One of the best ways to get better at taking pictures is to get involved in it with your friends. Critiquing one another’s work often gives you a perspective on your own photography that you might not have considered before. As creators, we often get so invested in what we’re doing that we fail to see the little (or sometimes big) things that can make or break a photo. If a friend can point this out to us in a tactful way, it can lead to some major improvements in our work.
Art is a sensitive subject. For some people, it’s the reason they’re alive. So if you don’t give advice the right way, you might get misinterpreted. The important thing is to keep your advice as specific as possible, and never assume that your friend hasn’t thought about whatever you’re suggesting. In fact, I almost always preface what I’m saying with: “I’m sure you’ve considered this, but I thought I’d just point it out.” It shows them you respect their intelligence.
Written critiques are often more effective than in-person critiques. That’s why it’s so fun to start photography clubs! Try this exercise. Exchange 5 of your favorite shots with your friend. Then, for each shot, write down one thing relating to composition, lighting, and overall impression. Each thing you write needs to be at least a paragraph to ensure a high level of detail.
This critiquing tactic forces you to go in-depth and really explain what you do or do not like about your friends’ images. It’s easy to say you don’t get the right impression from something, but when you’re forced to spell it out in detail, you have to come from a truly educated position. If anything, this will force you learn more about the fundamentals of digital photography.
Think of critiquing like any professional in any other field. Provide references. Show your work. Explain why you feel a certain way about a photo and show your friend some other examples of work that employs whichever technique you want him or her to use. Truly make this a chance to be instructive, and you’ll get the same in return.
It’s important to be just as careful when you’re getting advice on your photography. Most people mean well when they point out things you can change. Oftentimes, when someone doesn’t like something about my work, I try to get all the details I can from them. This is a great time to ask more questions, not less.
As a photographer (or any creative really), you stand to learn a lot more from your harshest critics than from those who are simply uninterested in your work. Someone who cares enough to criticize you probably cares an awful lot about photography. Otherwise, he or she wouldn’t have said anything. What they say probably matters a lot more than an opinion you’d get from the general public. It might not feel great at first, but you’ll learn a lot if you perk up your ears.
Be prepared to receive advice that you don't like, or don't agree with. If you receive what you think is bad advice, first think about their advice from their point of view. They may well just have a point. However, if you sitll don't agree, thank them for their advice and be polite/respectful. Never get into an arguing match with someone who doesn't share your opinion of your image. It is, after all, an opinion and everyone is entitled to their own.
One last thing. Never ever ever give out unsolicited advice in public. It’s the worst. Nobody wants to be embarrassed, no matter how “right” you are. If people don’t see what’s wrong in their photos, and they have no interest in learning more, just let them live. At some point, they might see what you’re doing and get jealous. Then they’ll come to you. It’s pointless to put yourself in a position of authority when you haven’t been given the go-ahead. It’s just not cool.
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