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The Vancouver Photography Meetup Group Message Board Messages from the Organizer › Help develop a group policy to "critique" each others' photos

Help develop a group policy to "critique" each others' photos

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Bonnie W
user 11713001
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 2
I agree that we should add a comment with our request for critique. However, sometimes we don't realize when we need help so we don't specifically ask. And there are those of us who know what is wrong with our photo but we don't have the expertise to correct it or we might just want to take photos for fun and not want suggestions. I think it works just fine the way it is. If someone is overly sensitive or for some other reason unhappy with what the group provides they can find another group. If I am not happy I move on. And for me not to receive a helpful critique because I'm not aware enough to request one is a disservice to me as a group member.

If you do think the group needs to change things... the instant you upload a photo you would click on an icon for "Critiques and/or Suggestions Welcomed, YES or NO." Your photo will not upload without selecting an option. The entire phrase & your selection of yes or no will be visible beside the words 'Add Comment.' This will solve the problem for those who are sensitive or simply do not want more info but it does add confusion about how serious this person is about wanting an in-depth critique... they may not be soliciting anything, perhaps they are just open to hearing your views. But we still don't know if the person is actually requesting a critique. This is all too much for my little brain to think about.

Those who have specific concerns about their photo and definitely want an in-depth critique should continue to add that request in a comment. In addition, there could be a separate folder specifically for requesting assistance for our challenges. This critique folder is the only change I would be in favor of.

Now about the receiver of constructive criticism... they could have an option to report anyone they believe is not playing nice (or maybe the option is there already and I haven't noticed). But unhappy people will find a way to complain regardless! However, the complainant will no doubt be unhappy with any steps taken so I do not see the sense in this.

There could be some 'guidelines' for being polite but still some people who mean well will not come across in the manner intended. And it's not always about how they say things so much as how the listener hears it. Once again, there is no solution for correcting how they hear it.

Really, there is no way to make everyone happy. I believe the majority would prefer this matter to be left as it is. If someone is being blatantly rude I am sure it will get dealt with!

Bonnie W
Diane G.
user 11823443
Burnaby, BC
Post #: 5

I agree with Bonnie's view - we cannot surmise how someone receiving the critique will perceive it - perhaps a simple little box that can be ticked if desired, something like "comments and critiques welcome" would be sufficient if they, in fact, want any comments - and the comments can be to simply show appreciation or to recommend improvements - but never to criticize, that said, I do not believe anyone who is a member of this group would critique a photo just to criticize - we should all know that recommendations are really just that, recommendations for improvement as they see it.

As for myself, I would not attempt to critique anyone else's photos as I am inexperienced and only learning Pohotoshop and I am sure there are many of us who feel the same. Most of the critiques I have seen have come from photographers who know what they are doing - and they certainly are much appreciated.

Diane G
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 419
What if we had a meetup, and we bring our favorite (top 5-20?) photos, in print 4x6's 5x7's which are pretty cheap to print $0.10 each at shoppers drug mart or $3 for an 8x10 ( I think that cards woul dbe too difficult as we would need too many computers. So we can have a critiquing meetup. Perhaps we could bring in a guest photographer. I wouldn't be against paying a bit extra dues to pay them if needed. Or we could just critique each others work. Either way it would be a good opportunity for all of us. We can discuss our pics and go over how to give better critiques.

Hi Trevor,

This is a great idea!

Please take a minute and post this in the Ideas section so we don't forget about it!

Thanks very much,
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 420
Thanks to everyone for responding with your ideas and opinions on this subject. I'll attempt to summarize all our comments below relative to the questions posed at the top of this thread:

1. Do we want to receive ideas for how to improve from other members -- rather than just receive their compliments?
Yes. Your feedback suggests that most of us want to receive ideas for how to improve, rather than just receiving compliments.

2. What is the difference between a critique and criticism, and do we want to encourage critiques and/or criticisms of our photos?
It seems some members feel they can define the difference between a critique and criticism, and others feel it is difficult to tell the difference. From the comments posted here and others sent to me privately, the difference appears to be delivery and tone. One member privately suggested to me that a prescription for a proper critique would be to sandwich the "critique" between two positive statements.

3. What "codes of conduct" should we consider for providing others with critiques and constructive criticisms of photos posted to the Albums?
I think we all agree that we should have a "policy" around critiquing and what we should and shouldn't post on the site. Many people think that a "open season" for critiquing is not a good idea for the following reasons:
  • Some people actually *don't want* or wouldn't like others to tell them how to make their photos better and would not be happy if someone randomly made critical comments about the photo(s) they posted, no matter what tone was used or how carefully the critique was word-smithed.
  • While discussing this with a few members personally, the point was raised that members of this group range from raw beginners through to experienced amateurs and talented professionals. While everyone may have an opinion of how to make better photos, most of the time it will be difficult for those receiving advice to discern between "good" advice and "bad" advice.
  • The point was raised that it's virtually impossible to tell what people mean when using text comments on a website -- as opposed to talking in person. It was pointed out that some people will just sound "meaner" than they really are in a posted critique, and often criticisms of any kind are difficult to take no matter how thick skinned one might be.

4. What are the most important 3 or 4 things that we want to ensure so that critiques and criticisms are providing good instruction to the receiver and to ensure the comments are not taken personally?
Here's a summary of the ideas that were posted in this thread (and sent to me personally):
  • Don't leave personally disparaging or insulting comments about the photographer... if the photo is bad then give some constructive advice.
  • Keep all critiques in one photo album where photos posted there can be critiqued.
  • Everyone should remember when one puts an image out there for people to see, one puts their heart and soul out there.
  • Propose that if a person wants critique on a given picture, they simply add a comment with their questions. The more specific the questions, the better - that way, those responding have an immediate context for their response. If someone leaves it blank that means they don't want critique and just regular comments.
  • Adopt an attitude of taking critique lightly and with a grain of salt - when offering advice, don't make it personal, and when receiving advice, don't take it personally.
  • Anyone posting images are putting their photos in the public domain, so let people comment on them. If you're too thin skinned to take it, then you shouldn't be posting.
  • Put "C&C welcome" in your post below your pic (comments and critique) if you wish your photo to be critiqued. C&C comments should provide: a) Reasons why they like/dislike the photo; and, b) Advice on how the image could be improved - if applicable.
  • Suggest to to add functions with the photo upload utility that forces members to select Yes or No for "critiquing" when they upload a photo.
  • Experienced photographers are more inclined to give and receive specific critiques, especially to each other. Either leave out random comments of "what to do or what not to do" alone, or make the posting and membership selective to experienced photographers only.

5. How to we detect, discern and field any complaints about critiques being "too harsh" or unwarranted, or against policy?
As the organizer of this group, I don't want to have to police any comments on the site -- and I don't want to have any of the assistant organizers feel responsible for this either. If someone is concerned they can email me or one of the other assistant (who always email me) and we can address an issue, which is how things work right now. However, there were some useful comments made that addresses this question:
  • If we allow open critiquing then we definitely need at least one person policing critiques posted but be aware that if someone is upset about a comment and the post is deleted then the commenter will be upset -- so we will lose people either way.
  • An Open Season for critique just opens the door to hurt feelings, and nobody wants to be the referee for something like that.
  • Censoring comments is not a good way to go, unless the comments were hurtful without merit. Open dialogue and extensive critiques of a particular image can mean inspiring growth in all members within our little on-line community.

Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 421
Let's have a few more comments about my "summary" above -- and please tell me if I've missed or misconstrued anything said. In the meantime, I will draft and then post a DRAFT Policy statement in this thread and we can take a look at it and I will accept final comments on it before posting to the "About" page on our site. Once confirmed, the policy statement will dictate how we post critiques on our group site.

I just want everyone to remember that the purpose of this group is to welcome anyone who has an interest in photography. We stand as a group that, " ....ranges from new beginner photographers, through the full range of amateurs and hobbyists, to pros, (all with a respect and appreciation for manual and digital technologies), AND we have members with an interest in photography from various perspectives... such as designers, artists and models. The greatest part of this is we're all proud to be part of this diverse group."

This group is not exclusive, we stand as inclusive -- and we want to inspire creativity and not act as an authority on photography.

The policy statement on providing feedback such as compliments and critiques (that we are currently discussing in this thread) will be posted on our About page as a bullet point that follows this statement:
  • This group encourages all members to provide encouragement and compliments to each other about the photos they post, remembering that many members are very shy about posting their photos. First and foremost this group wishes to create a safe and supportive environment for members to share their photos on the site.

Thanks everyone! Please provide some final comments, particularly if I've forgotten or misconstrued comments posted previously in this thread.

Russ K.
user 3929906
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 294
Here's my 2 cents...

Under the circumstances, given that the mission of the group is to be fully inclusive, non-threatening and supportive, I'd say that the appropriate approach would be to have critique offered only on pictures submitted to a specific "Critique Album". Critique everywhere else is prohibited.

In the Critique Album, I'd say all critique is welcome without censorship, except for egregious comments. The definition of "egregious" should be left to the community, in that comments will be left online until complained about to an Organizer; the Organizer will then rule without appeal.

I'd also ask that posters to the Critique Album also post questions for responders to, well, respond to. My main concern here is to be able to quickly and concisely offer support within the framework of the poster's immediate issues, and not waste time on things the poster doesn't care about.

Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 422
Hi Russ, thanks.

I agree that a separate Critiquing Album would be a good way to allow everyone to benefit from critiques while preserving a supportive environment elsewhere in the photo albums.

If we were to do this, I wonder if it would also be helpful to allow/encourage specific questions to be asked elsewhere. For example, if a member posted a photo in another album (not the Critiquing Album) -- and specifically asked a *specific* question about how to improve their photo, would be okay if others offered their opinions and advice in response?

If we were to go this route, it would mean that we would have an Album specifically for critiquing AND prohibit giving advice or critiques unless responding to a specific question.

Everyone, how does that sound?
Russ K.
user 3929906
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 295
Hi Trish,

The only problem I can see with specific questions outside of the critique album is: lots of people don't bother to read the "Posting Images" thread - and so won't know the difference between a response to a specific question and a general critique. My fear is that this will lead to a need for very active moderation of the whole of the photo albums. Or perhaps it won't be a problem at all. smile

David B.
user 10187480
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 2
Having a Critiquing Album is a good idea but it seems too restrictive to me. It is fine if we have a photo that just doesn't quite seem to work but we're not sure why and are seeking advice.

But there are the albums we have for specific meetups where it seems that most of our photos get posted. In those, I think we could just encourage the use of "C&C welcome" for those who welcome critiques of their photos. Requiring the poster to ask a specific question might filter out lots of potentially useful advice.
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 423
Hi Russ and David,

I agree with you Russ that if there are questions scattered throughout the albums then it could pose a problem for those who are happy to respond to questions -- and it could be difficult to moderate, and for anyone interested in learning it would be difficult to find photos with questions and answers.

And, I agree with David that the photos are posted in response to various challenges and events and it would be a shame to not have them included in their respective albums because the poster has decided that they'd like to ask a question and instead posted it to the Critique Album -- so we would want to encourage members to post in the album specific to the event or challenge as well invite them to post to the Critique album if they have specific questions they would like to pose to the group.

I wonder if there's a compromise situation. I'm really not comfortable with the C&C idea because that opens a free-for all (on photos that have C&C welcome in the comments) and anyone who wants to can provide advice or critique a photo -- which again that means that the comments will need to be moderated.

How does everyone feel if we continue with the way we have been -- encouraging each other with inspiring comments and NO critiques for photos posted on the site -- with the only exception being the addition of a new photo album called "Critiques Requested" where members can post photos and ask for advice, others can answer questions, and where everyone can read and learn?

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