An after thought to CT's beginner question

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An after thought to CT's beginner question

Postby abby » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:16 pm

Recently CT posted the question of how does a beginner improve and she got so many great helpful suggestions. (I would expect nothing less from the wonderful photographers on this forum)

It got me thinking about another way to help a beginner, and I think it's just as important as all of the other suggestions she received.

Don't give false praise. Period. You can't be afraid to hurt somebody's feelings by critiquing their photos, because you won't be doing them any favors. I belong to another group where photos are shared, and so often, there are "nice job" "atta boy pats on the back" when critiques are asked to be given, and honestly, the photos really aren't worthy of the praise.

As most of you may or may not already know, Andy took me under his wing 3 years ago, and I refer to him as my photography "mentor" because that is how I feel towards him. He initially taught me most of what I know so far about Photoshop, and he drilled composition into my brain, and he has critiqued a high number of my photos. During those critiques, I always got honest, straightforward suggestions on how to improve the photos. I would then dust myself off, go back out, and apply whatever suggestions he made. I would practice practice practice. On a rare ocasion, I would get a "hey, that's a great photo" comment from him, but I never really got the praise that we all secretly want from others. :) I just assumed I would never get it, and that was ok with me. Until now. I sent him my Maine photos last week and was shocked at his response. He actually told me that I have gone from a point and shooter with a "good eye" to a "pretty damn good photographer" and his email went on with other very positive comments about my work (along with a few critiques which I am so thankful to receive.)

My point here is this. I know he meant it. For 3 years I was waiting to hear those words and when I finally heard them, it put me on cloud nine. Had I received "false praise" from him prior to now, I'm sure I never would have advanced to the point where I am now. I send my photos to my family and friends and I get praise left and right. (I think my mother-in-law thinks I'm the next Ansel Adams) :roll: But, as we all know, praise from family and friends is not the same as praise from fellow photographers. I don't want to forget to mention Al here. Al has also helped me along the way and I have learned from him as well and he has always been honest and gentle with his critiques of my photos. (How lucky can a girl be? :wink: )

Yesterday CT shared some of her photos with me, and when I replied to her I gave her some honest critiques. I hope she knows I did that for all of the reasons mentioned above and not because I'm a meanie. :wink:

Now, obviously, I know I still have a long way to go with my photography, but it's a fun journey to be on and I'm happy to have everyone here come along with me on the ride. :)

I have witnessed some honest critques among the members here and it's so great that egos do not get in the way and that the critiques are accepted in such a positive manner.


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Postby ctyanky » Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:00 pm

I've been thinking about your post here Carol and here are my thoughts. I know exactly what you are trying to say by the way. How lucky for you to have someone like Andy these past few years. He has helped me immensely on the blog. I was a beginner there too and am still working on improving. Andy likes to "push" and that's a good thing! I wasn't always so receptive too! Andy doesn't always respond, but if and when he does, like you, it's a good feeling ......... So, on to your post.

You deserve whatever kudos you get. You've come such a long way and your pictures are divine in my book! I agree with your Mommy! :P

Giving and Receiving Advice (to a beginner...): :wink:

First of all, when I ask you to comment on a photo I have taken, I expect an honest answer and genuine help. You are my friend and so is Al, and both of you looked at some of my "beginner shots" and offered advice. I was thrilled! I even laughed at some of the most bizarre appearances in the background of my photos! I thought it was fun to see how to improve the photo from your perspectives, skilled ones at that. I would not under any circumstances, want a false impression.

For me, I am starting from scratch. I mean, I can only go up from the bottom, true? :wink: So whatever advice I get, I will take. I am a blank screen at this point! :roll: Actually, I need all the help I can get. And I DO appreciate it!

Al recently photoshopped a picture for me. I nearly fell off my chair! :shock: Unbelievable transformation! I had no idea that there was a "subject" in the picture until he made one appear! :roll:

(We should have the "Beginner's Edit of the Week" up for grabs for all of you guys to jump on!) :twisted: I think it would be so much fun! I would be the first to throw mine into the pot!

In ending, I would also say advice is yours to give, if you truly know your audience. You know me well. So I'm safe. Is this person really asking for advice or not? In a photography club, I would hope everyone is there to learn and share and accept what others have to offer, so that is also "safe".

If someone is not really sure of the person they are giving advice to, even though the person is asking for it, the tone and the delivery of your critique would be important. In an unrelated instance, when someone asks me for advice, I often approach it from "If it were me, I would" or "How does this sound" or "Have you tried this?". I ere on the side of caution, until I know someone better. Not always sure how someone will "receive" the advice.

From past experience, people sometimes ask for advice and really don't want the truth. Such is life.......

That's my take for the day, on giving advice, to me at least! So dish it out and enlighten me please! :wink:
CT - Board Admin and Moderator for Scenes of Vermont
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

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Postby abby » Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:54 pm

You made some excellent points CT. I especially appreciate this sentence:
Is this person really asking for advice or not?
That's very important. I would be very sensitive and wouldn't give a critique if it's not asked. I'm still on that fine line myself, where I feel as I really qualified to give a critique, because I'm still learning myself?

The point I was trying to make, and I'm not sure if I made the point in my original post :wink: , was for me personally, having my work honestly critiqued was a good way for me to learn and grow in my photography. I am so grateful to those who have helped me along the way.

I LOVE your idea of edit of the week! We'll have to see what Andy thinks when he returns from vacation. (After reading this whole thread, I'm afraid Andy's either going to want to dope slap me, or he's going to be flattered. I sincerely hope it's the latter and not the former because my intentions were to compliment him. I hope it came across that way!) :?

Thanks for your input CT. I hope you keep shooting away. :D If your photography skills take off as much as your writing skills have, then you are going to end up one heck of a photographer! I'm going to enjoy watching you learn and grow and I hope to be learning right alongside you!8)


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Postby Andy » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:12 pm

Carol: I took it as a compliment -- albeit, probably undeserved. I haven't done anything anybody else who has "been there, done that" wouldn't do. I like Fax's comment: Its really not rocket science.

CT, thanks, too for your complimentary words. I think honesty is good. I was glad to hear from Al, for example, his comments on one of my shots recently. I like to think he would want the same from me.

If you read the "long about me" section on my Website, you will see that, as Carol notes, it is honest critique that really drives good photographers to the next level.

Note there is a difference between critique and criticism as it is pejoriatively used. Critique involves elements that are both "subjective" and "objective." For example, Al and his wife did not like my "interpretation of a fall reflection shot. It was oversaturated for their taste. A couple others (one privately) said they did like it. Al didn't say it was "wrong" or "bad." He said he didn't care for it.

OTOH, he noted that my horizon was not level. That is objective. It either is or it isn't. Both are useful, positive critique.

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

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