Why is Critique Misunderstood?

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Have you ever wondered if the person critiquing your work is qualified to give advice? I spent years posting my own photos for critique, and I realized a couple of very important things.

1. Listening to critiques – no matter who is giving them – gives you a valuable window into other people’s minds. If you can begin to understand how other’s see your work, you have a huge advantage over those who only see through their own eyes. So does it matter if someone is “qualified”? I don’t believe it is. Critique isn’t about telling you what to do. It’s about helping you see your own photo through someone else’s eyes.

2. Giving critiques is far more valuable than getting them. I know this from personal experience. Critiquing a photo is difficult – but doing so forces you to look at a photo and try to understand what makes it work (or fail.) As you practice critiquing other people’s photos, you start to see beyond the face of the photograph. For example, rather than thinking – “That’s a great photo”, you begin to break it apart. “Why is this photo appealing to me? (or unappealing) Which elements are distracting? Is the subject compelling? Could the light be better? What could the artist have done differently?” And so on. When you get into the habit of asking those questions of other people’s photos, you’ll soon find that you ask those questions of your own photos as well. And before long, you’ll find that you are asking those questions before you click the shutter. Making small improvements to composition, angle, exposure… and so on. You aren’t waiting until post processing to create a better photo. You’re doing it right there in the field.

You will get some critiques that you agree with – and others that you don’t. What you do with a critique is up to you. You can use a suggestion or ignore it. In the end, only YOU can make decisions about your art. The value in the critique is in getting you to think critically about your work.

I think critique is hugely misunderstood. Most people think of critique as a one way street. “You tell me what you think about my photo and I learn something.” The knowledge flows from the person giving the critique to the person getting it. Right?

It sure does. But there’s so much more going on.

Critique is a two-way street.

The person giving the critique is learning too. They are learning to break an image down, see the individual elements, and understand how each element contributes to the overall work of art. That’s invaluable.

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.