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News & Insight

Learn to Grow your Photo Mojo with Honest and Constructive Critiques

By Anthony Thurston on February 28th 2013

Learn to Grow with Critiques

As a photographer it is important to always be evolving and improving on your work, finding new techniques and creative ways to create compelling imagery. One of the best ways to grow your photography that doesn’t involve actually shooting is getting good honest critique from people whose opinions that you respect.

… But Mom Says I’m Awesome

I mean sure it feels great for your mother to tell you that you latest work looks amazing, but does that really help you grow? The answer is no, you grow from hearing what you did well and what you did not do so well – the key emphasis being on what you did not do well. It is really hard to improve on your photography if you do not know what you have done wrong or what you can do differently.  The problem is finding places to get a good thorough and honest critique of your work, from someone who can actually speak to it(that is the key). The web is littered with places that you can get critique, but where do you go if you want to get a true constructive critique from someone who will take the time to tell you what you did well and what you did not do well, and even what they would have done in that situation.

Critique on Photography Forums

Many online photography forums have critique sections, but many of those are not much better than your mom telling you that you did well – lots of great work, and good jobs (which feel good to hear). But not a lot of meat to help you grow as a photographer. The other problem with online forums is what I like to call the “internet effect”, and that is when people tear apart your work without an ounce of what you did right or wrong. The anonymity of the web sadly brings out the worst in some people and seeing your work torn apart unconstructively is way more detrimental than it is helpful.

[rewind: How Haters are Destroying the Photography Industry]

On the Critique Forum here on SLR Lounge, we try our best to moderate and provide constructive critique ourselves (instead of just relying on the community members). As a result, we have created an environment where everyone tries to add a little more than just a “good job” or “nice work.” If you have not checkout out the Critique Forum here make sure to do that.

Learn to Grown with CritiquesSo you might be asking, if I should stay away from forums for critiques then where should I go to get those quality critiques? That answer is as unique to you as what lens you should buy next or what camera body you should upgrade to.

In order to truly grow you need to reach out to photographers that you respect, people whose work that you would like to emulate. Send an email, visit their website, write a letter (if you or they are old fashioned like that), give them a call. See if they would be willing to take a look at some of your work and give you some constructive critique on it. Sure, not every photographer will be willing to oblige you, mostly likely if you look up to them its because you have come across their work meaning they are probably fairly busy. Keep at it, reach out to other photographers – eventually you will come across someone whose work you respect that will be willing to help you out.

Where to go for good critiques

What about in the meantime, what are some places online that you can go to get a good to decent critique on your work? The list is endless really, but I will list a few places that you can go to get started.

  • 1x.com – This is one of the best places to go for good and thorough critiques. In order to have your work reviewed you must actually take the time to do a good review of some other peoples work first. I have not used this site much myself because I do not have tons of time to frequently review lots of images. But when I have used it the critiques have been among the most thorough and helpful that I have received online.
  • Adam Lerner – He is a contributor of Fro Knows Photo, but he does his own thing with regards to critiques. He wants to see full portfolios to review. He doesn’t just want a picture or two, or Flickr sets. He wants to see your portfolio, a representation of your work. If you have a true portfolio this is a great way to get a good critique on not just an image or two but your entire portfolio to see what you can work on as a whole.
  • Flickr Critique Group – If you are on Flickr this is a great group for good solid critiques. Post your image to the discussion and tell a little about how you shot the image and you can get some great feedback on your shots.

Conclusion

I would not have been able to improve as much as I did had it not been for solid critiques, so I urge you to take the time to seek them out. You may feel down if your work gets a less-than-favorable critique, but just remember that no photographer alive was able to take amazing shots without going through the same learning and growing process that critiques provide. So now you don’t have any excuses! Put yourself out there, learn about what you can improve on and grow your photography trade craft!

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Help Others Grow Through Constructive Critiques

    […] while back I detailed how it is important to grow your photography by putting your work out there and genuinely listening to constructive critiques. This time I wanted to detail how you can help […]

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  2. Glenn Orion

    awesome! sending mine to adam right now :D

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  3. Ryan Cooper

    I Love watching critiques, even ones of other people’s work.

    Once a month Scott Kelby does an episode of critiques on the grid. (Although I don’t always find his critiques all that helpful since they have a tendency to critique really poor images and make fun of them. Go back and find the Joe McNally one though, it is mind blowingly good)

    Also Zach Arias and his wife do critiques on his blog, they are fantastic and well thought out.

    Aaron Nace has done a few critiques on his website: Phlearn but I think he went into far too much detail on the ones he did and realized they weren’t worth the effort. The ones he did though are well worth watching.

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  4. Paul Looyen

    I have learnt ALOT from good critique. There are many good sites, but the one where I post more frequent for critique is http://photography-on-the.net/forum. Canon orientated, it has a lots of sub forums as well as a critique forum – excellent!

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