How to Be A Critic

David Saxe over at Black Star Rising has posted four simple rules for critiquing other’s work. It’s a good list.

Because I can, here’s my companion list for being critiqued:

  1. Be Aware of Time: Depending on the environment you are in, you may have get a long critique or a short one. If you’re doing evening portfolio reviews at a conference, then you may only have a 15-20 minutes window – be respectful of that, there are others behind you. Similarly, if you have two scheduled back-to-back, don’t rush out of the first one because it’s not going well.
  2. Be Receptive to Honesty: There’s a good chance your reviewer has no idea who you are or your background. If they start slashing at you for not lighting anything in your portfolio and you’re in your first or second college course and haven’t done any lighting, tell them that. But not defensively – ask how they would handle that situation and then ask for suggested resources. Is there a book or blog that would help you out?
  3. Be Positive: Most (though not all) reviewers are doing it to help you. (Yeah, there are some crusty people out there who do it to make themselves feel better, ignore them.) Be appreciative of the comments, but if there’s one you don’t understand, ask for more detail. Don’t be defensive. As journalists we create works for others, not ourselves – if the picture doesn’t work for one person, there’s a good chance it doesn’t work for a lot of people.
  4. Learn the Language: There are code words and phases, there is a verbal language used to describe our visual communication – you have to understand that language. Read up on photo critiques, read up on how criticism is done for visuals. It’s very different than it is for words, something you’re far more used to be critiqued on. Also understand that, in a lot of situations, you can’t fix an image after it’s shot. Unlike a written story that can be reworked, an image is mostly done once you push that button. Ask how to handle a similar situation in the future, not how to Photoshop this one.

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