Forums > Critique > Serious Critique > What elements of an image are open to critique?

Photographer

AgX

Posts: 1273

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

If a member offers up a photograph for critique in the Serious Critique section but neglects to define exactly what about the image they would like comments on, what is open/eligible for critique?

Example: Photographer/Model/MUA/Stylist poses a generic “A or B? And why?” or “I’ve added this photo to my portfolio. What do you think?”

Is it acceptable to critique the aspects of the photograph that the OP was not responsible for, especially since the relevant contributor is not present to either receive or respond to the critique? While I might find the blurriness/pose/garish makeup/Hammer pants hideous to the point of ruining the photograph (in my opinion), is it fair for me to state such? What if that is exactly the look that particular contributor was going for? Is it fair to criticize an element that can’t be defended, or is it just open season?
   
This question is borne of a combination of critiques that I have recently offered on others’ work, or models posting what some consider to be technically flawed photographs, or photographers requesting feedback and receiving paint-stripping responses regarding the model’s hair, outfit, or pose.*

I didn’t see a succinct definition in the Critique sticky, nor an answer in a cursory search, so I thought I’d ask here. Discuss.


* I will admit my own bias on this last one that when the photographer is operating as the de facto art director, then everything in the resultant image is his/her responsibility.

Dec 22 12 03:56 pm Link

Photographer

Veit Photo

Posts: 667

London, England, United Kingdom

Don't people usually restrict critique according to whether a model or photographer etc. is asking? That's what tends to be the case from what I've seen.
If opinion is given about aspects of the image that are outside of the purview of the person requesting the critique then this should be treated as a generous bonus.
Not sure why I'm getting into this though, excessive normalisation of forum behaviours is something that I find very tedious at best and at worst detrimental to debate. I know there are people who thrive on it though and fair play to them.

Dec 22 12 04:15 pm Link

Photographer

AgX

Posts: 1273

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Veit Photo wrote:
Don't people usually restrict critique according to whether a model or photographer etc. is asking?

Sometimes, yes, but often not. This is particularly evident when the OP doesn't specifically define what he/she would like critiqued and just generically asks for feedback.

Dec 23 12 11:54 am Link

Photographer

Jean Renard Photography

Posts: 2080

Los Angeles, California, US

serious critique should mean everything is on the table as opposed to the politically correct nonsense that teaches nothing.

First time at a top advertising agency, you do not get to give excuses as to why your book sucks and quite often you never get a second chance. 

I would hope this section tries to bring in "real world" comments rather than the empty platitudes that gets girls thinking they can be supermodels at 4'11 and 350lb or photographers can eventually work for Maxim or Victoria's secret with a collection of bad snapshots.

A photographer or director is directly responsible for everything that ends up in a shot. That includes all styling, make up, location and lighting, even the model.  So nothing is out of bounds.  A model who needs comments on the marketability of her book needs to know her shots are good or bad and why.

I hire photographers and support staff, I hire cinematographers and LDs.  The real world is nothing like MM....

Dec 23 12 12:15 pm Link

Photographer

Veit Photo

Posts: 667

London, England, United Kingdom

AgX wrote:

Sometimes, yes, but often not. This is particularly evident when the OP doesn't specifically define what he/she would like critiqued and just generically asks for feedback.

Oh.
Well in that case I would reiterate what I subsequently said.

Dec 23 12 04:15 pm Link

Photographer

gpmcguire

Posts: 1169

Brooklyn, New York, US

AgX wrote:
* I will admit my own bias on this last one that when the photographer is operating as the de facto art director, then everything in the resultant image is his/her responsibility.

If a model posts the image you should critique the model. If you critique the photographer's work in the image you will be guilty of an un-solicited critique by site rules. and so on.

If you critique by the section I quoted, you may be treading on thin ice. Although what you state here is logical it, may however, be construed to be against site rules.

Dec 23 12 04:30 pm Link

Photographer

Camerosity

Posts: 5317

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

I have seen many instances where models seeking critiques had photos that obviously did not do them justice. If the photography in the portfolio sucks and obviously isn't as good as the modeling, the model should know that.

There have been a couple of instances in which the photography was awful in which I generalized in the critique forum and then followed up with more detail in a PM to the model for the very reason that you cite, but generally I just lay it out there. I keep the tone as constructive as possible.

People come to the critique forums to find out what's right and what's wrong about their portfolios and how to improve them. If the most immediate way to improve her portfolio is to work with better photographers, the model should be told that.

Dec 23 12 08:02 pm Link

Photographer

David Kirk

Posts: 4502

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

When critiquing a photographer's photo nothing is out of bounds.  The photographer is responsible for everything to with the photo including choosing the model, styling, hair etc.

For model's requesting critique for a photo in which the photography is poor then I think it's fair to to mention it.  Often this is phrased as "you need to work with better photographers" or "you've done a great job modeling for this, but the overall image isn't up to what's already in your portfolio" or something similar.

I understand why the site has the rules about having no unsolicited critiques, but personally I don't have a problem with anyone discussing anything in my portfolio whether I have requested it or not.  I am sharing these photos with all on MM and have no reason to restrict others discussing them.  In fact, I think it would be educational to be able to freely discuss others' work with one another.

Dec 24 12 05:08 am Link

Photographer

AgX

Posts: 1273

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Interesting responses. Some above indicate that everything about the presented image is fair game, others have indicated that anything that touches on elements not attributed to the OP are grounds for an unsolicited critique.

It's exactly this variability in viewpoints that led me to pose the question. I'd be interested in hearing the thoughts of others.

Dec 25 12 12:44 pm Link

Photographer

M Pandolfo Photography

Posts: 12116

Tampa, Florida, US

The only gray area as I see it is when a photographer posts an image for Critique and the issues are with the model - pose, look, expression, etc. Because then it's venturing into unsolicited critique of the model and not the image itself.

When that's the case, usually a comment like "model selection" is offered to avoid getting the thread locked before it's time.

Edit: No different than if a model asks for a critique and the image is really lacking because of poor photographer skills. It's difficult not to comment on a poor quality image without giving an unsolicited critique of the photographer. "Shoot with better photographers" seems to be the limit.

Dec 25 12 12:51 pm Link

Photographer

LA StarShooter

Posts: 1871

Los Angeles, California, US

Jean Renard Photography wrote:
serious critique should mean everything is on the table as opposed to the politically correct nonsense that teaches nothing.

First time at a top advertising agency, you do not get to give excuses as to why your book sucks and quite often you never get a second chance. 

I would hope this section tries to bring in "real world" comments rather than the empty platitudes that gets girls thinking they can be supermodels at 4'11 and 350lb or photographers can eventually work for Maxim or Victoria's secret with a collection of bad snapshots.

A photographer or director is directly responsible for everything that ends up in a shot. That includes all styling, make up, location and lighting, even the model.  So nothing is out of bounds.  A model who needs comments on the marketability of her book needs to know her shots are good or bad and why.

I hire photographers and support staff, I hire cinematographers and LDs.  The real world is nothing like MM....

This is wisdom.

Dec 25 12 12:58 pm Link

Photographer

DVP Photography

Posts: 2865

Broomfield, Colorado, US

Jean Renard Photography wrote:
serious critique should mean everything is on the table as opposed to the politically correct nonsense that teaches nothing.

First time at a top advertising agency, you do not get to give excuses as to why your book sucks and quite often you never get a second chance. 

I would hope this section tries to bring in "real world" comments rather than the empty platitudes that gets girls thinking they can be supermodels at 4'11 and 350lb or photographers can eventually work for Maxim or Victoria's secret with a collection of bad snapshots.

A photographer or director is directly responsible for everything that ends up in a shot. That includes all styling, make up, location and lighting, even the model.  So nothing is out of bounds.  A model who needs comments on the marketability of her book needs to know her shots are good or bad and why.

I hire photographers and support staff, I hire cinematographers and LDs.  The real world is nothing like MM....

This is it.  EVerything and anything about an image is up for critique, no limitations.   Critique means you get the unvarnished truth, wherever it lies, and it doesn't help to cover your ears or shield your eyes.

Dec 27 12 06:23 pm Link

Photographer

Zack Zoll

Posts: 2641

Glens Falls, New York, US

David Kirk wrote:
I understand why the site has the rules about having no unsolicited critiques, but personally I don't have a problem with anyone discussing anything in my portfolio whether I have requested it or not.  I am sharing these photos with all on MM and have no reason to restrict others discussing them.  In fact, I think it would be educational to be able to freely discuss others' work with one another.

I can only assume that the rule against unsolicited critique is there to prevent someone from getting upset, and turning the conversation into a pissing contest about how the critiquer is even worse.  It's not there because it's right - it's there because people continually ask for critiques that they don't really want, and aren't mature enough to accept.  It's easier for the mods to just ban it, and I don't blame them for that.  I'd do it to.

But it's not how things really work.  In my MFA program, the instructors pull stuff right off the walls if they don't like it.  If it's bad, then you didn't even do it.  They'll talk about it a little if you ask (sometimes), but usually it's just "That sucks.  Next."  If most of your work sucks they'll address working methods, but nobody is in the program to learn how to polish turds.

Ditto for professional work.  If it's terrible, it goes away without discussion.

If we were all mature adults here, we would appreciate honest, straightforward critique as a way to learn how to deal with our weaknesses, as a client isn't going to tell us.  But we're not, so ... ban it is sad

Dec 29 12 03:44 pm Link

Photographer

noel marrero

Posts: 441

Menlo Park, California, US

I agree, that everything is on the table.   Serious critique is too diluted as it is, this section used to be much more useful when we had honest questions, and hard answers. You shouldn't be posting in Serious Critique unless you want to hear the bad stuff.  Blowing smoke won't make anyone better.

As for a case like a model asking for critique, and getting info about the photographer's skill...   I think it's  important for the model to know what other's may think of the images the model chooses for the port, so be honest.   As a previous poster said, you are putting your stuff up on the web, people will see it and say stuff.   If you are afraid of people talking about your images, you shouldn't be a model or photographer.

I think you just need to use some common sense.  Try to keep critical remarks to images in the Model's port and don't go fishing for negative feed back in the photog's port.    Telling the model the image is cheesy, lacks imagination, or is technically poor is fine.   Especially if it's a case of the model not having particularly good taste for the kinds of photography they claim to be interested in.  What you don't need to do is tell the model the Photog is a GWC, or go trash talk images in the photog's port that are not of that model.

-Noel

Dec 29 12 10:33 pm Link

Photographer

Light Writer

Posts: 18387

Oakland, California, US

I agree that without a specific limitation as requested by the OP in a Serious Critique, everything is open to that critique.

If a problem exists with a pose, then the photographer is responsible for presenting the image that contains the pose, the photographer can learn what aspect of the pose can be corrected.

One important aspect of critiques that often doesn't get addressed is "What is the purpose or context for this image?" Whether its purpose is for fashion, headshot, editorial, "art" (whatever that is), changes the emphasis of the critique.

Dec 30 12 09:21 am Link

Photographer

AgX

Posts: 1273

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Light Writer wrote:
I agree that without a specific limitation as requested by the OP in a Serious Critique, everything is open to that critique.

If a problem exists with a pose, then the photographer is responsible for presenting the image that contains the pose, the photographer can learn what aspect of the pose can be corrected.

One important aspect of critiques that often doesn't get addressed is "What is the purpose or context for this image?" Whether its purpose is for fashion, headshot, editorial, "art" (whatever that is), changes the emphasis of the critique.

I agree that this last part, intent, is a pertinent part of an effective critique, and rarely gets properly considered. Is it the responsibility of the recipient to provide the intent, context or framework, or is it incumbent upon the critiquer to offer their perspective based on what s/he _supposes_ the purpose of the image is?

If the former (I was trying to portray blah blah blah here), does that taint or skew the viewer's experience? If the latter, what happens when the critiquer's assessment of intent is way off base?

Dec 31 12 08:55 am Link