How to write a photography critique

How to write a photography critique

Critique is an important part of the learning process, especially in the beginning while you are building a foundation of which to learn upon. The Merirriam-Webster online dictionary defines critique as a careful judgment in which you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something (such as a piece of writing or a work of art).

But, art is so subjective, right? And personal. Sometimes it can be hard to take off the mommy goggles and just look at an image objectively. Fortunately, while the art of photography is subjective, there are rules that apple that most people will agree upon, of which are the technical skills (such as exposure, focus, white balance, and basic composition). When beginning, it is important to have a firm grasp of those skills, so that later, as your skill level increases. And accepting as well as giving feedback can help hone those skills. Then you can really begin to decide if the rules should be broken for your voice to be heard through your art. Breaking the rules is where all of the fun is, right?

During Ultimate Intro to Photography, we focus on helping students build a strong foundation for their photography by offering video feedback. Each student receives video feedback on their assignment images by two professional photographer mentors.

Thank you to two of the Ultimate Intro to Photography spring course students (you know who you are!) for these two gorgeous images and allowing others to learn! I really appreciate your willing to help a girl out!

How to write a photography critiqueHow to write a photography critique

The following is a simple guideline of how I critique an image technically. You can use these to more subjectively look at your own images or as a way to critique other’s images. Learning to see what is correct (and why) is a tool to becoming a better photographer. And of course after learning the rules, it is always fun to break them too 🙂

Exposure: Is the subject properly exposed? Are there any important blown out areas or underexposed areas?

Focus: Is the subject in focus? If not, is intended to be out of focus or is it missed focus?

Color: Is the white balance correct? Too cool, too warm. Color casts?

Depth of Field: Does it add to the story to take away from the story?

Is the lighting flat? Dappled? Does the type of lighting used add to the image or is it distracting? And is it intentional? Overall is it cohesive with the feel of the image?

How is the subject framed in the image? Are there any limb chops?Does the composition make the subject more interesting? Does the image follow a compositional rule? If not, would it look better cropped differently? Is there anything in the frame that takes away from the story? Or adds to the story that makes it more compelling?

How does the image make me feel? Do the technical aspects of the image add to this mood (lighting, color, composition, exposure, focus). Does the image capture an emotion? Is there a connection between the photographer and subject? Is there a connection between the viewer and subject?

I am a wife, a mother of 3, and a natural light hobbyist photographer. Photography is my passion, my outlet, and my sanity. My love of photography started like most MWACs, when my 1st child was born. I shoot with a Nikon D700 and a handful of prime lenses. When not learning all I can about photography, I enjoy reading, decorating my home, lake time, mindless television, and laughing with the girls. Website | Instagram

Below is a critique given to an advanced photographer familiar with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. In this case my recommendations are highly technical and targeted to the photographer’s skill level. Don’s critiques will have comments and suggestions that are appropriate for your skill level and experience.

Photo Critique by Don Paulson
For: Photographer’s name deleted
Account Status: 10 critiques – 3 photo critiques remain

How to write a photography critique


Overall Impact/First Impressions: The first thing I see is an overall reddish color cast. The shutter speed you used produced a pleasing effect in the water although I prefer slightly longer shutter speeds for this sort of scene. For moving water photos I recommend bracketing several different shutter speeds so you have the opportunity to pick the most pleasing effect. A person in a red jacket (on the trail upper right) is normally a great element to include in a nature scene, but in this case my eye sees a tiny splash of distracting red color. Had you captured this person on the bridge it may have given a complementary color accent to the surrounding green, plus a sense of scale. Given the opportunity I usually like to take the same scene with and without people.

Composition: Nicely balanced composition with the waterfall placed in the one third/two-thirds position. The square crop is a pleasing rendition with just the right amount of mossy green foreground.

Color: Overall red cast. I recommend trying to remove the red color cast by using a levels command in Photoshop (Ctrl L). Using the middle (gray) eye dropper, click on a light grey portion of the waterfall or perhaps the gravel bar in the foreground. Try several different areas that you know should be neutral gray until you see the best overall color balance.

Tone: The brilliant white waterfall in an otherwise dark scene presents a difficult challenge in controlling excessive contrast. You’ve struck a good compromise in providing detail in the shadows without blowing out too much of the waterfall. However, there still may be room for improvement (see below).

Suggestions: Clone out the person in the red jacket upper right. There are several methods you could try to recover some of the highlights in the waterfall while maintaining a proper exposure in the rest of the scene. Using Lightroom Develop Module experiment with the “Recovery” tool and possibly adding a small amount of “Fill Light”. Use the “Graduated Neutral Density Filter” tool to brighten both sides of the photo but not the waterfall. Alternately, you could process the RAW file twice; once for the highlights in the waterfall and once for the rest of the scene and then combine the results in Photoshop.

Photo after implementing Don’s Critique suggestions

How to write a photography critique

Customer Comments:

“I found Don’s critiques of my photos to be exceptionally valuable. He substantially improved my ability to recognize weaknesses in my photos, and gave me many ideas on how to improve them. He pushed me to a new level of photography, a level that I could not have otherwise achieved, regardless of the number of photography books that I bought and read.” Brian Barry, Bainbridge Island

How to write a photography critique

It’s easy to become annoyed or even disillusioned by the online critique community. Much like the rest of the Internet, the relative anonymity seems to be the great enabler of arrogance and vitriol. However, if you can see past the noise, there are a lot of dedicated and knowledgeable photographers who will kindly lend you their expertise. Following these tips can help you be a better critic yourself.

1.) Sometimes, Artistic Vision Exceeds Technical Ability

There are some really original creative thinkers out there who might not yet have the tools to achieve their creative vision. It’s important to always critique the artistic aspects of a photograph separately from the technical. Someone’s ability to properly expose a shot is not indicative of their creative vision or vice versa. Don’t dismiss one by virtue of the other.

2.) A Critique Is Not an Opinion

Art is full of subjective quantities. It’s also full of objective quantities. Focus on the latter. There’s nothing wrong with expressing a personal preference, so long as it’s framed as a preference and not a critique. Critiques should focus on factually based characteristics. If someone chose to color tone a photograph a certain way, you can certainly express your preference for another color palette, but you can’t argue the superiority of one or another. If someone presents a blurry shot, there are objective, measurable quantities such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO that can be invoked to discuss why the shot was blurry and how it can be remedied.

3.) Have a Purpose

Blanket criticism without justification or suggestions for improvement is extremely off-putting (see tip 10). If you truly want to help someone improve, don’t just tell them what’s wrong, tell them how to improve it.

4.) Speak to Your Audience

You wouldn’t put a new student driver in a race car, would you? If someone is new to photography, don’t lecture them on frequency separation or dodging and burning. Help them with the fundamentals that have to be in place before they can even begin to think about more advanced ideas. Talking over their head will only discourage a budding photographer.

5.) It’s Not About You

I often see critiques that seem to be more interested in demonstrating how much the critic knows than in helping the person who asked for it, or even as a way to sneakily advertise the critic’s own work. Doing this helps no one involved and does little to endear you to your colleagues. Critiques are no place for ulterior motives.

6.) Remember the Context

Don’t just look at the photograph, think about the environment in which it was taken. Sometimes, there are variables we simply cannot control (i.e. lighting at an event that doesn’t allow flash). Critique the photographer on how well they worked within the environment they were given; however, if they had some control over the environment, such as introducing their own lighting, you should absolutely address this.

Similarly, try to place the current critique in the context of the photographer’s past work. Have you seen their work before? Comment on how they’ve improved or how their style has evolved over time. It can be very hard to see how your work has improved or changed over time, simply because you’re too close to it. Having an outside perspective is invaluable.

How to write a photography critique My friends’ recent wedding.

7.) Be Polite

I’m generally a fan of being considerate of others all the time, but I think it’s particularly important in this context. If someone has shown the requisite bravery to put their work and creative mind in front of you, reciprocate that with respect for their courage. There should be no reason a photographer walks away from a critique with lower self-esteem, even if that critique was mostly negative. Be sensitive to how you say things and remember that we all experience the words of others differently. A little kindness can go a long way.

8.) Stop, Look, Understand, Critique

So many critiques I’ve read were very clearly knee-jerk reactions and as such, showed a superficial understanding of the photograph and the processes involved in its making. People often spend 5 seconds looking at an image and 10 minutes writing a critique, when really, these numbers should be much closer to one another. Look at an image, think about it, then look again. You’ll see and understand things that simply won’t be evident upon a cursory examination.

9.) Start a Dialogue

Critiques are great opportunities to start conversations. These conversations can help you understand the photographer’s intentions, further your own knowledge, or simply make a friend. After all, when we ask for or give a critique, we are drawing on the community, so why not use that community to its fullest?

10.) Too Positive? Too Negative? Ignore it.

It’s rare that a photograph is so mind-blowingly spectacular or so jaw-droppingly bad that it truly deserves an unequivocally positive or negative critique. And when I say “rare,” I mean “exceedingly unusual.” You should have a good general sense of the quality of execution of a photograph; if someone’s critique is rather out of sync with your intuition, it’s probably because they’re biased. Of course, we’re mostly used to the exceeding viciousness on the Internet; don’t let the keyboard warriors of the world undermine your desire to learn and grow. Unfortunately, some people feel a sense of superiority by finding ways to put down others. Don’t let this common schoolyard behavior demoralize you. On the other hand, don’t be taken by unfettered praise; it’s certainly nice to be lavished in, but it does little for the purpose of growth.

Critique is a strange beast. Given properly, it can facilitate both technical and artistic growth, but given improperly, it can derail development, damage self-esteem, and undermine the strong sense of community that makes photography such a group pursuit. Taking time to understand a photograph from all angles: technical, artistic, motivational, contextual, environmental, etc. can facilitate a full and deep critique, one that truly addresses an image in a way that is beneficial to both the critic and the requestor. You might find that practicing articulating full critiques also helps you to examine your own images in an increasingly beneficial manner.

It has been said that the most difficult thing to do is to judge your creative work objectively. Be honest. Can you tell when your work seems to be missing something? More importantly, do you know what it is that’s missing? You can only improve your photos if you set a high photo standard to compare yourself against.

How to write a photography critique

Photo by Miwok; ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/125-second exposure.

When Time Life selected 250 photos for the Great Photographers volume of their Time Life Photography series, they chose 68 photographers out of thousands. Those editors defined “great” photographers based on three main factors.

3 Characteristics of a Great Photographer

The first factor was intent. What did the photographer have in mind when they took the photo and did they achieve it? For example, did the photographer successfully make the viewer feel empathy when taking pictures of survivors of a major natural disaster?

The second factor was technical skill. Did the photographer show a thorough understanding of composition, light, exposure, and design?

The final factor was consistency. Did the photographer have just one or two great shots, or did they produce success time and time again? One great photo—or even several—does not a great photographer make.

How to write a photography critique

Intent, skill, and consistency are the same three factors that will determine your own greatness. Study the masters like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogene Cunningham, and Diana Arbus, and you will see these three factors again and again. But the question remains, how do you get from where you are now to that level?

Have you ever heard the phrase “being your own worse critic”? Most people tend to think of that as a negative phrase when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. To learn and grow in photography, you have to be strong enough to admit what does and does not work in your photos.

To that end, here is a strength and weakness checklist for you to use when reviewing your own photographs. It’s not complicated. Just look at your photo and mark whether it is strong or weak. There is no middle gray; your image either succeeds or it does not. Once you know your weaknesses you can work on improving in those areas.

Photo Critique Checklist

1. Intent. Could any viewer look at this photo and know what you had in mind?

2. Emotional Impact. Can this photo be described with words of emotion, like peace, calmness, anger, rage, joy, or sadness? Does your photo make an emotional statement?

How to write a photography critique

Photo by Olli Henze; ISO 100, f/5, 1/100-second exposure.

3. Center of interest. When composing your images do you successfully direct your viewer’s attention to a specific point? Would the viewer know where your center of interest is?

4. Illusion of depth. Have you used framing, balance, contrast, and other art concepts to make your image jump off the page, or does it just sit there?

5. Subject/background contrast. Shooting a portrait of someone with black hair against a black background in not usually a good idea. Does your subject stand out?

6. Personal style. Ansel Adams was known for extreme illusion of depth and all planes in very sharp focus. Jim Zuckerman is known for vibrant colors and simplified subjects within their natural setting. Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.” How will others describe your unique approach?

7. Selective focus. Do you choose where the viewer will look? If the background is just as sharp as the foreground, things can become very visually confusing.

8. Composition. Do you consistently use the rule of thirds, formal or informal balance, and leading lines? Take control of where the viewer’s eyes are most likely to fall in your image.

9. Exposure. Do you always shoot at whatever the camera says, or do you take control of the light? Can you see details in your shadows? Have you ever used a reflector or bounced a flash as opposed to straight on?

10. Storytelling. Is there a feeling of movement within your image, or does it just sit there? Does it leave anything to the imagination, or is it just a statement of what is? If your image doesn’t tell a story, there is no reason to give it a second glance. Great photos make you want to look again and again.

How to write a photography critique

Photo by Tim Donnelly; f/20, 1.3-second exposure.

Use this checklist to see where you are at the moment and where your work is going in the future. Having a photographic standard is like having a roadmap. It is possible to get from here to there without one but it’s a whole lot easier with one. Knowing what areas you need to improve is the first step in becoming a better photographer.

Much has been written on DPS about receiving feedback and examining your own photos to help improve. Today I want to give you some pointers on providing a critique to others (when asked for) so the conversation between you and the photographer is time well spent.

At its base, a critique is an examination of a piece of work, be it writing or art or potato chips, and a reasoned response to what is examined. I’ll be talking mostly about ‘soft’ critiques in this post as they are the ones that examine content in a less mathematical way. Not that math doesn’t apply to photos, but examining a photo is more subjective than objective.

1. Make Sure The Photographer WANTS A Critique

Most importantly, ensure the person receiving the critique actually desires a critique. While your intentions may be pure and the information you have may benefit the recipient, if most people aren’t open to the idea of hearing about their work, they won’t hear a thing you say. And it may backfire. Before launching into, “There are some things about this image I want to comment on…” start out with something as simple as, “Would you like an honest critique of your image?” If the answer is, “No thanks,” then move along and don’t’ say a word. If someone is not open to receiving, they won’t. (I know it sounds obvious, but it is often overlooked.)

2. Be Honest

This is hard for many of us. Some of us are being desensitized to the “Nice work!” we see on Facebook and Google+ and think all the world need be rosy. This is not the case. But (as long as point #1 is followed) we need to make sure we are honest from the start. If you just want to tear someone’s art apart, say so (that is not at the heart of a critique, by the way). If you want to help them improve, say that too. If you just want to spout your opinion, ditto. Hearing yourself talk or trying to gain more exposure on certain sites by ‘joining in on the conversation’ has its place, but just be honest about why you are speaking.

3. Realize Your View Of The World Is Incomplete

Most people jump right over this concept. We all have egos that enjoy thinking they have the accumulated knowledge of the world, or at least some specific subset. But the truth is, no one does and we, as a society, are learning new things about the world around us all the time. So it is with art. Any art revolution was confronted with detractors; people who thought it was rubbish, based solely on person, past experiences. Knowing you don’t know everything will help lead to an open discussion rather than a one sided, “You did all this wrong,” point of view.

4. Educate Yourself

Before getting started, in hand with knowing you don’t know everything, learn a little about the subject being critiqued; both the subject of the photo and the subject of photography. There’s no need to take college level courses to learn some art history and different photographic techniques. Often this education can come from the photographer by asking simple questions about why they shot what they did and what they were attempting to portray (some will tell you to not ask these types of questions as it may alter your critique, but I find it can be helpful in guiding the conversation).

5. Examine And Highlight

Examine the body of work, set it down, walk away, and come back. I have found this process helpful personally to shake my thoughts up and then let them settle. If time is not available, by all means, jump right in. Look to what works and doesn’t work in the image. Look for technical merit (and here our very own Christina Dickson gives some examples of: Exposure, Focus and Composition in her post on portrait critiques) and look to more subjective areas such as story telling and emotional impact. Highlight what works and what doesn’t work. And most importantly; why.

The ‘Why’ is at the heart of the critique. It will help the photographer more than anything. “Her hair is all wrong,” is not a good critique, even though it might be accurate. “Her hair is bothering me. See if you you darken the tone to lessen its impact in the shot, or remove some of the stray strands to cause less distraction,” is a far better statement that gets out the bad with leading the photographer in a direction to improve. And that is at the heart of the critique, wanting to help the other improve. Anything less is simply complaining or touting one’s own mastery of the art, neither of which really help anyone (except the reviewer’s own ego).

6. Delivering The Critique

Lastly, deliver the critique when the photographer is ready and in a way that works for them. Listing a long diatribe as a comment on a Google+ picture might not always be the best forum, especially if the critique was unwanted. But emailing the person privately and first asking them if they wish for an honest critique is a good first step. Follow this up by another email with the critique if they are amiable to receiving. That way they can read it when they are ready, instead of having it crammed down their throat when they are tired and hungry and working a long day. Delivery is just as important sometimes as what is being said.

These days, across the miles, most critiques are given in email and it’s a great medium as people in France can comment on a Vietnamese artist’s work with never leaving home. it also allows a slower conversation which is often preceded with carefully thought out comments, rather than calling someone at 2am, a little drunk, to tell them why their sunrise picture, “sucked”. I’ll pretend this never happened to me. And I hope it never happens to you. Email helps bring a bit of reason into a conversation. It should not be shunned over an actual in-person meeting if location isn’t a problem, as body language can tell you a lot about what a person is thinking.

If you’re looking for specifics to include in that critique, I have enjoyed this post over at Pixiq to be helpful. It dives a bit deeper into the area of what to include and rather than recreate it here, I suggest you pop on over and take a look.

Do you have any tips on the actual delivery of a critique that you find useful?

It’s always a good idea to critique photos and to have one’s own photos critiqued. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to develop an eye for great photography. You just need to sit back and think about what appeals to you in a photo. Oftentimes, this is some combination of color balance, composition, and subject matter. True photography magic happens when all three come together perfectly.

How to write a photography critiqueThis is a photo of the city of Riga in Latvia by Aldis Putelis. It is evening, and everyone is heading home. Aldis said it was taken from the 15th floor out his office window. He must have used a tripod with a telephoto lens to get this shot. If you look closely at the van in the left lane of traffic, you will notice it is blurred. This is undoubtedly a result of holding the camera’s shutter open longer to collect more light for this evening shot.


The reason I picked this photo is its balanced composition. When I talk about composition, I’m referring to the different shapes and their locations within the picture. Shapes have a remarkable effect on our eyes and how we see photos. They can guide the eye through a photo to make it more visually interesting, drawing attention to important things like the main subject.

This picture has a very clear line of empty space moving through its center from the bottom right hand corner to the upper left corner. You might not be aware of it, but this line actually guides your eye right through the photo. The horizontal line in the photo occurs near the upper third, and it draws your eye around the curved building on the right. As said earlier, you don’t know that you are paying extra attention to the building, but the photo naturally guides you right there.

The rule of thirds

In photography, and many forms of visual art, there is something known as the rule of thirds. In its most basic form, the rule states that you are more likely than not to create a visually appealing image if you place your subject near one of the thirds markers. Nobody quite knows why it works, but it could be argued that the rule at the very least avoids the problem of “center composition.”

When you place your subject smack dab in the center of a picture, you get rid of any space for your eye to move. The eye tracks to the center of the picture and stops dead. Usually, images of this sort aren’t very interesting.

In this image, the curved building occurs where the top and right third meet. It is a classic example of the rule of thirds. If you look closely, there is another building where the bottom and left third meet. These two buildings on opposing sides of the photo actually balance themselves out, creating an even composition that appears to flow well.

Color balance

Now let’s talk color. This picture isn’t very bright, but what it lacks in brightness it more than makes up for in warmth. There is a very distinct contrast between the dull wintry white of the buildings and the orange glow of the sunset and lights reflected off of the rooftops, the lights inside of the buildings, and the lights on the cars.

The placement of these colors within the picture is even and balanced. I spoke earlier about how the line through the center of the image draws your eye through the photo. You will also notice that all of the colors in the photo balance around this line. There are near equal amounts of white and faint orange on both sides.

Right through the center, you will find the most intense colors in the picture. These are the bright lights coming from the cars. If they were anywhere else, they would seem out of place. The photographer made the right decision by having the road run through the middle of the shot. Also, have another look where the top and left thirds of the picture meet. Interestingly, this is the brightest part of the picture. That is no accident.

The subject matter

And lastly, a brief discussion on the choice of subject matter. Wintry pictures, especially in the evening, do a great a job of conveying warmth. There is a contrast between the dull white snow and the bright orange lights. It actually makes us feel like we’re sitting at home drinking hot cocoa on a cold day. So far as making its audience feel something is concerned, this picture is spot on.

Avoid distracting content

There is really only one place where this picture could be improved. The trees spread throughout the image tend to scatter the even lines of the buildings, creating chaos and confusion in the in the photo. In a word, they are kind of junky. Of course, the photographer can’t just show up and knock down a few trees, but what a photographer chooses to keep or reject in a picture does matter. Having clear cut lines and well defined subjects almost always makes for a better image.

Do you have a picture you would like critiqued? Send it to me at my special email address, and I will consider it. I give mostly positive feedback and only mention the few negatives that stand out like a sore thumb. In the end, we’ll all take better pictures if we pay more attention to these kinds of details.

Argumentative Criticism — As the name suggests argumentative criticism about a work or a body of work seeks to assess its merit, either good or bad. The critic judges the work and through argument seeks to persuade others of his or her opinion

Interpretive Criticism — This is a more of an exploratory kind of criticism. The critic is trying to interpret or understand the work and relay his or her aesthetic interpretation to others.

In reality most criticism blends the two or builds from the more interpretive to the argumentative. So what’s my point in presenting this? It is very important that you develop a vocabulary with which to think and talk about your work and the work of others. You may need to write an artist’s statement. You may have to explain your work for the purposes of a grant proposal. You may have to articulate your vision for an editorial shoot to an editor or group that includes editors, art directors and designers. All of these will require that you be able to articulate a clear vision for why you shoot the way you do and what you want to achieve or express.

You will also need to talk and think intelligently about the work of other. “That’s a really pretty picture” or “I like the way the light is shinning through the stained glass window” is not enough. You need to be able to deconstruct an image or series of images in a way that is informative for other photographers and for you about why and how the image was made.

What we’re talking about here is developing your critical thinking skills related to photography. Good critical thinking is about developing an informed, clear set of ideas that can be articulated. The key to this is research and observation.

Art critics and scholars scholars writing about photography and art in general will often address the five issues below in their criticism. They offer a further road map for how you might discuss your own work and the work of others:

  • Subject – Why has the photographer chosen the subject for his or her photography? Is it a strong subject for the photographers purposes? Does it relay a story?
  • Form – Has the photographer’s choices about how to render the subject — lighting, background, depth-of-field, focal length, moment — served the photographer well?
  • Medium – Do the photographers’ choices about color or black & white work or ISO work well? (NOTE: for scholars this is often about camera type — film, digital, medium format, etc)
  • Style – Is the photographer’s style represented clearly in this work? Is the style of original? How do they help give expression to the concept? What are the influences?
  • Subject Matter – As distinct from the subject itself, what are the broader contextual or thematic issues the photographer is addressing with these image? Is this a more documentary or artistic project? What might it help viewers to know to better understand the image?

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How to write a photography critique

How to write a photography critique

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The Capstone Project is your opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge you have gained through our journey in learning about photography, to develop a meaningful project of 10 well formed photographs based in your passion for artistic expression, or a subject for documentary exploration, insightful portraiture, imaging for work-related subjects, or some other aspect of photography. We are confident that it will be a project that you will be excited to share with fellow Learners. You should plan on spending more time on this Course per week than any other in this Specialization, and much of it will be in making photographs. During the entire period of development, you and your fellow learners will be supporting each other as you work independently, by sharing your work-in-progress from the initial Project Plan to the final Portfolio. At each stage, all Learners will share comments and suggestions with each other, helping each other to gauge progress and to learn about different approaches to photography and content. By expressing your own ideas and expectations about quality in response to the work of others, you will be forming your own criteria of excellence as well. Along the way there will be multiple opportunities for sharing pictures and ideas through carefully designed Peer Review. This sharing of photographs and comments with peers, and reflecting on their comments about your photos, will be an exciting learning experience that will help you grow in understanding your own photography and that of others. Your contribution of comments to fellow Learners will not only help them understand their photographs better, but it will give you an opportunity to use the vocabulary of terms that are related to techniques, design principles, and content approaches that you have learned through your success in each of the previous Modules. A unique aspect of this Specialization is that everyone who completes the requirements will receive, in addition to their Certificate of Specialization from Michigan State University, access to substantial discounts on equipment, accessories, and membership benefits through Industry Partners from among the premier manufacturers of photography equipment and related items: Fracture, Gary Fong, Gyst, Lensbaby, LensPen, Lume Cube Lighting, Photo District News, PhotoVideoEdu, Think Tank Cases/Bags.

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Excellent course. Excited to have completed course. Enjoyed the course so much, I actually wish it was not over. In-depth instruction and hands-on experience gained through weekly assignments.

This specialization was one of the most amazing experiences. I found out a new passion and had wonderful teachers who guide me from knowing nothing to shoot in manual! Thank you Professors.

Learning more about critically analyzing

Peter and Mark will review two more MSU student projects to help you understand what they see as markers of success in a body of related photographs. Once again, the students' Photographer's Statements are presented as examples of the diversity with which such things may be written. Peter will also discuss the purposes of "critique," also known as constructive criticism, and strategies for analyzing the works of others. Our Lesson Review in this Module is again from Course Three, entitled "Composition is a "Map," Balance is Bike Riding." Finally, you will practice your "critique skills" in a Peer Review exercise. Of course, during this week you will keep photographing to develop your project further.

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May 25, 2020 — The best way to critique your photos is simply to look at them as objectively as possible. You should have extremely stringent standards — you (6) …

3. How to Write a Photography Critique (with Pictures) – wikiHow

18 steps1.Outline your critique before you write it. Take notes on your initial thoughts and suggestions while looking at the photograph.. Make a list of key points 2.Structure the critique into an introduction, body, and conclusion. Organized critiques will give the photographer a clear understanding of your perspective 3.State what you think works well first. Before you dive into criticisms, write a paragraph or two about what you thought the photographer went well (7) …

For me critiquing photographs is synonymous with reviewing a selection of prints. Of course, the subject can be extended to critiquing any photographs, 3 pages (8) …

4. How to Critique Your Own Photos – PictureCorrect

Photo Critique Checklist · 1. Intent. Could any viewer look at this photo and know what you had in mind? · 2. Emotional Impact. · 3. Center of interest. · 4. (9) …

Aug 8, 2012 — But I may still do video critiques again in the future. The subject of this critique is a photo by Kyle Jones called “Mount Shasta and Lake (10) …

Constructive Photography Critique: How to Give and Receive with Grace Kind criticisms can be helpful—both offering them to other photographers and being (11) …

How To Deliver A Useful Photo Critique · 1. Make Sure The Photographer WANTS A Critique. Most importantly, ensure the person receiving the critique actually (12) …

Jun 27, 2019 — Tell them. Next, go on to the next endeavor. Always come from a place of help. Always provide the “why”. Avoid personal bias if at all possible. (13) …


Outline your critique before you write it. Take notes on your initial thoughts and suggestions while looking at the photograph.. Make a list of key points 2. (14) …

Aug 28, 2018 — First of all, I think a good photography critique is based on your emotion. When you give a photography critique, share how the photograph makes (15) …

By posting an image for critique, you are expressly asking people to offer their critical opinions of your work. They may not like your image. Please note that (16) …

How to write a photography critique

Constructive critique, otherwise known as CC, is a super common thing in the world of social media and especially so for photographers. You can request or receive CC pretty much anywhere but there are specific groups and forums for it, just like ours, the Critique and Tips group.

There is a video on this topic, that’s here:

What is Constructive Critique

I found this definition from Indeed and I actually think it is really good! They define CC as:

Constructive criticism is a type of feedback that is specific, actionable and based on observation and facts. Rather than general advice or suggestions, constructive criticism contains explicit recommendations on how to make positive improvements.

Essentially, constructive critique is the act of giving feedback that is supportive. Quite literally speaking, when people ask for CC they kind of just want to know what they could improve but said in a nice way.

How to give Constructive Critique

You may be a member of a CC group, or you may have been asked to give CC on a specific image or portfolio. Whatever the situation, you are in a position now to give advice and you need to ask yourself a few questions before you dive on in there. The questions I always ask myself are:

a) Do I know enough about this?

If you can’t answer yes to this question, because your skill level is lower than the recipient or because you do not have the knowledge in that field, then do not give CC, or at least ensure you point out that you don’t know enough about this topic to offer actionable advice. If you do, then continue…

b) Do I know what the individual is trying to achieve?

If you do not know what the individual is actually trying to achieve, because maybe it isn’t clear or the recipient didn’t ask for specific CC on a certain area, then it is probably best to not provide CC until you know the answer to this question. Do not be afraid to ask them for a little bit of info on what they are trying to achieve, that’s ok!

If you do not know what they’re trying to achieve, your constructive feedback could actually set the individual further away from what they’re aiming for.

If you do know what they’re wanting to achieve, continue…

c) Can I phrase my feedback in a positive way?

This is the clincher. In almost ALL cases, you CAN phrase what you want to say in a positive way, but on the off chance that you can’t, don’t give CC at all.

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

When you get to this point and you’ve answered yes to the questions above, it’s time to actually write your critique. For that, there is a tried and tested format that works really well that I think is worth sharing here. Some people call it a shit sandwich, but I think that is really quite negative on the improvement part, so I’m just going to call it a CC Framework.

“The CC Framework”

  1. Start with something positive – what has been done really well here, what has the creator nailed?
  2. Add in something that could be improved, phrased in a positive way, ideally with actionable steps to achieve that improvement.
  3. End with something else that is positive – ideally, something different from the element you mentioned in step 1.

In this way, the recipient is left feeling positive and inspired to produce actionable change, in a way that builds them up instead of tearing them down.

Simple, but effective!

How to get Constructive Critique

Getting CC is quite easy to be honest, albeit a bit scary. For requesting great CC I would definitely recommend being specific in your posts/requests on what it is you are trying to achieve, or what specifically you would like CC on. For example, if you post a photo and say “CC please”, you’re not helping the critiquers to answer questions 1 and 2 in their guidance above.

An example of a great CC request would be to post an image, a single image, with the camera settings, a bit of background about the subject/situation and a specific area that you are working to improve, or looking for feedback on. That gives the critiquers all the info they might need to help you with your specific situation. Perfect.

One thing that I need to stress is that CC is only as good as the individuals giving it. I was once told that the loudest person in the room knows the least, and although I think that statement is sweeping and not always true, 9 times out of 10, you do need to be selective about the CC you take on board. In this case, you have two options:

  1. Ask a specific individual who is working at a skill level ahead of you in this specific thing for critique OR
  2. Take CC given on public forums with a pinch of salt

Really this comes down to whose CC you actually value. Whose opinion do you value, whose experience do you value, whose skills do you value? Those things will shape how you take on board the feedback that you have received.

One thing to bear in mind at this point though is that CC from people who really love your work can be very unhelpful because they aren’t picking things to improve like a pair of fresh eyes can. So it is actually useful to mix the two situations and get feedback from different people in different places. You’ll find the things that come up might be stuff you haven’t even thought about, which is great for growth!

In summary, requesting critique can open the doors to responses given with little tact or care, however, these are usually really infrequent. Do not be afraid to back yourself up and respond to those comments though! CC has helped me develop over the years and especially in the first few years, CC alone was what helped me to improve at warp speed. It isn’t something I’ll be turning my back on anytime soon!

How to write a photography critique

“It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it’s where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own”—Rebecca Solnit

This class is designed for advanced photographers who have taken the Atelier at the Griffin multiple times (or its equivalent). Meeting approximately every other week, this critique-based class is for students who want to deepen their practice and are working on the development of a portfolio; exhibition; book; or longer-term project. Reading and/or writing assignments will be given to both assist and guide class conversations.

Entrance to this class is by application only: please submit 5 jpegs and a brief statement of interest by June 30, 2019 to [email protected] create new email
Students will be notified of acceptance by July 15.

8 class sessions; Limited to 12 students. $450 for Griffin members, $500 for non-members. Payment due to the Griffin Museum upon acceptance into program.

Wednesday evenings 6:00-9:00 pm; Class Dates:

September 18
October 2, 16, 30
November 13, 20
December 4, 18


How to write a photography critique


Emily Belz is a photographer and educator based in Cambridge, MA. Her work focuses on domestic still lifes, and reveals a strong affinity for light, space, and color. Belz has exhibited her photographs both regionally and nationally at venues including the Center for Fine Art Photography; the Griffin Museum of Photography; and the Danforth Museum. She was the recipient of a 2014 artist grant from the Cambridge Arts Council, a 2015 Critical Mass Finalist, and was awarded the Manoog Family artist residency in 2018. In 2019 Belz has had solo exhibits at Gallery Kayafas and the Danforth Museum.

Belz holds a BA in photography and art history from Hampshire College (1997), an MA in art and design education from the Rhode Island School of Design (2009), and an MFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art (2017). She teaches classes and workshops at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA and Lasell College in Newton, MA.

When not making photographs she can be found sailing with her husband and young son, and chasing the light.

by Head Senior critic Mike Kreiten

I travel for photography, plan the trips only for the spots worth to visit, get up before sunrise, and edit, I love finalizing works. My spouse is the same photo maniac as I am, without her I could not do any of this.

When she passes my screen and says “I envy this shot” it’s the biggest compliment possible. She’s my best critic, her intuition and gut feeling very likely show me the photos that get published. Obviously she does not say that very often, haha!

Critique is a treasure, invaluable.
You can only learn when people tell you what they think, capable people. You don’t have to agree, but other eyes have a different look on your work. The view many others likely will have on it, too. We tend to look at the same things in our own work all the time, others see things we overlook even in hefty editing.

The team of critics on 1x have an expression for what we do, “loan another pair of eyes”.

How to write a photography critique
“Loaning Eyes. ” by Mike Kreiten

That’s what 14 people do as senior critics, as a hobby, because they have what I’d call a “helping gene”. They enjoy that members are grateful to receive funded critique. Often they want to know why work was not published, which we cannot answer. We can only help to make a work stronger or give suggestions for next shots.

I’m doing this for two years now, I was invited to a great bunch of people writing critiques. We exchange, we feel like knowing each other, we help each other. When Alfred Forns asked me to become part of that team, I felt honored. I still do, heading the team now, backing up Greg Barsh for a while.

It all started when I posted something for critique. The detailed analysis and many suggestions I received led to a later publication, one of my first. I couldn’t thank the team enough by just saying I was grateful. I noticed everybody can write critiques, so I did for everything where I felt I could help. And then the magic happened, people were very grateful and we exchanged in long threads. This was noticed by the team of course, we usually read all comments. After a few weeks of engaging in the forum I received the invitation that changed my view on 1x, completely.

This was fun!
I enjoyed and learned at the same time. I would say I learned more in two months than I would have learned in two years usually. I read everything critics and members wrote when works fell into my genres – or genres I was interested in. I knew about obstacles before even having tried something new. Real obstacles, happening to people starting or even being experienced in techniques. It widened my horizon, made me curious to try more things. I set myself the goal to publish one photo of every genre, show some expertise in everything. Well, that’s very ambitious and consequently I’m not there yet, but I collected quite a few.

Communication theories say you should start with the most important message, I hope you made it till here because I did not stick to that rule. This is my message, dropping in late:

Try critique on 1x, post work, comment work, or read only. You will learn something, for sure.

I’m confident it’s the best photography critique forum in the entire internet. I learn new things there every day. People join 1x because they want to upload their photographs and exchange in this forum, we read that many times.

Should you discover the same pleasure I found in doing so, we need team members.

We love diversity, there is no wrong and right in photography, and “right” looks different for everybody. We had monthly guest critics, experienced photographers, and they stayed. Because they have it, the “gene”.

Join the party, help others and you will learn yourself.

Mike Kreiten
Head senior critic of an awesome team dedicating their time for you.

When it comes to photography—or any type of creative work—feedback is crucial. When I first picked up photography, it was a solitary pursuit, something I did on my own for my own creative expression. I would only share my photos with family and friends, who were always encouraging. I had taste, but I felt like I lacked the skills to help me grow.

As my skills began to develop, I craved feedback from photographers who had the skills I was after. I wasn’t looking for praise, but rather thoughtful criticism that would push me towards my goals.

As intimidating as it may be, giving and/or receiving feedback is one of the best ways to develop your technical eye and artistic voice. But it’s tricky a skill to master.

When feedback is offered in a constructive manner, it is a gift. However, if it is delivered in an unhelpful or unsupportive way, feedback can be crippling.

Giving feedback is not any easier. You may be concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, or you may struggle with organizing your thoughts about a picture. However, providing feedback can be just as educational as receiving it because it helps you develop your technical eye, it demands that you articulate your point of view, and it sharpens your taste.

You can critique a photograph from three different angles: technical quality, creativity, and context. These obviously overlap, but thinking about each of these as separate ways to analyze an image will help you organize your thoughts and will perhaps clarify the kind of feedback that you are looking to give or receive.

1. How successful is the image on a TECHNICAL level?

– How does a photo’s exposure, lighting, post-production/retouching, color correction, sharpness, contrast enhance the photo?

2. How CREATIVE is the image?

– How does the composition enhance the photo (framing, angle)?
– How does color, lighting, movement, texture, subject, or styling express a feeling or elicit an emotional response?
– How unique and imaginative is the image?

3. How well does it fit within its CONTEXT?

– An image that will be used for commercial purposes will be held to different standards than an image that is an act of personal expression. How does the photo fit within a style or approach?
– How does the photo fit within current trends?
– How effective is the image at meeting its intended impact?

There are many ways for giving and receiving feedback I’ve put together a few guidelines that have helped me over the years. I tried to keep them broad so that they can applied to a range of scenarios.

Giving Feedback

1. Try to identify what the photograph is trying to capture or express. It is essential that you attempt to understand what the photographer is trying to achieve with the image. This will ground your feedback in the photographer’s intent and will prevent you from overstepping any boundaries. If you’re not sure what the photographer is trying to achieve, simply ask.

2. Begin by communicating what works and what is strong. Identify which aspects of the photo first caught your eye: composition, color, creativity, context, emotion, the moment. Identify what about these elements is compelling. Most importantly, be specific.

3. Then, identify the elements that could be stronger, are unclear, distracting. Communicate if there is something that is unclear or that you’re not understanding. Share your thoughts about how certain elements could be improved —not enough details, too many details, etc.

4. Try not to repeat what’s already been said. It is important to give your thoughts and ideas, but don’t go into detail about something that’s already been offered.

5. It’s always nice to end your feedback with expressing something that you really like about the photograph. Remember, you want to use your feedback to encourage the photographer to grow and go further–ending with something that you really like will give them the boost that need to get back to work.

6. Remember: critique the work, not the photographer.

Receiving Feedback

1. Feedback is most helpful when it’s focused. Ask for the type of feedback you are looking for. What would be helpful, technical questions you may have. For example, if you’re trying to improve your portrait lighting, feedback about post-processing won’t be helpful.

2. Take a step back and consider the feedback. Try not to explain away every criticism and justify any weakness that might be pointed out. A good practice is to refrain from saying anything in response to feedback, other than “thank you.”

3. That being said, take what is useful and leave the rest. Not all feedback is going to be helpful or relevant. Consider the source of feedback. Does the photographer have similar goals or photography styles? Do you respond to their photography? In the end, whether to take the feedback or not is up to you.

As photographers on 500px, we all like to receive praise, whether it’s in the form of “likes” or comments. It feels great, but, it can have the unintended effect of causing you to resort to your usual tricks that have worked in the past and never allowing yourself to move beyond your comfort zone.

We invite you to be brave and ask for feedback. We encourage you to get specific when you express your thoughts about a fellow photographer’s work. This will ensure that we’re all growing together.

Do you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share about critiques and feedback? Share them in the comment section below.

An art critique paper involves a comprehensive analysis and assessment of an artwork. Though this looks a bit complicated, the task doesn’t require a lot of time if you have sufficient critique writing skills. It’s an interesting assignment for students of art colleges as well as high schoolers. All you need is to study some art critique examples and learn some effective techniques. It will help make your essay creative and attention-grabbing.

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This article by Custom-writing experts will show you how to write an art review and criticism. It will serve as a guideline for your excellent paper! On the page, you will see all the basic information as well as tips and art critique templates.

? Art Critique: Basic Information

Critical analysis of artwork stimulates and encourages the discussion of art. When you write it, you express your opinion. And when you receive a critique, you learn from others. Every person evaluates art differently. Some pay extra attention to the color scheme and composition. Others appreciate realistic qualities in artworks. And some people look for expressiveness and emotion.

How to write a photography critique

You may think that because of these differences, we can’t objectively critique art. Luckily, there is an accepted way to conduct a formal analysis of an artwork. It’s called Feldman’s method, and it consists of four elements: description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment. More information on these elements can be found in section 3.

? How to Write an Art Critique Step by Step

STEP #1. Create an outline before you start writing.

It will help you develop the structure of your essay. In the draft, answer these questions:

What do you want to write about?
What are the key points?
What evidence supports your ideas?

STEP #2. Decide on what info about the artwork you will need.

Then use credible sources to collect all the necessary data.

STEP #3. Provide a clear thesis statement.

A thesis here would be the main idea that would reflect your vision of an artistic piece. Don’t underestimate the importance of a thesis! It will guide you through writing the entire essay. It will also help your readers understand your art criticism better.

STEP #4. Note your first spontaneous reaction to the artwork.

By the end of the process, you may better understand your first impression or even change your mind!

STEP #5. Write the main body using Feldman’s method.

Study the artwork and assess its content, as well as its purpose. Explain which features of the piece of art you spot as the most exciting and less successful. Find more information on the elements of the method below.

STEP #6. Write your conclusions about the artwork.

They should base on all the information you have gathered.

? Feldman’s Method: 4 Art Critique Elements

To write a perfect art critique paper, use the four elements mentioned before: description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment. Understanding these elements will allow you to evaluate any artwork thoroughly and objectively.

When you start writing a critique, remember that a useful analysis provides your view of the object’s strong and weak attributes.

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  • How to write a photography critique

That is a common question a photographers ask themselves often. Learning how to self-critique your work can be tremendously helpful in your development. It’s especially beneficial when you are starting your photography journey and learning all the different components involved with photography. It is an effective way to measure your growth and increase confidence. But what do we look for when self-critiquing?

There are three important parts you should focus on when critiquing your own work:

  1. technical components
  2. artistic aspects
  3. goal setting

Each one of these plays an important role taking good photographs. I recommend you start with twenty of your best pictures and have a notebook and pen handy.

Technical Components

When you are first starting out with photography there are so many technical aspects to remember that taking pictures can become overwhelming and frustrating. Each picture does not need to be by the book, but there is a certain level your work needs to be at in order to get your message across. Look at each picture and ask yourself how is the focus, lighting, Depth Of Field, white balance, and exposure. Pick your strongest and weakest technical aspects in each. For example, maybe in one of your pictures your exposure is good, but the lighting is less then ideal. Write your evaluations in a notebook for each picture.

How to write a photography critique

Artistic Components

This evolves the emotional aspect of the picture. There are universally accepted emotions in photographs: happy, sad, lonely, joy, fear, surprise, etc. Look at your subject and answer these questions.

  1. What emotions do you want the viewer to feel?
  2. How is your subject in relations to composition?
  3. What message are your trying to convey?
  4. Are there distractions causing your eye to wonder away?
  5. How will you process?
  6. Color or black and white?
  7. Does it convey your personal style?

Again, jot down your notes for each picture.

How to write a photography critique

Setting Goals

Put it all together and create your action plan. Now that you have completed the first two exercises, look for patterns in your notes. Maybe they repeat good focus but off white balance. One goal might be to concentrate on correcting white balance. Make your goals as specific as possible.

Next make a plan. How will you work on it and when would you like to accomplish your goal? Maybe you need to do some research online, take a workshop, breakout, or ask for peer feedback. Write it down and review your list regularly. Once you accomplished one of your goals, celebrate your accomplishment. It will help to keep you motivated and moving along.

How to write a photography critique

Doing these exercises regularly will improve your photography. You will slow down, be more conscience of frame content, focus on your subject, and pay closer attention to you settings.

Your journey is yours. You only get out of it what you put into it. It takes practice, determination, and commitment to increase your skills. It might take some time, but the more pictures you take, the more you learn.

How to write a photography critique
“I like this photo, the contrast is cool” means nothing to the photographer, it only means that you like this particular photo, and that you feel that contrast is a good thing. “I like this photo, because it shows you’ve thought about the lighting, and the increased contrast adds to the overall impression of the amount of time you’ve put into lighting this item”, for example, would encourage the photographer to continue putting more work into their lighting. They’re on the right track, and you’re pushing them along. It’s easy to understand which of the two is most useful!

Photo: Orange tree in Valencia by on Flickr

How to write a photography critique
Color: Overall red cast. I recommend trying to remove the red color cast by using a levels command in Photoshop (Ctrl L). Using the middle (gray) eye dropper, click on a light grey portion of the waterfall or perhaps the gravel bar in the foreground. Try several different areas that you know should be neutral gray until you see the best overall color balance.

How to write a photography critique
Photography, meaning “drawing with lights” in Greek, is an art as well science of capturing light and storing it on some medium. Photographs have been used for over a century now for capturing moments of mankind and things around him, although photography dates back to 4th century B.C. But since its use, arguments have fired up to know whether photography can reflect the truth, the reality or instead push us away from it. Photography is just another art where an artist puts his thoughts and imaginations on a canvas using his creativity. Hence photography may not show what the reality is, it shows how the photographer sees the world or he wants us to see the world.
Some people argue that photography involves mechanical processes that handle most of the work, so not much work is to be done by the photographer. Whatever is present in front of the lens is captured exactly onto the film, and there is no scope for the image generated to show others than the reality presents at that moment. But what matters is how that photograph was taken. The lights, the colors, the angle of the photography and the frame captured create a story of their own. Photographer uses such aspects to create an interpretation of reality, how he sees it and not necessarily how it appeared to everybody else also present at that moment.

How to write a photography critique
My next port of call was wikihow’s How to Write a Photography Critique: 8 Steps. Wikihow described photo critiquing as following this process:
The photograph is purposeful. Despite the dense packing of elements, the whole is orderly and balanced. There is a great sense of space. A longer exposure might also have brightened the colours but there is still some lovely colour effects. The red trim on the building at the far right is picked up in the reddish-brown of the central building and the thin red line of the skyscraper at left. A quirky ad for a sports car adds a little fillip of yellow.

How to write a photography critique
It is only after learning what constitutes vision and style, and how to acquire, develop and refine both of them, that I started finding, developing and showing my vision in my work through my own style.
You can find more information about my work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to my Free Monthly Newsletter on my website at You will receive 40 free eBooks immediately after subscribing.

Over the past decade I have judged more than a dozen street photography contests. In those contests, I looked at thousands and thousands of photographs. And yet, with all of this experience, I still run across photos that cause me pause – that bring me to a standstill. Sometimes it is because the photo is obviously good or obviously bad but more often it is because I do not know what to think, exactly. You see, there is no set recipe for critiquing a street photograph. There are guidelines, you might say, but these do not uniformly apply to all images. Given these facts, how should someone judge a street photo? In this article, I will discuss some of the approaches I have used in the past and make my argument for why I believe judging photography to be both a subtle art and a personal experience.

Lots of articles appear on the internet with rules about street photography. For a while, not so much now, this was the “trendy” thing to write about. I’m likely guilty of it myself given that I have written dozens and dozens of articles for a wide variety of magazines and websites. But the question remains – are there any actual rules to street photography? I mean, real rules? Probably not. You see, a good photograph is a good photograph because it is a good photograph. Easy enough? End of article. Well, okay, not quite. But that sentence is a true sentence, and the situation here really is that simple. Photographs are good if they elicit a good response when viewed. A “good response” may be an emotion, often it is, or it may be heightened interest or a disruption in a way of seeing, etc. The photograph should, in sum, both enrapture and disrupt. One photo may, for example, be a good photo for me but not for you. So it goes. The point, or at least the important idea here, is for me to be able to articulate why a particular photo is a good photo for me and for you to be able to do the same. This is where the guidelines come into play. It is important for us to have some common ground, some common language, when we share our critiques.

How to write a photography critique

Okay, so let’s recap. All photographs have the potential to be a good photograph, as the viewing judgement is always subjective. The rules of street photography are concerned not with what is in the photograph, so much, but how we share our experience of viewing the image and articulating that experience. Put differently, we need to learn a common set of rules for talking about photographs. What is it, exactly, that we should try to evaluate when we view an image? What things should we be prepared to speak to when defending our judgement?

Firstly, does the photograph make you feel anything? If so, what? If not, why? Can you put your finger on it? Emotion is important, as visual art should move people in some way. Even photographs I hate move me. Photographs that don’t move me, in any way, often go “unseen”. Secondly, does the image tell a story? Is there a narrative or message? If so, can we follow the story? If not, does it matter? Asking these questions is important because some photographs lack a narrative or strong concept (in the usual way) but still affect us. They may still be good photographs. Next, is there some originality in the presentation? In other words, does the photographer’s unique voice or signature come through? If the photograph could have been made by anyone, the photograph can be made by anyone. Finally, we also want to evaluate and discuss the technical aspects of the capture, at least to some degree. I admit, this is not a preoccupation of mine when I am judging. By the time I get to the technical side of things I usually already like or dislike the photograph. That said, some photographs are simply executed so badly as to ruin their value, regardless of how interesting the subject may be. One example would be street photography shot with a long lens. Very rarely does this work for me. Sometimes I see what could have been a great subject, but the technical skill was just not present — no one should be shooting street, generally speaking, with a 200mm lens and expect to capture my attention. Shoot birds.

Returning to our beginning premise, that any photograph can be a good photograph, depending on its consumer, how should we make such a case? Well, I put forward that we should make our case in favor of a particular photo based on a shared language, a language which discusses emotion, story, originality, and technical approach. If you can make a case that a particular photo is a good photo based on a strong argument that accounts for these basic categories of evaluation, then such a photo is a good photograph. There is no need for it to align perfectly with a set of static “rules of street photography”. Indeed, when we all follow some list of “10 Rules for Street Photography”, we all end up making derivative images. Be different, street photography has too much sameness. A good photograph must only be defensible against a shared language of evaluation which, ultimately, will be the result of a subjective experience.

How to write a photography critique

The purpose of a critique is to help you make better images. In the process you gain an understand of how your peers perceive your work. It is also a great opportunity to practice your visual literacy skills.

  • General Group Critique Outline: The teacher or intern will act as the facilitator.
  • One Minute: Presenter (Student):
  • The presenter will speak briefly and introduce their work in a few sentences. The presenter should be clear about his/her needs, for example, does the presenter want general or specific feedback.
  • Thirty Seconds: Each Group Member Should…
  • Speak about the elements and principles of art as they relate to the work. Speak of the technical quality of the work. For example, what are your thoughts/comments about exposure, background, color, tone, focus and composition. Can the image benefit from improvement in those areas?
  • Speak of the social relevance or impact of the work. Is there a theme or story that ties the images together? For example; does the image tell you anything new about the world we live in?

Below are some general articles related to photo critiques.

Below are some general articles related to artist statements

Presentation on theme: “How to Successfully Critique a Photograph”— Presentation transcript:

1 How to Successfully Critique a Photograph

2 SEVEN AREAS OF FOCUS Look Interpretation Technical Points
Artistic Points Good Points Points Worth Improving Overall

3 LOOK First of all, take a close look at the photograph. Let your eyes scan it closely: Make sure that you’ve caught every possible detail of the photo. If something jumps out at you as being really good or really bad, note it, but don’t say anything.

4 INTERPRETATION Now, talk about the photo for a little bit.
This is the area that is most frequently overlooked when doing critiques, but is actually one of the most useful activities you can do to give feedback to the photographer. For the interpretation, start off by saying “I think this photo is about…”. Any symbolism you spot, tell the photographer. If you aren’t sure, let them know that. You could also say “When I look at this photo, I feel…”. Explain what sort of emotional response the photo raises in you.

Unwanted blur? (wrong focus, motion blur, zoom blur etc)? Cropping needed? What’s the contrast like? Could the photographer have used lighting differently? Would a larger or smaller aperture have been beneficial?

6 ARTISTIC POINTS What elements of composition are demonstrated?
If the photo is in black and white, should it have been in color and vice-versa? Is there a good balance between the foreground and the background? Would the photo have worked better with a different prop / model? Anything distracting in the photo?

7 GOOD POINTS This is where you point out what you like about the photograph, and why. The why part is most important: If you can’t tell why you like X, Y, or Z, there’s no point in mentioning it. Example: “I like the sky” is useless. “I like the color of the sky” is better. “I like the deep blue color of the sky because it contrasts nicely with the yellows and reds in the photo” is even better! Put some thought into this!

8 POINTS WORTH IMPROVING: Constructive Criticism
This point is saved for last because you’ve made the photographer more confident about their photograph by now. Tell them one or two specific points that could be improved on this particular photo – ones that can be still be edited in Photoshop. Or advice for if they plan on trying the shot again in the future. If you know exactly how they could improve, whether in PS or camera settings, let them know.

9 OVERALL How did this photo appear to you overall?



12 LOOK When I look at this photo, it makes me think of. street performers or a carnival.

13 INTERPRETATION I think this photo is about. the people who go out of their way to inject some random into your life, and who, in the process, remind you why you’re alive; it’s not just to trudge through it all, it’s to be surprised, amused, and bemused by the world. This photo illustrates all of this.

14 TECHNICAL POINTS Technically. His hand is in perfect focus, but his face is a bit hazy or blurry. The shallow dept of field (DOF) works well in this photo – without it, the background would be a mess of impressions, fighting for your attention.

15 ARTISTIC POINTS Artistically. I think this photo has a great area of focus. I know where the emphasis is supposed to be. The black and white gives it a very eerie quality to it – color would not have the same effect. The subject matter is very interesting and unusual.

16 GOOD POINTS What I like about this photo. is the archaic hat-tip the young gentleman is doing, and the feeling of him being an outcast in a world that is raging around him. Also, the black and white is a nice touch. The overall photo is descent, but the technical areas need work.

17 POINTS TO IMPROVE His face is too hazy for my liking, which is obviously a very subjective thing, but in my opinion, street photography is all about people. So if you plan on doing more street portraits, it’s something to keep in mind. The lamp in the background is a bit distracting & can easily be removed in PS. Also, in PS you could up the contrast & crop the edges to help the overall composition.

19 OVERALL Overall. I think this photo has a lot of charm and intensity. The suggested changes are very subjective, obviously, and you might not agree with them. The shot itself is a gem, and I think a slight re-edit could do wonders to make it as good as it deserves to be!

20 SOURCES Kamps, H. J. (2011, February 28). Giving a Good Photo Critique: how to help your friends become a better photographer. Retrieved from critique