Why crits are important

A good critique is one thing- someone using critical thinking skills to analyze a project. So many people don’t know what a good critique is, even when it’s explained not five minutes before the critique happens!

A good critique gives someone something to work on, and a direction to head in… a poor critique is either sugary bullshit or bitter ugliness. Like I said before, my crits usually end up on the harsher side of things because that’s how I am with myself. I start with either multiple read throughs, viewings or looking at specific points of an image. Gather my thoughts on each read through, ask questions of the work, and reference my personal experience, and if necessary look things up on the internet. As with any critique I try to stay as objective as possible, and I try to interject my personal preference as little as possible. When I make my critique on a project I tend to glaze over positive critiques or things that I like as when I take positive critiques I glaze over them as well. I view positive critiques congratulatory and I find less to gain from any success. I’m not saying that this is right. At all. I’m sure that I’d have an easier time creating things if I just recreated any successes I’ve had… but in the past I’ve actually failed more at trying to recreate a successful drawing than just moving on to the next one. So I don’t try to recreate anything, I just try to make the next thing have less flaws than anything before it. Back on topic…

A positive critique is really hard for me to define. I view short comings in a project as positive critique… when I get them I can see where I lack skill or insight, and can mark them has hazards to look out for in the future. I can tackle them head on and improve my ability.

There are positive and negative critiques, but then there are just bad critiques.

On this photo I got the critique “I don’t like this photo”

In the photo above I turned this in as a class project photograph on portraits. The class looked around at photos and left anonymous critiques written on small sheets of paper. One of my critique slips just said “I don’t like this photo.” This was after a twenty minute viewing on around fifteen students work. Over a minute to look at each one and give a critique. This is sheer laziness. I can’t do anything about someone not liking a photograph. I don’t even know what this person didn’t like about it! Is it the composition? The pose? The color? Give me something to work with here! What makes it really chap my ass is that the teacher specifically said “objective critiques that people can use to improve their photography.” Is this objective? No. Can it help me improve my photography? No… so why write that? Just save yourself the two seconds and keep on walking. Writing down bullshit doesn’t fulfill the requirement of critiquing something, so… what’s the point? To the same extent, saying that you like a piece is just not helpful. Liking something, even something as specific as the color, or as random as expression isn’t helpful either. Making someone feel something is great, and is a tough effort, but one person might feel something or strikes a chord with them, but it could be completely off for someone else. An example of a critique I would give is something like this- The hair is cropped, the skin tone is a bit too red, consider adjusting the axis next time? A positive one might read- The static placement juxtaposed with the high energy of the subject is quite appealing. The positive crit doesn’t have anything to work towards and I’d much rather get the first critique. I might not agree with it, but at least it’s something to think about the next time I go out shooting. Ideally both would be in the same critique but that’s something I’m working on.

One thing I’ve learned is to not be precious about your work. Every one is a stepping stone. Every one there should be something to learn from. Let your stuff be critiqued by people you trust. Build up a road map of pitfalls. Learn to overcome them. Lean into your weaknesses.