“Critique” is a detailed analysis and assessment of something, but in most forums those requesting it are really just looking for validation. “Here’s my picture, turned out great, what do you think?” What usually follows is crickets (a lack of response to spare feelings), or comments like “I agree,” rather than suggesting areas of valuable improvement. Here’s a better way to get honest and constructive feedback from viewers and what to do with whatever you learn.
How do I ask for critique?
The Easy Part: Decide whom you want to critique your image(s) (clients, professionals, etc.) and find a related Facebook group, ModelMayhem.com forum, trusted friend, etc.
The Hard Part: Post, link, or otherwise share your image(s) and ask for critique of those images you worked so hard to create.
The Harder Part: Accept what people tell you.
Use these tips I collected using my degree in watching Law and Order to plead your case and make those hard parts a little easier.
Objection: Leading the Witness!
Do you want cheerleading or honest, constructive criticism? Consider these examples.
- Exhibit A: “Oh this client was so fun to photograph and I’m so happy with how they turned out! What do you think?”
- Exhibit B: “I just shot my first newborn session. I’m a newbie so please don’t be harsh.”
- Exhibit C: “I’m trying out a new light setup and looking for a good balance of shadow and light. What do you think?”
People don’t want to burst your bubble, and those who do are often labeled “trolls”. If you really want honest, effective feedback, don’t set your witnesses up to fail. Requests like Exhibit C is more likely to get the type of responses that will help your skills improve.
Listening to critique is a lot like analyzing product reviews at amazon.com. Does that person suggesting selective color and brighter whites of the eyes really know what they’re talking about? How much weight does their opinion about composition carry? It’s not a science, just keep an open mind and take notes about what feels right to you.
Permission to treat as hostile: Denied!
If you’re posting somewhere often (like a Facebook Group), graciousness even in silence is better than being known as a resistant asker of criticisms. It sounds medieval but really just don’t be a jerk. You asked for criticism. Accept it and say, “thank you”. Nobody likes an ungrateful cuss.
What do I do now?
- Walk away, especially from whatever feels offensive. Notice I said “feels”. Sometimes criticism can feel like a personal attack even when it isn’t meant to be. Don’t react instinctively. Let it rest for awhile. Go munch on an apple.
- Wash your hands and come back. Find the core of each relevant suggestion. What do they really mean? What made them feel that way? Do you agree or disagree and how much
- Grab some cheese to go with that apple. Fruit and protein are friends.
- By now you’ve had time to digest both your apple and the criticism you received. Prioritize the helpful suggestions. Pick one or two to work on.
Critique can be an extension of client research. Just because you created an image with an intention in mind doesn’t always mean that intention is translated by a viewer. Constructive criticism can help you hone in on what’s working and what isn’t. Make adjustments until you “get it right”.
Also, eat more apples. Case closed.
You can learn more about the author at her blog.