As a photographic community we contribute 350 million photos to Facebook every single day. Our photos generally receive all kinds of crazy praise on social media with hundreds of likes and encouraging words. Sure this stokes your confidence and surely inspires you to produce more work. But if you’re looking to become a better photographer, this praise can be damning. I
hate to break this to you, but most people that will view your work (especially your mother) have absolutely no clue what makes a good photograph. I do.
If you’re looking for sound, photographic advice, you have to find someone objective. This means that they don’t know you. It might feel awkward to ask a stranger what they think of your photography, but trust me, it’s the best approach. They will not consider your feelings when evaluating your work and their feelings for you won’t compromise their critique.
You’ll also want to ensure that those who critique your work have an academic background. Before I attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for my Masters, I was critical of academics because I felt they were out of touch with the private sector and thus, were out of touch with current photographic trends. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. What an
academic study of photography gives you is context. The study of and familiarity with past and present photographers is important so that your work can be put into context of photography. If photographers evaluating your fashion work don’t know the names of Richard, Annie, Mario, Bruce or Terry then they probably shouldn’t be evaluating that style.
There is also a certain methodology and process involved in a critique that you learn in an academic environment. You are taught to be respectful, to be just as aware of strengths as you are weaknesses, to use proper vocabulary and most importantly, to be able to offer suggestions on how to improve the image with technical clarity.
But having an academic background isn’t nearly enough. You should seek out those that have successfully worked in the photography field. This is indicative that they were able to translate what they learned in school (or from other sources) and they were able to apply it. The ability to apply technique helps when an evaluator needs to offer suggestions on how to improve the image. Because what’s more important than pointing out errors is giving practical advice on how to fix them. Professional photographers, if they are working, are a study in resourcefulness and troubleshooting.
Once you’ve found someone to give you some unbiased feedback on your imagery, now find three or four more. One person isn’t enough because the perspective is too narrow – more input means a more accurate critique. The more people that review your work, the more reliable your review will be. And if you’ve found truly capable reviewers, you won’t even have to ask them what to address in your image – they’ll already know.