Photographers often get asked by other photographers to critique an image or two. Some photographers (especially new ones) go on forums and ask for constructive critiques so that they can work on their images. Even established photographers sometimes will post an image on their blog or their Facebook and say “What do you think?”
But somehow this has shifted to photographers and even non-photographers deciding to offer critiques when they aren’t asked for. I have seen several photographers have issues with people posting mean things about their images. Some photographers have had to ban people from their pages. So, when is a critique a good thing and when does it cross the line and enter into being mean?
When I am asked to critique an image I always look for the good things I like so that if I have something that I think should be changed I can balance out the good and the bad. (And keep in mind, art is subjective, so what I may not like, 500 other people may fall in love with!). Sometimes photographers think the image should just be trashed and are looking for a save for it. Sometimes you can offer a rescue for it and sometimes you just have to tell them to go ahead and trash it. But only if they are asking for your input! Offering your two cents when you weren’t asked is never a good thing.
If a photographer posts an image on his or her business page, they are not asking for a critique. They are showing that image to clients, the client’s family and friends, and their own family and friends. People should be respectful and adhere to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” rule. You can completely hate the composition and lighting on that newborn image, but the parents of that newborn may love that image with every fiber of their being. Making inappropriate and mean remarks serve no purpose at this point except hurting this photographer’s client. If you feel very strongly about the image, then privately send a message to them, but be prepared to offer a solution to the problem not just say “I hate your work.”
More and more photographers are entering into the business every day, and it is up to us to lead the way and show them that constructive critiques (when asked for) are a wonderful thing and helps people to grow and learn as artists, but unsolicited advice and remarks can be hurtful and some can be downright mean. While you are sitting at your keyboard you may feel that it’s okay to say what you want, but would you say those things in front of the parent of the child or to the model’s face? I think in the majority of those instances the answer would be a big “No”. Even if you write something and then go back and delete it, we all know that things can be retrieved from the internet at any time. What is put on the world wide web is always there. Think before you type, that photograph you are looking at is more than just an image on your screen. There are people attached to that photo and they deserve your respect, just as the artist who created the image does. You may not know the people or ever even meet them, but they remember the words you write for a long time, so make sure they are ones you will be proud of writing.