The Art Of Constructive Critique

From my first click of a camera until my last, there has been one constant in my photographic world; Criticism!

Everyone has, and is entitled to, their own preference on how the things that they do are assessed by anyone that comes into contact with them. Without doubt, one of the best tools in improving on any art form is outside opinion and how it's used. Whether that be from family, friends, peers or the shark tank that is the internet, fresh eyes and a different perspective can be invaluable. And people will be more than forthcoming with their view on the good/bad/ugly of just about anything anyone creates.

My personal way of using critique is this;

I approach professionals in the industry, people whose work I respect and their opinions I trust. I avoid family and friends for serious critique. Mainly due to the bias, though in the case of my Mum, this is definitely not a case of "everything wonderful". By approaching people I respect and admire, but can also trust, I learn not only things that are right and wrong with my work and also learn the potential ways to progress and take things from there.

The problem with being in the photographic community is that not only does owning a camera make you a photographer nowadays, but also it makes you an expert on everyone else's art/business. I am very happy to offer my opinion and help wherever I can when asked, but way too often I see and also receive comments & messages that are unsolicited and generally poorly formed attempts to discourage, misdirect or insult.

When it comes to photographers (or those who wish to be called as such), there is no other way to describe  a large portion of them other than "Entitled". Seeing so many swan around various online platforms and camera clubs with a thinly-veiled spite, this more than anything else has brought me close to quitting. Their numbers exaggerated by the unassuming nature of many others. I have been berated and mocked on several occasions on anything from the model I use to how I store files. None of which effects the critic, yet it seems of the upmost importance that they force their ways upon anyone and anything. For the life of me I do not understand how they find the energy or the time to do this, but some must just be wired that way. And god forbid you explain or defend your work. This isn't completely contained to camera owners...

I have received comments from general members of the public, whom I have never spoken to or met, telling me the model I shot "looks sickly thin and is disturbing", that my photo(s) are "exploitation" and even that I should "just give up"

I myself have been guilty on occasion of being far too blunt with people without understanding the consequence of my words. I remember one occasion where a model was asking why she couldn't get any work. She was around 16 years old, had severe health issues that would hamper almost every possible way of working as a model and had a very unsupportive home life that meant she "wasn't allowed to work for free or pay photographers". This meant she had no portfolio, a laundry list of legal issues and an unrealistic expectation of what she SHOULD be paid by anyone and everyone. My response, whilst I still feel relevant, was poorly formed and unfairly sharp. Simply telling her that, by her own accounts she is in no way going to get work. Whilst this may be true, the delivery was terrible. In no way was I looking to offend, but more importantly, I didn't do enough to avoid offending.  

Now, before giving any critique or offering anything less than a positive "well done" comment, I ask myself...

Does this person want MY opinion?

Am I offering a positive way to address anything negative I say?

What is my motivation for wanting to comment/critique?

Am I in a position in terms of experience/knowledge to constructively comment on this?

Whilst most won't think this concerns them or isn't referring to them, hopefully some will maybe just think twice on the effect that harsh, rude or unnecessarily negative feedback has on them.