Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time
I’ve not blogged in an age – we moved house, I started to rebuild contacts in a new area, I neglected all sorts of things in an effort to re-establish my life in a new county – and when I look back, all these things are excuses for not concentrating on blogging, or on so many other things I needed to do.
What’s prompted me back into writing again, is the constant stream of excuses that photographers are coming up with these days, to explain their below standard work, which they are sharing on Social Media on an almost daily basis. It’s driving me nuts……
That’s not to say of course that there are many excellent photographers out there, sharing some truly inspirational work. The trouble is, there are so many more ‘photographers’ (and I use the quote marks intentionally) who feel the need to share a lot of sub-standard images, and who feel that people should be praising them for their trouble.
I’m a member of a few Facebook groups – and I’ve actually left a good number – trusting that the few I stuck with would be more ‘constructive’. Some of these groups encourage members to post images for constructive critique, and this is where the whole thing starts to fall apart.
“Please be gentle, I’m only just starting with photography / photoshop / Lightroom / Elements – don’t be harsh”
I’m more than happy to give constructive critique to those who really want it – Telling people their images are good, when they are good, and offering (I hope) constructive feedback to those whose images are not so good, but have potential.
However, if you are new, and just starting out, is it not even more important that you get honest feedback about your images? If people constantly tell you that what you are producing is good – then of course you will keep on doing it – in exactly the same way, and you will continue to make the same mistakes, and I find that the poorer the image, the less likely people are to accept any criticism of it.
I also see poor advice being given, and explanations for poor technique being blamed on equipment. A prime example happened today. I was reading a post where someone had put an image up for review – there was so much noise in the image that you could barely make out what it was. The image was scaled up to 200%, the ISO had been set at 6400 and the exposure time was just 1/200 of a second. The usual explanations were offered. The high ISO, and the darkness of the image – the upscaling, all contributed to the rather messy image. Later in the discussion – someone chipped in with and offered the explanation that it wasn’t the photographer who was to blame at all. It would be a combination of a faulty SD card, and the fact that the Battery was nearing depletion that caused the ‘grain’ on the image. A number of people tried to explain that a low battery would not cause this effect, but the photographer was relieved that it wasn’t anything they had done. It was a ‘gear’ problem and so they could fix this by always taking with them a spare battery……..
I’m sorry, but this sort of thing is worse than useless. Taking the easy way out, is not always an option. Sometimes you just have to learn how to use your camera, and understand what the settings do, and how you can work with them, when the light is against you.
Understanding your camera, and it’s limitations are key to making better images. All photographers need to know and understand the relationship between F/stop, shutter speed and ISO. Adding in white balance, focus, composition and using a tripod where necessary. There is a host of information on the net, and asking a question on a Facebook forum does not mean you are going to get good answers. Check out the ones you do get – make sure the information is accurate.
You can’t work on the principle of “It was on Facebook, so it must be right”
So before you post images on the net, asking for critique ask yourselves these questions
Do I REALLY want other peoples opinion?
Do I really?…… because there are some images that we just feel are ‘right’ for us. It won’t really matter what other people think, because they are personal to you. It might not be a technically perfect image, but it captured that moment, which means so much to you. But don’t forget, other people don’t know your circumstances, or your family, or your pets. To them it’s just an underexposed image.
2. Is the opinion really about what you have posted
Opinions can be hi-jacked by other things happening in the same thread. Some posters will ask questions that others will answer, and in the end the whole thing is not about your image any more, it’s about something different. So be careful when you read the comments – it may not even be you they are talking about.
3. Are the comments actually helpful
Does “wow”, “amazing”, “beautiful work”, “incredible”, actually mean anything to you? Or would you prefer comments such as “the composition works well”, “superb lead lines”, “nice and sharp”. Even negative ones “the shadows are too dark”, “you have some blown out highlights there”, “love the shot, but I see a couple of hot spots on the models face”. Some of these things can be fixed in post production, and because you are so close to your images, you don’t see them sometimes. It’s good and helpful to have them pointed out to you later on.
Hearing feedback about general things in your image can help you later on. Ask yourself – can you take what’s being said, and apply it, to other images. If you can’t, I don’t think you should be asking for critique in the first place. Is there a lesson to be learned in the feedback you are getting.
I encourage my students to take time looking at other people’s work. Not just photographers, but artists and painters. Ask yourself “why” is this person’s work so good – how does this compare to what I am producing. Visit art galleries and photographic exhibitions and try to work out what is good about some of the images you see.
In summary then, if you are new to photography, photoshop, lightroom, whatever – then doesn’t it make more sense that people are absolutely truthful about your work? There are ways of offering constructive critique without being rude or disrespectful. If people ask for critique, then we should give it truthfully, and honestly, and expect it to be treated as such. If we continually praise poor workmanship, then this will become the norm, and we will start to forget what truly great images look like.