Note to Self: Suck Less, Critique Better — Stop, Ask, then Listen

Photo CritiqueDear Randall,

You can do better…

Stop. Ask. Listen.

Why, when a piece of someone else’s art is laid before you, do you immediately determine what YOU like or don’t like about the piece and then proceed to make comments on how the work could be edited to match YOUR taste or vision?

…just STOP it!

How about taking 30–60 seconds in silence to look at the work; try and feel what the print is telling you; what emotions does it conjure up? Does the photo mentally or emotionally take you anywhere? Are you drawn to it or pushed away from it, or perhaps certain aspects of it? Only after this brief period of reflection can you ask the artist what THEIR vision was for the work. What are they trying to convey to the world through this photo?

…go ahead, ASK them.

Forget about your vision for the piece and listen to what the artist’s vision is; this will be difficult for you because you always want YOU to be heard. You don’t matter. Concentrate on what they are saying. You’re there to help them. Ask questions. Get a good feel for what they want to say through this piece.

…zip it and LISTEN.

And I was kidding earlier: you do matter. But only after you listen; maybe get the artist to clarify a point or two. Only then are you ready to convey to them whether you felt the piece captured their vision in your eyes. And it’s okay if it didn’t. It doesn’t mean the artist failed (they can’t fail, they’re simply expressing their vision and voice into the world); no, it simply means you didn’t connect with the piece. That’s fine. No biggie.

You’re not there to tell them what they want to hear — Facebook will take care of that. No, you’re there to help them be a better communicator. So communicate yourself; be honest with your feedback. But always strive to give suggestions on how their vision could be spoken more clearly: b&w vs. color; a crop or aspect ratio; a rotation or flip; composition; more effective use of a leading line; more contrast, perhaps less; different paper; maybe a ‘whisper’ instead of a ‘shout’ might be more effective here. I don’t know; you’ll figure it out. You’re a pretty sharp guy.

You’re there to help them Randy, so help them — stop, ask and listen FIRST.

Help and encourage them to broadcast THEIR voice (not yours) into a world that really doesn’t give a rat’s crap about what they have to say — until they say something that resonates with the world (or their little slice of it anyway).

Go ahead. Be bold. Be honest. Be encouraging. Help them to dream BIG! Say what you want said to you. You can do this.

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