I think the problem with user critiques is that there are a lot of people testing the waters in here instead of posting inspired, thoughtful pieces. I am guilty of this as well, but I'd like to participate in reversing this trend as I want to learn from the great resources here in the forum.
Not to say that I don't learn much right now, because I do. I often leave this forum feeling almost depressed because I look at my catalog of photos, and see not one worth editing to post on a hosting website to share, let alone gather critique on a forum I hold in such high regard as this.
It's the only forum on the Internet where I experience this, and I wished I had found it sooner. It's easy to produce "merely pretty" pictures that get enough love to satisfy, but this forum makes me work harder because I want to produce work that I see fit to post in front of the audience here.
I don't buy into celebrity culture, but I do get a bit of stage fright posting photos on here. Firstly, Michael Reichman is with out a doubt my favourite landscape...actually...favourite photographer by far. I appreciate his technique, his approach and his productions. Not because of fame or notoriety, but I really appreciate his craft and therefore only want to post what I think is my most technically and aesthetically best given my limited means. That is a good thing. I'm not sure if he even looks at the User Critiques section and it still makes me double-take before I post anything.
When I combine that with the other forum residents on here, some of which produce stellar work with great consistency and others who provide great technical information free of charge (and some who do both), it creates a very enriching environment to learn and grow within.
One thing I find difficult with User Critiques is direction. The majority of the residents on her are not world renowned and the statement their photography is intended to make is not always apparent. Was the photo following a concept? What is it trying to say?
The best photographs make this known instantly. Not all of our photos do this and this is why we are asking for critique. When I first started posting on here, I would give a short run down on my artistic intentions. I was corrected and questioned why I was doing it and at the time it made sense to exclude it.
Do you all think adding some sort of artistic intention as a supplement to the photo would help the user critique, or should the photo exist on a binary of either working (+1) or not working, receiving no comments and falling to the bottom of the forum heap?
Photo critique, good photo critique that is, can be quite difficult and akin to walking a tightrope. You want to be accurate with what you say, yet where ever possible also be encouraging towards the work people are posting, but not falsely so. We all have egos that need a little massaging now and then and it is so easy to give or take offence at an abrupt albeit accurate critique.
I think the image critiques on this forum fall roughly into three categories:
- The short reply, whereby we all seem to agree with all that has previously been said, but perhaps with a small addition of our own.
- The longer reply, of more detailed advice of such things as technique, equipment and any other aspect of photography.
- The off topic reply, where the subject quickly turns to something other than that seen or discussed in the principle posting.
I suppose it could also be argued that there is actually a fourth category not included in the above list, the 'No Reply' category, whereby the subject or image is not something anyone wishes to comment on for whatever reason, and for which the OP must work out their own conclusions as to what that means.