When looking at our own photos we can get accustomed to our work, losing the objective perspective toward what we do. A good way to take a step back and get a fresh perspective can be through photo critiques. What are photo critiques? And why can it be a turning point to get one? Photo critiques are meant to improve your work and push you to be better.
A photo critique is an event where photography professionals gather to look at attendees' work. It can be a valuable experience that helps you see your work in a new light. It is only natural that when we look at our photos, our analytical observation gets comfortable, and we begin to miss out on opportunities to push our work further.
Someone else's opinion might bring to light a valuable insight, make us notice details and give us fresh ideas. A photo critique is not meant to tear someone's work down. On the contrary, it is meant to help you elevate and refine your skills.
When choosing to take part at these events, you should be emotionally prepared to receive feedback. If your work needs corrections and adjustments, it means there is always room for improvement. As long as the reviewer is not spiteful, it is only in your own interest to get the right advice, which will help you advance.
Whether you are a beginner who is still grasping technical skills or a professional in need of guidance, a photo critique can help you highlight your weaknesses and realize which skills you should improve.
A good critique can be a turning point for a long term project to help you understand at what stage you're at and if you are ready for the next step. You can focus toward the right issues, and narrow down your edits, see what works and what you are sentimentally attached to. This part is commonly known as "killing your darlings".
During a photo critique, you should present your work, give context, and gather all necessary elements for the reviewer to understand what they are looking at. This will help to make the critique relevant to your work and not just a general opinion, which can be unhelpful to the participant. Clearly state what kind of advice you need.
A professional will point out where technical issues might be a problem, and when personal taste comes to the table, it should be clear to the participants. Then, what to do with that specific piece of advice is up to the participant.
When you attend a photo critique or a portfolio review, it should never be mean spirited. To shame someone else's work is not the point. Any harsh critiques and unnecessary negativity should be ignored. The purpose is for constructive criticism.
A critic should be able to analyze the technical elements of a photo, consideration light, composition, color balance, and so on. All technical details that make or break a photo.
After that, there is the quality of storytelling. Even a single photo can tell a story, draw you in, and make you ask questions. There should be an unspeakable quality to a photograph that shows the underlying and inherent message.
There are different kinds of places that offer photo critiques. The internet is of course full of forums, and they can be a great places to get feedback on your work. However the quality of analysis maybe be unreliable at times, so it is up to you to decide if you trust strangers on the wild web to judge your work.
Another option is an organized paid event, where you can meet industry people who are renowned professionals. With skilful eyes, guests at these events will look at your work and give (hopefully) meaningful information. Listen carefully and take notes of what is said about your work. Since these events have a fee, make the best out of your opportunity.
If you are not ready to attend such events, a trusted friend or a colleague could be the first pair of eyes to show your body of work to and start to get some feedback and constructive criticism. Be mindful that simply looking for approval is not the same thing. There is not much progress in compliance. The ultimate goal is to grow, get better and never stop aiming to produce work you are proud of.
Have you ever attend a photo critique? What are your experience? Share in the comments below.