View Full Version : Some help with critiquing photos

08-03-2007, 09:46 PM
I must've been really bored (and slacking LOL) at work today... I started looking up the criteria for critiquing photos, and next thing I knew I was writing a book about it :D :doh ....I think I need therapy :D

But... since I know everyone here on NEF is crazy too, you get to read it LOL and hopefully, it might even offer some advice for critiquing each others photos...

A Guide to Critiquing Photographs
by Patricia Strickland

Many people, when they are new to photography or photography forums, may not feel comfortable or know where to begin when trying to critique someone’s photograph. Some beginner or amateur photographers may even feel that they are not “worthy” to critique a professional or even a more seasoned photographer’s work. This is simply not true.

Even if you do not have a handle on all the technical aspects of photography yet, there are many other aspects of a photo you can comment on, for example the composition, or the “story” the photo tells, or the emotional feeling behind the photo, or even just your reaction to it. Believe me, your feedback is very valuable.

Also, if you take the time to write a critique - it will not only benefit the photographer whose work you are critiquing, it will also benefit you and your photography. By thinking about all the different aspects of “what makes a photo great” you will add to your own photography skill base. You will improve your own ability to set up and shoot great photos. So take the time to write up a few good photo critiques. It will help you the next time you’re taking your own shots!

To help fellow photographers (and myself!) with writing critiques, I did some research and put together a fairly comprehensive list of things to look for and think about when writing critiques. I am not promising this list is all inclusive! So if you have any suggestions to add, please let me know =)

And remember, we certainly don’t have to touch on ALL these categories. Even writing just a few sentences on one or two of the categories will be helpful… for the photographer who’s asking for feedback… and for you.


So… I just spent a few paragraphs explaining WHY we should critique photographs. Now we can move on to HOW. LOL. What do you look for? What are the important elements to think about? Well, to start there are 2 broad “categories” of criteria – the Technical Aspects, and the Artistic Aspects. Some people tend to put much more emphasis on one or the other. There are some strong artistic “advocates” in photography, and there are some very strong technical “advocates.” There are some people who will even tell you that they don’t think of photography as art. It’s all about the equipment, right?

Photography is definitely art. In fact, you could make a strong argument that it is one of the more difficult “arts.” Most people tend to lean either to the left or right side of the brain. The “artistic and creative” bunch vs. the “logical, rational, prone to be more technically oriented” bunch. To be a great photographer, you have to be BOTH. Photography requires that you be able to use both an artistic and a technical nature at the same time. The artistic and the technical are the yin/yang of photography. (I threw that one in there for my very “technically” oriented partner/boyfriend LOL – he already thinks I’m weird).

For critiquing a photo, it is important to think about BOTH the technical and the artistic elements. Below is a list of several criteria for each. The technical aspects are pretty straightforward and easy to judge, once you know what you’re supposed to look for. I say easy because the answers are more clearly yes or no. Right or wrong. Is it in focus? Is it exposed properly? Etc. This can sometimes be up for debate – depending on your eyesight and monitor calibration, but it’s pretty straightforward as far as critiquing. Artistic aspects are another story. How do you judge whether something is artistic? Or creative? Well, the standard textbook answer for a photo to be considered artistic states that the “elements of the photo should work together well, and communicate a strong message.” Ok. That sort of helped. LOL. But I ask again – How do you judge whether something is artistic? What is art? Ask that question, and you’ll get a lot of different answers. Well, I say the definition of “what is art” is easy….. and it’s totally up to YOU. Art is subjective and personal, and means something different to every single person on earth. So feel free to judge the artistic aspects totally based on your likes and dislikes, and what appeals to you. Does the photo grab you? If it does, say so! Does it leave you with the “oh look, just another picture” feeling. Well, that means it doesn’t appeal to you on an artistic level. And that’s ok too.

Technical Aspects – The Traditional Approach to Photography

Focus / Sharpness – Is the object of the photo in focus? Does the shot have crisp details? If the focus is “soft”, does it look like an intentional effect to enhance the image in some artistic way?

Exposure / Lighting – When a photo is correctly exposed, all the details are visible, and the colors and any skin tones are “true”. Did the photographer use proper lighting of the subject matter? Do any extremes of darkness or brightness help or detract from the image content? If it is too dark or too light, it may have areas that are over-lit or under-lit, making the details hard to see.

Colors/Grey Tones - Colors should be true and saturated. Are the colors “off” or unbalanced? If so, does it appear to be an intentional effect – for example, selective coloring? Is the effect carried out well? If the shot is black and white, does it display the full range of grays, and true blacks and true whites?

Technical Difficulties of the Situation - What technical difficulties did the photographer face… and how did they handle those difficulties? For example - bad weather, poor or harsh lighting, hectic surroundings, other unusual situations?

Artistic & Creative Aspects – The Artistic Approach to Photography

Composition / Arrangement – The ingredients of a photo should be interesting and work together… and clearly reveal the purpose of the picture - “why did he/she take this shot.” Are the objects in the photo arranged in a meaningful, pleasing way? Did the photographer use the best or an interesting angle or perspective? Does the background compliment the photo – or is it distracting / competing with the main subject?

Cropping / Rule of Thirds - Does the photo follow the rule of Thirds? Is the photo well-cropped photo? Does the subject occupy most or all of the space, with no dead space or junk/busy backgrounds?

Creativity - Does the photographer show some creative thought or original idea in the making of the photo? Is it interesting? Is it humorous? Does it convey a mood or a story? Is the subject something unusual, or presented in a way we haven’t seen before? Creative photos usually pack a punch. It “grabs” you. The photographer is thinking outside the box… and the result is a strong visual impact.

08-03-2007, 09:53 PM
*Made Sticky*

08-03-2007, 09:58 PM
I was really excited to read this and then I saw how long it was so I'm just going to go ahead and assume it was good and say "nice job"

08-03-2007, 10:04 PM
I took the time to write it... the least you could do is take the time to read it :mad:

or.... can't you read :D

08-03-2007, 10:06 PM
I can read usually. Not at the moment.