Evaluation & Critique … photography

A topic that crops up regularly in our Grafix group & one that has brought about much debate. Till now I have not paid much attention to the possible differences between the 2 but upon reflection I see there is a definite separateness so to get it all in perspective I decided to put my thoughts down in words … with luck doing that will help me put some logic … heaven forbid… & structure to my thoughts!
What is the difference between Evaluation & Critique & just how far to go in both?

As we have discovered in our group when critiquing/evaluating a piece of work we easily become sidetracked on a particular aspect & discussions can go on & on for quite some time … that can get a little mundane for some!! So just how do we approach this topic … our group makeup is not solely centered around photography as a Grafix group we cover anything from photography to composting to video work & all that relates to those topics?

There has always been the opportunity to submit our work for critique or evaluation … however not many seem to take ‘advantage’ of that option … so in order for us to broaden our development in image taking & processing we need to put some structure & purpose into this topic to encourage more to participate. It is not something for everyone as many ‘artists’ feel uncomfortable putting their work on show for all to critique but it is potentially a valuable lesson for those of us willing to run that gauntlet!
IMHO if all goes well the outcome will be a more proficient little gathering of photographers & creative artists! I can see it assisting us in many areas, areas such as, improving our photography skills, learning to ‘see’ creatively & learning the process of critiquing our work & that of others. Along the way we will discover new skills & techniques to add to our own editing work flow, it should open our minds as we listen to the many different ideas of others. In the end we will have the knowhow of presenting our best images in their best ‘light’. It will also help us to clean out images not worthy of editing … saving space & time!!

As I mentioned in my introduction after much deliberation I have reached the conclusion that there is a separateness about the two. I see critiquing as the initial appraisal of the piece of work & should only take round 10 – 15 mins of discussion. However evaluations I see as being more involved … here we delve further into the ‘makings’ of the work – the processes undertaken to bring about the resulting art work on show. I’ll try to outline my thoughts! Here I’m generally referring to the piece of work as images as that is the area I mainly concentrate on but I can see these principle thoughts being applied across all works of art either written or graphic!

A critique does not need to be & should not be totally negative. To me it should cover both the positive & the not so positive aspects of the image. It should be constructive & positive. Glaring ‘technical’ issues should be addressed with positive guidance as to how to improve these issues … at the same time giving praise to any ‘wow’ factors. The artists’ own ability & level of technical photographic knowledge must be taken into consideration… never belittle or embarrass the photographer always offer positive guidance & appraisal … some photographers can be very sensitive to any criticism of their work!!

I’m not saying go soft … anyone knows judges can be tough … honesty is a key factor!

The whole point to the exercise is to learn … if the critique is just about pulling the image to pieces with no constructive guidance then what good is it! Being constructive positive the photographer will be more inclined to take more notice, go away & work on weak areas & most important … learn!
Where to begin … working on correcting the basic technical aspects of photography is a good place to begin. Basics such as focus/sharpness, exposure, focal point/subject matter, any distractions & composition, then move to depth of field, contrast & lighting. Emotional appeal & connection with the subject – especially in portraiture – is very important & then does this image tell a story. Again this critique shouldn’t be lengthy focusing on what areas that most need improvement at the same time balancing what is great about the image.

To me it is difficult to make much out of an image that is not technically correct to begin with … you can & will save yourself a heap of time if you get as much as possible correct in camera from the get go! On saying that I can hear someone a lot more creative than myself saying “I can do something with that crappy photo” & yes they will … it will be morphed into an amazing compo!
Now Evaluation – this to me is looking at & ‘scrutinizing’ the process or processes taken to produce the final piece of work & in our group this could be, a composite, a fine art image, a photograph, or video work. In evaluating the image I see that, aside from the basics which we have expanded on in the critique, we now bore deeper & explore the techniques used to create this final piece … again in our case, these techniques would include the processes used in the digital darkroom to begin honing in on areas such as;

• colour – is it balanced, oversaturated, washed out – would it work better as b&w
• black & white – is there full tonal range from lights to darks – would it work better as colour
• lighting – coming from the right direction
• framing/cropping – too tight, not tight enough
• emotion – does the image portray emotion, does the emotion compliment the subject

I can see questions like how, what & why come into play here.
Listening to the photographer describing what was seen as the motivation to reach for the camera & capture the photo in the first place – what settings on the camera were needed to capture the correct exposure – how & why certain editing techniques were chosen, these questions all play a major role in the evaluation process. What atmosphere & feeling did the artist wish to convey. Often as not being aware of the reasoning behind the end result the image is seen in a different light!
These are just my thoughts … I am but a humble beginner endeavouring to learn how to critique my work so I can improve on my own photographic techniques … at the same time learning to critique with the aim of trying to help others in our group!

As I say I’m learning the whole process & am open to ‘critique’ so if anyone would like to add their thoughts or tell me I’m off the track please leave a comment … constructive please:)
A little tip with the camera – being able to put your fingers on your camera dials blindfolded is a valuable skill to have up your sleeve. It will help you out in the dark & of course it goes without saying you must know what each dial does!!

Happy creating :)

Looking up wiki I found these definitions:
Evaluation: Critique:

Taking photographs … making photographs!

I’ve read the words ‘making a photograph’ in many books with no further explanation & often wondered why ‘making’ … what is the difference between ‘making’ & ‘taking’ a photograph. The light bulb! … whilst creatively working on my photograph it suddenly dawned on me that, that is just what I am doing ‘making my photograph’! I am currently reading Chris Butcher’s book on ‘Black & White Digital Photography’ & in the first chapter here are those words again. Reading further Chris expands the idea & corroborates my thoughts that yes there is a difference between the two.
Digital cameras have made it so easy to click away ‘taking’ photos but when you stop & think about the view in front of you & how you see that picture in your mind you are about to ‘make’ a photograph … you move around, maybe wait for the perfect lighting or for that cloud to be in a better position all the time thinking how to ‘make’ that photo … same applies when editing an image in the digital darkroom you are ‘making’ your photo! … well that’s how I see it :)
Happy creating.