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How to critique a photograph

simple form created by

You don't have to know a lot about photography to critique a photograph. When you visit a museum you know what moves you in a painting even if you can't identify the type of brush stroke or paint used.

Photography is also subjective. So in order to give a worthwhile critique of someone else's art be sure to have the desire to help honestly and constructively. It also helps if you have at least one functioning eye. Poor presentation can take away from the photograph, so be sure you are evaluating on a decent monitor, projector screen, or print.

Any skill level can critique. There are some words and phrases to avoid a poor critique. For example, "hate", "yuck" and "eww" would not be appropriate. Basically avoid saying anything you wouldn't want said to or about your favorite thing/person in the universe.

There are also some phrases to avoid unless you expand on them. For example, "I like it", "that's good", "very nice", "holy cow", "I don't like it", "It's alright", "not my taste" and "oh, cool" won't help the artist improve. Instead of just saying, "I like it," tell the artist why you like it.

Even if you are not technically equipped to evaluate the light or if the artist followed the rules, there are questions you can ask yourself that will help you expand your feedback beyond "that's nice."

  • How does the photograph make you feel or think?
  • Direction of Attention: What do you see first in the photograph? The right thing?
  • What do you like? Dislike?
  • Color: Was their choice to use or not use color sound?
  • Composition: Does it work, even if they didn’t follow the rules?
  • Focus: works, doesn’t work?
  • Exposure: over/under? Artistic license?
  • Effort: Could they have done more with what they had in front of them?

Start by evaluating your own photographs with these questions. Developing your own set of criteria can also help you remain subjective if you are evaluating multiple pieces. The inset photo shows a simple critique form developed for a photography meetup group to aid in a monthly photo contest. 

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