger ... but you're feeding a troll.

Just ignore mate! :pssshhhh!.....I quite enjoy it when the sabres start to rattle! :D

thomasw_
08-10-2009, 14:53
Peter -- that's true, there is a huge difference in intent between constructive critiques and rude, offensive and often personal criticisms. I think that constructive criticism is very helpful if it is polite in language usage and not directed at the appearance of the subject of the image or at the photographer. For example, I think that debating whether or not the woman/child/man in a photo is handsome or homely is useless; but keeping it to matters of techniques on composition, exposure, tonality, contrast, symbols and motifs etc., can be very useful. So, then, politeness is the key to delivering constructive criticism. But what about receiving it?

I think that if critiques are requested, the photographer should gladly welcome any opinions as long as they are delivered politely and thoughtfully. A photographer who requests for a critique needs to keep in mind that they take courage and time to write politely. So my view is that a thankful attitude is required, as the critiques are being offered so as to benefit the photographer.

my 2 pennies...

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 14:55
BTW Roger I always used to really enjoy your AP column - do you still write for them or did you get swept away in one of their revamps?!

Dear Steve,

Alternate weeks. The weeks I'm not in print I'm on the web instead. thanks for the kind words!

Cheers,

R.

Steveh
08-10-2009, 15:02
Dear Steve,

Alternate weeks. The weeks I'm not in print I'm on the web instead. thanks for the kind words!

Cheers,

R.

Excellent - I'll have to pay more attention! I buy it once a month or so but I must be unlucky and choose your "off weeks". As long as they don't give Wiggy a column ;).

I'm also very jealous of all the cool stuff your wife gets to review for B&W Photography - do you ever get to keep any of it??

tbarker13
08-10-2009, 15:03
A picture can't be awful it can only be a picture that you like or that you don’t. It can be naive, not to ones taste, but never awful. Just like art and music. In fact the only thing I know for a fact can be awful is a human being's actions.

Who was that photographer who used a big large format camera about 100 years ago in America to photograph crime scenes where murders had occurred only for those images to take on a merit, I believe he is now revered although I can't remember his name (not my strong point).

So I think a photo can be a technical failure but never awful.

Someone show me one and prove me wrong :D

Aren't we just getting into a semantics debate here? You could make the same argument for just about anything in life - books, movies, food, etc.. Someone could say a burned steak is awful to eat. Someone else might look at it and say it's cooked just right.
Still, there is a reason some restaurants are know for preparing great food while others go out of business.
If enough people agree that something is good, then it is. If they don't, then it's not.
Of course, opinions/impressions may change over time. But that doesn't have anything to do with the here and now.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 15:04
I have to admit to some curiousity about what makes a photo truly awful ... What elements are so bad -- lighting? exposure? focus? If so, these suggest that maybe with practice and awareness, the person can learn, and perhaps what is needed (if the person is genuinely asking) is guidance/advice ("this would work better if you used a spot meter to get the proper exposure for the face rather than the sky").


Good point, and one of the reasons I tend to shut up. Another is flame wars, and another is trolls. But perhaps the most important reason is that it's really time-consuming to try to be both constructive and walking-on-eggshells polite (some people have really thin skins, including me sometimes), so it's not worth saying to someone, "Compare your picture with post 123. It's not even sharp by the undemanding standards of the internet; the contrast is flat amd muddy; and the background is so dominant that you can't really even see the principal subject. Why don't you think hard about what you're shooting; focus on it; and include only that amount of background which is essential for context."

Tashi delek,

R.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 15:14
Aren't we just getting into a semantics debate here?

Dear Tim (and by implication Nathan),

Yes. This is part of the question. If only I think it's awful, that's irrelevant. If I and 1000 other think it's awful, that's another matter. And if 1001 others think it's great -- well, let 'em say so, and argue with me and my 1000 chums.

I allude to the kind of pictures I'm talking about in an earlier post (34). Specific criticisms and comparisons are seldom difficult. We can all look at our own pictures and say, 'A is better than B'. The question in the thread is about how far we can do that with the pictures of others, and how far (having made our choices) we should go in making those opinions public.

As I said, I tend to hold back because I'd have been put off (badly) when I was an even worse photographer than I am now. How many (a) think they could handle robust criticism and (b) actually could handle it? Most of us probably fall into category (a); very few of us, I suggest, into category (b).

Cheers,

R.

chris00nj
08-10-2009, 15:20
If you really mean it, post some pictures (on this thread) and I (and I hope others) will try to help. But don't do it unless you mean it. ....


I think the Gallery photos should be open to critique. I certainly welcome it. If you post a picture and there are no comments, does it suck and people are just being polite?

I realize I have many crappy photos, but I try not to post them

I'll be the guinea pig. Here's some shots. Critique away!! (These are all my favourites for 2009 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris00nj/sets/72157615995615156/))


Here's some I think are good, and at least someone else has a voiced positive comment:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3513/3710471881_b94e6b1894.jpg


http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2652/3712748177_0c68dd447a.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3431/3703163164_2f7b175674.jpg

Here's one that I thought was good, but I think other's silence may indicated otherwise:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3297/3342400885_81e61c7d83.jpg

Here's one I like, but I'm a wee unsure of:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2647/3711187409_606e61cb3b.jpg

Oscar Levant
08-10-2009, 15:24
In a previous incarnation I offered to accurately critique the images of posters who wished to know if their photographs were good or bad.

The protests and wounded egos of those thusly critiqued could wake the dead.

Nobody really wants to be told that their efforts are "el stinko".

MatthewThompson
08-10-2009, 15:35
I think the Gallery photos should be open to critique. I certainly welcome it. If you post a picture and there are no comments, does it suck and people are just being polite?

I realize I have many crappy photos, but I try not to post them

Here's some I think are good, and at least someone else has a voiced positive comment:

Here's one that I thought was good, but I think other's silence may indicated otherwise:

Here's one I like, but I'm a wee unsure of:


What the mob thinks of random shots from random people is largely irrelevant. If you're a dedicated shooter, you should be able to evaluate your body of work every 6 months, identify what you like and what you don't (according to *your* standards, you shot the damned things) and work in the direction you see fit to meet you newly revised goals.

I see photos of a cruise and a girl in a shop. How are these shots compared to other travel photos and your favorite pics of girls in shops? Can we really opine on your body of work from these images? Should we? Do you really need the approval of the web at large to know if you're making images that please you?

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 15:36
Dear Chris,

I'll divide 'em into A, B, C, D.

A: Stuff I'd be proud to have taken, great shots,

B: Good, stuff I'd be happy with. Publishable.

C: Ordinary but OK. Just about usable to make a point in an article.

D: I'd never use it.

Of course this is intensely personal but what else is there? And of course I have to allow for the difficulty of judging a pic on an LCD screen at low resolution.

#1 (deck chairs): B, possibly A. Maybe a person in shot would have improved it; maybe not. Love the tonality, nice composition,

#2 (bow?): B shading to C. Good illustration; a bit static (and uncrowded) for a pic in its own right.

#3 (mountains/reflection): B/C, but much more B if cropped a little more panoramic

#4 (Life): Sorry, don't see it. C at best (for illustration). I find the contrast a little flat, and the compositional 'echo' of the faces in the background distract attention from the young woman reading the magazine.

#5 (Mountains): An easy C, maybe B, especially if you crop some of the sky. I'd also boost the contrast and burn the sky.

THESE ARE ONLY ONE PERSON'S OPINIONS, and none of the shots is what I'd call 'bloody awful', not by a long chalk. EDIT -- and I agree completely with Matthew

Hope you're not too offended,

Second edit: quite a few awful pics come from those who say, MY LENS IS REALLY SHARP AND CONTRASTY and then post a pic which proves that it isn't, even at 600x900 pixels. Oh: and I agree with Dave: what's an 'accurate critique'? See http://www.rogerandfrances.com/photoschool/ps%20critique.html for the view of someone who has been on the other side (as it were) of the critique desk.




R.

Dave Wilkinson
08-10-2009, 15:40
In a previous incarnation I offered to accurately critique the images of posters who wished to know if their photographs were good or bad.

The protests and wounded egos of those thusly critiqued could wake the dead.

Nobody really wants to be told that their efforts are "el stinko". Here we go again!...you offered to "accurately critique" their images? most of us could only give an opinion :rolleyes:

ferider
08-10-2009, 15:41
A couple of years ago we used to have weekly critique threads that worked very well, IMO.

I welcome any critique of my pictures, on flickr in particular. On flickr it's nice to look at the commenter's own photo stream, to see where (s)he is coming from.

On RFF, I would welcome critique given by the older, more experienced members, anywhere a photo shows up. But then again, I would expect them to photographically "expose" themselves, too. And, BTW, for me, teaching and doing are two very different things.

Cheers,

Roland.

Steveh
08-10-2009, 15:43
I think the Gallery photos should be open to critique. I certainly welcome it. If you post a picture and there are no comments, does it suck and people are just being polite?

I realize I have many crappy photos, but I try not to post them

I'll be the guinea pig. Here's some shots. Critique away!! (These are all my favourites for 2009 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris00nj/sets/72157615995615156/))



Is nobody else going to bite? Ok Chris (places head in Lion's mouth, waits nervously :eek:), I'll play too. I seem to disagree with Roger quite a bit (not sure what that proves...)

#1 - quite dull - doesn't so much for me, where is the picture's centre of interest?

#2 - my favourite of the 5 - nice repeating curves (prow of ship, shoreline, mountains), some narrative interest (where is the boat going? are the people waiting to disembark or just watching the view?)

#3 - like this one as well - the symmetry is almost perfect, reflections are great, a pretty landscape shot

#4 - technically very good, but doesn't do much for me otherwise. Probably means more if you know the lady in question (which I hope you do ;)). What's the picture saying?

#5 - meh - dull. Pseudo Ansel Adams, and I don't like real Ansel Adams much (oops, personal bias intruding).

And none of these are anywhere close to "bloody awful", in my (irrelevant) opinion.

Jamie123
08-10-2009, 15:44
I must admit that I hardly ever see good work on internet photography forums and most of what I see is either boring or right out horrible. It's just my taste and I usually keep it to myself.
I do have a hard time holding back sometimes when I see people discussing the technical details (focus, busy background, etc) of a bad photo. Sometimes it's just crap and no amount of sharpness will change that. And a photo can still be good even if (or because) it's out of focus.
Just yesterday, for example, I skimmed through Terry Richardson's "Terryworld". If you can get past the male genitalia and bodily fluids the guy is actually quite good and most of the shots have technical "shortcomings".

Anyways, I think the best way to go about it is to not comment at all when you see an awful photo. Don't tell someone that his "background is too busy" when really the problem is that neither the fore- nor the background are very interesting at all.

By the way, I'm not just that harsh with other people's work. Even my best work seems to turn into crap within a week after my first impression.

Oscar Levant
08-10-2009, 15:45
Let's see. I'm building a man-flying kite, I'm writing a novel, I'm writing a history of the late Byzantine Empire, I'm rebuilding a set of Purdy shotguns, I'm riding my sidecar motorcyle 93 miles where I will pick up the parts to repair the brake shoes of my Submarine Spitfire MK VB. Then I'm cooking a huge meal with my 18 year old teenage female muse, and downing several Jeroboams of vintage plonk. I'm doing all this before 7:30am in the morning, and I'll post a few hours on RFF, strictly to relax, because simply posting because I'm bored is beneath me. After that, I'll read a few chapters of Chaucer before attending an auto de fé where a few suspected heretics will be well-roasted.

Oscar Levant
08-10-2009, 15:48
Yes, VERY ACCURATELY critique.

Here we go again!...you offered to "accurately critique" their images? most of us could only give an opinion :rolleyes:

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 15:51
Let's see. I'm building a man-flying kite, I'm writing a novel, I'm writing a history of the late Byzantine Empire, I'm rebuilding a set of Purdy shotguns, I'm riding my sidecar motorcyle 93 miles where I will pick up the parts to repair the brake shoes of my Submarine Spitfire MK VB. Then I'm cooking a huge meal with my 18 year old teenage female muse, and downing several Jeroboams of vintage plonk. I'm doing all this before 7:30am in the morning, and I'll post a few hours on RFF, strictly to relax, because simply posting because I'm bored is beneath me. After that, I'll read a few chapters of Chaucer before attending an auto de fé where a few suspected heretics will be well-roasted.

Dear Oscar,

Gosh! You lead an even busier life than I do! And a Submarine Spitfire sounds really interesting; I'd only encountered the Supermarine before.

Incidentally, what is relaxation if not staving off boredom, or doing something easy because your brain or muscles or both have seized up from the other things you've been doing all day?

Edit: Actually, I generally get up between 9 and 10 because I go to bed so late after staying on RFF too long.

Cheers,

R.

functus
08-10-2009, 15:52
Interesting ... and Chris, thanks for being the guinea pig for an exercise in criticism (and the subjectivity inherent in it). I think the deck chair photograph (#1) is dramatic, well-composed and tonally very interesting. I think the bow of the ship (#2) misses just slightly compositionally; I wonder what it might have looked like had the perspective been lower, making the bow appear as if it is stretching further toward the mountains in the background -- I think it would have brought all the lines to a more central point and emphasize the sense of immensity.

But that's just me ...

Oscar Levant
08-10-2009, 15:52
I don't do ANYTHING all day, and posting on RFF helps me continue to do so.

MatthewThompson
08-10-2009, 15:53
Let's see. I'm building a man-flying kite, I'm writing a novel, I'm writing a history of the late Byzantine Empire, I'm rebuilding a set of Purdy shotguns, I'm riding my sidecar motorcyle 93 miles where I will pick up the parts to repair the brake shoes of my Submarine Spitfire MK VB. Then I'm cooking a huge meal with my 18 year old teenage female muse, and downing several Jeroboams of vintage plonk. I'm doing all this before 7:30am in the morning, and I'll post a few hours on RFF, strictly to relax, because simply posting because I'm bored is beneath me. After that, I'll read a few chapters of Chaucer before attending an auto de fé where a few suspected heretics will be well-roasted.

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.
-Oscar Levant

chris00nj
08-10-2009, 15:55
Dear Chris,

I'll divide 'em into A, B, C, D.

A: Stuff I'd be proud to have taken, great shots,

B: Good, stuff I'd be happy with. Publishable.

C: Ordinary but OK. Just about usable to make a point in an article.

D: I'd never use it.

Of course this is intensely personal but what else is there? And of course I have to allow for the difficulty of judging a pic on an LCD screen at low resolution.

#1 (deck chairs): B, possibly A. Maybe a person in shot would have improved it; maybe not. Love the tonality, nice composition,

#2 (bow?): B shading to C. Good illustration; a bit static (and uncrowded) for a pic in its own right.

#3 (mountains/reflection): B/C, but much more B if cropped a little more panoramic

#4 (Life): Sorry, don't see it. C at best (for illustration). I find the contrast a little flat, and the compositional 'echo' of the faces in the background distract attention from the young woman reading the magazine.

#5 (Mountains): An easy C, maybe B, especially if you crop some of the sky. I'd also boost the contrast and burn the sky.

THESE ARE ONLY ONE PERSON'S OPINIONS, and none of the shots is what I'd call 'bloody awful', not by a long chalk. EDIT -- and I agree completely with Matthew

Hope you're not too offended,

R.

I appreciate the feedback! I'd wondered about the placement of one person walking on the deck in the 1st photo. Of course, you'd need someone dressed well and in the right spot. It was a pain enough waiting for the deck to clear.

While Matt's comments have a degree of validity, which aspiring cook would turn down a critique from Emeril? Which improving golfer wouldn't want a tip on their swing from Tiger?

I think the problem comes from photos that people post proclaiming to be great when they may not be. Here's one more that I think is good. Critique away:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3245/2964202381_09dfba09d1.jpg

dee
08-10-2009, 15:58
Throughout my careering as an Inferior Designer , I have worked with many young designers .
It does them no favours if I keep quiet about unsuitable / b...y stupid designs , finishes etc - provided it is termed in a leadership manner . Again this is a minefield of artistic endeavour - so similar to photgraphy and painting - so I guess the same applies to photos ... snapshots of no artistc merit but recording a precious moment I would never comment upon - unless asked - then I say what I see .
Me ? I take considered snapshots ... pretentious moi ?

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 15:58
Here's one more that I think is good. Critique away:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3245/2964202381_09dfba09d1.jpg

Damn! Bedtime!

But much as I love the top half of the picture, I think the bottom half is too murky, at least on my screen. A brilliant trick I saw a while back was a grey grad filter used indoors for a pic like this (though of course you need a reflex or view camera to get it right).

Cheers,

R.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 16:03
Throughout my careering as an Inferior Designer , I have worked with many young designers .
It does them no favours if I keep quiet about unsuitable / b...y stupid designs , finishes etc

Dear Dee,

Sure -- face to face, with people who know you. But 'Internet Courage' is a potent drug...

Besides, anyone with the self-deprecation to write, even jokingly, "Inferior Designer", has more of a sense of humour than many.

Cheers,

R.

MatthewThompson
08-10-2009, 16:05
While Matt's comments have a degree of validity, which aspiring cook would turn down a critique from Emeril? Which improving golfer wouldn't want a tip on their swing from Tiger?


My point, as you seem to have missed it, is that Tiger and Emeril aren't involved on a personal level with your craft. I can tell you to keep your chin down and follow through, or to only work with sharp knives.

My point is that you need to be involved in every level of your craft and be able to hone your work by its own merit. It's clear you can take a level, well exposed photo. So you should be able to in order to have a body of work. Rule of thirds, composition, design and balance are integral parts of photography, and all important in their own right.

The images that don't meet those basic, defining standards are supposed to be left on the cutting room floor after making notes on how to avoid those technical problems in the next shooting session. At the point where you've separated the wheat from the chaff, your experience and direction can cull 80% of the remainder. Those remaining are the shots you can use to move forward with your craft. Moving forward from there is your responsibility, if you require help finding that 20%, you need to tighten up your style and think more about your goals when you shoot.

That's way I think it's pointless to post up a snapshot and poll the mob.

swoop
08-10-2009, 16:05
I'm fairly sure my portfolio is riddled with horrid pictures.

tbarker13
08-10-2009, 16:05
One of the problems with accepting and learning anything from a critique is that both the photographer and editor need to be on the same page to some degree.
I'll toss myself out as an example. Most of what I do is documentary type work. Almost always B&W and always available light. I'm not sure how much I can gain from the commentary of someone who believes that a well-lit color still-life is the apex of good photography. "Should have used a flash" means nothing to me.
I'm not saying that person doesn't have something to offer, but it does help to understand where the critic is coming from - in terms of their own style and preferences.

hamradio
08-10-2009, 16:11
So,

Is it bad that I don't really shoot photos to please anyone but me?

easyrider
08-10-2009, 16:11
But I LIKE my awful pictures! :))

Micky D
08-10-2009, 16:15
So,

Is it bad that I don't really shoot photos to please anyone but me?

Not at all mate. That's all I do too.

Don't listen to any self appointed mentors.

MatthewThompson
08-10-2009, 16:16
So,

Is it bad that I don't really shoot photos to please anyone but me?

Why would you do it to please other people? Photography or anything else for that matter.

tbarker13
08-10-2009, 16:20
So,

Is it bad that I don't really shoot photos to please anyone but me?

Only if you spend much time showing your photos to other people.:)

Jamie123
08-10-2009, 16:20
Damn! Bedtime!

But much as I love the top half of the picture, I think the bottom half is too murky, at least on my screen. A brilliant trick I saw a while back was a grey grad filter used indoors for a pic like this (though of course you need a reflex or view camera to get it right).

Cheers,

R.

This is exactly what I mean. Do you really think this shot would greatly benefit from a grad ND filter? It's still just mediocre stock imagery. I'm all for good interior shots but this is no Candida Höfer or Andreas Gursky.

No offense to you Chris (but afterall you did agree to be the guinea pig). My advice for the next time would be to just not take this kind of shot. You knew that it wasn't going to be a great shot the moment you took it. The only reason you like it is because you like the pretty rays of light coming through the window. But pretty light alone does not make a great picture and you know it.
(btw, I kinda liked that 2nd picture of your last batch)

I'm guilty of the same thing sometimes. I see a picture I took and think "ooooh, I like that flare" or "ooooh, that's that soft look I've been trying to get". It's only after a while that I am honest with myself and have to see that one good detail doesn't make a good picture.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 16:22
So,

Is it bad that I don't really shoot photos to please anyone but me?

No, that's great. But what gets me is people who say, "As long as I like them, that's all that matters," and then show them to me. If they really don't care about anyone else's opinion, ever, why do they show them to anyone else, ever?

Like you, I shoot to please myself. I don't know anyone else well enough to do otherwise. But if I show them to anyone else (which in my case my job requires me to do) then I have to be prepared for adverse as well as positive criticism. Or, on occasion, for the outright insults which some people feel it is their duty to bestow.

It occurs to me that I should clarify the original post. Unless I can say something moderately constructve such as, "Perhaps you could consider a little more contrast," or "No, actually that picture isn't anything like as sharp as you think it is," or "Sorry, I can't really distinguish the principal subject from the background," then it's no use at all to say "Your picture is complete rubbish and you is a idiot."

This is even more true when the person seeking the critique clearly are a idiot.

Cheers,

R.

Roger Hicks
08-10-2009, 16:28
This is exactly what I mean. Do you really think this shot would greatly benefit from a grad ND filter?
Dunno. It might. There is a great pleasure in exquisite detail, exquisitely rendered. At least for me. And bear in mind my ABCD classification earlier in the thread. With the grey grad, it would almost certainly be a B on my scale and maybe an A.

Not for you maybe. But as I said earlier, mine is only one person's opinion. So's yours. A lot depends on what the photographer wants from the image (and often, even more on what the editor wants): I'd not be as dismissive of stock shots as you are. Hence my referring people to the piece about crititiques on my site, http://www.rogerandfrances.com/photoschool/ps%20critique.html.

Cheers,

R

John Robertson
08-10-2009, 16:28
Photographs that I regard as "truly Awful", others will call "Art".

I'm not saying that all Photographs that are called "Art" are awful. But a lot of awful ones, are.

Somebody must have liked it.
Could not agree more Brian, you often wonder what the "someone" produces themselves.
I remember years ago a well known Scottish TV presenter called Fyffe Robertson was asked about such "art"
He said his definition was "Phoney Art" shortened to Phart!! Says it all really.

peterm1
08-10-2009, 16:32
Could not agree more Brian, you often wonder what the "someone" produces themselves.
I remember years ago a well known Scottish TV presenter called Fyffe Robertson was asked about such "art"
He said his definition was "Phoney Art" shortened to Phart!! Says it all really.

Oh I get it - a load of hot air then! :^)

Now seriously. I think that what some non pro photographers forget is that favorite photos that they love are often the ones that mean something to them. Pictures of the much loved wife, the new addition to the family or the family cat for example. There is an emotional element there that means something to the picture taker. But these photos usually lack that emotional connection when viewed by other people. So they keep publishing these photos and are surprised when others are not moved by them. Although I would not say that this qualifies these images as "truly awful" they are perhaps in some cases at least truly boring. Of course as I said in my earleir post I would not say this to them unless I was invited to make a critique.

I am of the school that says the job of a photographer is not to reproduce how something looks. Instead it is to create an emotion - desirably a positive one. So yes the picture should move the viewer emotionally. But to have wide appeal the image must have something universal about it.

I am not holding out the following image to be fantastic but I am happy enough with it to use it to demonstrate. I took this photo of a stranger and child in the street. It was a nice enough photo when I took it but then I worked hard to make it better - I wanted the image to be of the woman's face, her hands and the child, nothing more. So I set about working with Photoshop to achieve this. As a result I think the image now has more universal appeal. Thats what photographers should be working for - well maybe not universal appeal as that may mean "lowest common denominator" appeal. But at least something that people can recognise as in this case a "universal image of motherhood" perhaps.....

Before it was just a snapshot. Now it has something that has an element of art to it. Before it may not have been awful but it was ordinary. I hope now it is not.

Whether you like it or not is a different matter.

JohnTF
08-10-2009, 17:03
Roger, I generally feel it is better to offer "criticism" in small doses of civility, if large doses are called for, it should be in person, sought after, and to be truly valid, you may have to see the image in final or hard print form.


For one thing, if you tell someone too many things, they not only might react in an unproductive manner, but it dilutes each point in terms of their perception.

I view images on three or four different screens, and I often cannot see the details that may make an image a winner. I suspect you may agree, a really fine print may not be so fine, transposed on a laptop screen. In cases such as these, I may say exactly that, or nothing.


As a personal example, presently my screens are not matching, and I need to correct some posts of images that I know to be much better, it may not be possible to get them from analog to digital, either through my lack of skills, or some difficulty in the post processing equipment or process.

Further, I also think it takes a higher degree of experience and evolution of vision to know the difference between an image you might admire casually and one that is really very good on some variety of positive levels.

Sometimes a simple "perhaps I might crop the edge slightly to remove the bright object", can be very helpful, or "the image needs more visible detail in the darker tones of the shaded tree".

Years ago I showed my work to a local photographer whose work I generally admired and respected, and he made a few simple comments that changed some of the way I shoot and things I look for. I also recognized that his specific suggestion to reduce the brightness by burning in one corner was entirely correct, and something I had simply overlooked.

Am sure you have references and other influences that made you aware of certain specific components and aspects of many good or handsome images.

To this end, there are certain components of good images that go beyond just what the observer reacts to in the brief time he may have with a print.

While shooting, there are moments when you look and instinctively find an image that you know is good, and will be good from the time the shutter is tripped, provided you get all the technical and compositional components right, so as to not interfere or lose the essence of what you are seeing.

i.e. "Not to screw it up".

If I have time, I shoot several frames, often the first one is the "one". This is intuition, which changes with experience and evolution of style and vision.

This is the intangible part of the process, which is not part of any specific planning-- it is just there.

And, if you cannot summon the technical aspects to capture what you want, even good intuition and a great eye may not save you.

There is seeing, and there is capturing.

Finally, one of the first tests for the strength of an image-- Is this an image I would like to see more than once?

Sorry, I do go on, figure you for a fast reader regardless. ;-)

Regards, John

mfunnell
08-10-2009, 18:12
I am of the school that says the job of a photographer is not to reproduce how something looks. Instead it is to create an emotion - desirably a positive one. So yes the picture should move the viewer emotionally. But to have wide appeal the image must have something universal about it.Which is fine, if that's the kind of photograph you're after. But photographs can be taken for many reasons:

To show your mum what the new hedges you've planted look like:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2433/3559230590_7646034764_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfunnell/3559230590/)

To show the cable runs used to hook a TB8100 transceiver, a Trimble GPS time reference, a Cyclades terminal server and a "Cypher" encoder together:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2574/3712475530_63090dcd9c_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfunnell/3712475530/)

To show what Crescent Head looked like when you stopped there for lunch:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2465/3638559446_a0120ffc5c_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfunnell/3638559446/)

None of which deserve or require critique: they are what they are, and are good enough for their purpose.

...Mike

peterm1
08-10-2009, 18:53
Which is fine, if that's the kind of photograph you're after. But photographs can be taken for many reasons:

To show your mum what the new hedges you've planted look like:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2433/3559230590_7646034764_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfunnell/3559230590/)

To show the cable runs used to hook a TB8100 transceiver, a Trimble GPS time reference, a Cyclades terminal server and a "Cypher" encoder together:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2574/3712475530_63090dcd9c_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfunnell/3712475530/)

To show what Crescent Head looked like when you stopped there for lunch:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2465/3638559446_a0120ffc5c_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfunnell/3638559446/)

None of which deserve or require critique: they are what they are, and are good enough for their purpose.

...Mike


What you say is perfectly ture, but I honestly do not think this is the sort of photo this thread is referring to. Such photos are inherently "utilitarian." That is their purpose. In a sense they are meant to be sort of "boring" (please do not take offence at this but it seems to me that you are saying this yourself) - like an illustration in a text book. I would find it hard to regard any such image as "truly awful" unless the photographer so screwed up the technical aspects of actually taking it that it was virtually iunrecognisable. To regard something as truly awful is a kind of visceral response that has emotion behind it. Depending on the context most people would probably not get emotional about such photos I would have thought. For example your photo of Crescent Head is fine as an informal snap of where you had lunch to show your family but if you were touting it as a tourism image for a brochure to entice masses of people to Cresent Head............probably not.

"Truly awful" photos are generally the ones (in my view ) that purport to be something more than they are but abysmally fail to reach that objective either because the image is badly made or the subject is a bad choice.

I see this kind of thing a bit with some "street photography" posted on various forums. To be successful I think street photography should at least tell some kind of a story. Many such photos sadly appear to be nothing more than snapshots in monochrome (and sometimes not very well composed or exposed ones at that ) - there is really nothing to engage the viewer. Maybe I am wrong but thats what I think. Again I would not tell someone that their pride and joy misses out - unless they invited it and even then I would be gentle and constructive.

mfunnell
08-10-2009, 19:35
What you say is perfectly ture, but I honestly do not think this is the sort of photo this thread is referring to. Such photos are inherently "utilitarian." That is their purpose. In a sense they are meant to be sort of "boring" (please do not take offence at this but it seems to me that you are saying this yourself) - like an illustration in a text book. I would find it hard to regard any such image as "truly awful" unless the photographer so screwed up the technical aspects of actually taking it that it was virtually iunrecognisable.I guess that was the point I was trying to make with my (yes) boring photos. While I'm certainly not ascribing the view to you, or Roger, some people do seem to get awfully upset when they look at, say, flickr and see all these "dreadful" photos which aren't artistic or fail to meet some other goal that particular viewer is after. I would say that a goodly number are there simply to set up a link they can send to their auntie so she can view the photos they took while on holiday at the coast (or whatever). And I can't see anything wrong with that.

...Mike

Thardy
08-10-2009, 20:32
Once you get beyond, "don't always put the subjects head in the center of the photo", "try to fill the frame", or "rule of thirds", someone is likely to get feelings hurt.

Now exactly when has my wife been sharing her photos with you?

dmr
08-10-2009, 20:38
... 99% of "HDR" labeled pictures.

HDR is to photography what heavy oils on black velvet is to painting! 90% of the time it's misused and overused and not used effectively. Many of them look cartoonish and kitschy!

But just wait! In 30 years it will be retro and cool! :)

Oh well ...

nzeeman
08-10-2009, 21:09
i rarely criticize people's photos - simply because i dont think i have right to do it. but i know when i make awful photo - someone stated that there are no awful photos but i can show you example of mine awful photo
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffgallery/gallery/3753/U3753I1191848376.SEQ.0.jpg
i know every aspect of this photo sucks - but there is a reason i put it in my gallery - that is a playground where i played when i was small and living in other part of town. i was passing by one day and i had camera - i knew that light sucks but i just wanted to take snapshot of it. i could probably take another nicer but i rarely shoot same scene twice.
and here is one of mine that technically sucks - i had very expired film and it was a middle of the night - i took the shot - and while you barely see anything i like it very much - but i also know that many people would say this photo is awful too.
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/data/6820/medium/lampaa.jpg

Ronald M
08-10-2009, 21:40
I try to point out only the most glaring errors and suggest how to avoid.

Try to find something good no matter how deep you have to dig.

amateriat
08-10-2009, 21:49
Criticism is...difficult.

Someone shows me a print, or (worse) a small image on a screen, and asks me what I think. The first thing I want to ask is, what are you trying to tell me with this image? Half the problem is communicating an idea, of feeling, or array of ideas and/or feelings. If I'm not getting anything from this image, it's not "working" for me. This is but one critical metric, of course, but it's one that matters to me, one that cuts through most of the critical posturing that occurs from camera clubs to salon critiques. We all engage in this little experience for something, even if that something isn't particularly deep/artsy/existential. Does that "something" come through in the resulting images? Do we really want it to? Or is it as simple as Winogrand put it, about wanting to see what things looked like photographed?

For me, it's All Of the Above. Which is why my work is sometimes just a mess. ;)


- Barrett

John Camp
08-10-2009, 22:00
I was once a columnist for a metropolitan newspaper (population of the area is ~3 million) and every month or so, tried to pick out an artist, (painter, photographer, ceramicist, fabric artist, etc.,) to write about. When it became apparent that I was serious about art, I got a lot of requests to "come look."

Most of what I saw was dreadful. In some of the arts - photography and ceramics, most notably -- the poor quality was not so immediately apparent, because some low degree of skill was necessary simply to produce an object. You either knew more-or-less how to throw a pot, or didn't, either knew how to more-or-less make a print, or didn't. Those requirements did not necessarily apply to painters or sculptors.

My solution to the question of what to say was...I didn't say anything, if it was bad. Thanks for showing me, see you later. The fact is, if the stuff is consistently bad, the producers of it will eventually catch on and do something else; they don't really have to be told.

There were a few sad cases of people who thought they were Van Gogh (they weren't) and lived hand-to-mouth for years, supporting their art, never to understand that nobody wanted it because it just wasn't very good. Instead, they considered themselves underappreciated or misunderstood. They were wrong; the problem is, they WERE understood.

If I thought something was good, of course, I said so, sometimes in terms more glowing than was warranted. Support the arts, etc.

When I made an error in my assessments, it was always on the generous side. I gave quite a good review to one particular painter, and years later, after leaving the newspaper business, bought one of his paintings. I look at it now and wonder what the hell I was thinking: it's awful, and it's now in my attic, where I see it two or three times a year. It doesn't get better.

The really good photographs made by most people are those of their families, and the reason they are so good is that they carry real meaning for somebody. The meaning shines out of the photos. It seems to me that there are billions of "art" photographs which carry almost no meaning for anybody, and frankly, I'm tired of looking at them. Happy to look at the family snaps, though.

skibeerr
08-10-2009, 22:41
http://www.everyoneweb.com/fotoartiest/


I think this might be used as a standard,




Some insicive critisism might do some good here but who's going to break it gently to the lady?

Rayt
08-10-2009, 23:17
http://www.everyoneweb.com/fotoartiest/


I think this might be used as a standard,




Some insicive critisism might do some good here but who's going to break it gently to the lady?


There is nothing wrong with these photos as they served their intended purpose without pretention.

Chris101
08-10-2009, 23:32
I have a problem with internet (and to a lesser extent, print media) critique - it is too immediate. In the past, artists worked in a relative vacuum. Their friends would offer encouragement, and occasionally there would be a criticism, which may or may not influence their work.

Now, one posts something on the internet, and immediately it is reacted to by many strangers. Influential posters on the various sites will offer their critique, and a large group of posters will agree with that critique (after all, who wants to see naked emperors?) If the critique was positive, well that's all to the good. We may say otherwise, but who really does not want to hear "great shot"?

If on the other hand, the critique is negative, the photographer will start shooting and posting pictures that are more like what others want to see. This is called improvement, as styles, and the use of tools, are brought more in line with the norms for similar works. In the end it has the effect of pounding the nails that stick up, flat. Potential artists are not allowed the space to develop without immediately being "corrected" into the realm of acceptable photos.

---

That said, let me join this critique madness! I find the second picture posted by nzeeman (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1112727#post1112727) to be the most interesting and captivating picture I have seen on this website (as well as many others) for quite a while. I can imagine any number of stories to accompany it!

pvdhaar
08-11-2009, 00:13
I have a problem with internet (and to a lesser extent, print media) critique - it is too immediate. In the past, artists worked in a relative vacuum. Their friends would offer encouragement, and occasionally there would be a criticism, which may or may not influence their work.

Now, one posts something on the internet, and immediately it is reacted to by many strangers. Influential posters on the various sites will offer their critique, and a large group of posters will agree with that critique (after all, who wants to see naked emperors?) If the critique was positive, well that's all to the good. We may say otherwise, but who really does not want to hear "great shot"?

If on the other hand, the critique is negative, the photographer will start shooting and posting pictures that are more like what others want to see. This is called improvement, as styles, and the use of tools, are brought more in line with the norms for similar works. In the end it has the effect of pounding the nails that stick up, flat. Potential artists are not allowed the space to develop without immediately being "corrected" into the realm of acceptable photos.

Very well said.. and exactly why we should be somewhat moderate in our critiques of others' photographs.

Unless of course the picture is made with a posh show-off camera.

skibeerr
08-11-2009, 02:27
There is nothing wrong with these photos as they served their intended purpose without pretention.


Hold you horse Rayt, she is selling herself as a pro and wants to be paid for shoots.

Makes a whole difference in my book.

Cheers,

Wim

Rayt
08-11-2009, 02:32
Hold you horse Rayt, she is selling herself as a pro and wants to be paid for shoots.

Makes a whole difference in my book.

Cheers,

Wim

The need to read Dutch never occurred to me until today. My apologies!

skibeerr
08-11-2009, 02:52
The need to read Dutch never occurred to me until today. My apologies!


I should have explained more when I first posted.

I readily jumped on a photographer like http://www.everyoneweb.com/fotoartiest/ (http://www.everyoneweb.com/fotoartiest/)
because I often see the likes of these in the lokal craigslist equivalent.

It is the lack of selfcritisism that strikes me. I have loads of crap foto's but try not to disturb others with them, and if once in a wile I think I have a good one the truth in the critique I get, however hard, seeps thrue after the first indignation subsides and sometimes I learn from it.

Feel free to give yours. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wim_b/

Cheers,
Wim

Brian Sweeney
08-11-2009, 02:53
HDR is to photography what heavy oils on black velvet is to painting! 90% of the time it's misused and overused and not used effectively. Many of them look cartoonish and kitschy!

But just wait! In 30 years it will be retro and cool! :)

Oh well ...

We were doing "HDR" in 1981. Custom 14-bit DACs per color, 1/2 bit of noise. Beyond 14-bits, hard to see a need.

If I were young and wanted to make a living doing photography, then I would want professional criticism and guidance. Well-established professionals like Fred and Roger willing to give help would be very welcome, especially "for free" as on this forum.

I was on a different forum where one member routinely offered "advice" on everyone elses photo's, even in the W/NW forum. It was not well received. The advice was more self-serving than helpful. Problem with the Internet- many self-appointed experts.

Most of the people here post for fun. They have reached a level of proficiency that they are comfortable with. I am comfortable with my images and level of proficiency with photography. I also know that I will never make a living off of it. Computer Engineering is my chosen profession, and it has been "very, very good to me". Photography is a stress relief, done for fun. And for that, I do not want the images critiqued.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 03:50
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 03:59
Ira Glass is an enormous fraud, and a drunk.

martin s
08-11-2009, 04:08
Ira Glass is an enormous fraud, and a drunk.

Now see? That's why you look like a troll. I honestly expected someone to not like him, which is perfectly fine - but to be taken seriously, a proper reply would include something along the lines of "He is a fraud" and now the essential part "because..".

Maybe give it a try.

martin

mfunnell
08-11-2009, 04:26
a proper reply would include something along the lines of "He is a fraud" and now the essential part "because..". Because Oscar said so. That's part of his style.

...Mike

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 04:58
Here, finally, we find that mfunnell is an intelligent, insightful and perceptive gentleman.

We need more of them here.

As for Ira Glass, I have no idea who he is. I ought to Google him.

Because Oscar said so. That's part of his style.

...Mike

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 05:03
I would like to improve my photos too, but my experience is that the internet is not the place for receiving valuable feedback.

Dear Tom,

The question is, where is?

A decade or more ago, I tried to set up a mutual print criticism group, meeting at my house on the Kent coast. We had to discontinue it because one photographer always brought too many pictures; wanted to talk only about himself; and wouldn't let anyone else get a word in edgeways. (No, it wasn't me...)

Cheers,

R.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 05:08
Nobody wants criticism. What they want is affirmation of their own preconceived perceptions.

Mutual admiration societies are very popular.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 05:17
I'm sure almost all of you have seen "American Idol" or "Britain's Got Talent". Don't pretend you're too aloof to have never watched it.

Or in the case of those of extremely advanced years such as Hicks, he probably remembers "Major Bowes Amateur Hour".

The lesson of these shows is how profoundly delusional most people are. You see the most awful, totally untalented people attempt to "sing", and then they react with anger and genuine astonishment when told that they have absolutely no talent at all.

They tearfully deny it, accuse the judges of prejudice, and claim in their defense that "their mother and Aunt Ruth said they were the best singers in the world".

NOT ONE walks away convinced that they have no talent.

There are the eccentric loners that do not have mainstream talent, but these can be readily distinguished from the comical losers, by any honest admission. A perceptive listener can tell a Picasso from a hog-caller.

And then you sometimes come across an idiot-savant, like that brain-damaged Scottish woman who can imitate a canary.

historicist
08-11-2009, 05:34
OK, I'm also going to be a guinea pig. I would like to think that I photograph for myself, but nevertheless I put pictures up on flickr and check how many comments etc. I get.

I'm going to post two pictures. The first is pretty popular, but I think it's pretty mediocre:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3525/3751599063_cf98494c7c.jpg

The second is one of the pictures I am happiest with, but no one else (more accurately, no one on flickr) seems to think so:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3152/3027466430_24e85aff4d.jpg

c&c, civil or vicious, welcome.

blazeicehockey
08-11-2009, 05:41
I used to add my photos to lots of groups on flickr with the clear self gratification from receiving lots of positive feedback and plenty of 'views'. Then I thought...why?

Now I use it as my file store (hidden from all but friends and family) and to post the occasioanly artisitic shot....but I don't market it like some crazed Saatchi and Saatchis salesman, nor do I claim to be good enough to make a living out of phtography...I take photos, I occasionally share them.

yes, the internet is a good thing for the amateur phtographer to get a modicum of feedback. no the internet is not necessarily good for showcasing good photoraphic skills.

Can I just add my name to the anti 'do it in HDR and its a sure fire winner' category. That a long with:

1. the plethora of over saturated photos floating around in the ether (just go on to flickriver.com any day, any time and you'll see nothing but over photoshopped stuff).
2. ' here's my first shots (yes I bought it before you did) with the new Nikcanonpusax E-10000 mark IIdsi. Nice shots of the wife but nothing more...

blaze.


Historicist - I think I can see why..
no 1 - film-essence colours, but most of all tells a story
no 2 - no story, cropped too tight, perspective does not add to the shape of the picture.
of course thats just my view :)

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 06:10
Your first photo is sort of evocative of a mood of "driving". It might be used as some sort of minor illustration in a sidebar. There's nothing to make it particularly memorable nor is it likely to be remembered by anyone as anything that advances the state of human perception, or even remembered at all.

The second photo would be valuable to the guy who designed the neon sign. It's a simple "documentary" shot which has no photographic significance here or there. It is what it is.

There are billions of such photos online. Anyone with a small point and shoot digicam could easily produce such images. A child might come back with those images, and show his father what he saw.

OK, I'm also going to be a guinea pig. I would like to think that I photograph for myself, but nevertheless I put pictures up on flickr and check how many comments etc. I get.

I'm going to post two pictures. The first is pretty popular, but I think it's pretty mediocre:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3525/3751599063_cf98494c7c.jpg

The second is one of the pictures I am happiest with, but no one else (more accurately, no one on flickr) seems to think so:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3152/3027466430_24e85aff4d.jpg

c&c, civil or vicious, welcome.

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 06:15
So far: sixteen hours, 2000 views, 96 responses (well, all right, 80+ not counting my replies). Evidently this is a subject dear to the hearts of many.

Perhaps there's a lesson here: a picture criticism forum, 'members only' -- in other words, as soon as someone starts trolling or even being a bit rude (especially about people they later admit to never having heard of) they are told where to go, and barred from the forum. There could even be a series of forums, with the trolls running their own (by invitation only from other trolls?)

For that matter, maybe the way to create such forums/fora is by private agreement: a maximum of (say) 20 people for a given 'circle', with as many 'circles' as people want. Non-members of that particular 'circle' could view the pictures and arguments, but not jump in. I don't know how feasible this is in computer/internet terms.

I'd like to re-state my position. As a photographer, I reckon I'm on the good side of competent. I'm not great, but I've got several decades' practice and I'm better than I was 40 years ago: it would be rather sad if it were not so. I've had some VERY interesting criticisms of pics I've posted lately (Claudia and Ellen on the Bangkok thread -- interesting company they keep). Like most people, my immediate reaction is defensive, but then I start thinking, well, what if they're right?

The great thing about criticism, kindly given, is that you can always ignore it. I can look at one fault, and think, well, yes, it's there, but it's not all that important to me, in this picture (but even so I'll try not to make the same mistake again next time). Another fault, and I may think, oh dear, I shouldn't even have posted it.

Oscar is quite right: most people want their prejudices reinforced, most of the time. So are many others on the thread, with their own prejudices. I'm glad I started the thread, which is unusually successful for a non-equipment, non-bokeh thread. So let's see if it goes any further...

Cheers,

R.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 06:23
On the other hand, don't you honestly think it was a bit churlish to have posted your own photos of girls in the Bangkok thread? Or to persistently continue to post about guns and shooting there?

The disinterested observer's reaction to such posts would have to be "***"?

Was there a purpose to thread-crashing there other than the obvious sentiment of "look at me!!!"??

Turtle
08-11-2009, 06:26
The internet can be a great place for feedback as long as you know something of the person offering it. I would agree that certain people offer very destructive feedback but this is usually because your images do not meet the criteria of their regular photo mag's 'top ten tips for better pics' which they are only just getting to grips with themselves. Some people offer wonderful advice and genuinely help each other. I find that this is best in simple areas, like tones/density, dodging and burning, contrast, cropping etc. Where it tends to fall down is when, as someone stated earlier, particular spins on what photography is clashes with what you do.

Often critique is useful when I am not that convinced by one of my images and listen to hear if others have similar reservations. In this case it is the affirmation of my own opinion, but when I am unsure, of whether I am imagining things, that can be very useful.

I agree with the OP in that I look at some old images and wonder what I was thinking. The again, I also find those that I can scarcely believe I took. the problem is that the process of self-improvement is continuous and makes it hard to feel that anything is ever quite right or finished. Sometimes this comes from seeing what others have achieved and sometimes just a sense that I can do better.

Awful photos and near misses are important. Through these one learns what did not work and spend more time on what does or what might next time! Awful photos is not a stage you can cut out. its a relative term and I regularly kick myself now, but I would not get better and derive increasing satisfaction from what I do without that. Smug satisfaction from the off is hardly the greatest motivator!

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 06:35
On the other hand, don't you honestly think it was a bit churlish to have posted your own photos of girls in the Bangkok thread? Or to persistently continue to post about guns and shooting there?

The disinterested observer's reaction to such posts would have to be "***"?

Was there a purpose to thread-crashing there other than the obvious sentiment of "look at me!!!"??

Oscar,

Stop and think for a minute.

I did not want to criticize the Bangkok pics, but I wanted to make a point about learning from our mistakes. I deemed it more polite to provide 'straw men' (or indeed 'straw girls') where I could point out my own mistakes, in the hope that the OP might equally consider where he might look to make improvements in his own pictures: not the same improvements, but perhaps others.

The shooting posts were instigated by others; I replied. I was always taught it was rude to ignore people, and that a gentleman is someone who is never unintentionally rude. I shall however find it quite easy to add you tomy (very short) ignore list: I think you'll be the third on it.

For 'look at me', you are unbeatable. You say yourself that you do nothing, and that RFF helps you to continue in that vein. In one sense, that's amusing and self-deprecating. In another, it is the depressing truth.

And now, just to wind you up further, I'm going to go and set up an illustration for next month's column in Land Rover World. Great art? No. Professional photography and journalism? Yes. What do you do with your life except snipe and complain?

Tashi delek,

R.

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 06:42
Since I fit into one of these five categories, I'd like an objective critique of my body of work, please.

Only one? What a sheltered life you lead...

Cheers,

R.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 06:45
For 'look at me', you are unbeatable. You say yourself that you do nothing, and that RFF helps you to continue in that vein. In one sense, that's amusing and self-deprecating. In another, it is the depressing truth.

And now, just to wind you up further, I'm going to go and set up an illustration for next month's column in Land Rover World. Great art? No. Professional photography and journalism? Yes. What do you do with your life except snipe and complain?


For one thing, I hire guys like you so I don't have to "set up and prepare illustrations". My greatest wish is to continue to do nothing. And shame on you for taking what "Oscar Levant" says on an internet forum literally.

Unfortunately, my list of publishing credits would scroll off the page, but then I don't boast or peg my ego to my work.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 06:53
PS: And say hello to Steve Wright for me.

kywong
08-11-2009, 06:57
About five year ago, when I was just fifteen or so, I posted my first batch of street photos on a forum. I was pretty happy with the photos at the time (they are dreadful), so I was hoping that I can get some positive feedback. And much to my surprise then, the photos were ruthlessly flamed.

It wasn't the best feeling, and honestly I was a bit put off photography, but a few days later, after the emotions faded a little, I somehow managed to look at the comments more objectively, and took some of the more useful critiques on board. Two years later, my photography improved enough to have a whole page in the biggest local photo magazine featuring my street photography.

I must admit, however, that the critiques of my own photos don't usually help much, as I usually end up being awfully defensive. What I found much more helpful was looking at critiques of other people's work, but that experience with the forum did give me a little kick in the back.

And about other people not liking the photos the photographer him/herself personally likes, well... I experience the same thing. I do mind because, as much as I hate to admit it, I loved the positive feedback, but I don't really want to go take photos that other people like, I'm just hoping that maybe the next photo I like, people will like too (or blame lack of exposure and post it in more Flickr groups!).

functus
08-11-2009, 06:58
Only one? What a sheltered life you lead...

Cheers,

R.

Only one, professionally. All the rest are hobbies.

chris00nj
08-11-2009, 06:58
I'm sure almost all of you have seen "American Idol" or "Britain's Got Talent". Don't pretend you're too aloof to have never watched it....

The lesson of these shows is how profoundly delusional most people are. You see the most awful, totally untalented people attempt to "sing", and then they react with anger and genuine astonishment when told that they have absolutely no talent at all.

They tearfully deny it, accuse the judges of prejudice, and claim in their defense that "their mother and Aunt Ruth said they were the best singers in the world".

NOT ONE walks away convinced that they have no talent.
....


In our self esteem culture, no one has ever told them before that they aren't as good. But heck maybe Mommy and Auntie Ruth don't have the critical ear to determine great from good, or good from mediocre.

They've also valued their entire lives and self worth on their singing ability. When they are told harshly that they suck, it destroys them. Many of us do other things than take pictures.

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 07:00
For one thing, I hire guys like you so I don't have to "set up and prepare illustrations". My greatest wish is to continue to do nothing. And shame on you for taking what "Oscar Levant" says on an internet forum literally.

Unfortunately, my list of publishing credits would scroll off the page, but then I don't boast or peg my ego to my work.

This is as close as I have ever seen to a written admission of trolling.

It also illustrates your mind-set perfectly. "I'm so great that I make you look like a nobody, but I don't boast about it..."

I am what I am: what you see is what you get. Not perfect, not always wise, but at least honest. On your own admission, you are not what you pretend to be. Why not? What are you afraid of? Why do you feel the need to hide behind a made-up name? Why are you dishonest?

Oh: of course. 'Internet Courage', which makes nobodies act big.

R.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 07:02
My "admission" was merely a foil to your incessant boasting. Classic case of pot calling the kettle black.

Listen, you're an intelligent guy. I have no desire to quarrel with you.

OK, sorry for shaking you up, I'll stay out of your threads.

Gumby
08-11-2009, 07:02
The disinterested observer's reaction to such posts would have to be "***"?

LOL... that is my reaction to several entire threads!

WTF? ;)

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 07:06
This is an unfortunate side effect of our false "everybody's special" culture.

In our self esteem culture, no one has ever told them before that they aren't as good. But heck maybe Mommy and Auntie Ruth don't have the critical ear to determine great from good, or good from mediocre.

They've also valued their entire lives and self worth on their singing ability. When they are told harshly that they suck, it destroys them. Many of us do other things than take pictures.

chris00nj
08-11-2009, 07:17
Okay from one guinea pig to another....

I think the first photo envokes an emotion of driving home in the rain... wanting to get home, waiting for the darn light, etc. However, there is a lack of a clear subject or focus.

I also have to agree that I don't see anything special about photo. Perhaps If it wasn't as close up and showed something else like, a deserted street or a couple people smoking? Is a connection to the place that you like about it?

OK, I'm also going to be a guinea pig. I would like to think that I photograph for myself, but nevertheless I put pictures up on flickr and check how many comments etc. I get.

I'm going to post two pictures. The first is pretty popular, but I think it's pretty mediocre:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3525/3751599063_cf98494c7c.jpg

The second is one of the pictures I am happiest with, but no one else (more accurately, no one on flickr) seems to think so:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3152/3027466430_24e85aff4d.jpg

c&c, civil or vicious, welcome.

Oscar Levant
08-11-2009, 07:22
If your lawyer isn't an "artist of the courtroom", you wind up an "artist of the jail cell".

See, that's the problem with today's results-oriented society. If I win the case I'm a good lawyer. If I fix the car, I'm a good auto mechanic. Where's the room for artistry, for creativity, for being allowed to explore my vision?

JohnTF
08-11-2009, 07:29
I was once a columnist for a metropolitan newspaper (population of the area is ~3 million) and every month or so, tried to pick out an artist, (painter, photographer, ceramicist, fabric artist, etc.,) to write about. When it became apparent that I was serious about art, I got a lot of requests to "come look."



My solution to the question of what to say was...I didn't say anything, if it was bad. Thanks for showing me, see you later. The fact is, if the stuff is consistently bad, the producers of it will eventually catch on and do something else; they don't really have to be told.



If I thought something was good, of course, I said so, sometimes in terms more glowing than was warranted. Support the arts, etc.

When I made an error in my assessments, it was always on the generous side. I gave quite a good review to one particular painter, and years later, after leaving the newspaper business, bought one of his paintings. I look at it now and wonder what the hell I was thinking: it's awful, and it's now in my attic, where I see it two or three times a year. It doesn't get better.

.


I think I have put a few of mine into my own "attic". ;-)

Question may be, which images succeed and which fail, if your attempt is to produce a serious piece for display, i.e. others to view, and it fails, you should be the first to know it.

And there are degrees and categories of failure, technical, composition, timing, etc. Photography may be a medium where failure 35 out of 36 is not failure.

That is not to say you are firing salvos of film in the "spray and pray" of an action movie.

I am disappointed as much, perhaps more so, by an image of mine that just does not quite make it, as one in which I would simply put in the trash can, in the attic-- to a degree because I know I should have seen and/or done something differently, or things just did not align themselves.

If you offer a critique or suggestion for a good print, you may also merely be finding a different image within the original.

As stated above, it is not easy.

I would hope also to make comments on someone's work that are sound, and perhaps part of a dialogue.

Regards, John

JohnTF
08-11-2009, 07:47
I have a problem with internet (and to a lesser extent, print media) critique - it is too immediate. In the past, artists worked in a relative vacuum. Their friends would offer encouragement, and occasionally there would be a criticism, which may or may not influence their work.

Now, one posts something on the internet, and immediately it is reacted to by many strangers. Influential posters on the various sites will offer their critique, and a large group of posters will agree with that critique (after all, who wants to see naked emperors?) If the critique was positive, well that's all to the good. We may say otherwise, but who really does not want to hear "great shot"?

If on the other hand, the critique is negative, the photographer will start shooting and posting pictures that are more like what others want to see. This is called improvement, as styles, and the use of tools, are brought more in line with the norms for similar works. In the end it has the effect of pounding the nails that stick up, flat. Potential artists are not allowed the space to develop without immediately being "corrected" into the realm of acceptable photos.

---

!

Reading backwards through this thread a bit, I find a lot of what you say to be spot on and well stated.

I do catch myself wondering when I put up something in the gallery how it will be received, when I probably should not.

I leave some images up when they seem to be ignored, knowing not whether they were missed (bad timing), have no thumbnail appeal, are simply not what folks want, or perhaps they are dreadful, and I should appreciate that folks are being polite ;-).

We do seem to be in a cycle of "instant is not fast enough", but posts can be edited and images deleted.

Regards, John

charjohncarter
08-11-2009, 07:49
I criticized the photos on a website posted here, and was taken to task (here). I still think they were just fire hosed shots from a DSLR and not even post processed, but like some say we will know in the end. Of course we won't be here to know about it.

Roger and your wife, Frances, thanks for the review of Ektar 100 in Shutterbug. I use this film and your insight was great.

JohnTF
08-11-2009, 07:56
No, that's great. But what gets me is people who say, "As long as I like them, that's all that matters," and then show them to me. If they really don't care about anyone else's opinion, ever, why do they show them to anyone else, ever?

Like you, I shoot to please myself. I don't know anyone else well enough to do otherwise. But if I show them to anyone else (which in my case my job requires me to do) then I have to be prepared for adverse as well as positive criticism. Or, on occasion, for the outright insults which some people feel it is their duty to bestow.

It occurs to me that I should clarify the original post. Unless I can say something moderately constructive such as, "Perhaps you could consider a little more contrast," or "No, actually that picture isn't anything like as sharp as you think it is," or "Sorry, I can't really distinguish the principal subject from the background," then it's no use at all to say "Your picture is complete rubbish and you is a idiot."

This is even more true when the person seeking the critique clearly are a idiot.

Cheers,

R.


Would the real horror be an image you made and do not like being widely admired? ;-)

If you are genuine in an effort to help someone with aesthetic work, you have to have an appreciation of where they are, and where they may be going. I think also it would be best to avoid hurtful non constructive comments, which is why many people may abstain from commenting.


Regards, John

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 08:07
This works both ways, as I was saying earlier, before you deleted all my posts.

Believe it or not, I didn't. Somebody else must have. Not that I am heartbroken at this.

Cheers,

Roger

historicist
08-11-2009, 08:12
Cheers for your comments chris00nj, appreciated (and Oscar Levant, blazeicehockey too)

I also have to agree that I don't see anything special about photo. Perhaps If it wasn't as close up and showed something else like, a deserted street or a couple people smoking? Is a connection to the place that you like about it?

You mean the neon sign pic, right? Actually the situation surrounding the first picture was much more significant personally than the second - then I was on my own on a busy, unpleasant street in Cologne, overnighting on my way from Berlin to London. It kinda reminds me of a Wong kar wai film, I think that's why i like it.

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 08:12
The rainy street picture is to me meh, I like the colours but that's it. The neon sign picture I guess I like because it reminds me of a Wong kar wai film.
For me, the rainy street picture is an immediate shared experience: perhaps good, perhaps bad (the experience, not the shot): somewhere we've all been, with a lot of emotion. The neon sign... is just another neon sign. I've shot 'em too, and (like you) admired the elegance of their lines. But it doesn't have enough narrative, enough shared experience, to engage me like the rainy street, which I find that I like emotionally more than I find reasonable intellectually.

Cheers,

R.

JohnTF
08-11-2009, 08:20
No, the pictures are often better on the radio. And they're much better in Private Eye magazine.

I don't own a television. Haven't since I moved to France. The only reason I could be arsed to buy one is to improve my French, but then I stay in an hotel and see some television and think, no, I don't feel THAT strongly about improving my French, and I can live without the satellite stuff. Which is why I can say with a clear conscience that I have never watched either Britain's Got Talent or American Idol, though I do dimly remember some gruesome talent shows from (I think) the 1960s.

Of course, not owning a television allows me to devote more time to other mindless pursuits, such as the internet...

Cheers,

R.


Roger, it is not a proper ethical choice unless you own one and refuse to watch. ;-)

I do appreciate the ads on French TV, and my French is a bit too slow to catch as much as I would like from the news, which I hope is better than what is proposed to be news here.

There are those movies I view as a continual display of good photographic images though. A subject I have not seen explored, perhaps another day.

Regards, John

Pherdinand
08-11-2009, 08:52
If i put up images here or somewhere else in public, i am aware that people might dislike them.
I don't understand all the mimoza souls that get "discouraged" from some less positive comments.

Of course i like those people much more, who tell me i am great.

raid
08-11-2009, 10:29
This comment is not about "aweful photos" but about commenting on photos.

The choice of words used in a critique of a photo can be very infuriating for some people. I can still recall an incident where I participated in a RFF photo critique of photos. One photo was of a B&W ocean/beach image. It gave me a feeling of sadness and despair, and instead of me commenting on it by stating "this [excellent] image conveys to me a certain emotion ... etc.", I just said "I find the image depressing". My comment was very badly received, which at the time confused me.

I really meant to say the same thing, but written messages can be understood differently unless they are well explained.

Jason808
08-11-2009, 10:49
I don't know why one would be so worried about outing a "truly awful picture." They are usually forgotten.

literiter
08-11-2009, 11:00
The wife and I have a art gallery.

Quite a few years ago, now, a young man came to me and asked if I would critique his picture. I did not find it to my liking at all but not wishing to turn him off I told him it was quite good...perhaps excellent and proceeded to talk about the good things in it.

Really bad idea I'm afraid. The fellow then wanted me to buy it and when I said we couldn't do that, he went to other galleries who then told him it was "juvenile", "crap", "junk" and "not ready". My understanding was that he was quite devastated after all this.

Five years ago our towns public gallery offered to have a public art showing of various local artists critiqued by three paid professionals. The "critiques" were not acceptable to these artists so the critics were fired and new ones hired who were a little more accepting of the works.

Again only last year a critic offered her services to do a critique of a public showing at the same town gallery. After the hubub died down and the mortally offended placated, she offered to those who would listen that she'd rather stick her head in a blender than critique our town gallery again.

I am completely unqualified therefore to judge anyones work.

skibeerr
08-11-2009, 11:04
This works both ways, as I was saying earlier, before you deleted all my posts.



So you are following up on what you ignore?

Dave Wilkinson
08-11-2009, 11:11
I keep returning home from the 'great outdoors' ( remember them? ) to find this thread alive and kicking!....sigh!....if only I had paid more attention in those far off school days - I would have been able to stay home, and participate in debates at this level! :(
Dave.

chris000
08-11-2009, 11:43
A reaction to an image, good or bad, at least shows a level of interest. Indifference is what really hurts.

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 12:11
OK.. I'll put myself up on the stand next. I'm in the position that I'd really like constructive criticism. I get the usual "your photo's are amazing" from friends and family... but I often have a hard time telling if they're being honest, if they're being supportive... or they just haven't seen a large enough body of photography to form an informed opinion. From browsing flickr I'd concider myself middle of the pack... more technically skilled than many but not as good as many more... same goes with the creative side of things. I think it's great to have a forum full of experts in both skill and experience.. and sometimes experts in both to draw from.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2477/3808513240_e523efa8c3.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbhildebrand/3808513240/)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2557/3807757791_3bb7779a55.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbhildebrand/3807757791/)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2541/3678171941_2d8f640bb6.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbhildebrand/3678171941/in/set-72157620814883826/)

Lilserenity
08-11-2009, 12:25
Some of my photos might indeed be truly awful. All of my photos might be.

Who knows? (Well except the people calling them awful! :D)

In all honesty, I'm not bothered too much what others think on a pure "I like it because..." or "I don't like it because..." -- I just take pictures, I enjoy taking pictures, I like some of my photos, and think the rest are sucky but try to analyse why I don't like them and how I could make them work if I took it again. Also if people enjoy my photos (or manage a good fascade that they are enjoying them) that's a bonus.

But nothing stops me enjoying what I do.

Photos of suburbia and rather otherwise banal things are interesting to me, but I can appreciate why some people would be like, "huh?"

E.g...

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3505/3798547341_197bb3d6b1.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilserenity/3798547341/)

Most people would find that pretty boring (most people would also rightly find trapsing around Milton Keynes for weekends at a time boring, but I find it exciting and revealing, interesting too), and they're probably right, but it does something for me.

I'm not doing photography for acclaim, or some grand vision that I'll be one of the greats, but because I enjoy it, I get to study things in a depth that I enjoy, it keeps me out of trouble (I could be car jacking and do crack but I don't) and if I haven't said it enough, I enjoy it.

For example, I never have nor probably will see the big deal with Eggleston except for his use of colour at the time when colour was not the done thing in art fields. Apart from that, I don't have much to say about his work; but he clearly gets something from it, so do others, live and let live I guess.

So long as I don't lose the love for what I do, or the enjoyment in some of the results; in some ways, critique comes second, although I value it greatly. But if someone said to me today, "All your photos are crap or very dull," Sure I'd be a bit like OK, sure, that's fine but I wouldn't pack in what I do, I'd ask them why and try to see it from their viewpoint. Maybe the subject doesn't stir them, maybe the compsition is clichéd or dull, off-kilter etc.

Vicky

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 12:34
OK.. I'll put myself up on the stand next. I'm in the position that I'd really like constructive criticism.

No. 1 is the one that does it for me. I really like it, but I'd use the exact opposite approach to differential focus, with LF (or at least a rollfilm back on a 4x5) and a tilt front/back to hold it ALL in focus, for those glorious textures and shadows. Also, perhaps, I might light for a little less contrast (or add a bounce). Then I'd try reversing the swings to hold just one line of nails (or whatever they are) in focus -- perhaps diagonally.

Cross-process is something I don't really 'get', so I'll leave that, and the third might work as a big real-world print but I don't see it on the screen. I'm not condemning either; just side-stepping them because they say nothing to me personally in the format presented.

Usual disclaimer: http://www.rogerandfrances.com/photoschool/ps%20critique.html

Cheers,

R.

Marsopa
08-11-2009, 12:47
I don't use to write in discussions as I reckon my english is at a very low level to express my opinions, but after reading the quoted text of Lilserenity I'm completely identified with it...

I like to use cameras, to develop film and trying to do better pics... I know I don't have what others call "eye" but for me it's a distraction and I enjoy it... I can cope with negatives critics of course and, if they are accompanied with some advice to improve I value them a lot

Some of my photos might indeed be truly awful. All of my photos might be.

I just take pictures, I enjoy taking pictures, I like some of my photos, and think the rest are sucky but try to analyse why I don't like them and how I could make them work if I took it again. Also if people enjoy my photos (or manage a good fascade that they are enjoying them) that's a bonus.
...

But nothing stops me enjoying what I do.
...

I'm not doing photography for acclaim, or some grand vision that I'll be one of the greats, but because I enjoy it, I get to study things in a depth that I enjoy...



Juan Luis

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 12:53
No1 is a macro of a telephone pole in downtown Ottawa... some of those staples are probably twice as old as I am... owning to years of posters being put up. I'd LOVE to tackle them with a LF camera... this was taken on Cross Processed Ektachrome, natural light with a Tamron 90mm macro.

And you're totally right about #3... it looks much better as a 20X20 print.

Thanks for the critique!

Andy Kibber
08-11-2009, 13:10
@ Disaster Area: FWIW I agree pretty much completely with Roger. Sometimes I stare at telephone polls riddled with staples.

Roger Hicks
08-11-2009, 13:14
No1 is a macro of a telephone pole in downtown Ottawa... some of those staples are probably twice as old as I am... owning to years of posters being put up. I'd LOVE to tackle them with a LF camera... this was taken on Cross Processed Ektachrome, natural light with a Tamron 90mm macro.

And you're totally right about #3... it looks much better as a 20X20 print.

Thanks for the critique!

Staples.... Duh! ... As soon as you say it, I see it!

So maybe I do get cross processed after all... (Though it does tend to build contrast).

Cheers,

R.

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 13:17
Thats what I LOVE about macro... you can stare and stare at a pic and have NO idea what it is :) I know why all the bug lovers are addicted to it... but I like it best for abstracts... seeing bits of the world you see every day without REALLY seeing all of what that thing is.

danwilly
08-11-2009, 13:19
I had a casual acquaintance over to my house, someone who considered himself an accomplished photographer. He saw one of my works on the wall and commented "it is off-center, that woman's head is not in the middle of the frame." I said, "oh, okay."
Sometime later I was at his place and saw his framed photos. All were perfectly symmetrical. One was a photo of trees in an orchard. The rows were lined up perfectly. It quickly became apparent this is what you get when you mix obsessive compulsive disorder with a hobby. Gotta love it. I would say when it comes to awful pictures that would be about 95% of my stuff. It is finding that nugget that turned out right that makes this hobby so challenging and exciting.

denishr
08-11-2009, 13:42
All were perfectly symmetrical.
...
It quickly became apparent this is what you get when you mix obsessive compulsive disorder with a hobby. Gotta love it.

ROTFL!!!!

Just made my day :)

Leighgion
08-11-2009, 14:24
Photos of suburbia and rather otherwise banal things are interesting to me, but I can appreciate why some people would be like, "huh?"

E.g...

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3505/3798547341_197bb3d6b1.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilserenity/3798547341/)


For what my opinion is worth, I think the shot does have something. There's compositional strength in the lines of the road, foreground/background separation, motion in the car and, while this is likely a prejudice of mine from living in the country, I personally find suburbs have a kind of natural air of menace. I'd be interested in a version shot at twilight.

Leighgion
08-11-2009, 14:25
I like critique that's genuinely constructive, but I've found that Theodore Sturgeon's maxim applies to it as well as so many things in life: 90% of it is crap.

We're all familiar with the variations of 'your picture sucks,' and how that doesn't help, but I've had even worse than that. Consider this comment left on my pictures:

"It looks like a bunch a bushes with a non-descript statue.. what am I supposed to look at?"

Now, I grant that the picture in question isn't fantastic, but what on earth am I suppose take away from a critique like that? It was a picture of a statue surrounded by some brush. Should I then conclude that taking pictures of statues surrounded by shrubbery is bad? Who thinks it's in any way helpful to anybody to leave a comment like that? Better to say nothing, which is the policy I follow much of the time myself. If I haven't been asked, then my opinion isn't going to swing much weight anyway. I'm just an amateur.

If I do try to give a constructive critique, I try to couch it in terms of saying something about the photo's strengths or my impression of the photographer's apparent interests as revealed by the shot, then adding a "but." Since I find critique most helpful when it mixes both what's positive and what can be improved, I try to give it to others.

All that said, it can be fun to hop onto the sacrificial altar, so here's some offerings from me.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3354/3568553149_61e092e381.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3378/3303068080_334b1ee668.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2489/3692592201_81d753b6f3.jpg

peterm1
08-11-2009, 14:35
I had a casual acquaintance over to my house, someone who considered himself an accomplished photographer. He saw one of my works on the wall and commented "it is off-center, that woman's head is not in the middle of the frame." I said, "oh, okay."
Sometime later I was at his place and saw his framed photos. All were perfectly symmetrical. One was a photo of trees in an orchard. The rows were lined up perfectly. It quickly became apparent this is what you get when you mix obsessive compulsive disorder with a hobby. Gotta love it. I would say when it comes to awful pictures that would be about 95% of my stuff. It is finding that nugget that turned out right that makes this hobby so challenging and exciting.

I think my wife is a bit like this. On showing her my photos she has said "But the subject is not in the middle" Of course I said but that;s the point have you not heard of the rule of thirds? And I even found her a web link on composition but I still don't think she thinks its valid. ("No Peter the subject MUST be in the middle!)" This is a lady who BTW when you give her a camera to photograph someone either cuts their head off or focuses the wall behind them leaving them a blurred blob (In the middle of the frame of course - how does she do this?) . But she still feels qualified to offer criticism. Just like every one else in the world of course! So this is why I do not like to criticise. My view may be vastly more sophisticated - having studies scores o of thousands of photos. But its still only my opinion.

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 15:43
All that said, it can be fun to hop onto the sacrificial altar, so here's some offerings from me.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3354/3568553149_61e092e381.jpg






I really like this shot, unfortunately as I find in some of my own work... the thing I would change is completely out of your control. I feel the squarish shadow on the bottom left really breaks up the photo. There's all this amazing texture in the wall, in the shadows, even in the ground... and then there's this blob of solid angular black. But sometimes you have to take the good with the bad... you can't tell the light to throw a shadow of the tree but not that shadow on the bottom. You can't crop it out... you can't really do much about it. I for one would still choose to take the picture... it has enough merit as a subject even with the intruding shadow. It's like that picture of the cathedral interior a few pages back... sometimes you have to take the muddy lighting at the bottom of the picture to get the beautiful light streaming in the top.

-doomed-
08-11-2009, 16:48
On the subject of awful photos , I know I can be a repeat offender as I often post pictures to the gallery that I figure are "good" though this is completely subjective as my definition of good and someone else's can be vastly different. I have recieved good critique( I believe anything to help is good critique) on those that people have commented on. It all comes from practice from what I gather, you cant get better if you never try.

As I said were all speaking about something which by all accounts is wholly subjective, ones man trash is another man's treasure.

Chris101
08-11-2009, 17:08
I like critique that's genuinely constructive, ...

I hate constructive criticism. It usually comes in the form of 'helping one to improve' and will contain suggestions like, "crop it thusly", "dodge/burn these parts", "reshoot with the sun at your back", etc.

These are all examples of other internet posters telling you how THEY would have shot it if they had your camera and opportunity. But they don't so I don't really want to hear how they would have shot it. It's MY picture, and I like the way I shot it, or I would not have posted it for critique! (An exception is when I am having a problem with something, but then I will specifically ask for help with that problem.)

I prefer real critique. From critics with sufficient background to have some basis for their criticism. If it looks like crap to you, tell me! (Not that I won't argue with you, but I won't be rude. Mostly.)

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 17:17
At this point in my photographic... career, journey... whatever... I think constructive criticism is much more valuable to me in regards to helping me grow as a photographer. Maybe once I'm old and grey and have finally found my perfect camera... my perfect film... my perfect developer... my perfect post processing routine... and I can easily and effortlessly capture a scene how I see it in my mind... then maybe I'll only want "I like it" or "I don't" because at that point it's purely my vision and idea that's being accepted or declined as worth while. Untill that time... that may never come... I think there's a ton I can learn from other photogs about how to effectively capture what I see in my head using what I see with my eyes... whether that's how someone else would have cropped, dodged, burned or even not taken a particular photo.

charjohncarter
08-11-2009, 17:52
I hate constructive criticism. It usually comes in the form of 'helping one to improve' and will contain suggestions like, "crop it thusly", "dodge/burn these parts", "reshoot with the sun at your back", etc.

These are all examples of other internet posters telling you how THEY would have shot it if they had your camera and opportunity. But they don't so I don't really want to hear how they would have shot it. It's MY picture, and I like the way I shot it, or I would not have posted it for critique! (An exception is when I am having a problem with something, but then I will specifically ask for help with that problem.)

I prefer real critique. From critics with sufficient background to have some basis for their criticism. If it looks like crap to you, tell me! (Not that I won't argue with you, but I won't be rude. Mostly.)

I've had constructive criticism, and many (well, some of the) times it has been good, but mostly I'm like Chris101, most of he time they have a dream in their mind of what should have been done. Here is one that I put up in a discussion, here (RFF) where the responder gave a critique of the composition, maybe there was a language barrier, but really we were discussing contrast.

Well, I couldn't find that image it was a RFF but I guess it has been dumped. But it was a photo of a neighborhood where the other houses in the picture (not the subject) were drifting off (left to right) the image. Anyway, rules are to be broken and images are our medium so let them fall where they may, we or somebody else will like them or not in the end.

charjohncarter
08-11-2009, 17:59
At this point in my photographic... career, journey... whatever... I think constructive criticism is much more valuable to me in regards to helping me grow as a photographer. Maybe once I'm old and grey and have finally found my perfect camera... my perfect film... my perfect developer... my perfect post processing routine... and I can easily and effortlessly capture a scene how I see it in my mind... then maybe I'll only want "I like it" or "I don't" because at that point it's purely my vision and idea that's being accepted or declined as worth while. Untill that time... that may never come... I think there's a ton I can learn from other photogs about how to effectively capture what I see in my head using what I see with my eyes... whether that's how someone else would have cropped, dodged, burned or even not taken a particular photo.

Exactly, that is why you are on this forum. But you will never get all those 'perfects' you want; that is photography.

functus
08-11-2009, 18:01
At this point in my photographic... career, journey... whatever... I think constructive criticism is much more valuable to me in regards to helping me grow as a photographer. Maybe once I'm old and grey and have finally found my perfect camera... my perfect film... my perfect developer... my perfect post processing routine... and I can easily and effortlessly capture a scene how I see it in my mind... then maybe I'll only want "I like it" or "I don't" because at that point it's purely my vision and idea that's being accepted or declined as worth while. Untill that time... that may never come... I think there's a ton I can learn from other photogs about how to effectively capture what I see in my head using what I see with my eyes... whether that's how someone else would have cropped, dodged, burned or even not taken a particular photo.

I absolutely love the staples macro -- great colour, nice focal work, very compelling. Perhaps I'm especially drawn to this one because I've tried this shot a couple of times and it hasn't worked as well as you've managed it ...

dazedgonebye
08-11-2009, 18:05
I've received very little criticism that I thought was truly helpful. Often it involves something I already thought of or I had no control over.
Comments to style are less helpful than they used to be. Many years ago, when I didn't know what I wanted from an image, a suggestion that it be done this way or that might have been more helpful. Now, they usually just have me thinking, "Well, yea, but that's the way I wanted it to look."
So, I guess as much as I like putting my pics up and hearing that people like them, my intended audience is actually me, and others who like what I like. I like being influenced by others, I'd just rather get that influence from observing their work than by hearing their input on my work.
All that said, I don't mind constructive comments, I just don't think I much take them to heart.

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 18:11
I absolutely love the staples macro -- great colour, nice focal work, very compelling. Perhaps I'm especially drawn to this one because I've tried this shot a couple of times and it hasn't worked as well as you've managed it ...

Don't feel too bad I've tried to tackle this subject MANY times with different films, cameras, lenses... I have about 4-5 shots on my flickr of telephone pole staples that I'm happy with... and that represents hundreds of failed attempts.


I know I'll never reach all those "perfects"... hell I'll probably not even achieve one of them... I'm not even sure I want to. The minute I think I've achieved a "perfect" is the minute I'll stop improving. Maybe someday I'll get to "perfect enough for now" :)

-doomed-
08-11-2009, 18:46
Your staples are like this tree I pass on the way to my shop , I've tried time and time again to get the shot I want and Im still searching for perfect. Perhaps I need to stop and get the shot in the morning or late afternoon as it appears I always miss the good light.

Disaster_Area
08-11-2009, 18:49
I've found the best light to take shots of this subject is when it's very cloudy and overcast... there's so much texture that even a bit of direct light makes it way to contrasty and you lose too much texture in harsh shadows.

-doomed-
08-11-2009, 19:11
Those are some of my favorite days to wander with a camera in my hand

Chris101
08-11-2009, 21:05
At this point in my photographic... career, journey... whatever... I think constructive criticism is much more valuable to me in regards to helping me grow as a photographer. Maybe once I'm old and grey and have finally found my perfect camera... my perfect film... my perfect developer... my perfect post processing routine... and I can easily and effortlessly capture a scene how I see it in my mind... then maybe I'll only want "I like it" or "I don't" because at that point it's purely my vision and idea that's being accepted or declined as worth while. Untill that time... that may never come... I think there's a ton I can learn from other photogs about how to effectively capture what I see in my head using what I see with my eyes... whether that's how someone else would have cropped, dodged, burned or even not taken a particular photo.

Oh don't get me wrong Jesse! I'm no photo guru - in fact I am WAY down on the learning curve - that's what the 101 part of my name means. But when I want help, I ask specific questions, looking for specific answers. The picture is mine, so I am the one to make the decisions. A lot of "helpful" folks want to be the director and relegate me to merely cameraman.

One thing I can do though is make pictures that nobody else likes and proudly display them. This is where I learned to take crits well.

maddoc
08-11-2009, 21:22
The picture is mine, so I am the one to make the decisions. A lot of "helpful" folks want to be the director and relegate me to merely cameraman.

... to the point. Very well said.

One thing I can do though is make pictures that nobody else likes and proudly display them. This is where I learned to take crits well.

Requires some self-confidence but only this way one can "grow-up".

JohnTF
08-11-2009, 22:29
It is easier to critique an image that has several good strong elements, and possibly capable of slight improvement with some small adjustment.

Roger has brought out in some of his posts some of what he considers elements of a good image though examples of things he might say.

Perhaps it would be useful for people with experience to give one example of something they find in a successful image.

I know when I grade an essay, I might begin by deducting points for every error-- top down, but sometimes if an essay is truly dreadful, I have to stop and try to find something of value, (score might otherwise fall to less than zero).

I start adding from zero, top up, looking for something of value. Which ever grade is highest is awarded.

Better essays are always graded top down, and generally, there is little to deduct.

Regards, John

Turtle
08-11-2009, 22:40
critique is about numbers in a sense. One 'judge' does not help me much, but various opinions from a target audience, or those experienced in the field I am concerned with, is very helpful. I would not find it particularly useful to have my work critiqued by one generalist 'expert judge' who does not necessarily have any experience or even interest int eh area of photography I am concerned with. Photography is surely so expansive that one person cannot possibly be an expert at it all. That's just impossible as there is so much depth in individual areas and personality dependent factors.

While I agree that people telling you what they would have done completely ignores both your intent and what opportunity provided (or made possible - like you not being able to step back due to a huge ravine or able to use another FL bec you did not have one and the subject was only there for 1 second) it can still make you consider things you did not at the time because you did not think of it. Thats not relegating you to cameraman, but helping you be a more experienced director next time by expanding horizons. Its basic learning and if you hear that sort of critique as something 'maybe you could have done - worth considering' rather that 'you should have done this' then it changes perspective.

Roger Hicks
08-12-2009, 00:57
Like many others, I used to hate the "It's a pity you didn't... [step back, change lenses, wait for someone to walk into/out of shot, etc.]" but a decade or two back I came to realize that even this normally useless criticism has its value. You can look at your own pictures (or even at the subject in the viewfinder) and if the picture doesn't work because "It's a pity you can't...", don't show it to people (or even, don't press the shutter release).

Nowadays I tend to try to answer one of two questions (which are not always asked explicitly). One is "There's something wrong with this picture and I'm not sure what it is: can you help?" and the other is "I think this is pretty good: how could it be even better?"

After that, it's pretty much down to "I like this: here's why." Someone else may like or dislike it for the same reason or other reasons. With Leighgions's pics, for example, the tree shadow doesn't work small for me -- it is probably great as a big print -- while the girl reading is one of those wonderful shots that provokes instant recognition and amusement, and I'd like to see it in a book, but I'd not hang it on the wall.

The out-of-focus face is the most successful for me, in terms of what I'd want on the wall, and I don't think it would work too big. The only problem with it is that it stands too much on its own to be part of a 'body of work': shoot too many pics like that and they'd look very tedious indeed on the wall.

As for "I'd have done it this way," in a sense, that's all you can say many times -- but what you're trying to do is to guess what the photographer was trying to convey, and try to suggest how they could convey it better (hence my comment about the staples and camera movements).

Cheers,

R.

Pherdinand
08-12-2009, 01:14
Leighgion, i totally disagree with you.
From that short but to the point critique i would uinbderstand that my pic is not interesting enough to the large audience. That it is just one snapshot of some statue in the bush.
Sorry, but as was mentioned before in the thread, if a pic is uninteresting in gfeneral, it makes not much sense to give "advice" how to postprocess it or how composition could have been im[proved or what othert equipment you should have used...because it is not interesting in its subject (to the viewer) and that's it.
So, in my oppinion it belongs to the criticism type two.
Tyoe one: when Mr Critic Dude likes the pic but there are details that could/should be improve so he goes into details pointing them out.
Type two: The pic is totally uninteresting so there's no point into going into the details, it is enough if Mr Critic Dude expresses his oppinion that there's nothing much in the shot. Definitely constructive since I will know my pic is less interesting to others than I hoped.
Type three is "your pic sucks" which, i agree, is not constructive at all BUT the comments "nice shot" also belong here. So obviously, i learn nothing from type 3 but i like people who say nicew shot and i hate people who say your pic sucks. So it's also nice since i get some emotions from it ;)

About your three offered shots:
1. is the "what am I supposed to look at" category. Don't know how you could improve it, but (to me) it is not too interesting i must say. Maybe add some life to it i.e. a human shadow or such and then the half-ok composition will not be so important:) coz there will be something to look at?
2. is very nice, except if you exclude the window it amplifies the subject even more, the person in between the bunch of books. Colors are very nice, the light is great, the angle of view is excellent.
3. seems to me like a portrait that turned out a technical mistake and that makes it a little bit interesting but with the bitter taste of a technical failure. I can't fully appreciate images that are only interesting because of a mistake, pictures that a photographer looks at and says "oh actually i thought this will be a nice slihouette but it got messed up but maybe it is better like this!" (i imagine myself doing this). So it's a dunno-how-to-improve-maybe-just-take-a-better-one type image.

Hope i wasn't too harsh - you asked for it, though :)

cheers
...Consider this comment left on my pictures:

"It looks like a bunch a bushes with a non-descript statue.. what am I supposed to look at?"

Now, I grant that the picture in question isn't fantastic, but what on earth am I suppose take away from a critique like that? It was a picture of a statue surrounded by some brush. Should I then conclude that taking pictures of statues surrounded by shrubbery is bad? Who thinks it's in any way helpful to anybody to leave a comment like that? Better to say nothing, which is the policy I follow much of the time myself. ...

All that said, it can be fun to hop onto the sacrificial altar, so here's some offerings from me.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3354/3568553149_61e092e381.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3378/3303068080_334b1ee668.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2489/3692592201_81d753b6f3.jpg

Disaster_Area
08-12-2009, 04:15
Oh don't get me wrong Jesse! I'm no photo guru - in fact I am WAY down on the learning curve - that's what the 101 part of my name means. But when I want help, I ask specific questions, looking for specific answers. T

Oh... please don't take my post as a rebuttal to yours... just my addition. I completely see your point about unwanted/uninvited criticism. There are a lot of venues were I feel the same way. This forum on the other hand I kind of treat as one big critic. Anything I post here is for the purpose of getting feedback... mostly because I see a lot of work here I like... and that usually means a lot of great photographers (they can't all be lucky shots ;))

JohnTF
08-12-2009, 10:51
You might well interpret the "comments" space below any posted image in any gallery here to be an invitation to a polite compliment, or a polite constructive suggestion, ---- then there are those numbers for ratings.

Seems to be a variety of responses to this situation.

And Roger, your point about an image for a book as opposed to something for the wall is interesting, I suppose it would refer to an image you might wish to acquire and view daily.

Regards, John

thegman
09-14-2011, 06:31
I don't think I could ever say so, it's one thing to say "It's not my cup of tea", it's another to say "This is fist-bitingly awful, it makes me want to hurt myself.".

Although I guess the fact that the photo gets such a strong reaction is a validation in itself, if not the one the photographer was looking for.

Roger Hicks
09-14-2011, 07:00
I don't think I could ever say so, it's one thing to say "It's not my cup of tea", it's another to say "This is fist-bitingly awful, it makes me want to hurt myself.".

Although I guess the fact that the photo gets such a strong reaction is a validation in itself, if not the one the photographer was looking for.

Sure, there's a big difference.

But there's one young photographer whose work I know very well, and it was often 'fist-bitingly awful'. What makes it worse is that he was so proud of so much of it. Yes, he made some very good pictures. The tragedy was that he was so hopeless at distinguishing the good stuff from the bad. Fortunately he got a bit better later.

The only reason I do not hesitate to reveal his name is that he was me.

Cheers,

R.

swoop
09-14-2011, 07:10
I don't bother with internet criticizing. It's a waste of time and mental energy. It's especially annoying when you read things like, "You should clone out that street sign" or crap like that. Coming from a photojournalism background it's apalling that that would be a solution.

The internet seems to be flooded with "professional photographers" I've had enough debating their credentials. If they can get someone to give them a dime for an awful photo then both of them deserve what they get.

dazedgonebye
09-14-2011, 07:17
There was a time when I sought criticism. Besides being hard on my delicate ego, I found that very often I was being criticized for the very qualities I was working hard to achieve in my images. It was then that I realized that the only person in the world qualified to be my critic was me.
Without an absolute standard of "art" to be judged against all that is left is for me to decide if I accomplished what I set out to do, or at least something I was pleased with.
Unless I'm trying to sell you something, your opinion isn't particularly relevant. If you like my work and comment, then it's a happy irrelevance. If you don't like my work and comment to that effect, it's still irrelevant...just a little less happy.

Roger Hicks
09-14-2011, 07:21
I don't bother with internet criticizing. It's a waste of time and mental energy. It's especially annoying when you read things like, "You should clone out that street sign" or crap like that. Coming from a photojournalism background it's apalling that that would be a solution.

The internet seems to be flooded with "professional photographers" I've had enough debating their credentials. If they can get someone to give them a dime for an awful photo then both of them deserve what they get.

Highlight: Sure, and that's not really what I was talking about. For that matter, camera club criticism is/was equally bad. It's just that there is/was less of it, and it is/was face to face: you aren't/weren't dealing with cowardly, anonymous twerps. No: they are/were real-life twerps.

As I said in the first post, I don't normally tell someone when I think their pictures are indescribably awful. But are there any times when I should? Even if they ask?

Cheers,

R.

Sparrow
09-14-2011, 07:24
There's been a general trend towards relativism in many of the arts over the last half century, sadly, and it's spawned all this "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like!" claptrap ...

Teuthida
09-14-2011, 11:36
My Theory (feel free to disagree, but remember, I said its only "my" theory):

If you're posting your photos on the net, you're probably not very good.

tunalegs
09-14-2011, 11:39
I don't believe there is any truly awful art. But I think there are a lot of truly awful artists.

Chris101
09-14-2011, 12:13
There's been a general trend towards relativism in many of the arts over the last half century, sadly, and it's spawned all this "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like!" claptrap ...

I don't understand how criticism of the arts can be anything but relative.

Sparrow
09-14-2011, 13:25
I don't understand how criticism of the arts can be anything but relative.

Well, simply put, the fact that Joe Blogs with no artistic knowledge likes a particular work as much as Kenneth Clark likes the frescos in the Sistine Chapel does not make the two works equally valuable ... their opinions do not have the same value

johne
09-14-2011, 13:56
Roger,
I wonder at times about my perceptions. I would appreciate it if aomeone would take a look at my gallery and give an unbiased evaluation. At 83, my feelings can stand a rap for honesty.
John E.L.Robertson [johne here]

Tompas
09-14-2011, 14:03
(...) As I said in the first post, I don't normally tell someone when I think their pictures are indescribably awful. But are there any times when I should? Even if they ask?

<Sermon>
Yes, in case they ask -- tell the truth: their pictures suck.

In case they don't ask but obviously think their 'work' is great -- tell the truth: their pictures suck.

In all other cases -- decide according to factors like whether you know them and would like to keep knowing them, how likely it is you get socked on the nose, how much exactly their pictures suck, how good you feel that day, how old they are, whether they are boy or girl, etc.

In the end, you are morally obliged to try to make the world a better place, aren't you?
</Sermon>

Tompas
09-14-2011, 14:18
Well, simply put, the fact that Joe Blogs with no artistic knowledge likes a particular work as much as Kenneth Clark likes the frescos in the Sistine Chapel does not make the two works equally valuable ... their opinions do not have the same value

Hmmm... Now, when Kenneth Clark likes the frescos while Joe Blogs does not like them, and I happen to know both their educational background regarding arts, Mr. Clark's opinion is only more valuable to me as long as I do not know the frescos myself. As soon as I've seen them I either like them, too -- or I don't...

Turtle
09-14-2011, 21:28
My Theory (feel free to disagree, but remember, I said its only "my" theory):

If you're posting your photos on the net, you're probably not very good.

Posting on the web (outside of websites) is but another facet to exploiting the web and its there to be used to your won ends. I can think of quite a few photographers on this forum who are very good photographers indeed. Not 'forum good' but gallery good.

Larry Towell (Magnum) had a pitch up on kickstarter.com, the crowd funding platform, a while back. I don't think it means he is not very good either! So yes, I disagree. Besides, some not so strong photographers do still produce some spectacular images once in a while and those images are still great to see.

250swb
09-15-2011, 00:17
Having done print critique as part of a job (ages ago) I feel qualified to make my opinions known, but tend not to.

Its a whole different game critiquing work online when people can't see your face, hear how you are saying something, ask for clarification etc. A small comment can fester for days until you can explain you didn't mean to sound harsh or intolerant when all you thought you were doing was trying to make a simple unembellished point.

The most difficult to critique (especially online) are people with the firm knowledge that 'my family think I am really talented and take great photographs'. Inevitably they are seeking to keep their ego's on an ever upward trajectory and looking for another pat on the back, an exhibition, grant, book deal, or job. You critique the photograph but by default the rest of his family have their knowledge of photography brought into question. You won't win against somebody who has his family's unquestioning love, despite the tree growing out of his wife's head. :D

Steve

john neal
09-15-2011, 00:43
Make that 99.99%...

Vincent

Vincent, put me down for + 0.01%

;)

jordanstarr
09-15-2011, 01:45
I worked at a black and white pro-lab in NYC for 8 months as an intern. I told the Print Master to "give me the goods, straight up" because I want to be the best that I could be. "Don't hold back when I ask for an opinion...if it's $h!t, just say so and tell me how I can improve". He had a mixed personality of absolute kindness and utter ruthlessness, so he started out sugar coating criticism and I could sense it. After a month, I told him to be as harsh as he could. Even though it was painful at times to hear and even discouraging at times, I wanted to be the best that I could be. If that meant hammering me to the ground to build myself up, that's what I felt I needed. I couldn't have been more right. I learned more in 8 months than I have in the last 10 years. I thought I couldn't learn anymore when it came to printing and often got praise for my printing skills. If I had of just went about my business and favoured small praise or silence for mediocre skills I would be that same photographer and printer that stepped through those doors 8 months ago. When I went in, I was also in a photographic rut -very uninspired by everything, in a complete creative deadlock and didn't know how to get out. Basically I needed to be told that some of my techniques were garbage and to adopt different strategies, perspectives and re-learn certain processes I thought I had mastered. Once I did, I shot about 150 rolls of film (averaged about 20 rolls a month) and now have two impressive bodies of work (in my opinion) from New York. I'm 27 and like Roger, look back at my work in my early 20s and want to puke. I wish I had of done this 5 years ago and received the brutal criticism I needed. My opinion on the matter is "bring it on". I can take a blow to my ego anyday if it's going to make my a better photographer in the end. I didn't get into photography to have my back patted and pick up girls (well, that second part might not be entirely true). I got into photography to be the best damn photographer/printer I am capable of being.

Sparrow
09-15-2011, 02:05
Hmmm... Now, when Kenneth Clark likes the frescos while Joe Blogs does not like them, and I happen to know both their educational background regarding arts, Mr. Clark's opinion is only more valuable to me as long as I do not know the frescos myself. As soon as I've seen them I either like them, too -- or I don't...

With respect, this is type of relativism that I reject, an opinion that has a lifetime of study behind it is of more value than yours, or Joe Blogs for that matter, if you have not put in the same work, sorry.

sevo
09-15-2011, 02:09
<Sermon>
Yes, in case they ask -- tell the truth: their pictures suck.

In case they don't ask but obviously think their 'work' is great -- tell the truth: their pictures suck.


Well, the pictures might suck, but are they a necessary step in learning? The real danger in tuition is that you might bypass some mental process your student would otherwise have gone through, and leave him less educated than he'd have been without you...

Turtle
09-15-2011, 05:30
In some respects I agree, but your view suggests a person can study/work their way to a valuable opinion and I am not at all sure that this is always the case. There is a balance surely and one so complex that there is no fixed rule to determine whose opinion I value, personally - its a cocktail of factors. Judgment is not always something one can be taught and there are a great many prejudices and influences that affect the opinions of professional critics, gallery owners etc. One has to be very careful with putting people up on pedestals as 'experts.' As I say, I am not disagreeing with you entirely, but think one must be cautious.

With respect, this is type of relativism that I reject, an opinion that has a lifetime of study behind it is of more value than yours, or Joe Blogs for that matter, if you have not put in the same work, sorry.

Teuthida
09-15-2011, 05:55
Posting on the web (outside of websites) is but another facet to exploiting the web and its there to be used to your won ends. I can think of quite a few photographers on this forum who are very good photographers indeed. Not 'forum good' but gallery good.

Larry Towell (Magnum) had a pitch up on kickstarter.com, the crowd funding platform, a while back. I don't think it means he is not very good either! So yes, I disagree. Besides, some not so strong photographers do still produce some spectacular images once in a while and those images are still great to see.

Fair enough. My take is this: If you're posting pics on the internet for "critique" you haven't developed your own aesthetic but are still stuck apeing others.

Frankly, I find internet critiques worthless. They're the blind leading the blind. There's no set criteria except of course technical criteria, which IMO is largely irrelevant. I'd chuckle to see what self-appointed internet critics make of the work of Antoine D'Agata, a truly great photographer if there ever was one.

Turtle
09-15-2011, 06:22
The internet is a great place for learning the basics, seeing other work, networking etc, but when it comes to criticism I agree. If your work is genuinely strong there is a good chance you will be aware of this and be selective in who you talk to about improving things further.

As far as aesthetics go, they are not the whole story, because I do not believe in chasing 'a new look'. There are other ways to make work interesting and unique, many of which are subtle and more about the personal approach than the aesthetic one as such. As an example, I suppose if one dropped the photos of quite a few magnum photographers into a bag, it would not be too easy attribute the images without prior knowledge. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it does mean developing an absolutely crystal clear fingerprint is not always the be all and end all. Some sort of fingerprint helps tho!

Perhaps apeing others is a natural developmental phase LOL.

I agree that bad internet critiques can be very destructive, but its not just because of the armchair critics. I think to truly understand what is going on with a photographer and their work, it needs time. The same problem exists elsewhere. At Arles, lots of people queued up to have their portfolios reviewed. Who gave the critiques and why was their opinion gospel? If one looks at plenty of these affairs, many of the judges have particular leanings and in some cases lots of what I would call 'low level' experience in local photography, or perhaps they are an editor with editorial needs rather than artistic ones. You can't possibly meaningfully process a thousand hopefuls (as in Arles) with each spending a short period of time with one or two or three 'critics.' The range of photography shown will have been astounding, yet in so many cases the critics will have been regarded as omnipotent.

My work has been critiqued by a wide variety of people and the opinions and comments vary enormously (sometimes completely contradicting each other in what they see). Perhaps the most important part of critique after deciding where to ask for it, is in how you process it. Why has the person said what they have said and what does it mean to you? One needs real commitment and patience to improve, because just learning which inputs to act upon can be quite demanding!

As an example, when I showed my work to a semi-well known professional photojournalist three years ago he told me I needed to go on a contemporary PJ course and 'learn how to shoot with a contemporary style.' I felt gutted, as he suggested I needed to reinvent myself completely and so lose the 'me' in my photography. He was telling me to ape! I ignored him but it took a while to get confident again. My decision to hold course was validated by a number of developments, but it goes to show that this chap having 15 years as a PJ did not make his opinion more valid than my rookie conviction.

Fair enough. My take is this: If you're posting pics on the internet for "critique" you haven't developed your own aesthetic but are still stuck apeing others.

Frankly, I find internet critiques worthless. They're the blind leading the blind. There's no set criteria except of course technical criteria, which IMO is largely irrelevant. I'd chuckle to see what self-appointed internet critics make of the work of Antoine D'Agata, a truly great photographer if there ever was one.

zauhar
09-15-2011, 07:06
Wow - I did not see how philosophical this discussion had become! Reading all these posts could be my best excuse yet for not getting work done!

But since I really have to work, and I always need to express an opinion, I will share one of my favorite quotes, from Jean Cocteau (translation from French, not mine, sorry if someone else already posted it):

"The first prerequisite to produce something good is to possess the capacity to recognize what is bad."

I think that sums it up. If you honestly can't recognize you've messed up, then there is no hope for improvement. I post pictures that are not perfect, but which I feel have some redeeming feature. I recognize where I have screwed up, so I think I can improve, but I would appreciate suggestions in any event.

I feel there is a culture here of being supportive (good!), and I suspect that no one makes negative comments on photos in the gallery (not so good). I think that most here would appreciate helpful comments ("you underexposed a little"), as opposed to unhelpful ones ("your model is ugly").

Randy

j j
09-15-2011, 07:19
People post "truly awful pictures" mostly to enable those of us who cannot see how truly awful our own pictures are to feel more smug.

Sparrow
09-15-2011, 08:41
In some respects I agree, but your view suggests a person can study/work their way to a valuable opinion and I am not at all sure that this is always the case. There is a balance surely and one so complex that there is no fixed rule to determine whose opinion I value, personally - its a cocktail of factors. Judgment is not always something one can be taught and there are a great many prejudices and influences that affect the opinions of professional critics, gallery owners etc. One has to be very careful with putting people up on pedestals as 'experts.' As I say, I am not disagreeing with you entirely, but think one must be cautious.

As I said, I don't agree with relativism, Clark or Blunt or even Ruskin's opinions are more valuable than mine and I suspect yours, unless you have you have spent a lifetime working in the field of art, art-history and aesthetics ... sorry

Gabriel M.A.
09-15-2011, 09:13
Photographs that I regard as "truly Awful", others will call "Art".


Curators and jurists like to pull a Warhol.

It's like the "classical" music world: in many circles, "pretty music" is a pejorative. Atonal and I-ain't-got-no-rhythm-but-I-make-up-for-it-by-changing-time-signatures is where it's at. And hardly anybody listens to it.

Each discipline (if you can call it that nowadays) is increasingly insular. But good luck calling them on it: you just don't have the Ph.D. to back up your "opinion".

Gabriel M.A.
09-15-2011, 09:17
I feel there is a culture here of being supportive (good!), and I suspect that no one makes negative comments on photos in the gallery (not so good). I think that most here would appreciate helpful comments ("you underexposed a little"), as opposed to unhelpful ones ("your model is ugly").


There's also bad "positive" comments which are hardly useful: "great capture", and "nicely seen". Well, yes, they're nice comments, but it's not exactly helpful outside of boosting self-esteem. Self-esteem can hardly be correlated to a good work. There's Kahlo or Rimbaud or van Gogh, for example: they hardly ever felt good about themselves, even for what they did, yet they liked doing it (whenever they did, regardless of any regrets later). Good self-esteem had nothing to do with their output (you can argue it was quite the contrary).

Bike Tourist
09-15-2011, 10:01
I come from the old camera club tradition where we used to rip each other unmercilessly if deemed warranted. I don't know that it helped my photography. It did help me "conform" to the PSA standards and therefor score highly when judged. Left to my own devices, I might have produced images quite different in character.

Now, I suppliment my retirement with microstock income. They have different and often ludicrous (to me) standards. I try to produce work that will sell well within their limited parameters.

All this is by way of saying that all art lacks objective standards. How could it since it's the ultimate in subjectivity? Even here on RFF, a rather free atmosphere, we get more gallery looks if we use our digital cameras to emulate the output of a 50-year-old Leica using Tri-X.

tunalegs
09-15-2011, 11:00
With respect, this is type of relativism that I reject, an opinion that has a lifetime of study behind it is of more value than yours, or Joe Blogs for that matter, if you have not put in the same work, sorry.

Work has nothing to do with it. Somebody could study art their whole life and still have an entirely different opinion about a piece than somebody else who's studied just as much. In fact that usually seems to be the case.

When you first brought up relativism, I was thinking you were referring to that post modern attitude of "It's art because I said it's art"- which is something that does bother me. Everybody seems desperate to be an artist, and proclaim every scribble or snapshot they make to be "art".

taskoni
09-15-2011, 11:29
The art of Joel-Peter Witkin for me.
Regards,
Boris

Brian Sweeney
09-15-2011, 11:45
Show your pictures to your Mom.

If she doesn't tell you that she likes them, they are awful.

emilsand
09-15-2011, 13:01
I'll take an awful picture over a boring one, any day of the week.

zauhar
09-15-2011, 13:03
There's also bad "positive" comments which are hardly useful: "great capture", and "nicely seen".

I thought that those phrases were shorthand -

Great capture = 'you were smart enough to recognize something interesting', OR 'you pushed the shutter at the right moment'

Nicely seen = 'well composed'

That last one would be hard to express otherwise - I know a good composition when I see it, but clearly there are many ways of making an interesting composition.

Randy

Chris101
09-15-2011, 23:19
As I said, I don't agree with relativism, Clark or Blunt or even Ruskin's opinions are more valuable than mine and I suspect yours, unless you have you have spent a lifetime working in the field of art, art-history and aesthetics ... sorry

Put that way, it seems that even looking at art is a waste of time for us un-learned types. Unless of course they have one of those little tags that tells us what to think. Maybe they could put emoticons on pieces in museums based on what the pundits say.

tunalegs
09-15-2011, 23:48
On the internet, the vast majority of photographs are total crap. Like 99.99999%.

That's not just on the internet. That's just photographs in general. Sturgeon's law. Even the best photographer produces a bulk of rubbish compared to their good shots.

Sparrow
09-16-2011, 01:39
Put that way, it seems that even looking at art is a waste of time for us un-learned types. Unless of course they have one of those little tags that tells us what to think. Maybe they could put emoticons on pieces in museums based on what the pundits say.

No I'm not saying that, just saying there is more to know and understand about stuff than simply looking at the finished thing, and a bit knowledge can completely change what one gets out of the experience ...

I mean nobody goes up to a physicist and expects "I don't know much about physics, but I know a quantum when I see one" to have a parity of opinion with his, or do they?

Teuthida
09-16-2011, 04:05
I spent 2 years sitting in the library of La Maison Europeenne de la Photogeaphie in Paris, looking at every photographic monograph they possess. After such an education, I'm confident I know a good photograph, and by extension, a bad photograph, when I see one, and I'm fairly certain my ability to do so has been greatly enhanced by such an education.

johne
09-16-2011, 06:37
Is this awful or aweful? Just curious.
johne
See my gallery "Let There Be Light" posted today.

Turtle
09-16-2011, 11:44
Physics is based on rules and theories which can be tested. It can be defined and quantified (ignoring contentious areas of discovery). Art isn't, it's inherently subjective and even 'experts' regularly disagree entirely. Therefore, experitise becomes something very different in this context. It remains opinion; learned, practiced, educated and insightful... but it's still opinion that can be wrong and inaccurate when related to wider/subsequent opinion. You may give a particular experts opinion great weight and be just as marginal as they are 10 years later. Considering that the experts do sometimes (OK, often) get it wrong, surely we have to be careful not to hand over to the experts 'absolute power' as you seem to have done.



I mean nobody goes up to a physicist and expects "I don't know much about physics, but I know a quantum when I see one" to have a parity of opinion with his, or do they?

tunalegs
09-16-2011, 12:41
No I'm not saying that, just saying there is more to know and understand about stuff than simply looking at the finished thing, and a bit knowledge can completely change what one gets out of the experience ...

I mean nobody goes up to a physicist and expects "I don't know much about physics, but I know a quantum when I see one" to have a parity of opinion with his, or do they?

That's going to depend on how one interprets the value of art though.

You don't have to have a degree in mechanical engineering to appreciate, say, a fine camera. It might add to your understanding, but all things considered, your appreciation of mechanical intricacies is only going to add trivially to your enjoyment of the thing if it truly is a great camera.

There are all sorts of amazingly engineered cameras out there that aren't good too. But it is fun to study them as well. But that still doesn't make them good as cameras.

Sparrow
09-16-2011, 13:09
Physics is based on rules and theories which can be tested. It can be defined and quantified (ignoring contentious areas of discovery). Art isn't, it's inherently subjective and even 'experts' regularly disagree entirely. Therefore, experitise becomes something very different in this context. It remains opinion; learned, practiced, educated and insightful... but it's still opinion that can be wrong and inaccurate when related to wider/subsequent opinion. You may give a particular experts opinion great weight and be just as marginal as they are 10 years later. Considering that the experts do sometimes (OK, often) get it wrong, surely we have to be careful not to hand over to the experts 'absolute power' as you seem to have done.

Well I wasn't suggesting they have "absolute power" simply that their opinions have more value.

Plus, one could argue that Gestalt psychology is much more than supposition, and as much of a theory as a lot of modern physics, and that's been around since the 1930's .. and less contentious probably than much of todays physics.

tunalegs
09-16-2011, 15:38
Well I wasn't suggesting they have "absolute power" simply that their opinions have more value.

By what reasoning?

If somebody explained to me why they thought a piece was good - and their explanation stood up to reason, I wouldn't care what their background or education was.

An idea either holds water or it doesn't, regardless of who is making it.

Chris101
09-17-2011, 01:30
No I'm not saying that, just saying there is more to know and understand about stuff than simply looking at the finished thing, and a bit knowledge can completely change what one gets out of the experience ...

I mean nobody goes up to a physicist and expects "I don't know much about physics, but I know a quantum when I see one" to have a parity of opinion with his, or do they?

I'm glad you went there Stewart. In your first paragraph, you will get no argument from me. A bit of knowledge, or better yet, an in depth understanding of the intentions, the contest, and the relationships to other art will give a piece meaning, even if it is bland on first impression. But that doesn't take a lifetime of study, does it? In some cases a well written blog article would suffice.

It is in your second article however that you make my initial point that art critique is completely subjective, even relative to the person and circumstance of their stating an opinion. A scientist can have an opinion, regardless of their background and standing with other scientists. If their opinion (called hypotheses by folks in the science field) holds up to objective observation (again, this is an experiment in scientific jargon) then it is deemed worthy. Their pedigree, education or amount of time spent thinking about the issue are irrelevant.

This is a far cry from critique in the art world, where one's reputation (thus standing with other critics) depends on what one has done in the past. Have you studied with the right professors, made decisions about the right works, been in agreement with those who have previously decided the correctness of things? These are important to being successful at art critique. The academic world of art critique seems like the epitome of relativity. In a different culture, the wind of opinion can blow in a completely different direction. In science, culture, schooling and relationships have no bearing - the electron either goes right or it goes left.

Science and science education is my field. Thus from my vantage point, art opinion is completely based on a relative culture of personality and class.

maddoc
09-17-2011, 01:51
Chris, very well put.

I'm glad you went there Stewart. In your first paragraph, you will get no argument from me. A bit of knowledge, or better yet, an in depth understanding of the intentions, the contest, and the relationships to other art will give a piece meaning, even if it is bland on first impression. But that doesn't take a lifetime of study, does it? In some cases a well written blog article would suffice.

It is in your second article however that you make my initial point that art critique is completely subjective, even relative to the person and circumstance of their stating an opinion. A scientist can have an opinion, regardless of their background and standing with other scientists. If their opinion (called hypotheses by folks in the science field) holds up to objective observation (again, this is an experiment in scientific jargon) then it is deemed worthy. Their pedigree, education or amount of time spent thinking about the issue are irrelevant.

This is a far cry from critique in the art world, where one's reputation (thus standing with other critics) depends on what one has done in the past. Have you studied with the right professors, made decisions about the right works, been in agreement with those who have previously decided the correctness of things? These are important to being successful at art critique. The academic world of art critique seems like the epitome of relativity. In a different culture, the wind of opinion can blow in a completely different direction. In science, culture, schooling and relationships have no bearing - the electron either goes right or it goes left.

Science and science education is my field. Thus from my vantage point, art opinion is completely based on a relative culture of personality and class.

Sparrow
09-17-2011, 02:16
I'm glad you went there Stewart. In your first paragraph, you will get no argument from me. A bit of knowledge, or better yet, an in depth understanding of the intentions, the contest, and the relationships to other art will give a piece meaning, even if it is bland on first impression. But that doesn't take a lifetime of study, does it? In some cases a well written blog article would suffice.

It is in your second article however that you make my initial point that art critique is completely subjective, even relative to the person and circumstance of their stating an opinion. A scientist can have an opinion, regardless of their background and standing with other scientists. If their opinion (called hypotheses by folks in the science field) holds up to objective observation (again, this is an experiment in scientific jargon) then it is deemed worthy. Their pedigree, education or amount of time spent thinking about the issue are irrelevant.

This is a far cry from critique in the art world, where one's reputation (thus standing with other critics) depends on what one has done in the past. Have you studied with the right professors, made decisions about the right works, been in agreement with those who have previously decided the correctness of things? These are important to being successful at art critique. The academic world of art critique seems like the epitome of relativity. In a different culture, the wind of opinion can blow in a completely different direction. In science, culture, schooling and relationships have no bearing - the electron either goes right or it goes left.

Science and science education is my field. Thus from my vantage point, art opinion is completely based on a relative culture of personality and class.

I was using the physicist as an allegory, I wasn't claiming he and the critic were congruent.

I think "relative" and "hierarchical" are being conflated, perhaps ... I am rejecting the relative value of opinion, that is the idea that all opinions are of equal value regardless of the education of the bloke holding them ... an idea that gained traction with the advent of Pop Art in the early 1950s and seems to fit right in with Postmodernism now

I agree completely that the art establishment is hierarchical, where reputation trumps almost everything else, but I understand those reputations are built on much education ... I had assumed other disciplines were the same
__________________

Chris101
09-17-2011, 10:19
I was using the physicist as an allegory, I wasn't claiming he and the critic were congruent.

I think "relative" and "hierarchical" are being conflated, perhaps ... I am rejecting the relative value of opinion, that is the idea that all opinions are of equal value regardless of the education of the bloke holding them ... an idea that gained traction with the advent of Pop Art in the early 1950s and seems to fit right in with Postmodernism now

I agree completely that the art establishment is hierarchical, where reputation trumps almost everything else, but I understand those reputations are built on much education ... I had assumed other disciplines were the same
__________________

Some disciplines may be the same. Perhaps economics, but for the most part art is unique. Science especially is different. An 'opinion' is either observable in its correctness or it is not. Until tested (often by those without reputation, and occupying the lowest order of hierarchy) hypotheses are equal, as long as they conform to the known universe.

Art is different. Since art need not relate to the known universe, it is impossible to test it in an objective manner. Opinion is the only way to differentiate great works from the truly awful. Correctness of opinion is built upon consensus. Academic halls are there to provide that consensus. By studying the past, and writing about it, one builds consensus by convincing others of the correctness of their opinion.

This leads to problems however when an academic expert encounters something new. They tend to compare it to something they have studied and judge it as if it were that thing. Art itself however, only thrives in a constant state of re-invention. But without critics to explain the new art, a vacuum is left and substantive work flounders.

This is where the excitement and enthusiasm of the untrained comes into play. Truly good art is harder to recognize then is the truly awful, so we can only gauge the new by our untrained feelings that it generates. And so new art must be relative. It is only after the learned have had time to study, compare and analyze a body of work are they able to present a consensus opinion. Unfortunately by then the artists have moved on and are inventing yet another round of new stuff.

ps, postmodernism has been over for a decade or so. "They" haven't ad a chance to name where we are now.

patois
09-17-2011, 10:50
I don't know how I feel about calling art "bad." A lot of photography just doesn't inspire me and I don't comment because I don't feel engaged at all. I tend to dislike derivative work that looks like "good photography." Poor person suffering, naked woman, etc.

If I really dislike or like something I usually comment and feel that the artist's goals have been achieved because the resulting work produced a response even if it was a negative one.

zauhar
09-17-2011, 11:04
Sorry if this point has been made above and I missed it:

I would be willing to bet that there is no person who has made a significant contribution to nuclear physics without years of formal training. If you can dig up an example I will be truly grateful. (I heard a story years ago about a car mechanic who mysteriously took up quantum mechanics after a head injury, but even he eventually went to college.)

I think one can identify pretty quickly artists who do not have a lot of formal training in critical theory or even art history. One can certainly identify musicians who have no training in music theory or critcism.

So, Art and Science are in different categories when it comes to importance of formal education.

How did this come up again?

Randy

Gabriel M.A.
09-17-2011, 12:05
I thought that those phrases were shorthand -

Great capture = 'you were smart enough to recognize something interesting', OR 'you pushed the shutter at the right moment'

Nicely seen = 'well composed'

That last one would be hard to express otherwise - I know a good composition when I see it, but clearly there are many ways of making an interesting composition.


Precisely: they are not helpful because it's "shorthand". As a critique, it is useless.

I really don't know how elaborate my explanation about something that is not explained is not an explanation...but I hope that re-stating that one-liners don't explain are by their own definition not explanatory.

A good critique explains why something works or it doesn't. Why something is bad. Saying that it is doesn't say why it is. And that is why, as positive it may be, is a whole bunch of empty calories.

For the power-readers: I am not saying that saying nice things is bad. I am saying that as a critique, it is not helpful, because, as I stated above (and earlier), it does not explain why.

If you ask a student how much does 2 + 2 make, and if they say "4", saying "good" isn't good enough: if they want to learn, and you want them to learn, you say why it's good. "Good" may mean, as a shorthand, you understood the problem and have resolved it correctly by applying your knowledge of arithmetic. But that is meaningless if the student didn't even know how he/she arrived at that answer...as a guess.


"Good capture" is not a critique. "That's ugly" isn't either. It's just a "shorthand" which may mean anything and is not, in most cases, self-explanatory. It is a good (or a bad, as the case may be) comment, not a critique.

tunalegs
09-17-2011, 13:09
I think one can identify pretty quickly artists who do not have a lot of formal training in critical theory or even art history. One can certainly identify musicians who have no training in music theory or critcism.

Because they tend to have made the most money? :D

Let's not go down the physicist and education mumbo jumbo path. It's a red herring.

We could consider for instance that George Stephenson a more or less completely uneducated man, and Sir Humphrey Davy a well educated scientist (for the era) both invented miner's safety lamps that operated on the same principles within a month of each other (Stephenson was in fact first).

A good idea is a good idea not because of a person's background, but on its own merits. Period. It is the same with art.

Sparrow
09-18-2011, 04:46
Some disciplines may be the same. Perhaps economics, but for the most part art is unique. Science especially is different. An 'opinion' is either observable in its correctness or it is not. Until tested (often by those without reputation, and occupying the lowest order of hierarchy) hypotheses are equal, as long as they conform to the known universe.

Art is different. Since art need not relate to the known universe, it is impossible to test it in an objective manner. Opinion is the only way to differentiate great works from the truly awful. Correctness of opinion is built upon consensus. Academic halls are there to provide that consensus. By studying the past, and writing about it, one builds consensus by convincing others of the correctness of their opinion.

This leads to problems however when an academic expert encounters something new. They tend to compare it to something they have studied and judge it as if it were that thing. Art itself however, only thrives in a constant state of re-invention. But without critics to explain the new art, a vacuum is left and substantive work flounders.

This is where the excitement and enthusiasm of the untrained comes into play. Truly good art is harder to recognize then is the truly awful, so we can only gauge the new by our untrained feelings that it generates. And so new art must be relative. It is only after the learned have had time to study, compare and analyze a body of work are they able to present a consensus opinion. Unfortunately by then the artists have moved on and are inventing yet another round of new stuff.

ps, postmodernism has been over for a decade or so. "They" haven't ad a chance to name where we are now.

Ah, well, we differ there; I don't make that distinction, from an artists point of view science doesn't look that different. Both, at their best, are an attempt to understand the human condition, and some of art is testable and repeatable, I'm thinking of gestalt illusions or colour theory here. However when we get closer to the edges of our knowledge both disciplines require us to trust reasoning and opinion, personally I find Young's experiment and the quantum stuff require of me an act of faith rather than reason.

As for the tendency of an establishment to reject the avant-garde I suspect that particular cap fits every established group, and has for all of our history, is the rejection of the big-bang by the steady-state people that different to the Les Immortels refusing to recognise the Impressionists?

The idea that new art can only appreciated by the untrained seems perverse, would one expect an electrical engineer to be unable to appreciate listening to the radio, or a physicist be oblivious to electric light simply because they understand them? I agree that a new genera needs some time to be fully understood, but I would contend that those with an understanding of the history of the new are in a better position to judge it.

print44
09-20-2011, 09:24
ps, postmodernism has been over for a decade or so. "They" haven't ad a chance to name where we are now.

Believe it or not we are now in the Post Digital era! I heard that on the radio yesterday morning and thought, blimey I'm at the forefront of art by accident...

Gabriel M.A.
09-20-2011, 09:59
Post Digital era? Self-fulfilling, it's already obsolete.

So people can't spell, can't read, and won't talk --ironically because of (misspelled) text messages. How will we ever communicate in this Post Digital era? Hydrogen cells?

print44
09-20-2011, 10:24
Asking for work to be critiqued & critiquing work seem to be two very different things. I understand the desire to have opinion passed on ones work rather than it standing unnoticed. The need to be praised may be underlying this but then again perhaps any nugget whether complimentary or not might be useful in that photographer’s development? I was taught by a pro I assisted briefly to look hard at my work and try to see where improvement could be made technically. I was also taught to look at the work of others and to try to figure out how they'd achieved what they did. But this was teaching not critique. His critique of my pictures would have been words of one syllable or grunts. But the teaching translates only so far into producing images and I keep trying to improve my own irritatingly flawed work and struggle even more to understand what it is that makes the work of the people I like good. I'd rather read a photographer describing their own journey to make a good image than worry too much about their view of my own pictures even though I like praise as much as anyone. I like to be viewed. And I think the act of sharing an image- allowing it's weaknesses to be exposed alongside the images of others is probably the most useful thing about the Internet. Putting them out there removes them instantly from the narrow confines of ones own subjectivity. I find the scales fall from my eyes straight away. Once they're out there I can be a much harsher critic of my own stuff than I am when it's just on the pc or printed out.The motivation to offer a critique someone else's work seems to be about something quite different though. If it is a crit and not simple encouragement/discouragement. Roger started all this with a question about how and when to respond to ‘bloody awful shots - oversharpened portraits that look like skin diseases, appalling shadows and incredibly busy backgrounds’. I’d say if you’re motivated to respond to these shots and feel like telling the person who submitted them that they are bloody awful then that may not actually be critique! I am definitely guilty of all the above faults. In fact I’d be surprised if I couldn’t find images I’d made which tick one or more of every single ‘bad photo’ boxes you could think of. But I carry on because I love that moment when you expose that frame. The excitement of discovering what was captured as well as the disappointment when it didn’t turn out as well as had been hoped. Every so often among the bad ones is a good one. And the more we practice the more good ones we hope to get. I post some duds and hardly anyone looks at them – so not many people have been wounded by my poor artistry. I say to the critics – turn a blind eye and be like my old technical drawing teacher who always said, no matter how good your work, ‘keep striving for perfection laddie’

Paul Luscher
09-20-2011, 10:37
Well, I just remember that art is subjective, and the people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I.e., I have to be aware I do not have the talent of a Capa or an Eisenstadt or a Turnley, and that a picture I think is pretty good might be a real piece of crap as far as the rest of the work is concerned.

So generally, I bite my tongue as far as knocking other people's work. Only time I've said anything was when a certain member posted a pic I considered rather sleazy skankiness.....

Carlsen Highway
11-14-2011, 23:23
When people like photos that I have taken that I dislike...I get upset. Why do you like that? I keep asking and they dont really know. This upsets me because if I judge a picture so completely differently then what I am left with? It means I am all at sea. That is worse than someone saying they dont like one of your pictures...
Lately I got out of photography, because not only was I convinced that I was not going any good work, but also, I could no longer get anything out of anybody elses pictures either. Bascially, somehow, by some form of complete emmersion for years in teh medium, I managed to lose a connection with it entirely.

jsrockit
11-15-2011, 05:45
Lately I got out of photography, because not only was I convinced that I was not going any good work, but also, I could no longer get anything out of anybody elses pictures either. Bascially, somehow, by some form of complete emmersion for years in teh medium, I managed to lose a connection with it entirely.

It happens... I had to leave it alone for 10 years after getting burnt out. Just getting back into it completely in the last two years.

Roger Hicks
11-15-2011, 06:34
When people like photos that I have taken that I dislike...I get upset. Why do you like that? I keep asking and they dont really know. This upsets me because if I judge a picture so completely differently then what I am left with? It means I am all at sea. That is worse than someone saying they dont like one of your pictures...
Lately I got out of photography, because not only was I convinced that I was not going any good work, but also, I could no longer get anything out of anybody elses pictures either. Bascially, somehow, by some form of complete emmersion for years in teh medium, I managed to lose a connection with it entirely.

That is one advantage of professional photography. If they like it and pay me for it, I'm happy.

Then again, I don't show people pics I don't like. Why would I do that? It surprises me when someone picks a 'makeweight' as a lead pic or whole-page (or worse, double-page) but then I reflect that if I thought it was all that bad, I'd not have submitted it along with the others: it must have had something.

Cheers,

R.