Critique of Photographs

Cooper Hawk By Anne Jones
Cooper Hawk by Anne Jones

General Guidelines

It is hard for a photographer not to be sensitive to remarks about changes and possible improvements to ones’ photographs.  Remember the comments are on the photographs not the photographer.  Some of the comments will carry with them the bias of the reviewer.  As an example a world class female reviewer once told me about this problem by saying:   “I hate snakes, so it is real hard for me to give a good review on a snake, no matter how good and wonderful the photograph may be.”

Also there are no definite rules of what makes a bad or great photo which have come to us from Mount Sinai.  Even generally accepted rules, such as the “Rule of Thirds” can be successfully broken.  For those who do post processing remember there is never a photograph taken that cannot be improved in some way – including how it is framed. Now on with some basics of doing a critique.

Basic Critique Considerations

  1. Is the photo properly focused, with foreground, main subject, and eyes (usually) sharp?
  2. Is the background appropriate, or is it too busy/cluttered? Does it have best focus or out of focus areas appropriate for image?
  3. Does the photo display a good depth of field for subject and treatment of subject?
  4. How is the exposure?  Is it too dark (underexposed), too light (over exposed). blown out, blocked up, or okay?
  5. How is the image contrast?  Flat with little tonal difference or too extreme?
  6. Are the colours accurate or appropriate for subject?  Are there overlaps or bleeding, too much saturation or not saturated enough, or other colour issues?
  7. Is the composition pleasing, properly balanced, and appropriate? Do objects in images give a 3-D effect? Does use of framing, leading lines, image placement, or other composition components, indicate direction or movement, and does this improve the image or distract from it?
  8. Is cropping required, or is there to little or too much cropping to flatter main subject/topic?
  9. Is your eye drawn to the best spot/subject of the image first, and does your view stay within the main subject/topic of picture or are there bright, dark, or highly colourful distractions?
  10. Is it easy to determine what the best spot or subject is?
  11. Is there a clear story line or message in the photo?
  12. Is there a uniqueness or rarity to captured scene or captured item?
  13. Does the photo carry emotional appeal, such as babies/moms, puppies, love, danger, and so on?
  14. Are there any technical issues which distract from the image quality or appeal?

One of the best ways for a photographer to improve is by having their work critiqued.  Even though one may not agree with critique points made, the process helps one identify what appeals to the viewers and what does not.  With this understanding you are better able to create the best photograph you or a viewer likes.  The more you practice and apply your knowledge the better photographer you will become.

Based on this post by Scott Bourne in the Photofocus blog.

Frank Knor