Here is something I am very proud to say: although our forums are only starting to grow, one particular section really took off, and it’s the Critique Section. As of the time of writing, it has the most topics and the most replies, too, which makes me immensely happy. Why? Because it means that, as interested as our readers are in all the camera, lens and megapixel discussions, in the end, you actually do use your equipment for its intended purpose and not for bragging rights. You are photographers, and not people who own cameras. And if our team at Photography Life has helped anyone in any way however slightly, it is a true honour. The fact how brilliant a lot of our readers are – I can’t speak for our whole team, but I often feel humbled – makes me even more proud.
A side note: the images in this article were submitted to the Critique Section by our readers. Yep. You are that awesome, and I am that staggered.
As you may have guessed, though, there is a small issue. There are so many of you that, with all the other work our team has to do, we can’t possibly pay due attention to all your submissions and inquiries. There is a way to solve this, however. First of all, this is where you, our readers, can swoop in and save the day with your inputs. Receiving critique – not just compliments, but advice, opinion, provocation – is an enormous contributor to our artistic growth. It is essential. More than that, I strongly believe that every photographer has to have his face “buried in mud” by someone he trusts and respects, so as to rise and leap forwards, grow as a person as well as an author. And so I want to urge all of you to participate more actively in the Critique Section – share your work as well as leave your opinion for the benefit of fellow photographers. At the same time, I want to give a shout-out to those who have already taken it upon themselves to share their opinion in the forums with those who ask: Luc, Rick, Bish, Thomas and those I certainly forgot to mention, thank you! You are an enormous help, not just to those asking for it, but to our whole team, too. We really appreciate it.
The second part of the solution rests solely on our shoulders. After all, it is up to our team to put enough emphasis on photography with our articles despite how interesting technical discussions can get. And so, after some careful consideration, we’ve decided to make Critique Section a weekly event on our website. Every week (unless really swamped with other projects), two-three of our team members will share their thoughts in an article on three images from those submitted to Critique Section in the forums. So, for example, it may be Lola and Nasim to write a paragraph or two the first time, and Thomas, John and I the week after. Whoever it is, though, I can promise that we will put genuine effort into this and spend some time with the photographs before putting our thoughts into words.
At this point, I find it of utmost importance to mention the following:
- None of our team members consider themselves experts at all things photography. That would seem unbelievably arrogant, would it not? We are not trying to put ourselves into the shoes of someone who can actually judge someone else’s photography. As I’ve already mentioned, so many of our readers are either more talented at photography, more skilled, or both. And so our opinion is just that, an opinion. You’ve seen our work, you’ve read a lot of our articles or have the chance to do so, too – make up your own mind on how much our opinion is worth to you.
- There is no specific criteria for our choice of the three images for each article other than subjectivity. We won’t be choosing what we consider to be the best photographs, or the worst. We will be choosing images that have already been submitted for critique in the forums that in one way or another speak to us, so that we have something to say in return. Thus, think nothing of our choices. Instead, look at the photographs and join the discussion. Discussion, after all, is why we are doing this.
- This is as much for our benefit as it is for yours. Sounds a little selfish? I don’t mean it that way. What I do mean is that it is all too easy to focus on the wrong things when doing what we do. With all the camera announcements and technical articles, we, too, forget photography. Weekly Critique Section is a commitment, however. One that will force us to analyze photography, and thus think about it more, and thus grow, learn new things from you and from ourselves.
- The “weekly” part is an aspiration. This project is actually very demanding, more so than it may seem at first glance. We won’t always be able to do the section every week – among other things, it depends on our schedule as much as your submissions. Sometimes, we will publish two articles over a course of seven days. Sometimes, it may take us two or three weeks to come up with something that is not forced. We will certainly try to put as much effort into it as we can, though.
- We are not jerks and we mean well. Critique is not nearly as easy to accept as compliments are. On the other hand, it can be very stimulating and, arguably, help our growth that much more when expressed properly. Do not be afraid to submit your work for everyone to see and discuss, no matter how good or bad you may think you are. We all started at the start, right? Our community is superb and I am as confident as I can be when I say that everything said will be said with utmost respect for the author, not just by the Photography Life team, but by your fellow readers, too.
With all that in mind, here is what you need to do if you would like to receive some feedback with the possibility of your work being discussed in one of the upcoming articles:
- Export/upload your photograph at a size where the long edge is at least 960 px. Larger size will make viewing a bit more comfortable, so we recommend long edge to be at 1280 px, 1600 px or 2048 px. Quality setting of 75-80 is plentiful and will make loading images a quicker process. This is not a requirement as such, merely a suggestion, but it would make our part easier.
- Include EXIF information with the image as it may be necessary for the critique.
- If you feel comfortable with it, best not to add watermarks. Copyright information for each image will be included in the caption. If you would like to add a watermark, do it in a simple, small font somewhere along the edge of the photograph (take a look at Luc’s photograph above) – a nuance, but watermarks are a distraction and can often act as a weighty element of composition.
- Name image files properly – include your full name (necessary for copyright information) and the title, for example: Angelina Nga Nguyen_Sunrise at Dolly Sods.JPEG
- Create a topic and upload your work for critique providing some background information/story about the image and what you think of it in our forums. You will receive critique from fellow readers.
- If you’d rather our team did not discuss your work in a weekly article, simply mention it while submitting.
- Share your thoughts about the work of your fellow readers!
If you have any suggestions, general thoughts or think this whole idea is silly, let us know in the comments section below!