The Art of Critique

I have encountered plenty of critique, both solicited and unsolicited. As a photographer I have been through several portfolio reviews in my career, some solicited and some not. Some of the solicited critique was very helpful and some was downright mean. I immediately started to consider how solicited critique is given and received. I am not an expert on this, but my thoughts and experience may indeed help someone.

It is not an easy thing, presenting your work for judgement. This is something you are passionate about and more than likely have worked very hard at. If you are just looking for complements I wouldn’t advise “asking” for critique. You need to have “thick skin”. You need to learn to FILTER what can help you out of what you are hearing. Now, giving helpful critique is a very delicate skill. That’s why I refer to it as an art. Here are some tips on offering solicited critique:

  • Allow your self to look at the object with fresh eyes. Try to take in the complete work, along with the intent of the artist. Ask your self, “How does this make me feel” to help understand the intent.
  • Don’t just look for what you don’t like about the piece, allow yourself to see what appeals to you.
  • Once you are ready to respond with the actual critique, do not be vague. Address specific points that need help and use the correct parlance. For example, saying “I hate this” about the piece doesn’t not let the artist know what is wrong with it. You can say it makes you feel a certain way, however.
  • Try to compliment the piece up front. Remember you are trying to help this person become better, so even hearing “I think this piece has great potential” will allow them to hear that actual critique that maybe they should start over.
  • Help the artist – offer advice, offer praise. Even if they have no business being in this art, it’s not your job to run them out of it. Allow yourself to see what is good about someone’s effort them address the problems accurately.

Employing the helpful critique you received, and learning to give effective criticism are all a part of learning your craft. Through learning and practice you will hopefully achieve your “great potential”.