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Hints for writing comments in curation

Big thanks to A Almulla for contributing with these great hints for writing critique! If you follow these guidelines you will surely get a lot of awarded comments in curation which means +20 points and the chance to reach the highest levels.

What is critique?

Critique is not about only finding fault in an image. Its about looking at an image and deciding whats good and whats bad about it. Keep in mind what you write is "your" opinion and what is wrong for you can be right for many others.

As such I find images fall under two categories

  • More good than bad elements
  • More bad than good elements

The main emphasis is “good elements.” If you see a bad picture and can’t find the good elements thats your fault, not the photographer’s, his fault was including more bad elements. So when you critique include whats good. Actually start with whats good.

How to approach an image:

My approach has three parts which I loosely follow. It helps me to have a structured approach and after a while I just go through them without thinking twice, it just becomes natural.

  • Technical aspects
  • Composition
  • Impression

Even with this list I'll write whats good first. Everything good about technical aspects and composition. Once done with those I'll write what I feel looks wrong. So it ends up looking like this:

Good technical, good composition aspects. Then what needs fixing in technical or composition.

Technical Aspects:

  • Focus - Is the image in focus. One issue I see a lot is not understanding focus. What do I mean by it ? Not all images need to be tack sharp, some are good being “sharp enough.” If you don’t understand what I mean then please go look at pictures taken a few decades ago. They are sharp enough. Some compensate lack of sharpness by over sharpening their image which just makes it uglier.
  • Depth of field - Is it shallow or deep.
  • Exposure - Is it over or underexposed. Some images work well being over or underexposed and some don’t. Is it a long exposure.
  • If its a colour photo then is it fine, over or under saturated or is it right for that image.
  • Is there a tint to the colour.
  • Black and white pictures don't have distracting colours and lets you focus on content more.
  • Hows the contrast ?
  • Subject of interest or main subject. Call it whatever but its the first thing that grabs your eye when you see the image or do your eyes jump all over the place and can't identify one.
  • The infamous "rules" that are more guideline than rules. As an example the rule of thirds, the golden triangles, the golden spirals, etc. Have they been applied. Do we need to apply them. Have they been broken and its better not to follow them.
  • How is the foreground, middle area and background? Are they even ? Are they cluttered? Too empty, a dead space? Well balanced in content ?
  • How is the horizon. Is it tilted just by looking at it ? I've seen a dumb comment once where someone put a paper to his monitor to say its crooked my a few millimeters. If it "looks fine" then it is fine. If it looks crooked then it is crooked. Don't grab rulers to look for faults.
  • How are the leading lines ? Does the image have any ? Do they complement our subject ? 
  • Are there are other lines to interpret. Horizontal, vertical, sloped or curved. This might be tough for many to pick out and interpret.
  • Hows the perspective. Does it suit this image and complement it ? This might be another thing thats tough to grasp so pass on it if you can’t pick it out.


This is the toughest part and its here where your comment will shine. The technical aspects and composition will help in conveying your impression. If something was off in the technical or composition parts it would be a good time to suggest them. After writing everything thats good I start a new sentence with something like "However I think you could improve on" or "Yet I feel" and state what could be fixed. Take the circumstances the image was taken in. Asking someone to go right or left while on a ledge is stupid. If the image was taken at the South Pole and you suggest the photographer should move here or there well he may not have another chance to get there. YOU may never go there. Be rational.

An image may have everything right about it and be bad and the other way round is true. A few pictures have so many faults that they all work well together.

Not all pictures tell a story. A photograph is just that, a photograph. A macro shot of the head of a housefly can look great for all the detail and colour but may not have a story.

A common shortcoming is interpreting mood. The sensation you get when seeing an image. Did that picture of a giggling baby make you happy? How about that picture of war, did it make you angry or mad ?

Did you like the picture or not ?

Close your comment with something constructive. I'd love someone telling me I did something wrong then gives me a pat on the back for doing something right. Wouldn't you?


''Do we have to make [a] critique for curating?''

Only if you choose to contribute something that might be of value to the people submitting images.

"...where I explain why I think the curator's comments [as part of] voting is unnecessary"".

What's so: The people that run the site deliberately set it up to reward useful commentary or a valued critique. Unless you contribute something that is valued (by the rating system controlled by others), one can't advance up through the ranks of curatorship.

Since the commentary section is intentional, I would assume that is an expression of what this site is about; i.e. learning and growth as artists. I am squarely in the camp that values such contributions. Besides, why is it valuable to only guess at the mysterious criteria that is used to select images from a bunch of isolated people with vastly divergent thoughts, philosophies and approaches? Personally speaking, voting in isolation seems a odd thing to do rather than openly learning from each other so that we can learn and grow as artists.

I would suggest that it is all too easy and comfortable to define what our approaches are and to freeze those assumptions, to hang onto styles that feel good and all manner of cluttered ideas that we don't like challenged. We are hard-wired to want comfortable patterns of existence in order to safely predict the future; one of the many impacts of that is that results in copying what is popular or trendy which usually feels great because that too is a pattern. That may have been very useful back when we were cavemen to help us survive, but they are now obstacles to artistic learning and growth. One of the most valuable aspects of this site is the vastly different views, insights, distinctions, concepts and principles that are presented and discussed. I have had my assumptions tested and had to distinguish new concepts and insights to refine visual principles to explain what I'm seeing and to understand what the inputs really meant. In that process I eliminated many things that I thought were useful, but weren't, and I was able to test out new insights that are far more valuable to me.

Many will crave rules and traditional systems because they impose order or are comfortable; but that too is an obstacle and limitation to transformation, innovation, creativity and growth. As messy as an international debate is, I'm all for the benefits. We are now in a new age of social media without physical boundaries were rapid evolution is the norm. I'm excited to see where this all goes and believe that the synergy of contribution from everyone is greater than any one contributor. And I look forward to being challenged and having things shook-up along the path; what good is a believe system, philosophy or approach unless it is ruthlessly tested? ;-]

Hi everybody! I am following this post in the blog since the beginning and I must praise everybody for the participation in this discussion and good contributes. Abdul had the generosity to contribute with many valuable ideas and wrote a very detailed text about his approach to critique. Little by little many others added and contributed with their valuable ideas to make this Hints a better document, I also remember the extensive and important comments of some experienced members of the site. I am glad the title says "Hints" and not "Guidelines" (yes, they are not the same) but I am also afraid that in the future the moderators who evaluate the comments use it as guidelines. I will try to explain why. Different people mean different mind and processes. We are trying to evaluate photography as an art expression and art is (hopefully!) a very subjective world. Phyllis (who was a previous SC and mod) wrote also some valuable ideas and hints how she approaches to this subject. Interesting is that I do feel my mental process is closer to Phyllis' approach, starting with artistic aspects and then considering others. We are talking about art evaluation and I think we must have the latitude and freedom to use different approaches and analysis. Different ways of commenting cannot be considered less valuable and less evaluated only if they do not follow what the hints suggested. I know that nobody here said we must follow these hints, but I see some danger in this process. If we all start following the same hints and using the same mind process... well you all know what I mean :-) ... I am talking of freedom, creativity, ideas, diversity, a more colourful world, etc. Critique means a detailed analysis and assessment of something. Do we have to make critique for curating? Or better, if we must do it in someway do we have to write it in a curating comment? I do not think so, and here others referred so many times that critique has its own space in 1x. Sometimes we do not have to write much for a curator comment is a good or very good one, only the right things. Furthermore, if the founders want to find future curators I guess they know already who are the good prospective curators. It will be only a question of time, clicks and awards. And of course the special L3 endorsements that will be the most difficult :-) As a matter of fact I must say since I read this post with the hints I felt a bit stuck on my comments and I guess I made so few comments because I am afraid I do not comply with the hints. I know that's a problem of mine that I will have to overcome :-) Just to finish I'd like to say I wrote some suggestions for the curator portal in the forum ("The best thing about curation") where I explain why I think the curators comments voting is unnecessary. I am not repeating it but I would like to include another aspect that is also related with this topic of curating. Everybody who use to curate had surely the same problem of reading previous good comments on a photo that seem that already said the essential. And for not being repetitive many do not comment where there are already very good comments of others. That is why I think it would be better to make the curator comments invisible to others, and the voting on the curator comments should only be done by moderators.
This is well written and I agree with all the points.
Thanks to Almulla for his suggestions about how to make critiques. If we observed how the conversation started, we can understand Almulla's great contribution to this site and to the topic. His proposal of a structured aproach in making comments helped many members (including myself) rethink the way they write comments in the "Curate" section. I could see the result in that area a few weeks ago, although many others, including moderators, made that happen together. On the other hand, I feel the order of reading a picture in the proposal may be reversed: starting from Impression, then go to Technique. In my opinion, we may want to begin with the evaluation of artistic achievements, then analyze the relevant (not all) technical elements that helped. However, Almulla's foundmental point is still important, that is, everyone who makes comments needs to think carefully how he should approach the task in order to help fellow members more effectively. Every one may have his own approach, but everyone needs to be friendly, serious, and responsible. I also agree with many of Zane's points, especially those about how to screen works for publication (that is related to analyzing artistic achievements). I would first see whether the picture brings something extraordinary, or creates something extraordinary out of the ordinary. Being perfect or beautiful is not sufficient (certainly being extraordinary alone is not sufficient either). This is my first criteria in filtering out works for publication. If the work does not pass that criteria, our comments can address that (we can still start with positive sides). We can continue to talk about other aspects in Critique section, but it can be optional in the Curate section because the main reason for rejection is analyzed. My point here is this, what and how we comment on a work can be different, depending on what is meaningful.

There are some issues to debate and resolve here.

  • Most people tend to be sensitive about getting criticism if it is unsolicited. Some will chose to be hurt, angry and defensive in response to commentary. But this site has never been about mere platitudes and egos, it is about celebrating the expressive art.
  • The Critique section is of course populated people that have ASKED for input so are usually in a more receptive frame of mind to receive criticism. I've found that the vast majority are usually thankful for the insights that they get from so many sources. I will commend Robert for moderating to ask people to state WHY they like it or not. I believe that to be an important aspect of the learning and growth process.
  • I'm also a host at another web site and have setup actual coaching sessions that will dig very deep into specific topics and ask the people to do a series of exercises. Those have been a lot of fun and usually produce all sorts of interesting and useful insights. They remain for others to read and learn from so they can have broad value. The downside is that most people are not that dedicated and committed to learning and growing as artists so tend to shy away from being that vulnerable and open. Basically it takes a bit of courage and ego resilience to be vulnerable in front of a broad audience of hundreds and possibly more. I've proposed that as a possibility here and it hasn't got any traction.
  • Then there is the goals and mission of the site. How can those be best served?
    • Personally, I find it very frustrating (even maddening) to not understand WHY an image didn't make it into the galleries. I value the conversation, learning and growth over whatever damage that might do to my ego by 100 to 1.
    • I'm in the camp that would suggest that the criteria to get into the galleries should be made plain in a section of the site for all to see.
    • Also, the curation process should get feedback over time to guide and refine the criteria, concepts and principles that are used to select images. That can only occur by collecting the comments, making them widely available and testing the underlying the concepts and principles that guide them.
    • Doing the above promotes both ART and a CONVERSATION that strategically promotes artistic expression. In a world that has become boldly social across the planet, this is mainstream, useful and appropriate. Great art has always been at the center of learning and the debates around it since the renaissance; we need more conversations about artistic expression, not less. This site should also be about learning and growth. That is an inherently messy process, but so be it; that is what is needed to attain greatness and to promote photographic art.
Agree 99% what Martin and and Hans Martin Doelz are saying - But there is no need to create new names/titles. Just get rid of the "comments during curation" - possibility. however the "publish/ dont publish" options used by members could still be used to create some kind of "preselection" - which would free the official curators .... The perfect place for extensive critics already exists: CRITIQUE is the place for this. Just rename the member title "L1 to L8 CURATOR" with "L1 to L8 CRITIQUE"or even better "L1 to L8 COACH" like Martin is suggesting. Still leave it optional - But give the Award points to useful critiques - Issue solved - everybody happy. The perfect framework created by A Almullah can be used for this. The Format should be similar to all critiques - based on the "critique 101" i.e.: 1. IMPRESSION 2.TECHNICAL ASPECTS 3. COMPOSITION I would add as final Headline: 4, PUBLICATION ON FRONT PAGES Here the critique can write in short a conclusion why he would "publish" or "reject"
Agree with Martin. To avoid any possibility of confusion, especially for those who are not familiar with the curation procedure here at, it would make more sense to label those who write critics during curation as reviewers.
These instructions are great if you want to run a photography workshop for beginners, but I can't see what this has to do with curating anything. Here is the definition from MW: Full Definition of CURATOR : one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially : one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit The curator's job is to make sure that the exhibition space is filled with interesting and relevant content. It is not a photography curator's job to tell people how to make decent pictures, it is his or her job to pick the good ones and reject the bad ones. Normally curators only provide a yes/no answer. If you are looking for more detail, a normal comment in a curatorial meeting would explain why it should be rejected, e.g. 'off topic' or 'technically inadequate' or 'good idea but poor execution' or 'common' etc. You guys aren't looking for curators, you are looking for someone to encourage beginners, teach them the basics of photography, etc. That’s all good and well, but calling them curators just creates confusion and raises incorrect expectations. Your chances of getting the types of comments you want will go up dramatically if you replace Curator with Coach or Instructor or some other term that suggests you are supposed to help the submitters rather than please the gallery visitors.

I found the hints for writing curation comments admirable to start a conversation on the subject and I'm all for testing and debating concepts, principles and approaches.

The hints list is similar to many other attempts I've read on the web to list whatever it is that we should consider; all good stuff. But it's ''conventional wisdom'' it doesn't go far enough and here's my thoughts on the matter.

If one were to take the majority of the very nice images that get submitted here (on the most premier photography web gallery on the planet), then run them through the list as a filter then most all of them would be admitted.... then the place would be clogged with way, way too many images. Then it wouldn't be a premier gallery anymore. Here's the basic challenge: Several years ago, I read that there were 58 billion images posted and shared on the internet that year. The number is growing rapidly too. That is a mind numbing 1,600 to 2,000+ images a SECOND! That is a tsunami of images by any measure. So we need a new and deeper set of insights and distinctions to boil down what gets admitted and to explain why so few but exquisite images actually get published here. After getting many of what I believed to be my own 'damned good images' shot down (without any explanation which was maddening when I can't learn why) I then set about studying and trying to distinguish what could be learned with the goal of being able to use and apply those concepts to further the artistic or expressive power of my own imagery. Here's an overview or summary of what I think are useful insights and distinctions.

The images that get published are either UNIQUE or an ORIGINAL INTERPRETATION of things that are not unique.

That is probably the most vexing and challenging characteristic to wrestle with for any artist and as far as I can tell the final images have those characteristics in spades. It also quickly filters out a huge number of images. Given the tsunami of imagery out there generated by biggest number of photographers in history it is also one of the most important to consider given that it is human nature to mimic and copy each other as we are so attuned to the pattern of what is popular and ''cool''.

I will emphatically say that ''good'', ''bad'' ''right'' or ''wrong'' are not useful concepts, ever. What is useful is to focus on what is more expressive. That endeavor drives my thinking and I've given it a lot of thought, diving deep down the rabbit hole on that one to find things that are useful.

''What's so'' is that there is a tsunami of images and perhaps even a majority could be said to be ''beautiful'' or 'pretty''. But is that sufficient for the galleries? No, otherwise the place would be clogged with the 'merely beautiful' images that can also be vague. What is more engaging, compelling and inspiring is to tell what I've come to refer to as a ''visial story''. In the simplest form it requires clarity of concepts and to be aware of what one is trying to actually express. The basic components are to have very well defined and clear primary subject that has a RELATIONSHIP to it's supporting context. That works well for landscapes and environmental portraits. Many images have poorly defined primary subjects or context and both are needed to be optimally expressive.

Every image needs a clear frame of reference so that we can understand it. The most basic is to be clear about the genre so that we can begin to interpret what we are looking at. The reason is also that different genre have different criteria for what makes them expressive. Abstracts for instance seem to be judged purely on their compositions at the expense of all the usual criteria that could be applied.

There are a list of things that I will dig into that most comfortably fall under the category of composition. What most don't seem to understand is that the composition is one of many ''expressive strategies'' to support the expressive vision or intent. And that it needs to be based on a deep understanding of how our perceptions work.

Then there is the concept that the images that get admitted to the galleries are essentially free of distractions, another way of saying that they are practically flawless. That then digs into what exactly is distracting? As an example, ''Perceptual order'' is a principle that needs to reinforce the intended expression and what the primary subject is. This is a deep subject by itself.

Each of those areas are worthy of exploration, debate and to distinguish what the principles and concepts are. I'm a big believer of focusing on concepts and principles with the goal of developing a toolbox for artist's to use. It is a ''visual language'' and without language we are just blundering about with trial and error. Concepts occur in language. When out shooting that is managed by the visual/spatial parts of the brain that have absolutely NO language. There is a massive disconnect in that and it also explains why photographers struggle so hard to even talk about what we do with much clarity or common understandings. I would propose that we be clear about concepts and use that to drive our expressions rather than trying to apply them after the fact. That hold a great deal of potential to enable us all to improve and grow as artists.



These hints created by A Almullah - you may call it ''conventional wisdom'' - at least help to get the critics written on 1X to a more constructive level. That was the task of his exercise. He managed this on a usable level for all members writing critics on the site. Whereas your "personal wisdom" based on principles and concepts is really interesting and partly agreeable but in my opinion not usable as it stands. So - what are you suggesting? How should useful critics look like ?
Yes...I think we could all use a brief summary and a touch of clarity on this post by Zane. Could we get a more direct statement of what you are proposing? This sentence is quite vague, " I would propose that we be clear about concepts and use that to drive our expressions rather than trying to apply them after the fact. " It is not an issue with you Zane, just the readers who are trying to understand what you are saying :) It is a very important post you have created with some very deep (but true and relevant) content. You speak of a more philosophical analysis of imagery and artwork that requires a level of insight that most in curation will not address, especially with the English language being a barrier for many. I myself enjoy speaking through this "deeper" lens in my analyses however I am still wondering if this kind of writing belongs in the curation comments. There seems to be a bit of a divide or misunderstanding with some on what curation comments should involve or if they have a purpose at all. Some ask, why not leave comments to the FP and critique? I am torn.
Thanks Zane for the details and showing its a more complex process. My intention is to not appear condescending, this is the internet and things get interpreted wrong with whatever goodwill someone might have. I'm sorry if what I say next sounds simple but its the best way I can explain it. I learn to say and read ABCs. Then I learn how to write ABCs. Then I make the words. Eventually I learn to write a book with all the complicated grammar and words I know. Thats how I learned to read images, I started with basics and moved on. I find the critique section useful because I can open a dialogue with the photographer if he so wishes. In the member's curation section I get access to seeing tons of images. On a bad day I know what images are cliche and try to avoid submitting something similar. On a good day I get inspired by an image or two because they are different. I personally don't care if what I write is useful for the official curators, it helps me understanding that image. SorryforthemillionswhosendinadockleadingintoalakeimagethatlookslikethelastonethousandIsawandlikethenextonethousandIwillseebutIwontcommentonthemunlessomethingstandsout.
Thanks for the support everyone. Even with this trimmed down version I still feel its a wall of text. As Phyllis pointed out there is no one right way but there is a wrong way. As Phyllis, Ben and Peter already mentioned there are many more aspects to consider, some haven't been mentioned yet and some would be too long to mention and a few too difficult to explain in a simple format. What I write in curation is my thought process as I read a picture, more of notes to myself. In the Critique section its a little different, its notes to someone else and tends to be longer and can end with a discussion. Also in the Critique section I avoid pictures in genres I know little about or haven't attempted.
Even in member curation you can avoid to comment if you tont feel confident about the genre - Just press "publish" or "tont publish" - It says "extensive Critique - OPTIONAL" - And the critique as well is a note attention the photographier who is Sendung the photo - just like in "send for critique" BUT has a different effect > in critique they want feedback - in member curation they feel like your critique is big part of the reason why the photo is not getting published - another reason for leaving critiques in "send for critique", dont you think so?
I just think of curation comments and critique section as being similar but not the same. In one you try and convey "a personal opinion" why an image may or may not get accepted and in the other you also share "a personal opinion" again on how to make a photo better. Similar but not the same. If the wording gets changed from "Write extensive critique here (optional)" to "Write your opinion about the image (optional)" it might clear up the misunderstanding but knowing human nature, some will accept it and others will still hate it. As long as the commentator has the intention of helping explain why an image is likely or unlikely to get published and the photographer has an open mind in accepting reasonable feedback then everything works out. It's partly why I feel this is a community.
So what you are saying is this "critique 101" is meant to be used for the critique section - not for "member curation" ?
The intention is a simple format on reading images, although this is applied mostly for critiquing it can be applied to any image a reader comes across even in a magazine. What the reader does with the info is another matter and how they present it for a particular situation.
Understand - But please answer my question
Already appreciated strongly Abdulmosens great efforts on creating critiques more structured, meaningful and constructive. Some comments ( especially from Phyllis and Peter ) about the question if users should be able to chose if they want "critique" during curation made me come back. I would go even further and leave "member critique" where it belongs and makes perfect sense: in the section "send for critique" - everybody who believes he needs assistance can choose this great option - as well it is a great "test run" for all of us while not being sure if we should send it to curation. Based on the feedback from fellow members we can decide if we try to publish or create a "better" version before sending for curation. The effect of having higher quality of photos sent to curation and free the professional curators from a decent amount of photos to evaluate would be some positive side effect. To limit member curation just chosing "publish" or "dont publish" could also be used to make some kind of preselection for the official curators. THESE THOUGHTS ARE BASED ON THE FACT WHAT MAKES THIS GREAT SIDE A SPECIAL PLACE: THE THOUGHTFUL SELECTION MADE BY THE OFFICIAL CURATORS. frustrating - I prefer the term challenging - this may from time to time. For good reasons we never exactly know the detailled reasons why photos dont get published - but I strongly believe this final step of curation and as well the reasoning should stay like it is. Cheers Timido
I think if a user does not want to read a comment on their photo in curation then I suggest... don't read the comments. Quite a simple solution. Not meaning to be offensive but why give an opt out option when you can simply choose to not read them? However I believe in the end curation comments may be creating more negative than positive. Let's keep the points but transfer that over to the 'critique' section ONLY. Curate section then becomes using 'publish' and 'reject' buttons only. I propose 1 point for every 10 photos voted on and 500 points for each published photo. And lastly, apply these points to every published photo any user has had since 1x existed and recalculate the scores based on the new scoring system. Thoughts?
or even 1p for every 5 photos voted on. Either way I think we all know it has to be reduced to some degree. Ultimately I think the most important thing is that the photographers get recognized. Even if we keep the current scoring system I feel the points must be applied to the beginning of 1x in terms of published photos. It is not fair that members who are active just recently are being recognized while those who have hundreds of published photos and still lurk the site but do not participate in curation are not being fairly awarded. I understand one must have a balance of both to be on top and I see the importance of putting emphasis on helping in the community via the curate system but please, these long time members should not be devalued.
Thank you so much for your carefully-written article, which makes me rethink how to write useful and helping critiques, also teach me a lesson how to shoot better photos from photographer's point of view. Big thanks to you!
Wonderful write up Abdulmohsen, I was grateful for that in forum and would like to repeat that here. Your thoughts will help many new members to learn and help to learn and improve their photographical skills. Many thanks
Timido asks two posts below for a Senior Critic to give their thoughts about how to Critique a photo. Having been a SC for a number of years I would like to answer his question as best I can. One of the first things I learned as SC is that each SC has a different way to approach assessing a photograph. If you have several SC's working at the same time, this becomes quite positive for the recipients because in the end - these thoughts we will offer are opinions and not fact. So it is helpful to hear from more than one person. My own experience tells me that the types of issues Peter has raised below are critical to providing a valuable critique. This becomes especially true if the photographer has some experience as of course is the actual case here at 1x. In fact, many submitting photos for Curation here are professionals. I believe we can have instructions which include both the ideas of Abdul and also those that Peter has mentioned. In fact, I think it is critical if one is hoping to give a meaningful critique. My own approach is start by being quiet and allowing the photo to speak to me. If after looking I have nothing positive to say about this photo, I move on to another one. Why? After so many years what I have come to realize is that even though I may not see something positive, someone else will. Moving on seems like common sense to me because if my aim is to help someone, as best I can - I will not be accomplish this if I cannot get the recipients attention. If all they see is a string of negativity about their work, you have probably lost them. They will become defensive (even if you do not hear it) and the valuable things you might have to offer will be lost. After my initial impression I then begin to notice all the things Peter has mentioned. These are the things that I will write about. I want the photographer to know what has 'touched' me in their photograph....This is important because even if there are many technical issues - perhaps those can be corrected. What cannot be added later so easily are the artistic elements. I try to look at a photo not just with my head, but with my own inner life and life experiences. If it is a portrait, this may be an emotional reaction - so tell your recipient..what you feel. If it is an architectural photo I may be interested in the place, time of ask questions...Any photo that causes me to think - for me - is a great photo. What am I thinking, wondering, questioning in a photo that is conceptual or has mood...share these thoughts etc.. The technical issues come only when I have given careful thought to the artistic approach of what i am looking at. Why? Because in the end if the impact is not there, it usually is not because a horizon is not straight. Something else is try to pose questions that you have which may get the recipient to think...'with' you. Never become defensive. Not ever, and not under any circumstances. If your recipient becomes defensive - listen to them, and open a dialogue with them. You may not change your mind about their photo, but you may gain a friend. Try not to say - Do this...change this....don't do that... Instead try, Would you consider..... I have an idea - see what you think... Always have a reasoned argument for your suggestions because if you do not - this means you have not thought them through...For example, The color is terrible...I can't see her face...I don't like the focus...You must give some plausible reason why you believe these things to be true. Once again, this gives the recipient more to think about. End with brief summary....of what you have written....and always try to pick out at least one thing that you truly like about the photo ..and again give a reasoned argument for it...Try not say..I like the light....instead ask yourself what about this particular light do I like? Then write that. These are just a few things..there is much more. But the blog is not the place for 10,000 words...:) Also consider this. A critique is really for the critique section where you can speak to the recipient...back and forth. Writing comments in member curation may be quite different, in that you are writing not only for the photographer but also to gain points for yourself. Writing a useful critique takes time and effort and must come from truly wanting to help. Remember to be kind.
Excellent explanations, Phyl. I can agree in every word. In my experience in reading many comments and critiques your statement "Writing comments in member curation may be quite different, in that you are writing not only for the photographer but also to gain points for yourself. Writing a useful critique takes time and effort and must come from truly wanting to help" is very important as sometimes I assume, some comments are written for points and not for helping.
Excellent summarised Phyl, thanks
Great writing Abdulmohsem:-) With a long experience with professional photographers, being jury in many photo contest, and now 6 years official curator. It's not only the technique who does it, but the "soul', the mood, the light, the expression, the concept, the story, the impact, the different POV and the artistic component who make it interesting and were/are mostly the winners. It's only when the picture don't have this, we automatic start picking on technical mistakes. When a photo speaks, move me stronly, but has a big technical mistake, I will contact the photographer to repair it. What i also miss in curation, is a tittle (or information) who is a + value in most cases! Who would better understand the why of the photo and the photographer. I agree also that the Critique Section is a better place, to give the photographer, who wishes advise with more interaction. (I remember V2 where we could download the image make the corrections and could add this image in attachment!!!!!) P.S.: I'm not good in English writing and prefer to express myself with pictures.
Phyllis - impressive summary - nothing not to agree on - if all critiques would be as thoughtful and constructive like you are proposing there would not be an issue. Unfortunately there are even a lot of members and even one SC I know of who dont understand the term "constructive criticism" - For fellow members it is understandable - their "task" and abilitiy is the creation of wonderful photos we find every day on the Front Page and in the portfolios on this great site - unfortunately many still feel the urge of climbing up the popularity letter by creating critiques - even if thex shouldnt. This even more a reason why the "critique 101" from Abdulmohsem is a great step forward. Still believing "critiques" should stay in "sending for critique" and not at all in "member curation" - please see my comment above
popularity ladder - not popularity letter - sorry
Thank you Phyllis for speaking up. This was helpful for me on several points. Very well said. I have an honest question, hypothetically if curation comments no longer become a place for critique then what does it become? Just a place to praise the photo? But isn't that what the FP is for? I guess I am just confused... if we keep critiquing only in the 'critique' section then what becomes of curation comments? Maybe curation comments should not exist at all. Thoughts? Answers? Thank you.
Thank you very much for taking your precious time and sharing your thoughts dear Phyllis, your hints are very helpful for each one of us and we all should to keep them in mind when writing a critics. Your two last sentences tell it all...the critic should truly help. I would like to add that there should be primarily an intention to help and not to gain any points by sharing an opinion and giving useful suggestions ...Thanks a lot.
Phyllis' approach in art critique makes a lot sense to me. In reading an art work, we may need to start with the impact the image made upon us, then analyze the technical aspects that helped, or failed to help, generate that impact.
Really a comprehensive guidelines Abdulmuhsen. I appreciate your time and an effort you put in it. I am pretty sure they will help in writing a critics comments. Nevertheless...It miss some quite important attributes for me. The most important are: - the assessment of the LIGHT, and the light management in the picture, -also the assessment of the ARTISTIC APROACH, AESTETHICS, an INTERACTION OF SUBJECTS in the picture, - indicate DISTURBING ELEMENTS within the frame, - chosen WAY OF PROCESSING ( bw conversion, hdr, etc..), if it fits or not..., -also a " spirit " and MESSAGE of the picture are the main attributes for me.... You know, I often read some reactions like why there was not a particular picture published if it is technically perfect and well composed...? The answer could be that it still miss something. Something very important. Something we cannot define...but still missing... The one who is able to define it and to find a solution to this question in his own photography is on the best way to become a great photographer. How to improve this sense of feeling of the right moment and atmosphere to get an outstanding result? Personally, if I see some "spirit" in photography I do not care if the edges are perfectly sharp or composition rules followed. Let me be honest guys. I think it will be not easy to get the critics comments based on such a guidelines as I recently read some... Very important is also to reconsider an artistic vision and an intention of the author. Suitability of use and application of all those mentioned attributes in the list will depend especially on the genre and on the taste of writer . All of those considered attributes are not the same in street, landscapes, portrait, sport or architecture...I am pretty sure what I mean. Hope the members participating in curation will always give helpful critics and will not mislead an author. It would be a pity. I am writing my words just based on my own observation as I went through some suggestions. And also..I suggest to give the author a possibility to disable members critics comments during the screening. Someone maybe just wants to send his picture to official curators and needs nothing more... My 2 cents...
I know exactly what you mean; spirit, soul, mojo, magic, tough to explain but comes with time. As far as other components, I have left them out for the sake of simplicity. If someone gets intrigued and delves deeper he'll find a whole new way of reading images. Some genres I don't even comment on because I feel my knowledge is superficial and more comfortable with others that I have tried in the past.
Peter I agree with what you have posted and have written some additional thoughts in the post above this one. What I wanted to say here is with regard to your last thought I agree completely. I think a check off box would be helpful and let each person decide whether or not they want comments. There is still a critique section which I have used a good deal over the years and have received great help. So if the Official curators do not publish my photo and I want help, I have often sent it there. So, yes think this should be optional.
Thanks for the write up. I make a terrible writer (that's why I take photos), but this will give me a starting point if I decide to get into curating more.
Great to see the improvements in this area - A big TANK YOU" to A Almulla for creating this CRITIQUE 101 - Really looking forward to see the short, sometimes offending critiiques will make place for more constructive citicism. This great site is the wrong place for comments using words like "good"/ "bad" and "you must..." or critiques where members even get forced to follow "concepts" of critiques who ask them to make adjustments with the result of completely different outcomes. Just thought it would be a good idea to hear what our senior critique team members can add to the disscussion - their great experience is more than valued and surely will help - just sent a message attention Kirk Cypel, FrankBa and Zane Paxton inviting them to participate
Hi Timido, Thanks for asking for the thoughts of Senior Critics. I am answering because I was a SC for two years. Then I volunteered as a Moderator - in Ver 2 and continued to write Critiques. So that would be three years of writing long critiques with remakes of photos. I believe Abdul is correct in pointing out that how the guidelines are written is important, and I want to compliment much of what he has written. It is a good start to get people thinking about the most basic ways to have the recipient not be turned off by what you will write. I will write some thoughts above.
Wow, it got on the blog. I didn't expect that. Thank you. It keeps getting adjusted but I think what I have there is the simplified version on how to approach an image. I'm no expert its what learned on the way.
Thank you, Abdulmuhsen! This is very detailed and helpful. Like Anne, I too am glad to see you talk about the importance of find "good" in a photo. We must remember that everyone here is proud of their work and must always find respectful ways to help photographers better their craft.
Exactly, Darlene. This is what I had meant to say below but I got carried away :) haha. thank you.
Abdulmuhsen - thank you so much for your time and effort writing these critique guidelines. I am particularly glad to see you mention the importance of speaking about the good elements in an image. Opening with positive thoughts is a way to make someone receptive to your opinions.
Thank Abdul. I think if most users can include even half of these details, there will be an improvement in the community. It will help me be more thorough as well, I think there is always more that could be said. The only piece of this I feel a bit lost on is the introduction regarding 'good' and 'bad' photos. For me (as you hinted at) that is extremely subjective. Especially regarding art, who is to say it is good or bad? So I feel maybe there needs to be some rewording on that'd to be more clear but a bit less blunt - If a photo is unpleasing to your eye, state why this is so (addressing both the specific element and how it pertains to the entire composition) and how that may be improved - something along those lines. I believe we should try too avoid such generalizations as 'good' and 'bad.' and remember, the artist who uploaded the photo uploaded it full well knowing the technical and artistic elements they've applied (for the most part) so if the entire photo seems bright and washed out for example... there is probably a reason they did this as they were trying to achieve a specific mood. If you feel it could have been implemented differently or in a way that would improve the composition then state it as extensively as possible. What is the sense in saying 'this is too bright, I don't like that.'? that does nothing for anyone. We need to be thorough but also remember that this is artwork, there are general rules that some may follow (others not) but in the end there is no 'wrong or right', 'good or bad'. Only your subjective feelings about the image. Please reply to me if you'd like, I think there is more to be discussed here. Again, I don't mean to criticize or be offensive to anyone, only to contribute my thoughts and help.
Sorry for my rant Abdul. What I mean to really say is thank you for taking the time to write this! We continue to grow as a community from your contributions :)
Hi Ben. When I wrote it I kept in mind not everyone who reads English would be fluent in it. Think of the post as Critique 101. If something sounds offensive I can definitely change it.
that is true. makes sense my friend.
These hints are very helpful indeed, thank you Abdulmoshen. They are valid not only in curation but also in “Critique”. Maybe a link to the suggestions on the Photo Critique front page would allow more members to profit from them.