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General DiscussionsSuggested changes to the critique section to enhance education

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Duck
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Suggested changes to the critique section to enhance education

Post by Duck » Tue May 15, 2018 1:52 pm

Like many here, there are several YouTube instructors I respect and follow on a regular basis. For me, the educational value has to be high to devote time and energy. High at the top of my list are such people as Unmesh Dinda of PixImperfect, Ted Forbes of the Art of Photography and TogChat with Joe Edelman.

Joe Edelman, in particular, has a straight forward, no nonsense approach to teaching where he has no patience for "lazy photographers". He has brought his brand from the typical how-to channel to a true teaching channel where takes a hands on approach to teaching on a more personal level, integrating Facebook with his YouTube channel.

While he is known as a fashion and model photographer (of which I am not) I find his philosophy and approach to photography inspiring and refreshing. I also like how he has approached online teaching by setting and adhering to very specific and strict rules on how his members submit work to be critiqued. Rules I think are important enough to look at and implement in our own community. Here is a paraphrased breakdown;
  • A critique is for the betterment of the photographer, not the ego of the photographer (or the critic). No 'attaboys', no 'opinions', no "what do you think"
  • The burden of learning should be on the person submitting for critique, not to the person giving the critique. This is a tough one to grasp but it makes sense in a non standard teaching environment where there are so many voices chiming in on any given image.
  • Submitting an image for critique should be accompanied by a problem that needs solving. In other words, what issue did the photographer experience that needs addressing. This is the one I feel strongly about and would like to see implemented here on photoMENTORIS.
  • Critiques should help address the problem and move the photographer's knowledge forward.
As I mentioned, Joe has strict rules for his members and that includes on how images are submitted for review. Each image has to have a certain amount of information accompany it. Camera settings (shutter, aperture, ISO), equipment used (camera, lens, flash, modifiers, etc.), what was the goal of the image and was that goal met and finally, what issues did you encounter that you want feedback on. What is avoided, and highly frowned on, are open "C&C welcomed" comments. I agree that open questions like that do not help the posting photographer nor does it give any idea on what the critic should focus on. Without direction, critiques tend to go all over the place, reduce down to opinions (and we all know what opinions are all about), and many times leave people more confused than they started.

My proposal, then, is to implement some 'rules' for when a member submits an image for critique. In that way the photographer can receive an answer to their problem and people chiming in can focus on offering a specific solution to the problem. Of course this does not stop people from offering alternate critiques, specially if someone of greater experience sees another issue that may not have been addressed by the original poster.

To see how all this works practically just visit Joe Edelman' TOG CHAT group on Facebook. His system really works well and is a model we should seriously look at implementing here.

What are your thoughts?
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Post by Matt Quinn » Tue May 15, 2018 3:38 pm

Duck, I like the idea. Implementing it may benefit from a trial run, though. I don't have a Facebook account; can I visit TOG CHAT without one? And thanks for the tutorial on PS; been busy with other stuff at the moment so have not dipped into it but will give it a go next week. Matt
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Post by minniev » Tue May 15, 2018 4:56 pm

Thanks Duck for starting an interesting conversation.

I confess to mixed feelings about tightening the critique rules. I really support the idea of heightening the level and specificity of interchange between the submitter and the responders. The critiques I receive that are detailed and involve conversation back and forth are the most helpful to me, even if we wander down other roads as we talk. Maybe especially when we wander down the other roads. And, while I think attaboys are OK among friends they aren't necessarily all that helpful in growth unless accompanied by specifics (Likewise, thumbs-down don't help much without specifics either).

My dilemma - There are times when I want to know something very specific but there are times when I benefit from a more generic response. And there are times when I THINK I want to know something specific and someone tells me about something entirely different but that I am immensely helped by. I think problem-related questions are great for solving problems - you guys here and others elsewhere have helped me improve my skills all along the journey by answering questions and suggesting improvements. But generic critique has also been incredibly valuable to me, especially as I shaped the portfolio for my bird project. As I've got tentative approval to start developing a portfolio for a new exhibit (Swamp In All Seasons) in 2019, I'll be looking for help in that same vein.

So I'll sit on the fence and watch the conversation for a while :)
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Post by Psjunkie » Tue May 15, 2018 6:06 pm

I mostly post in critique for just that reason, I want critique and or opinions on my image… sometimes I want specific info and will ask for it, other times I'm looking for overall impressions from others….I am not really qualified to give critique so generally respond with my opinion, so an opinion section should be added if we are going to tighten the rules…I don’t mind "nice shot” but feel it should be followed up with doing this, that, or the other might improve.…I do feel the critique section has been quite lax lately as far as critique is concerned. I am in minniev’s camp for the most part...

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Post by Duck » Tue May 15, 2018 8:25 pm

Good start for this conversation. To be honest, I don't think we need to tighten rules per se, but I would like to find some way of upping the game for more pointed critiques that help steer away from "attaboys" and "nicely done" comments.

Matt, Frank, Steve and a few other have (and continue) to say they don't have enough experience to give more constructive critiques but I see the critique process as being twofold and for that reason I don't accept those types of excuses (sorry folks :-D). By analyzing someone else's images it teaches one to see and image rather than just casually observe it. Critical observation is just as powerful a learning tool as any other. I would say it's probably one of the best tools for self improvement as it helps reinforce many of the subtleties of image creation. Then, by openly discussing those observations, whether you feel they are right or wrong, allows for an open discourse with the artist regarding the choices made for doing what they did to get that final image. For that both the artist and the critic each walk away learning something (or at least that is the hope.)

My proposal is to, at minimum, have the poster give more detail about their process when posting rather than being lazy and just asking for, "c & c welcomed." Tell the group any of the following; what your intended goal was, what effect you were trying to attain, what issues you encountered, what did you struggle with, etc. That way, the person offering a critique can then determine if they can really help or just give their opinion. Even if it's something that you see in your image that you have doubts about. Rather than see if anyone guesses the problem let people know and they can then either affirm your concerns or allay your fears.

In short, just give people something to critique on other than speculations. We would just have to hold the image poster accountable for providing more info :-D.
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Post by Psjunkie » Tue May 15, 2018 8:36 pm

I stand by my statement of having any critique knowledge Duck....I am on the other hand full of s#&*, I mean opinions which I happily give out even if not always backed with sound knowledge......I will try to step up my game sir!! and wholeheartedly agree with your statement about learning from viewing other's work...

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Post by Duck » Tue May 15, 2018 9:54 pm

Psjunkie wrote:
Tue May 15, 2018 8:36 pm
I stand by my statement of having any critique knowledge Duck....
And I'll stand by my statement that you're selling yourself short. ;)
Regardless, I appreciate you willing to step up the game. I'll be doing the same. :thumbup:
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Post by Charles Haacker » Wed May 16, 2018 2:17 pm

Hm. For me this is a toughie. I don't think I am any good at critique. I'm also a wimp. If I don't care for a picture I bypass it, like in my "virtual gallery" where, if something stops me to take a longer look that's one thing, but if an image leaves me cold (for whatever reason) I just walk on by. So I'm that "attaboy" guy; I like it; I say so. I may offer a suggestion about opening the shadow or a slight crop or whatever. So maybe I should mostly stay out of it. I've been posting more in critique because I thought I should, on the principle that I'm no better or worse than anyone else. But I also never post anything I don't personally like and feel that I have done my absolute best with given my current skill level, both with making the image and then (probably more importantly) finishing it. When somebody posts something in critique that I think is a standout I think it's important to say so. If I see nothing at all wrong with it I can't offer suggestions for improvement, but I also think it's important to tell the artist "Boy, that's one swell pitcher," and even why I think so. If it's presented in critique but I see nothing to critique, I don't think it's fair to the maker that I just ignore it rather than offer an Attaboy. (OK)

The thing is, I like my own stuff, so if I'm posting in Critique it's mostly for peer confirmation that (I hope) it really is the pretty good I think it is. We are all our own worst editors. But we're not supposed to critique in showcase... (?)
Submitting an image for critique should be accompanied by a problem that needs solving. In other words, what issue did the photographer experience that needs addressing. This is the one I feel strongly about and would like to see implemented here on photoMENTORIS.
Critiques should help address the problem and move the photographer's knowledge forward.
As I mentioned, Joe has strict rules for his members and that includes on how images are submitted for review. Each image has to have a certain amount of information accompany it. Camera settings (shutter, aperture, ISO), equipment used (camera, lens, flash, modifiers, etc.), what was the goal of the image and was that goal met and finally, what issues did you encounter that you want feedback on.

Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that the EXIF viewer seems not to work at all on the site? At least not the one I have: https://exifviewer.herokuapp.com/ Is there a better one, or at least one that works? I've never especially cared for this one but stumble along with it... I ask because it's a nuisance to keep track of the settings when they are embedded in the metadata but are hard to retrieve.
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Post by minniev » Wed May 16, 2018 4:49 pm

I have learned SO much from all of you here, and in other online groups. You have been my teachers, my critics, my encouragers, and my friends. Though I'm very interested in offering more information along with images so that critics know more about what I'm trying to do, I am reluctant to set very many stipulations for the critics because I find I can learn from all of you. To just offer a few examples, Chuck and Duck teach me technique through their wealth of technical knowledge. Steve and Frank teach me to SEE through their amazing vision that is far more than eyesight but some kind of art that is hard-wired into their eyes and brains. Piet and Matt teach me to see poetry in images, no small thing. Ernst and Graham teach me by the example of their own amazing photos, and when they offer an attaboy, I frame it. So all the help I get isn't just problem solving, though problem solving can be a part of it. But what I get is larger than just that. And an attaboy thrown in here and there is OK.

Yeah, I can't pull up exif on a pM photo either.
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Post by Duck » Wed May 16, 2018 8:06 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 2:17 pm
Hm. For me this is a toughie. I don't think I am any good at critique. I'm also a wimp. If I don't care for a picture I bypass it, like in my "virtual gallery" where, if something stops me to take a longer look that's one thing, but if an image leaves me cold (for whatever reason) I just walk on by. So I'm that "attaboy" guy; I like it; I say so. I may offer a suggestion about opening the shadow or a slight crop or whatever. So maybe I should mostly stay out of it. I've been posting more in critique because I thought I should, on the principle that I'm no better or worse than anyone else. But I also never post anything I don't personally like and feel that I have done my absolute best with given my current skill level, both with making the image and then (probably more importantly) finishing it. When somebody posts something in critique that I think is a standout I think it's important to say so. If I see nothing at all wrong with it I can't offer suggestions for improvement, but I also think it's important to tell the artist "Boy, that's one swell pitcher," and even why I think so. If it's presented in critique but I see nothing to critique, I don't think it's fair to the maker that I just ignore it rather than offer an Attaboy. (OK)

The thing is, I like my own stuff, so if I'm posting in Critique it's mostly for peer confirmation that (I hope) it really is the pretty good I think it is. We are all our own worst editors. But we're not supposed to critique in showcase... (?)

[...]

Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that the EXIF viewer seems not to work at all on the site? At least not the one I have: https://exifviewer.herokuapp.com/ Is there a better one, or at least one that works? I've never especially cared for this one but stumble along with it... I ask because it's a nuisance to keep track of the settings when they are embedded in the metadata but are hard to retrieve.
There are no obligations to give critiques. Inversely we have the Showcase section for those not looking for critique. Both these options are voluntary and are simply tools made available to members looking either for affirmation or to find solutions to problems with their photography. If you are happy with your images, and many people are, then the Showcase is perfect. It allows you a means of evaluating the appeal without having someone 'rip' into your image, deconstructing it and highlighting your flaws. I just see the critique section as a tool for people to gain valuable information by harnessing the vision and knowledge of others in order to fill in gaps in one's own knowledge. Personally, I think the critique section is often underused and undervalued and I'm just trying to find out if there is something we can do to help make it a more powerful tool for learning.

Yes, I agree with you that putting an image out there to be critiqued does require a certain level of strength. After all, you are being judged for work that is often very personal. However, if a photographer is looking to step beyond that of the casual shooter, simply satisfied by creating art for one's own personal enjoyment, then there needs to be a commitment to stepping beyond that line of personal safety. For those who make art to appeal to others it is incumbent to learn the tools required to elevate imagery from personal appeal to public appeal. This means learning to accept the haters as much as the lovers of our art. (Actually, there are artists who get inspired by the people who react negatively to their art.)

Knowing our community, I know each of us have a desire to see one another succeed in our endeavors. However, it's human nature to dismiss an image and give out ataboys and cursory, unhelpful token comments that don't move a photographer's education forward just because it's not in our nature, we feel we have nothing to contribute or out of pure laziness. If there is a certain expectation, or 'rule of conduct', for the critique section maybe it'll elevate the type and quality of interaction there.

Just looking for ways of 'raising the bar'.

As for the EXIF issue. I have no clue. This may be something done by the PHP uploader handled by the server as i don't see the forum software doing this on the front end. Sorry I can't shed better light on the problem.
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