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How to be Critiqued

This is a chapter from the book A Lesser Photographer.

“Get booed off stage at least once.” — Carl King

Many photographers have written to me asking for a critique of their work. Popular sites and services abound for crowdsourced critiques. Magazines run regular features for reader critiques. Some professionals even charge for their critiquing services.

It’s only natural to want to know what others think of your work. But are you getting what you need from these critiques?

First, do you know your goal? If your goal is to go pro, by all means, get a professional to critique your work through the lens of their business and aesthetic senses. The harsher the lessons, the quicker you’ll improve.

I don’t believe that is the goal for most photographers, though. I think most photographers simply wish to become better photographers. Beyond knowing the basics, there’s not a lot a professional can offer you in a critique that will help you become a more unique artist. In fact, a pro may not even recognize unique art. It’s not what they’ve been trained to see.

Professionals need analytical answers about how to improve their results. Artists need new ways to see. The best critiques I’ve seen are not about an image’s technical properties. The best critiques question why the photograph was created in the first place.