Comments on Photos, good or bad?

Most people appreciate and maybe even crave feedback, especially positive. When it comes to photography, there are those who are very comfortable providing constructive, well-crafted critiques. These paragraphs of personal opinions are often (at least hopefully, always) provided with the best intentions in mind, to help the photographer understand what works, and what doesn’t, in a particular photograph.

But there has been a growing trend of fellow photographers withholding their positive encouragement for the silliest of reasons: embarrassment and shame.

How Can Leaving A Comment Be Embarrassing?

Recently I have seen or heard photographers suggest (or outright telling) someone that if they can’t “intelligently” explain why they like someone’s image, they shouldn’t bother posting a comment. In other words, if a photograph catchers your attention, you show your own ignorance by posting “Nice image!” Telling someone they are unqualified to post a comment on photographs is frankly one of the most degrading remarks one photographer can say to another.

I’ve heard members mention occasionally that they loved one image or another from their fellow community member, but didn’t comment because Joe Blow Pro Photog told them that “Love it!” Or “great pic!” is amateur. Frankly, telling you that you are not qualified to “like” a photo makes Joe Blow Pro Photog lame and amateurish. (Point him to this blog post is he disagrees).

All Feedback is Important

It’s true that learning to read a photograph, how to detect subtle use of intersecting lines, angles, strong color (or not), and other composition techniques is very important. And providing details when commenting on a work is always helpful and informative, even if that feedback may include some “suggestions for improvement”. The end result is that we help each other grow, right?

As we grow as artists, we slowly learn to talk about the trade, learn the language, etc. And as we grow, we can spot areas that seem to “not work” both in our own photographs and others. These are important steps for an artist’s maturity. So by no means am I saying that learning how to “Read” a photograph or provide constructive critiques aren’t important skills to grow into.

But someone should never feel intimidated or uncomfortable telling another photographer that their work had an emotional effect … even if the viewer is not prepared to specifically explain why.

It is Rude to Look at a Sketch Without Making a Nice Comment …

We are not required to withhold friendly feedback for other art forms. If someone shows you a quilt, lawn, drawing, or pottery, do you withhold positive feedback because you don’t know specific technical terms?

If someone shows you their drawing with stunning detail, strokes, and perspective … do you just hand the image back with no comment because you haven’t taken a proper sketching class? No, you say “OMG”, because you recognize skill, and it is polite and encouraging to our peers!

So if someone creates a composition that affects your perception positively, they have knowingly or unknowingly tapped into the skills of artistic expression. They would like to see your “Like”, “Fav”, or “Amazing” just as much as a three-paragraph examination. Don’t let the rules of a staid and inflexible photography critiques keep you from telling a fellow photographer, “I really love your work.”

If you like it, Like it! Don’t be shy, don’t feel judged. The recipient will really appreciate the time you took to comment. Don’t let some cranky old photographer make you to think you are unqualified to like something … or to express your appreciation for someone else’s work!

Feel free to post comments on the subject, I’m interested in hearing your view … or if you find this article helpful.

Joe Lippeatt
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