As far as photo forums go I have to admit I’m a dinosaur. I’ve been posting on photo forums since they started to pop up on the internet. Granted I’ve done so selectively, yet trying each that comes around and over time I’ve settled into a few that I feel best meet my needs. Things are constantly changing and more than likely in a few years much of this may turn out to be a fad and disappear. Lets hope not. Still since 1993 one thing has held constant… the following annoying photo critique comments:
10. Any single word critique (Wow, Beautiful, Fantastic, etc.)
Its not that these are bad, but tell me what you liked and inspired your initial reaction. I or any photographer for that matter will have a better understanding of what about his/her photo strikes a nerve with you the viewer. Usually I take these types of comments with a grain of salt if I know the person. Ultimately I can’t fault people too much for these types of comments as there are too many beautiful photos to view and too little time. Heaven knows I’ve been guilty of being lazy and doing this from time to time.
9. Misidentification of a photographed person, place, animal or thing
This is almost always an innocent mistake, but it doesn’t mean its any less annoying. Not everyone is exposed to the same things and sometimes we rush through viewing photos a little too fast. Either of which would contribute to this type of mistake. Ultimately though if you can’t spend the time to think about what you’re viewing or recognize your own limitations of knowledge then you should avoid specifying a place, person, animal or whatever the subject may be and go to #10.
8. Being addressed by the wrong name… “Great shot John”
If you can’t spend the time to figure out what my name is, how can I take your feedback seriously? If you’re looking over my login name, profile and/or image so quickly you can’t get my name correct then I doubt you took the time necessary to take in and absorb the hard work I put into one of my photos.
7. Not recognizing that a night photo is… a night photo
Although I understand how this happens I still find this extremely annoying. Usually a night photo with a long exposure will show unique characteristics (color shifts, star trails, etc.), but many with an untrained eye will miss these blatant signs of a long exposure. There is nothing worse than hearing that my photo is underexposed or that I should have taken it at a different time of day when it was a long exposure taken at night.
6. Armchair photographer misdirection “I’d have moved back/forward/right/left…”
I give everyone the benefit of the doubt with such comments as most people are just trying to help, but we all have received comments like this and rolled our eyes. Why? Well usually because moving back or to the left or to the right would be impossible. There have been too many photos to count where I’ve received such feedback and had I tried what was being recommended I’d be dead. Personally I try to avoid falling off cliffs, rolling down mountains or drowning for the sake of the absolute perfect photo. Well…so far.
5. “Not enough detail in the shadows”
This type of comment usually comes about from someone reading too many photo articles and taking a recommendation as the law. Just because its possible to have detail in the shadows it doesn’t mean you have to. More times than not every scene has black in it. Lack of color data doesn’t automatically equate to a bad thing. A creative photographer will use contrast to his advantage by arrange dark areas around his subject so that it stands out.
4. “Too bad your highlights are blown out”
Once again blown out highlights aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Just because its possible to have detail in the highlights it doesn’t mean you have to. If an image is meant to be high key then blown highlights are to be expected. For many images its not a bad thing to have a solid white value in your image as long as its not overwhelming your primary focus.
3. Missing the point and the focus of my photo
Not everyone sees the world the same way and that is what makes photography so great. Conversely viewers don’t always see the world the same as a photographer and that can lead to disconnect and some frustrating moments. These things are bound to happen, but what annoys me is when the extra efforts taken to minimize the opportunity for this type of disconnect are completely missed. If I’ve provided a description or added a title to the photo please read it. I put as much thought into these things as I have my photo and it’ll likely provide some insight.
2. “Nice Photoshop work” / “Color treatment looks unnatural”
Although I find this to be annoying I’ve learned to take it as an extreme compliment. This is all a matter of personal photographic philosophy, but for myself I strive to capture and present exactly what I see to highlight the natural beauty of our world. If the scene looks unreal or unnatural that is a reflection of the beauty that person has yet to see in person and the accuracy by which I’ve captured it. In that sense I consider it a compliment that I’ve helped expose that person to a new view of our world. Still after working long and hard on an image (planning, travel, execution, post-production, etc.) its tough not to have an initial negative reaction.
1. “Nice HDR” / “Is this HDR?”
I realize this is a neat area to explore as of late, but for some reason there is nothing I dislike more than HDR images (See Why I Hate HDR: Photo Technology Porn). For those that don’t know HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is a software approach to blending multiple exposures of a scene into one, providing a broader dynamic range to an image than would normally be seen with a single exposure. There are only a few people I’ve seen pull of HDR well and the rest look far from decent. I’m a bit of a photography purist in that I strive to nail my exposure. Sure I’ll use PS masks at times to balance an exposure, but no more than to recreate the effect of a graduated neutral density filter. HDR just looks artificial and thats the exact opposite of how I strive to display my images.
That sums up my Top 10. Did I miss anything? What’s your most annoying photo critique comment?
Addendum (added late 3/19/07):
And before you take this too serious take note I appreciate every critique received. Top 10’s are always controversial and many of these points strive for the ideal, but at the same time are ripe for ridicule from the perspective of the photographer and critiquer. Somehow photo critique debates always get a little hot and heavy. Photography… critiques… its all good fun. I love sharing the experience with others, but at the same time we all have our pet peeves. If you can’t laugh at yourself then who can you laugh at. Thanks for reading and adding your two cents.
Update (added 4/29/07):
Check out “Photo Term Series Post #1: Aerial Perspective (disambiguation)” the first of an on going series of Photo Terms & Definitions that might help add more substance to your photo critiques.