Become a better photographer by constructively commenting on other people’s work.
If we are to progress as photographers we need to understand the structure of visual design (the building blocks of a picture as Freeman Patterson would describe it) and have a suitable vocabulary to enable us to communicate what we think and feel about the photograph being discussed.
I have a friend Dr David Cooke ARPS who is a very successful international exhibitor who says he learnt more about his photography by thinking about and commenting on other people’s work on Forums than most other forms of learning. I see the activity of commenting on other people’s work as part of the tool kit that enables the commenter to ask them self “what is the criteria for my comments?” Just this one question like this will open up a whole gallery of doors for enquiry and learning.
In order to help us along this road I have set out a few thoughts.
What are the benefits of commenting on other people’s work?
- It sharpens your own visual analysis skills
- Helps you go beyond the surface to understand the why and because
- A chance to offer praise and encouragement
- You can pass on skills and experience
It is generally thought by participating photographers that comments by other photographers will produce a negative judgement; however the intent is to fully investigate the subject matter, subject/meaning, and the presentation of ideas found in the photograph. The Commenter is not passing on a judgement whether they like the photograph or not, they are merely passing on what the photograph communicates to them and the value and relevance of that communication.
We are all poor at assessing our own work so the views of others can be beneficial when presented in a constructive way.
How to comment
It is always a positive step to begin by pointing out aspects of the picture that work well. It is helpful to other less experienced photographers to say why something works. It may be oblivious to you but the why and because portion of a sentence is the useful for learning purposes.
Where enhancements to the presented picture can be visualised it is beneficial to begin by saying “Have you thought about”… or “What about?”
When commenting it is very easy to cut the chase and present what appears to be an overly negative view of the picture by not doing the preamble of saying what is right and why. Balance is required when passing on your thoughts. For the picture above “Pool Showers” I could comment equally strongly for and against this picture. Therefore your reasoned and balanced views will be appreciated by others.
As a pointer the pros and cons of a picture the following aspects can be discussed: seeing, the purpose of the picture, artistic interpretation and technical choices with the camera or post processing.
I hope this post has been helpful and that you are encouraged to give commenting on other people’s works a go.
A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog this week.
(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2012