What to do with critique

I’ve been active on street photography forums and critique groups lately. Photographers seem to have different opinions on pretty much, but they all seem to agree that we learn from critique. Both from giving and receiving critique.

Sometimes critique makes us think about aspects of our photos that we hadn’t thought about, or makes us aware of distracting elements we hadn’t seen or technical aspects that the viewer feels make our photo week. That’s supposed to teach us to take better photographs. Surely true.

But how about negative critique of photos that we like just as they are? What do we do with that?

Example: Last night, in a rather poorly lit street, I saw this couple hugging, I reacted quick and, without stopping to frame precisely, got the two photos below. I bet most people will say they are too dark, too blurred, not perfectly composed and that the burned highlights behind are distracting. I very much appreciate all of this and the time you spent looking at my work but, honestly, there are times where I just don’t care about critique: I love these shots just like that.

It’s possible that I’m the only one liking my stuff, or that only one of ten viewers does. But should I change my photos (or even worse, my photography) to please as many viewers as possible? I won’t.

Feel free to share your thoughts, or to keep them for yourself..

14 Comments on “What to do with critique

  1. Ciao Andrea, well l actually like both for different reasons, the first because it seems frantic and hurried conveying a quick ‘glimpse’. The second is almost telling a story, the building with warmth, light, doors open, a home?….a couple embracing, hello or goodbye? And also like the fact you got close, like you were just walking past and this is what you saw.Works for me. I have many shots in my portfolio that l like but my agencies decided no not for them, as you say who cares, it’s what we like first that counts, photographs so compelling, so subjective so open …….

  2. The best artists are remembered for a pioneering approach that was not accepted in many critiques. There has to be a balance for what you like and what others enjoy.

    Keep up the good work, mate!

  3. Haha – tis why I rarely let hubby see my Hipstamatic pics! He’s better than me, but no need to rub it in 🙂 I like the second one quite a bit – both because only part is in focus and also because a part is in focus. Gives my tired brain a place to settle and take in the rest at leisure.

  4. I like both shots, especially the last one. So much emotion!
    You have to be true to yourself, and listen to your own feelings. That has to take priority over trying to please others. That’s my opinion.

  5. I like both, there is life and emotions in them. And I don’t think we please others if the intent is to please, but there is of course a lot to learn from critique, even when we don’t agree.

  6. I just read an article stating this this about critisism:

    “The best critics will tell you what it is they see in your photographs and leave it up to you to decide whether or not what they see is a function of their unique vision or your success or failure in making the image you intended.”

    I dunno the author cause I only have a copy, but the article is from US photography magazine Lenswork no 58, june 2005. I found it an interesting and possibly genius approach to critisism.

  7. I would have personally tossed the first away when I’d have seen the second, I don’t like to publish 2 images of the same thing if one is weaker than the other. People will always remember you as a photographer as the one who took the crappier of your shots…
    The second one is superb! With movement, enough to keep the eye on the subject, but not too much like the first one in which movement simply look like you didn’t care enough about your subject to stop walking and take a nice shot of them. That’s how I feel.
    I don’t care about the blown out highlights. It may be bad in colour to have pure whites with no details in it, but a black and white image needs some PURE black and white in it to have a bit of contrast and life. I don’t like grey, flat images.
    So here’s my opinion: I would have only published the second image and kept the second in a random file or even delete it if it were digital. Well composed criticism is there to push you forward, just don’t upload images that are not as good as those you upload normally.
    The best photographers are those who know how to edit.
    Have a nice day and I like to follow your blog, real interesting!
    Olivier

    • Hi Olivier, and thanks for your comments. Your critique is always intelligent and constructive. I agree with pretty much of what you wrote. The reason why I posted both images here was just to show two examples of shots that I like but would be criticized by others (even though I agree that one is way better than the other one..). Stay tuned then 🙂

      • I’m happy you feel good about my critique, I really don’t want to hurt anybody when I talk about photography because it’s something that I’m sure you love as much as I do. I also understand why you posted both images, I still like both just like you, but my opinion stays the same 😉
        Have a nice day!

  8. When giving critique on a picture I think it is always worth to think twice. A photograph to me will probably feel and be experienced as something completely else to the next one looking at the same work. It’s a lot about feelings, where you come from, earlier experiences, preferences… you name it.
    Someone likes this, the same thing another person couldn’t care less about. This makes giving and receiving critique very hard and difficult, at times. At least it’s like that for me.
    As for these two snaps I seem to be one of the few that actually likes the upper (first one) the most. It’s more full of life and it’s giving my brain a bit more feed than the last one, as it’s not directly obvious to me what I see by just throwing my eyes towards it. The camera movement and the obviously hastingly shot photograph (compositionvise) is just adding on the plus side for me. It’s clear that this was not a constructed scene, and the lights in the background is perfectly placed and very well adding to the feel of the whole thing.
    I also want to thank you for this blog, which I found just a few days ago. Your photos hit me hard, and I’m going to spend very, very many hours around this place for the next few weeks I suppose. I really like your work, and after all… who am I to give critique to someone who shoot their snaps this way, anyway?
    Keep on giving me stories like these, and I will certainly listen!!

    • Hey Roy! This must be the best comment I ever received. Thanks for taking the time to do that, very much appreciated. Last but not least, thanks because your comment let me check your blog, which is lovely and am going to follow! Keep in touch, mate!

      • Good morning, and thank you very much for your much to kind words. Makes me speechless to be honest. And thanks a whole lot for looking into my little blog. It’s not too much in there as for yet, but there will be added a few lines and pictures every now and then.
        I will most certainly pay you a visit in your gallery at Bakklandet the next time I’m up there for some reason. Can’t wait to see your pictures in print! See you around Andrea!

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