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Ideas For Critiquing

Critiquing images is an important part of our Challenges to make them and our photography in general as rewarding as possible for all of us. It's not just something best left to the 'experts'. All of us get to enter. All of us have opinions and all of our opinions are important. Why shouldn't we all comment on other images?

How else will other people figure out what they could try with their images to help make their images more appealing to you and others? Perhaps even more importantly, when you go through the process of thinking about images and writing some comments, it is sure to help you to think about your own photography and producing better results too. Everyone's a winner!

This gallery contains some ideas that might help with the thinking process associated with critiquing and photography in general.

Happy critiquing! :^)

Cheers, JDU
e-mail comments and suggestions here


Suggestions from STF's Andy Williams:

The link immediately below also appears in the KM Challenge Rules Critiquing section, but I'm copying it here again as I think it's very good. It's a thread in the dpreview STF created by Andy Williams, a prolific dpreview contributor (nearly 23,000 posts since June 2003 at over 200 per week, as of when I'm typing this information on 24 June 2005). I'd suggest you at least look at the first two posts in the thread, both from Andy, but there are also some other interesting ones in there as well, including one that suggests you won't get honest critiques where people 'know' you, eg in the dpreview forums and related Challenges; the Nikonians even have anonymous Challenges, or at least used to. Anyway, the first post in the linked thread is Andy's suggestions that more or less align with my thoughts above, but presented more concisely and simply. The second one suggests making a critique sandwich, starting with something positive, with some constructive criticism in the middle and finishing with something positive. It's all good stuff.
Andy's critiquing ideas thread

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JDU's Checklist:

Here are some ideas that I find help me in thinking about images. This is more or less a list of the kinds of things I try to think about when preparing critiques and when taking and processing photos. For each item, I consider what I like and what I might prefer. There's no need to comment on every item. Also remember that these are just my ideas.

  1. 1st impression
    • initial interest, initial impact/wow factor
    • how the image affects you
  2. title
    • catchy/clever, unique
    • how much it adds to the meaning or feeling of the image
  3. background/story
    • adding a setting or interest to the image
  4. subject
    • how potentially interesting or pleasing
    • how well it satisfies a  theme, including clever or unique interpretation
  5. technical difficulty/achievement
    • some images are simply harder to capture due to accessibility; the right moment for the perfect light, elements or animal/person pose to occur; challenges with shutter speeds/DOF; etc, etc
  6. composition
    • how the elements are arranged in the image for the most pleasing result
    • how you frame the scene, ie the view of the scene
    • focal point
    • perspective: near/far, wide/narrow, up/down/level/left/right/sideways/diagonal, horizontally/vertically/diagonally converging/diverging/parallel lines, from a corner or straight on
    • symmetry (centred elements) vs rule of thirds (placing elements a third of the way in from the edges of the frame) vs other element placement
    • lines and bands of light/colour/shadow
  7. cropping
    • the part of the image that ends up being shown for the most pleasing result
    • same idea as framing when composing, but done during processing
  8. focus/depth of field
    • clarity of the subject
    • the depth of the image that is in focus and the effect it creates
  9. exposure
    • the overall luminosity and use of dynamic range to show the best balance of shadow and highlight detail without losing too much detail in clipped shadows or blown highlights
  10. lighting
    • partly related to exposure, but moreso the way the lighting illuminates the scene or parts of it
    • even/uneven, bright/muted, high/low contrast, high key/low key, highlights/shadows
    • how it highlights the subject and de-emphasises potentially distracting elements
    • what it shows and what it leaves to the imagination
    • how it affects the impact and mood of the image
  11. colour
    • how well the image colours work in parts of the image and as a whole
  12. processing
    • how natural or revealing the processing looks like; effectiveness of colourised or greyscale conversions
  13. photo effects
    • how well special effects work to enhance the image; could also colourised and greyscale results
  14. anything else
  15. final verdict
    • final impact/wow factor (after exploring the image)
    • summary of highlights and maybe suggestions
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