If you were doing something wrong, would you want to know? Say for example, if you were aspiring to be an Olympic swimmer, and while you were doing laps in the local pool, an expert who happens to know the proper technique for swimming notices that you are doing your freestyle stroke completely wrong. Would it be very productive and helpful to you as a swimmer, if the expert tells you that your stroke is beautiful and that you shouldn’t change a thing? NO! You would train the wrong way, exhausting yourself as you swim, training the wrong muscles, and you just might drown if it’s bad enough, let alone not even come close to realizing your dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer.
Let’s apply this now to photography. Let’s say for example I come across a young aspiring photographer, or old, or not even aspiring, they could be a so-called professional.
Let’s also say this person has a facebook page that has a posting of photographs taken by said aspiring photographer. For the sake of ease and convention, I am going to reference Aspiring Photographer as Aphog. So Aphog has a facebook page that displays their images. They are not necessarily horrible, but not necessarily going to win any Pulitzer Prizes. Does it help this photographer to simply comment on their images with words such as “Breathtaking!” or “Brilliant” or “Love it, love it, love it.”, or “Can I click “Like” like a thousand times?”. Yeah, this doesn’t help them.
Now on the opposite scale, we have certain comments that also do not help. They are critical, yes, but not helpful. These are the negative comments that don’t really offer any real type of solution, such as “Horrible”, “What a piece of $#*^”, “You should choose another profession, anything but this”, etc. There are some who feel it necessary to literally rip up the work of some photographers right in front of them. Yeah, this doesn’t help them either.
A Happy medium must be found. Constructive criticism is what helps. I had a great opportunity to study with some great photographers. Craig Law was one of them and he is the reason why I decided to study at Utah State University. On my first campus visit I showed him my portfolio and he gave me a frank and honest critique. He told me “Well, it’s not very good.” But then he proceeded to tell me why and what I could do to improve the work. This helped me immensely. I learned to love critique and looked at it as a great avenue for improving myself and my work.
So if you are ever asked for a critique, do it, but please, don’t be a jerk. Be frank and honest. Don’t be offended either. If you are receiving the critique, be gracious and humble, but also understand that you don’t have to take every suggestion given.
So back to Aphog. His facebook images were posted, and in a discreet way, (private message is best) you gave an honest critique of his work with some suggestions on how they can improve. In an ideal situation Aphog thanks you for taking the time to look at his photographs and actually write comments. He takes some of your suggestions to heart, and in the end, becomes a better photographer and both of you learn something in the process.