A Delicate Balance

Fotografen viser bilder han har tatt

Over the last week I have been allowed to evaluate a handful of photos from readers of this blog. On my page Picture Critique they have posted images they would like to have an outsider’s opinion about. Picture critiquing is always a very delicate balance. First of all the creators behind each photo have entrusted me with something that they have put a lot of energy and thoughts into. It’s their creation, their «child», so I have to be careful not to condemn their work in such a way that they feel trampled on. I believe in encouragement rather than negative critique, but at the same time I want to be honest and point to elements in a picture that I believe don’t work so well.

Another part of this delicate balance is that I have to be aware of the fact that picture critiquing cannot be done objectively and impartially. I must be true to what I believe is a good photo and the factors that make up a captivating image as far as I am concerned, but it will nevertheless be my opinion only. I think after having worked professionally with photos in more than 30 years I have gained some experience and knowledge, but the fact still remains that when it comes to evaluating photos no neutral or unbiased variables exist. Remember that; whatever I say or write is solely my opinion. Somebody else might see things completely differently and also the photographer himself or herself may not agree at all. Which is as it should be. There are no truths in this kind of picture critiquing. I hope each photographer who have entrusted me with a photo, takes to their heart whatever feels right to them and discards the rest.

We can all learn from each other – and picture critique is one such way. And it works both ways. I learn from the images I evaluate as I hope the photographers themselves learn from my critique. Even if we disagree there is always something to gain from getting other’s opinion. I believe in sharing; sharing knowledge, sharing photos, sharing the process itself, and not the least sharing the moment of capture with those we photograph. Picture critiquing is one such way for me to honour this belief. For me it’s a privilege to be allowed to evaluate other photographer’s images and share my experience.

As I work my way down to the last uploaded photos on the Picture Critique page, I will keep it open at least another week for any other photographer who would like to have his or her photo evaluated. If that’s you, don’t wait, though; before the Christmas holidays starts I will close this session of picture critique. Until then you are very welcome to post a photo or a link to a photo.

53 thoughts on “A Delicate Balance

  1. From what I’ve seen your picture critique is always done in a very respectful and constructive way Otto. I think you are a wonderful teacher! 🙂 Love the photo above!

  2. Thanks again for your feedback Otto! I really appreciate the critique because you balanced it just as you describe and gave me points I can work with! And they give me a new insight!

  3. Critique is very important, not only in evaluating and/or improving our own work but also in appreciating others’. I tend to privately critique, to a greater or lesser degree, an awful lot of what I see as that helps me evaluate my own work.

  4. One indication that you maintain that delicate balance is the fact that, even as a brand new photographer, I felt no hesitancy at all about submitting a photo for your critique. Critique is as much an art as photography, and you’re marvelous at both.

  5. Otto, I agree with Elina that you always critique in a respectful and constructive way. I think any of us that have taken part in your courses/workshops would agree. I personally think that in order to develop as a photographer we need to take on board constructive criticism and continue to evaluate our strategies and processes.

  6. Constructive criticism is the only way we can learn and move forward and as several people have said already Otto, your critiques are always done with the utmost respect and are always constructive. It is a very delicate balance and a tricky line to tread and you do it with great generosity of spirit and I admire that hugely!

  7. Condivisione e critiche costruttive non possono che fare bene a chi fa foto e sicuramente le tue critiche sono costruttive e utili! Fin da ora grazie 🙂
    Un grande saluto, Patrizia

  8. +1 to the “autopict” comment. You put out perfectly about how one should take the comments from photo critique.

    I looked at the pictures that shown. They are fantastic works!

  9. i’m my own worst critic, plus i spent 3 years in a full time photography course trying to do SOMETHING right for my teacher who thought photography was only for men, yes i’m that old… hehe i was the first woman EVER to be hired to the Astral Photo chain of camera stores…. once a guy came in and looked at me up and down with disdain (cuz i was young and cute) and implied that only got hired as the resident whore by saying ‘pffffft, do you know ANYTHING about photography???’ and i did a mock wide eyed scared look and said ‘oh my what do you want to know?!’ and he stood there for two hours grilling me about photography and every camera and lens in stock, frustrated that i answered every question perfectly he stalked out without buying anything.

    1. I am glad the times have changed – at least somewhat to the better. Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s hard to believe that someone could be so arrogant on a matter like this.

      1. yes thinking back on that story that i just told you for some unknown reason… it’s hard to believe that women were treated that badly, but you know what? in a lot of ways they still are… i guess you can’t just deny them a job in a camera store anymore, at least not openly

  10. Although I ‘follow’, Otto, I seldom make it to my Reader, so I often miss your posts. 😦 This is an interesting and generous idea. I’ll have a look at what you’ve been critiquing. 🙂

  11. I have been busy and do enjoy your critiques with their balance of commendations as well as suggestions on what to work on.Getting compliments may feed my ego but does not help me see what others see or help me grow as a photographer. I like the lighting in this shot and the enthusiasm in her gesture of leaning forward to look closely at the camera and your enthusiasm as you share your love of the craft.

  12. Hej Otto, jag följer med stort intresse din post Picture Critique. Du gör det allra bästa jobb, genuint, äkta och med stor respekt för fotografen. Att få ta del av dina utvärderingar är verkligen mycket lärorikt.
    Tusen, tusen tack.
    Allt Gott till dig.

  13. Have to agree with all the comments here, I can tell that you are a wonderful teacher and very invested in the work you do with your students. You are so generous to do this!

  14. It’s good of you to give the critiques and I enjoy seeing them. Also like your post on creativity. You make good observations and they’re good to remember when I’m feeling like all subjects have been done completely. Maybe done completely by others, but I’m not done yet 🙂

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