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Sandwich without the filling

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by the_traveler, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. the_traveler


    Mar 22, 2007
    Manhattan, NY
    Lewis Lorton
    Some time ago, a poster characterized a successful critique as being formed like a sandwich - first a layer of what was good, second some ideas of what could be improved and last another layer of what was good.

    I don't have much to argue with about that concept except that many people here leave out the filling. There is an overwhelming tendency, even on the part of those who know better, to skip over the obvious defects and thus miss a teachable moment.

    After seeing this happen yet again a couple of weeks ago, I PMed one of the responders, quite a good photog in his/her own right, and asked how come his/her standards were so low for naming a picture as terrific when it was obviously so not-terrific. Their response honestly just floored me.

    He/she said that they wanted the person to feel good about what they did.

    Members who post here generally want to be better, they probably have expensive equipment and put some effort into it and intuitively, unless they are the occasional blind photographer, they know that their own pix don't match up with the best they see here.

    By not giving the filler to that sandwich, responders are saying, essentially, "I know how to make your stuff better but I'm not gonna tell you. I'll just lie to you instead."

    If you know there is something the poster should consider and you don't tell them, you are lying by omission. People deserve the respect of being told the truth. It doesn't have to be brutal or harshly put but it should be the truth.

    Since I am a grouchy ex-teacher, I often will PM a poster and ask them if they want my straightforward comments on their post and if they want them by PM or on the thread. Invariably the response is that they welcome the comments and, after receiving what I think as the truth, they thank me saying that was what they came here for. They don't have to believe what I said but they heard the truth (as I see it) at least.

    I'm not a good guy, or the one true believer or an expert but I do think that posters deserve honesty. NikonCafe can cultivate the reputation of being a place where one gets truthful, honest responses without losing the cuddly social atmosphere that most people love.

    Oh, and don't respond by telling me that you always get honest critique. I've seen the threads where everyone piles on to say what a cuddly little person/puppy/fiancee and no one mentions the exposure, focus, color, framing.

  2. BellaB


    May 31, 2008
    I havn't posted anything for cc yet but once I do I hope that I will get honest constructive criticism.
    As long as you do it in a nice and respectful way. And not just say what is wrong but also how to improve it.
    You're right. If you ask for it you should get it. The whole truth. That's the best way to learn and get better.
  3. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Best way is to also mention in the post what you want and what I try do is comment on the images with the critique icon on the post.
  4. I usually give more detailed cc via pm. I've been *diciplined* in the past for being harsh (on another forum), so I do most real education behind the scenes. Anyone who's asked for cc via pm get very detailed responses. I also weigh my responses based on how well I know the poster. If the images are from a new user, I'll go lightly until I get to know them and their tolerances for cc. Some people are very defensive and get their feelings hurt easily, so I try to watch out for that. I was that way in the beginning, and if I hadn't had patient *Gentle* teachers I may have given up long ago. BUT if anyone wants detailed cc from me, I'm more than happy to oblige them, and always try to answer any pm's quickly.
  5. Lew, I agree 100%

  6. I think Lew is on to something. But the above is also right on. If we don't know what the shooters intentions were it is hard to offer good and constructive criticism.

    A couple of articles that have helped me critique my own work (I am brutal with myself):

    Thanks for raising this Lew, and others!


    Apr 30, 2005
    This seems to be a pet peeve of yours as I remember you started a similar thread a few weeks ago. https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=174172

    Apparently you find my posting habits to be unworthy. It is more valuable for me to be critical of my own work as oppose to being critical of the works of others. And so the world turns.

    PS... I have completed 15 credits of university level photography courses and I am not a novice when it comes to the values of critique sessions.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  8. dan1son


    Sep 24, 2007
    I understand your reasons for doing this, but leaving the "good" C&Cs for private messages only helps the one person. I've learned more from reading comments in threads started by others than I have my own.

    As mentioned, if I'm looking for harsh C&C I do my best to make that entirely clear: use the icon, ask in the post for C&C, explain what you think is good and bad and why, etc. I find I get more responses when I ask for specific things to be looked at than just post a picture asking for critiques.

    I also found the "prime challenges" to be remarkably helpful. Those tend to have a number of people commenting regularly on the daily shots.
  9. the_traveler


    Mar 22, 2007
    Manhattan, NY
    Lewis Lorton
    I have no idea who you are, let alone your habits. Since you do have '15 credits of university level photography courses' and your habits are to not provide honest critique for others then this post applies to you. That is yours to decide.

    Palouse, thank you for the links to Gloria Hopkin's essays. Her first point of emphasis, to which I subscribe, is that the emotional impact of the image is the key to the critique that follows.


    Apr 30, 2005
    I am what you would consider to be an Attaboy poster.

    I think my biggest problem with offering internet critiques is the inherent difficulties of truly knowing the skill and experience level of an individual in cyberspace. As I have different sets of grading criteria for beginners vs advance amateurs, vs professionals, I wouldn't want to miscalculate and come off being too negative or harsh.

    As a New Yorker, I try not to reinforce the negative stereotypes that we are rude and obnoxious, so at times its best I keep my big mouth shut :) 

    Bottom Line...The café is what it is....a nice place to hang out

    PS... I do offer honest critiques. When I like an image I tell them so :) 
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 8, 2008
  11. FotoPhocus


    Jun 15, 2008
    Not sure how it could be done, but maybe it would be worth making everyone aware that asking for critique opens them up to honest critique from everyone. I know when I put that post icon next to my thread, that's what I'm looking for. I get enough attaboys from my friends, family, and coworkers.

    Maybe it's worth having a separate critique forum like Dgrin has -The Whipping Post.
  12. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I think the best way to get a critique around here is to use the CC icon, but also to explain what you want critiqued. Whether it be composition, shutter speed, depth of field or whatever, the OP should state what they want critiqued so the community knows how best to reply. An open-ended CC is very difficult to reply to without demeaning the OP's efforts.
  13. Lurker


    Jul 21, 2007
    Doesn't that depend on the photographer as well? When my son comes home from school and he made me a snail in the colors of the rainbow, I'll tell him it's the most beautiful piece of art I've ever seen. I'll save the harsher critiques for my older sisters aquarels...

    In the same way I will judge a "I bought a D40 three months ago, what do you think of my first off-camera flash picture" different than "what do you think of these images that came from the 37th wedding I shot this year". Judging both images the same way would be pointless.
  14. Frank, your point is valid and probably well-thought.

    However, IMHO quite often the best critique is the one one didn't expect. If a person only asks critique on the - let's say - aperture chosen for a specific shot, people might be afraid to tell that actually regardless the aperture the composition is poor.

    Just my opinion.
  15. Taylor


    May 21, 2007
    Toronto, ON
    What about if someone doesn't feel comfortable offering critique? They may genuinely be impressed by the photo, and even if they feel it could be improved, they might be embarrassed to say something for fear of sounding amateurish.

    I think people should be more critical of their own work as well. I've found that I post less and less photos now than I did before. I'll only share my "best" work.
  16. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Jani, your opinion has merit as well. I suppose each critique has to be given however best suited for the individual photographer.
  17. the_traveler


    Mar 22, 2007
    Manhattan, NY
    Lewis Lorton
    I agree. It should relatively easy to infer from the image what level the creator is working at and to respond at that level.

    If critique is based on what the viewer feels or thinks when he/she looks at the image and not on how the image is actually done, then no response sounds amateurish.

    I am impressed by dance or theater and can comment on a presentation impact on me without saying one thing about the techniques of execution.
  18. Taylor


    May 21, 2007
    Toronto, ON
    But isn't that what you were referring to? That people comment on their reaction (e.g. "that's so cute!" "adorable" "I love it!") without mention of any technical aspects?
  19. I took it that the OP was complaining of skilled people who would know how the shot could've been improved not mentioning it, and posting only the 'Cute shot!' comment (and sometimes even that without an apparent reason).
  20. the_traveler


    Mar 22, 2007
    Manhattan, NY
    Lewis Lorton
    Thanks, Jani

    That's right.
    But the learning process starts from there.

    "I love it because......" and then the viewer can dissect their response.

    "I love that picture because it's a picture of babies/puppies/my friend **** took it and I love all baby/puppies/****'s pix pictures." Wait, that's not because its a good picture, it's because of external issues.

    "I love that picture because it makes me think/feel/want to know........"

    Unlearned people can learn from looking at pictures and understanding why they like/dislike pictures.
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