Are critiques useful after the shoot?

Are critiques useful after the shoot?

I lurk (and participate) in a lot of internet forums on photography, and one recurring topic I see is that image critiques are not useful after the shoot has been done. This sentiment seems to be especially common from newer photographers. Let’s face it, the internet can be a terrible place, and no matter how good you are at something there is always someone who is sitting and waiting to bash your work. Do critiques help or stifle future creativity? Let’s talk about it…

Imagine that you are doing your first shoot with a model. There are a million and one things to remember – camera settings, posing the model, lighting, wardrobe, hair, makeup, retouching –  the list goes on forever. Then you post that first image you really like, and you experience the worst case scenario – a deluge of negative comments. You feel like “none of this matters” because the shoot is already done, and you can’t change any of it. You get frustrated and take the image down. We have all been there.

It is at this point that you can take one of two roads: you can stand firm and believe that nothing those internet trolls said was true and they should have been there and then they would know how hard the shoot was, or you can take a deep breath and listen to what others have to say. Now, realize that some people don’t have the critique knowledge or language to deliver a proper critique of your work, but there will be others that have reasonable things to say about your images, perhaps you have seen their critiques of other posts and considered their points valid. Realize that there is true value in critique – no matter how bad it hurts. Sometimes you need to step back from your ego and take some of those comments to heart. Try and objectively look at your image and match those comments up with each aspect of the photo that was discussed. I am betting you will find many valid points and areas you can improve in for the next shoot.

Technical Comments

This is the real point of the critique, some will post silly or unreasonable comments while others will actually look at your image and give you solid areas to work on. It is these comments that you should take with you internally to your next shoot. Was your lighting off? Watch some YouTube videos and practice on a round object at home before you work with a model again. Learn to dial your lighting in so it is second nature when you do your next shoot. Take all the technical critiques to heart and practice them.

The details

Some of the comments will be about little details you missed. A shirt was wrinkled, a backdrop was creased, hair was out of place, makeup was smudged, clothing tag was visible – all these things have happened to every photographer and we got dinged for them and they stick out like a sore thumb when we see them. Realize that each time you get a critique on an image, there will be things that go into your mental checklist. One thing that stuck with me was for nude shoots was underwear lines, I always tell my models to wear loose clothing so there are no undergarment lines when we begin the shoot. These can be easily removed in photoshop, but why cause yourself more work in post when you can resolve the issue before the shoot even starts? I am also keyed on garment tags I always check those before I start shooting, and it’s gotten so bad that I even notice myself stuffing the tags back down on my wife’s blouses around the house because they are such a strong key for me.


This is an area which is especially common to see critiques for, especially when you are just starting out. During a shoot, you are often so focused on camera settings, and posing the model that you don’t see the nuance of the model’s discomfort. If you don’t take time to talk with your model and build comfort before you take that first shot, the discomfort will be very evident in their hands and face. This can lead to stiff unnatural-looking hands, furrowed brows and general tightness in the face. Take the time to discuss the shoot and what will happen. This will relax your model. More importantly, think before you speak and don’t be creepy. Follow these simple guidelines and everything will go smoother and yield better results in the final images.    

They do help.

Each time you do a shoot, whether you are photographing a bottle of perfume or a beautiful model, you are learning and fine-tuning your technique. Just like you do with fake news articles, learn to sort out the critiques that are meaningful and helpful from the ones that are hurtful. Realize that the commenters are pointing out issues without context. They don’t know if the images were taken for a clothing tag manufacturer, and all the tags were meant to be out of the blouses. Don’t get upset, don’t get into an argument or call people names, if you do, this will only make it tougher to get a good critique later.

I am always willing to put my time where my mouth is, if you would like to talk to me about critiquing some of your images, by all means drop me an email and let’s discuss. 

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to catch up with me on my websites or social media, and until next time, Get out there are get shooting!

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