Thinking About Critiquing A Photograph?

Thinking About Critiquing A Photograph? by BreAna L. Cannon This article is not intended to be a how to guide. It is just a peek into my head on how […]

Thinking About Critiquing A Photograph?


BreAna L. Cannon

This article is not intended to be a how to guide. It is just a peek into my head on how I critique a photograph. It is aimed at photographers, who are considering jumping into the world of critiquing photos, for friends, fellow club members etc. As the hobby of photography is growing, more and more photo groups and clubs are emerging. Many of these groups have online presence such as the ones found on There are also online forums such as Fan Art Review. In these groups and forums,  people have the opportunity to post their photos online for others to see and sometimes critique. One of the things I have noticed is, sometimes photographers post their work and request critique. Many people respond to these posts with comments such as “great shot” or “awesome catch”. These are not critiques, they are compliments. While this may make the photographer feel good, it really does nothing to help them improve their work. When someone is putting their work out there ASKING for critique, they are seeking others opinions on, not only what is right, but also what can be improved to make their photos better. Because many critiques have a lot to do with a reviewers personal taste, they can be very subjective. Because of this, a photo can get two completely different reviews from two different reviewers. Remember, photography is a form of art and just like any other art form, it’s level of appreciation will vary from person to person. So with that being said, putting personal taste aside, there are some guidelines, which when are followed, will make a photograph more technically correct and thought to be more appealing in general.
Here are some of the guidelines I use when I critique a photo:

When doing a one on one critique, I start off by finding out what the photographer is attempting to convey with the shot. Most of the time, doing this on an online critique is difficult. When you have this knowledge up front, you will have a better idea of how to critique the shot. Again, photography is art and the artist could be attempting  something totally out of the box. Some examples of this would be, unconventional coloring or lighting, dutch tilt, slowing down the shutter speed, to add blur etc. In these cases, the reviewer would not follow the standard “rules” (I hate that term) of photography, ie. the rule of thirds. After ascertaining the photographers intent, I look at the whole photo. Then I will concentrate onto the subject itself, then move to the surrounding aspects of the photo. Even if I don’t particularly care for the photo itself, I review as objectively as possible, noting things such as:

A) Exposure – Are there areas of under or over exposure?

B) Composition – How is the subject framed or placed in the photograph. How does the subject fit in with the rest of the picture? Are there any distractions? Is the horizon straight? What is the POV?

C) Focus – How sharp is the subject? Can small details in the shot be seen? Is the photographer using bokeh or keeping the whole frame in focus?

D) Lighting – How does it fall onto the subject? How does it affect  the detail in the highlights and shadows? Are there catch lights? How is the overall lighting in the shot?

There are other areas you can look at as well, but if you cover all of these points mentioned, you can feel good about your critique.


Now that we have looked over the photograph, it’s time to give the actual critique. If you are doing the critique online, be brief but thorough. Touch on a point, offer your comments and suggestions then move on to the next. Whether you are doing it in person or in writing, keep in mind, you are dealing with a person with feelings and a little tact goes a long way. I strongly believe, there is no reason to EVER rip apart anyone’s work. I always start out by talking about what I like about the photo. I might mention things like, nice catchlights in the eyes or nice bokeh. Touch on both the positives and negatives of the photo. When pointing out the “negatives”, there are many ways to do so without being insulting. Instead of just saying what is wrong with the photo, you can offer ways that could improve the shot instead. You can use phrases like “Maybe if you….”, “If it were my shot, I would…..”, “How about if you tried…..” etc. By doing this, you will be, hitting the negatives while giving advice on how the photograph can be improved and not discourage the photographer. This technique will also increase your respect amongst your peers and will be great for your reputation as a reviewer.


Below, using a photo I took a while ago, is an example of how I might give an online critique:photo critiquephoto critique 2photo critiqu 3


I like how you have a sharp focus directly on the bird, giving a soft bokeh in the fore and backgrounds of the image. The lighting on the bird is good and there is a nice catch light in the eye. I would have framed (or cropped) the shot tighter, taking the subject out of the center of the photo. Keep in mind, when you have a subject facing to the left or right, it is a good idea to leave a greater space open in front of the subject to “look or move” into. By doing this in this particular photo, you will increase the size of the subject, making it more prevalent in the shot, as well as bring out more detail. You will also be removing a lot of the branches which are a distraction from the subject. You have a good start here. I believe if you recompose this shot, it will make a big difference.



Below is the same photo with tighter crop.

photo critique 4


Just to be clear, I do not include a photo with the changes I suggested in my critiques. I just did it here to show the readers why I suggested the change.


Finally a quick recap…

-Be objective. Talk about only the photo. Keep your personal taste out of it.

-Be honest. Touch on both the positives and negatives.

-Be helpful. Offer suggestions on how the photo can be improved.

-Be tactful. Using phrases which will make your point but not insult the photographer.


Now that you have some basics, you can now go on and give it a try yourself.

Until next time…….


BreAna L Cannon


LunaStar Photographic Memories

LunaStar Photography – The Beauty of Florida'

About Guest Contributor