As a photographer, there have been many people who have critiqued my photographs. Photography teachers, editors, other photographers and people viewing my work in galleries have all offered their opinions of my work.
Sometimes, when looking to improve my work, I’ve sought these critiques. My experience in receiving critiques has led me to believe that some critiques are more helpful than others.
In short, I have found that a critique that simply consisted of someones opinion of how I could have improved a photograph resulted in nothing more than learning what the other person thought a good photograph should be. I think that this type of critique helps us to create photographs more like the person giving the critique than helping us find our own way as photographers.
I didn’t want to learn how to see and photograph like someone else, I wanted to learn how to align my personal perception of whatever I was seeing with my ability to visually communicate my perception with a camera. It soon appeared to me that giving critiques based on a one-sided opinion is easy for the one giving the critiques, but not very helpful for the critiqued.
When it came to improving my work, the most helpful critiques by far were those when the person critiquing my work asked me about what I THOUGHT of my photographs. Instead of a one- sided opinion of my work, these critiques became a two-sided dialogue about how to improve my photographs based on MY opinion of my work.
As someone once told me, the most important opinion about our work is our own.
The truth of the matter is that giving a useful critique on subjective matter, like someones own photography, requires a collaboration, or dialogue, between the one giving the critique and the one being critiqued. Even more important is that the photographer who is giving the critique MUST keep their personal biases out of mind.
You must look at your own photographs with a cool, critical eye and if the person giving the critique is more interested in your photography than their opinion of your photography, then you’ll leave with useful information on how to improve your photography.