How to Critique a Photograph

Have you had the experience of having your images criticized in a clumsy or insensitive manner?  How did it make you feel?    Before offering your opinion, consider these guidelines for giving feedback.   Then, familiarize yourself with the technical and artistic aspects of judging a photograph.


Giving Feedback

Respect:  Respect the photographer’s efforts and appreciate what they are trying to say.

Encourage:  Find some aspect of the image that warrants praise.

EducateOffer constructive corrections that might help produce a better image next time.

Avoid bias:  Personal dislikes (spiders, abstracts, etc.) should not influence your scoring.


Technical Quality

Focus Is the image sharp? If not, is it intentionally soft and successful?

Cleanliness:  Is it free of scratches, dust spots, stains, lens flare, etc.?

Exposure:  Is it too light, too dark, or just right?

Lighting:  Is the lighting too contrasty, too flat or just right?

Colours:  Does it have neutral colours or a strange colour cast?



Balance:  Is the image aligned correctly or is it crooked?

Logic:  Is the arrangement of visual elements effective?

Purpose:  Is there a strong centre of interest, pattern or design?

Clarity:   Is it simple, yet complete, without distracting elements? Does it work?


Emotional Appeal

Dynamic:  Does it grab and keep your attention? Does it have the “wow” factor?

Provocative:  Does it excite your imagination, or create a strong emotion in you?

Creative:  Does it show a familiar subject in a new, unusual and effective way?

Originality:  Does it show a subject in an unusual and an effective way?


In Summary

What works? What are the strong points, both technical and artistic?

What elements of the photograph can be improved upon?

Note: This is a summary of the slideshows presented by Inge Riis McDonald and Ken Meisner in September.

Acknowledgements:  The New York Institute of Photography and the Canadian Association for Photographic Art.