If you’re like me, whenever you find something you like doing you wonder in the back of your mind whether or not you’re good at it, or if you could take it further. For anyone who counts photography as a hobby, this concern is always bubbling up. Even if friends and family say that your digital photography is good, they could be saying that because they’re expected to you know they lied about how great that red sweater looked once you took it out of the store. One solution is to ask a professional photographer for a photo critique.
What is a Photo Critique?
A photo critique is a detailed look at a photo or a group of photos. The person critiquing should point out what they like and don’t like about the work, and offer suggestions for improvement. It can be tough to hear that your photography isn’t perfect as is, but the reality is even the pros receive criticism. This is art, after all, and what one person thinks is excellent another wouldn’t look at twice. If you’re thinking about asking for a photo critique, make sure you’re ready to hear the bad along with the good before moving forward.
Who Can You Ask?
The best people to ask for photo critiques are professional photographers. A professional photographer is more than a hobbyist; a real pro makes all, or at least a substantial part, of his or her living doing photography. If you want to receive feedback about your portraits of friends and family, look for a portrait photographer, and if you’re primarily working on art photography, look for a photographer who sells prints. It’s best to find a photographer whose style or goals are similar to your own. An architectural photographer might not be a helpful choice if you mostly photograph wilderness landscapes.
Where Do You Find a Pro for Critiques?
Personally, I don’t think that anyone should have to pay for a critique, whether it’s on digital photography, story writing, cooking anything! However, most of the easy to find photography critique offers involve purchasing a critique session. Most of the people I know who tried this walked away disappointed, not necessarily because their photography was insulted but because they did not get a lot for what they paid.
Instead, I would recommend contacting photographers in your area and asking if they could spare half an hour to go over your portfolio and offer guidance. Just make sure that you are completely prepared (that is, all of your prints are in the order you want to show them, clearly labeled, and professionally presented in a binder or portfolio holder). While many photographers are willing to do this, the reality is that many pros might not have the time or interest, so be prepared for rejection outright.
Another avenue you can try is using group critique websites. Not all of the critiques you will receive on these sites will be from professionals, but many professionals frequent these forums to keep tabs on trends and new artists, so it’s worth a shot. Try The Gathering of Photographers or Critique This! on Flickr, or the stand alone site photoSIG.
Whichever way you choose, keep in mind that the point of asking for a digital photography critique is to find out what you can do to make your photos better, not just what you already do well. Photography as a hobby is a constant learning process, and a well done photography critique should move you to improve.