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Is criticsm just plain silly?

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Andrew Flannigan, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    There's a small scene in Terry Pratchet's Thief of Time where the Auditors attempt to analyse a painting to see why it's so highly regarded...

    Critics try to analyse the unanalysable. Any discussion of why it works or fails to work is just so much waffle. Agree, disagree?

  2. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Silly or not, you'll never stop people having an opinion on a picture - and that's where criticism starts, from there it's either onward and upward or downward and mean...
  3. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    For me, the eternal question is - why do some people like a picture - and others are either indifferent or dislike it? It's not in the picture that I look for an answer, but in the people who do or do not give an opinion.
    Zou and steveandthedogs like this.
  4. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    Maybe there is something hard-wired into the brain that makes certain proportions/ratios more pleasing to us.

    But then again, if you extend this hard-wiring to music, then music from one part of the globe may sound like cacophony to people from another part, so maybe it's learned.

    Which is, imo, supported by the fact that some people who have not learned the 'right' things to look for in a picture, will look at a picture for what it's a picture of rather than how it's arranged.

    So maybe 'criticism' is based on a mixture of things, some intrinsic(ish) and some learned.

    Zou and Catriona like this.
  5. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    appreciation is the other side of the coin, though I am not sure if it is an opposite to criticism or a complement.
  6. Gezza

    Gezza Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what are the 'right' things to look for in a picture, if as I think you are inferring the things to look for are compositional then surely if they are 'right' then even people who haven't learned what to look for will find the image pleasing. Obviously critique is important for those just coming into photography (and I know we are never supposed to stop learning) but as you become more competent and confident other people's opinions are just that, opinions... and those that voice them must appreciate that as well.
  7. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    Are you suggesting perhaps the difference between critique which I believe is an examination of the image, technique used and subject matter and whether or not the person critiquing breaks down their opinion for your benefit and criticism along the lines of I wouldn't have but positing no alternative
  8. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    SXH, Roger Hicks, Zou and 2 others like this.
  9. MarcusT

    MarcusT Well-Known Member

    Criticism is given and taken in a variety of ways. Negative and postive, constructive and destructive, objective and subjective. Here's how I see it, if you print or publish an image for other people to see you are opening yourself for criticism. There are those that only say oooh, aah and compliment you. I just say thank you, then there are those that say; "I like how you...", I consider it then thank them. Finally there are those that say; you should have made the sky more blue or you should have put a candle in that scene. I say maybe, then thank them. It is that simple.
    Now, if somenone wants to break it down to a molecular level, I don't have that type of training. I try to look interested in what they are saying and politiely go refresh my drink
    Gezza and Andrew Flannigan like this.
  10. Trannifan

    Trannifan Well-Known Member

    Put another way, they see the picture as a whole whereas the others tend to see a picture in terms of points to be ticked off on their mental check list.............

    Roger Hicks and Andrew Flannigan like this.
  11. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    That seems reasonable. Though it's also possible that they see a picture emotionally rather than intellectually? A bit like people who listen to music for pleasure and those who 'appreciate' it, if you see what I mean. The latter may get something more from it, but they may also lose something.

    Reminds me of the Beecham quote, ""the British may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes". ;)
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  12. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I'm not convinced that's true though. I've witnessed many an occasion where people have said 'wonderful picture' about an image that is out of focus, with heads chopped off and red glowing eyes just because it shows their niece as a baby. I think people IGNORE the bigger picture and focus on the details they know, or recognise, or understand. I think it's the same mental process that makes beginners take photographs with lamps sticking out of people's heads, or where the main subject of the photograph occupies a tiny proportion of the frame, the rest being some stranger's backside. They are only concentrating on the thing they want to see.

    The more photographs you look at, the more you attempt to read images, the more comparisons you make and the more you start to understand so that you do start to see the bigger picture and you can filter out the things that were mistakes or intentional. Everything is always going to be subjective but if you have only ever seen one photograph in your life you're going to think it's a mechanical marvel and wonder at it no matter the content. The more of them you see, the more you compare and contrast and assess.
    Catriona likes this.
  13. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    That's definitely the way I think some look at photos. If the subject or even colour attracts them, the finer details of horizons, poles out of people's heads doesn't even register.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  14. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    That's the most sensible observation on photography I've seen for ages. Very, very few people care about composition but almost everyone cares about their own Uncle Albert.
    Geren, Lawsyd and Catriona like this.
  15. Lawsyd

    Lawsyd Well-Known Member

    To me it's the difference between Michelin standard cooking & good, tasty, home cooking. Most of us don't care about the technical intricasies required to produce Michelin standard food - we just want a meal that tastes good to us - we all have slightly different taste buds - & that, hopefully, is nutritious. It's the same with photos. Who cares if a photo's exposure is half a stop out from perfect or even (depending on the subject) if there is an amount of camera shake. The majority of people I come into contact with want the 'home cooking' of a subject they recognise or can understand and they really don't care about the technicalities. If you don't believe me then buy or borrow a book of classic photographs (as was bought for me for Christmas). You may well end up looking at the exposure settings, if provided, but it will be the image that hits you first - not the technical details.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  16. smedz28

    smedz28 Active Member

    I agree with your point about people starting to learn the craft who look for critique as everything that is taught at the beginning is about following rules for composition, exposure and being told how an image should look and how to do it correctly. It's all very well learning the technical aspects of photography but when all that is said and done people automatically start to discover their own style and start making decisions for themselves about the technical aspects of an image as well as the look and mood that it conveys. For me that's the turning point where criticism becomes opinion and everyone should learn to see it as that. Otherwise you end up chasing a rainbow, trying to please everyone because everyone has a different idea of what makes a good image and end up with no creative style of your own......if any of that makes sense?
    Andrew Flannigan and Gezza like this.
  17. Jimbo57

    Jimbo57 Well-Known Member

    Basically, there are two reasons (other than commercial ones) for taking a photograph. The first is to produce a picture that you like. The second is to produce a picture that you hope other people will like.

    In the first case, criticism is irrelevant as you obviously would not let anyone else see the picture and, if they accidentally saw it, you would not care a fig what they thought. It's the photographic equivalent of masturbation. Simply doing it for your own pleasure. (Or maybe to practise for the real thing.)

    In the second case, you would want to know how well you had succeeded in producing a picture that other people would like and, if you fail in this objective, you would want to know how to do it better. In that respect criticism is a tool you would seek. But don't fall into the trap of expecting the same picture to appeal to everyone. It won't.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  18. Lawsyd

    Lawsyd Well-Known Member

    Personally (sorry if this strikes a raw nerve with some members on here, so be prepared) I think that a lot of criticism says more about the critic ('look at how clever I am'; 'look at how comfortable I am with exposure formulae'; etc.) than ever it does about the photo or photos being assessed.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  19. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    Not necessarily. I produce pictures, in general, to please me. I've no objection to other people seeing them. If they like them, fine. If not, so what?

    You might think so. I couldn't possibly comment. ;)
  20. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Lynn,

    This is exactly it. Criticism is necessarily analytical, but box-ticking analysis does not make a critique. The smaller or less imaginative the number of boxes to be ticked -- the Thief of Time argument -- the worse the critique.



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