How-To: C&C Guidelines For Happy Photogs

“Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see a bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.”

~ Dale Carnegie

Photography is considered a very personalized art because our passion, our love, our creativity, our lives are put into it. And, this is what makes receiving (and, even giving) critique and criticism extremely hard; why we must all have both a thick skin AND compassion.

While we all have different levels of skin thickness, you should always bear in mind that we are all human, we are all at different levels of our careers (or hobbies), and that it is extremely harder to read someone’s personality/attitude/emotion when communicating online. For those reasons, we have come up with some quick tips on how to correctly critique and criticize a photograph in order to keep our and your sanity.

    • If you are critiquing a photo, keep in mind that there truly is no right or wrong way in photography (or, any art for that matter). After all, we learn the rules only to be able to break them. Even if there are gross technical issues, the artistic value is what really counts. Try to think outside of the box; about what the photographer is trying to convey.
    • If you are the one being critiqued, don’t get defensive. Just listen and learn. Most times, others won’t give you C&C, so getting it is truly a rare opportunity. Even if you don’t agree, it is their opinion and they have a right to it. If you feel that you have to defend the issues pointed out, then do so, but also step back and ask yourself why.
  2. LOOK
    • Before saying anything at all, take at least 60 seconds to scan over the entire photo. Check out every detail of it. Let it soak into your brain; your soul, even. Even if something wrong is immediately evident, just wait! Take your time.
    • Ask questions of yourself such as “What/How does this photo make me feel?” or “I think this photo is about….” This step is very important, but often forgotten. Just as often, there is symbolism in a photo that you may miss if you are in too much of a hurry.
    • Now, you can start thinking about the technical errors you may find. Are there issues with exposure, white balance, ISO, contrast, motion blur, focus, etc?
    • Then, what issues do you have with the artistic side? Should it be in color or black & white? Discuss the cropping, background, foreground, props, etc. Why does the model have color-selected eyes?
    • This is where the compassion comes in. You have pointed out the errors/issues of the photograph, now let’s point out some of the positives, even it’s as simple as you like the chair the model is sitting in. There is always a positive no matter how many negatives. Find, at the very least, just one.
    • For a photographer to improve his/her work, they must feel confident. In order to promote confidence, we build it. How? By giving suggestions on how to improve or fix their photo. The marine mentality is not good for creatives. And, if you can help show them how, then all the better! After all, we all had to learn somewhere.

Also, a quick suggestiom for those requesting C&C:

  • When posting your photographs for C&C, be sure to add in the description the following:
    • Camera Body
    • Lens
    • Aperture
    • Shutter Speed
    • ISO
    • Details of time and location.
    • Software Used

While this is not required, it does make it very helpful for those critiquing your photograph.


Scott Berkun: #35 – How To Give and Receive Criticism


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