#1159. Introducing Critique

By pascaljappy | News

Dec 18

We’ve worked hard to make DearSusan a safe place to share your images and ideas and it’s worked. But it may have become too much of a good thing, so we’re introducing an element of critique for readers who want a bit more than mere encouragement 🙂 Here’s how this is going to work.

 

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule states that “the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing, albeit in the correct way, for at least 10 000 hours.” So, repeating the same mistake for 10,000 hours won’t help you achieve mastery in anything but stubbornness 😉

Getting good at anything requires as much feedback as effort. Let me give you a Covid-related example. I’ve been struggling to do some movements correctly in my sport for years. When our club shut down during the early waves of Covid, I resorted to filming myself to send videos to my teacher. Viewing myself on video was (1) a blow to the ego 😉 (2) an instantaneous identification of what was wrong with my movement. Without that, I could have continued for years, only making matters worse through bad habits.

 

On this blog, I have done my best to welcome as many contributors as possible and create an environment that nurtures rather than criticises aggressively like so many forums do. And contributions are now welcomed by regular readers as conversations taking place with photographs and text rather than spoken word.

That’s a good thing. But recently, some readers have started to tell me they’d love to be able to make suggestions to contributors in a way that would help them improve an aspect of their photography. And others have told me they missed the old challenges, which allowed them to submit a photograph without having to prepare a complete post.

 

So, next year will see a new type of post appear on DS. A critique post that will attempt to combine the positive aspects of both ideas.

From now on, you can send me (pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com) one to three photographs (1500px long side) as attachments to an email entitled “Critique post – YourName”. Please make sure the photographs are the correct size and the title of the email is correct. My main reason for ending the Challenge posts is that it took me too long to find the emails and resize the photographs.

 

Please also send a few words about the intention behind the photograph. That’s more useful and more difficult than it seems. Telling me what you were trying to achieve forces you to be clear in your own mind and it also gives the people critiquing the image something to chew on to make suggestions.

What I don’t want is someone simply giving their opinion on your photograph. That adds very little value and is highly subjective. Instead, if you write “I was trying to convey the loneliness and cold of that street”, it’s far easier to explain why you succeeded or didn’t (and whether the goal was realistic, …) . And, as written above, it also forces you to decide and articulate what the photograph is about.

 

All the photographs on this page were made on a recent trip to Disneyland Paris with my children. The trip was magical and nighttime in the park is the best as the lights turn the sets into a credible fantasyland. So those photographs attempt to convey the quality of the sets and the lighting in the park. You may feel that I have succeeded or not. But it’s a lot easier for you to tell me why than to explain why you feel those photographs are just good or bad. And it’s a lot more helpful to me than if someone tells me that there are too many people intruding in my photographs, as that’s not what I was focusing on and it is absolutely inevitable in this setting.

When you send in photographs, they will be reviewed by a group of seasoned veterans and we will publish them with the intention and the commentator’s suggestions and ideas. The critique posts won’t be published at regular dates but when 10 or more photographs have been received and analysed.

 

On top of this, more how-to posts will be published on topics such as post-processing, composition, exposure … But that’s information for annother day.

You don’t have to submit for critique. But I do feel one useful comment is worth hundreds of hours of solo practise, if the goal is to improve technique. If this gains momentum and we can get emails with correct titles and correct photo sizes, we can also reintroduce challenges for those who simply want to send in photographs without them being analysed. To your keyboards !

 

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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “Please also send a few words about the intention behind the photograph. That’s more useful and more difficult than it seems. Telling me what you were trying to achieve forces you to be clear in your own mind and it also gives the people critiquing the image something to chew on to make suggestions.
    Instead, if you write “I was trying to convey the loneliness and cold of that street”, it’s far easier to explain why you succeeded or didn’t (and whether the goal was realistic, …) . And, as written above, it also forces you to decide and articulate what the photograph is about.”

    BRILLIANT!!!!

    The first time one of my photos ran headlong into a veritable storm of “criticism”, it was precisely for the lack of that approach. When I responded to their [plural – there wasn’t just one of them] “criticism”, it was like chucking a radiator into the bathtub. My response was typical, for an introvert – I just withdrew, like a turtle disappearing into its shell, and ignored the storm raging outside. And I stayed there, behaving like that, for half a century. Because I thought they were small minded and I can’t be bothered with the “opinions” of small minded people.

    In fact, I have grown to detest “opinions”, over the years. Because at the end of the day, they don’t contribute a thing. They just cause arguments and unpleasantness.

    A “real” critic is a person who appraises something. Looks at the good, and gives it fair mention – looks at the bad, and suggests ways that the artist or author or architect who produced the subject matter under discussion can move forward – can improve their work.

    Negative or vituperative criticism is reserved for seriously bad cases and rarely appropriate in the field of creative endeavour Be it photography, music, art, sculpture, architecture, gardening, cooking, fashion or anything else. Because in the field of creative endeavour, we are dealing with someone’s inner person, someone who is trying to learn, and crushing them is simply inappropriate behaviour.

    Viewed from the victim’s perspective, it adds nothing – it just damages or destroys creativity. Viewed from the critic’s end of the wicket, it nullifies the value of the “criticism”, reveals the critic as a smart ass, and forfeits the critic’s opportunity to do or say something of value to everyone else.

    Oh dear – as usual, I talk too much.

    Before I stop doing it, from the first frame I thought “that looks Disney-esque! – what is it?” Then I got distracted – because I adore taking available light, night shots – like street – and this was like wallowing in a bath tub filled with my favourite chocolates! Magnifying glass – these places are American! But where? And then the denouement – NOT in America, at all.

    Never mind – I loved them, one and all – and they “prove” the value of the Hassy – no trouble in the shadows! – no “noise” issues!

    VOTE ONE, for DS, as a “value adding site”!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Disney-esque indeed. It was an opportunity to spend time with my children, which might not be possible for some time, now that our wise leaders have once again bbeen taken by surprise by a covid wave and are shutting down frontiers like the incompetent nincompoops they are.

      We’ll be trying to avoid subjective likes and dislikes as much as possible 🙂 It only takes a tour of a gallery or museum to see 6-figure prints that some viewers adore and others can’t stand. Tastes are personal and of no help to anyone else.

      Thanks for the value adding vote of confidence 🙂 🙂

  • philberphoto says:

    Super idea! Count me in. Let me add something, being the resident grouch-cynic at DS. Helping someone grow takes more than “mere kind words”. Sure, we all enjoy receiving them, and giving them out, too. But do they help moving forward and progressing, or do they solidify status quo?

    • pascaljappy says:

      Very true. I think the general tone must be positive, but we also need to provide a space for those who wish to go beyond that and ask for guidance. I certainly will be doing so 🙂

  • Frank Field says:

    Pascal – Sounds like a very good idea as long as critique contributors are constructive with comments on both what they like about the image and what could be improved and why. We don’t need more vacuous “likes” of social media and I know that’s not your intent. Joyeux Noël to you and your family, Pascal. Frank

    • pascaljappy says:

      Indeed, Frank. We need to highlight what we think has worked (in relation to the photographer’s goal) and provide guidance for what we feel hasn’t.

      Social media … ugh. The bane of progress. We owe social media populist governments, brexit, distrust in science … There’s very little social benefit in them.

      Joyeux Noël to you and your family as well 🙂

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    I do like the idea of providing readers with the opportunity of receiving a critique of an image. I really like the idea that the photographer should provide should provide a short description of what they were trying to achieve and the critique is based on if that was achieved. I have been part of a photo club where critiques would be based on how well the image fit a set of “cookie cutter” rules of composition as much as any impact the image may have had. And as Pete said, this can pull the enjoyment out of a photograph and a photographer.

    Concerning getting images with the correct title and correct size, may I suggest adding a link, next to the “Contact” link, in the website header titled “Critique & Challenge Submissions”. Following the link will take the photographer to the necessary instructions for submitting an image. This will keep the information in a fixed location on the website, rather than allowing it to float on the website as articles are added.

    PaulB

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