How to Give and Receive Critiques

We all crave feedback on our work, especially positive feedback!

Sharing images online is fun and rewarding! Being able to give and receive objective critiques will help a photographer improve. Forums are friendly places — we are all here to learn — but getting feedback on your pictures can be daunting. Comments like “I really like this picture” feel nice to give and receive, but they are not very helpful if the photographer wants to improve. When commenting on another person’s image be sure to follow some basic critique etiquette*:

  • Critique the work, not the artist
  • Be objective, especially if the work is not in a style or genre that you prefer
  • Don’t be vague; give specific suggestions for improvement
  • Be polite; avoid harmful or rude language
  • Describe specific elements of the work without using words such as “beautiful” or “ugly”
  • Describe technical qualities of the work
  • Describe the subject matter. Are there recognizable images or icons?
  • Is the construction or planning of the image evident?
  • Identify some of the points of emphasis in the work
  • If the work has multiple subjects or characters, what are the relationships between or among them?
  • Describe expressive qualities in the work
  • Does the work remind you of other things you have experienced?
  • Does the work relate to historical or contemporary work in the medium?

Here are some examples of how to provide feedback:

“I LOVE the girl in the blue dress. She is so CUTE!”
“The pose and expression of the girl in the blue dress looks like it could be a Norman Rockwell painting.”

“Your picture is too blurry.”
“From the settings you posted with your pictures, it appears that the shutter speed was too slow to capture the action in your image. Try raising the shutter speed, and adjusting the ISO accordingly to make the image sharper.”

“This picture is too orange.”
“To remove a color cast on your image, try playing with the WB setting on your camera.”

“I don’t like this composition.”
“Since the horizon is not straight, the image feels a little awkward to the viewer.”

Finally, when receiving feedback remember:

  • Do not take what the critic is saying as a personal attack, but as a suggestion for improvement
  • Restate unclear comments; sometimes you might think they mean one thing but they really mean something else. Do not be afraid to start a dialogue in order to improve!
  • And finally (and most importantly!) be sure to thank the people who have given you feedback!

* Guidelines adapted from Temple University