Online Critiquing (Part 1)

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Can sharing shots online improve your skills?

 ‘Any critique is valid, as it’s an opinion and work should create opinions in people.’

Guidance is key to knowing how you can improve, which is essential when building up a portfolio. In recent years, there has been considerable growth in the number of online galleries, forums and social networking sites, making it easier than ever to get your images out there for review. However, uploading online can have its downsides, with many photographers receiving unconstructive and often harsh criticism. Not only capable of bruising a few egos, online critiquing can also have a considerable impact on your images and development as a photographer. We look into both the pros and cons of sharing your shots online.

Description: Online Critiquing

Russel Baston is the Education Advisor for the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP as a trained assessor, he regularly reviews the work of aspiring photographers, he says, ‘You have to question how much of the advice you receive online is useful. Other amateur photographers don’t necessarily know much more about the subject than you,’ He adds, ‘It’s like learning to play a musical instrument in a way, you need someone with experience who is good a playing to give you the best guidance.’


That’s not to say online critiquing is not useful. Kevin Mason ( is a professional fashion and portrait photographer who also runs photographic workshops at Garage Studio in Brighton. He remarks, ‘Any critique is valid, as it’s an opinion and work should create opinions in people. The “danger” lies in how much it can influence how you feel about your own work and any subsequent direction you may take it. For instance, if you want to put a portfolio together for an agent to look at, and you ask online for feedback, you may receive advice that is out of date, uninformed or just plain wrong.’

Not everyone agrees that all online critiques are constructive, Russell points out, ‘You can get some pedantic opinions online but they are not necessarily useful to the development of your work.’ Negative comments unfortunately come with the territory, Kevin says, ‘The relative anonymity of the online community can be very powerful when it comes to eliciting opinion of any kind.’

Balancing out opinions is important and so getting some professional feedback on your work can go a long way in helping you to improve your skills. Russell says, ‘Having someone who has experience in reviewing images to look at your work is necessary at some stage if you’re looking to become a pro. A reviewer is used to seeing a lot of images on a regular basis, which means they will have a storeroom of knowledge that could help you to improve both technically and conceptually.’

Another benefit of having work reviewed in person is the chance to show off images in print. Many photographers fail to correctly adjust their work for the web meaning colours can lack the right saturation and contrast often resulting in unfair feedback. Russell remarks, ‘No two screens agree. Reviewing work online or on an iPad can give you a good impression of the composition and lighting but never a complete look at the final pictures as you would see them in print.’

 ‘Self promotion is now a tool that anyone with a laptop or an iPad can achieve.’

Description: Easy promotion - The internet provides more opportunities for publicising your work than ever before.

In the early development stages of a shoot however, Kevin thinks online critiquing can be useful, ‘There are some advantages, if you brought work to a pro, or say a portfolio review, you will not only be judged on the images themselves, but how they are printed, what they are physically contained in, how old you are, what you wear, how you walk into the room. Every aspect of your person will in some slight way cross into the reading of your work. Online however, this wont necessarily happen, or at least you can be more guarded of this factor, your work could potentially exist alone and “outside” of the context of you as an individual.’

Over the last few years it has been thee way in which we share work online that has propelled many aspiring amateurs into the spotlight, Kevin says, ‘Photographers have been created by the internet who five years ago would have had no chance in the industry.’ Remarking on how the internet has transformed photography, he says ‘It’s had a huge impact on parts of the photography industry, dissolving some borders and old “networks”, as self promotion is a tool that anyone with a laptop or iPad can achieve.’

Although the benefits of online critiquing are strongly debated, sharing images online will undoubtedly continue. Kevin says, ‘I don’t think the full impact of this has been fully realised yet. It has both raised and lowered the bar, as these sites all have a specific feel or movement, which can them push photography in certain directions.’

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