See How can we do photo critiques? and Should Photo Critiques be allowed? for previous discussion. It's generally been the consensus in the past that this is outside the charter of the site.

But our main problem right now is lack of questions. And a good portion of the questions we get are "16-92mm f/3.2 vs 14-87mm f/3.9 which to buy?" — which I think we also really only tolerate because there's not much coming in. I'd much rather have the photo-critique questions than many more of those!

I'd like to open the door to more questions about how to make a good photo, and specifically encourage people to post examples as part of the question.

Unlike a photo critique, I think they should focus on a specific concern, rather than open "what do you think of my photo". I think What is a point of interest in a photograph and where is it lacking in this candle picture? is a great example of this. More questions like this would be great for the site, and really help us grow.

Right now, the site already says that specific questions like this are allowed, but we've tended to interpret that as meaning specific technical issues. How can we expand that and make it not just allowed but encouraged?

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brilliant question, and I do hope the specific critique questions get accepted here. I feel this site has a good number of people who mostly know what they are talking about, so getting specific critique from them would be a huge improvement for both - the site as well as the members! –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 6 '12 at 14:12
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So, just to be clear, you're suggesting that we encourage questions that focus on what specific creative thing can be fixed in a picture? –  rfusca Mar 6 '12 at 16:14
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@rfusca: I mostly want to raise the discussion. I don't think we want people to post photos with wide-open "so, what do you think?" or even "does this work for you?" questions, but I would like to see it go beyond asking for fixes too. –  mattdm Mar 6 '12 at 16:39
    
Everybody knows that the 14-87 isn't worth much! .... now seriously instead: +1 I agree with @mattdm. –  Francesco Oct 27 '12 at 15:10

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

My opinion is that the door was never closed, only guarded.

We do allow critique, but it needs to focused.

As a community, we have avoided questions that are general critique because it isn't a good fit for the Q&A system. A critique is necessarily subjective, and usually doesn't lend itself to really being answered. However, if the focus is on a specific portion of the image it may certainly be possible to ask a question that is answerable.

Concerning the example:

This seems to be a good example of an on-topic critique question. It has a specific purpose which isn't overtly subjective.

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My only problem is this:

When we encouraged critical comments on PotW entries it went badly...really, really bad. Lost at least a few really good members badly.

When you start asking, generally, what is creatively wrong with a picture that somebody likes, we open the door for all sorts of stupid comments like "I don't think you should take pictures of cats" .

I'm fine with addressing the creative side, but I still think the question needs to address something specific the photog wants addressed. If he comes in for composition help, he doesn't need to hear a criticism of his subject choice.

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+1 for no pictures of cats –  dpollitt Mar 6 '12 at 17:43
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@dpollitt — sounds like a challenge! mwhahahah. –  mattdm Mar 7 '12 at 2:52
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I don’t get it (and admittedly I wasn’t here when critique on POTW was encouraged). My POTW got comments that could be viewed as critical. It seems to me that you’re blurring the responsibilities of the question asker and the answerer. Specific questions are great, but people already do give opinion (sometimes off-topic) in their answers. If it’s inappropriate they can be flagged/down voted/edited by the community which is what already happens on other questions. Why are creative questions different? –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 13:27
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@forsvarir Because there's a difference between something that is bad/offensive and the mods need to take care of, versus something that is just bad/stupid. Voting can take care of it for sure, but I don't think we should set ourselves up for trouble. Again, I'm not saying "no creative questions", but just that like all other questions on the site, there needs to be a focus for it. –  rfusca Mar 7 '12 at 16:05

I think that sort of question ought to be welcome, particularly when it's in the form of:

I received the following critique, and I can't figure out for the life of me what the heck they're talking about.

I mean, it's nice to talk in abstractions about compositional "rules", lighting ratios, "correct" exposure, and so forth, but it can be very difficult to develop a concrete understanding. It's not so much the questions that we have to keep an eye on, but the answers.

And sometimes the critique can be very technical. This question, for instance, dealt with more than just artistic and technical criticism of the image as a photograph, but with the technical requirements of stock photography as well (bleed allowances, composing for typical layout crops and so on).

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I would +1, because I do agree that something like the example you gave should be allowed, but the 'particularly' gets me. I don't want to encourage 'general critique' at all. –  rfusca Mar 6 '12 at 23:05
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@rfusca — the alternative scenario I was thinking of was the "I've done everything right... why is it still so wrong" question, not the "like me and my pics on Facebook" sort of thing. Again, it's the difference between theoretical abstractions (book learnin') and art. "Manual" questions are a much bigger turn-off to me; you can pick that stuff up without ever picking up a camera. –  user2719 Mar 6 '12 at 23:30
    
I'm think that'd be fine, so long as they can't point out at least one thing that isn't fine to us. At that point, it essentially becomes what @chills and I are talking about - critique with a focus. The problem is, so many people think their stuff isn't "me and my pics on Facebook" and we need to make sure we're not the ones sorting that out on the main page of the Q&A site. –  rfusca Mar 7 '12 at 8:18

Totally agree. Looking at a good picture and understanding what can make it better is very helpful. This is not a rate my photo Flickr group :) But yet photos are a great learning tool for photographers :D

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Technical critiques should be allowed, definitely, because they are really nothing more than a question with an example attached. Technical could mean something about exposure or focus, or something about following composition rules, for example.

I'd say any subjective critique should not be allowed, which I think basically just comes down to "do you like this?" and "critique my photo" questions.

More than anything, I think it comes down to how the critique/question is asked. "Critique my photo, please" is a bad choice because there's no clear way to answer that correctly. But a better question/request for critique could be helpful and productive: "why doesn't my photo have the impact I imagined? I tried to recreate 'x' and create 'y' mood, but it fell short -- what did I do wrong?" I suspect the resulting discussion would be interesting, cite resources, provide insight, and be very worthwhile. How do we encourage well-written questions?

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But, if we allow that composition rules are more like guidelines than actual rules, doesn't that make all such questions subjective? Where would you draw that line? –  mattdm Mar 7 '12 at 2:48
    
I'd say if the question is explicitly asking about a compositional rule, it's ok. "I'm told this follows the rule of thirds; what does that means?" is a valid question with a clear answer. Anisha's recent question about candles/focus falls into this category. But if it's just fishing with "does this follow any composition rules" it's not a good question. –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 7 '12 at 12:30
    
@DanWolfgang "But if it's just fishing with "does this follow any composition rules" it's not a good question. " my new example question on which you agreed yesterday falls into this category. read it again. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 8 '12 at 2:21
    
I disagree. You're asking about a specific rule/idea: a central point of interest. –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 8 '12 at 12:14
    
@DanWolfgang I was talking about this question in my "example" which I put in the comments. I just worded it differently. "Does this follow any composition rules?" is same as "Does my picture have a POI?" –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 8 '12 at 17:41

Right now, the site already says that specific questions like this are allowed, but we've tended to interpret that as meaning specific technical issues. How can we expand that and make it not just allowed but encouraged?

A person can ask a specific critique question only when he "knows" where the problem is, and for knowing that he has to post on other photo fora to get generic critiques. The average people on the generic fora usually post critiques like "lovely", "No POI", "horizon is slanting" etc. These kinds of critiques do not help a person to grow. 1x is an exceptional forum for sure, but that's only one.

Often we say that the person should be able to critique his own photograph. IMO it may not be feasible to apply the same logic to the "beginners"!

Can we first of all compose a list of minimum 15 types of specific "non-technical", and "technical" critique questions/points that a person can look for in his own photograph, and then ask the same on on this site (if he finds them problematic)?

I think forming a list of 15 non technical questions is more important so that the asker gets an idea about what's allowed and what's not allowed on this site, since a non technical question can easily verge on the discussion type of questions and get closed.

Should we create a new thread in which we can have one specific question as one particular answer, and then determine on the basis of up and down votes what's allowed and what's not?

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“How do I critique my own photograph?” may be a reasonable question for the main site. There’s already some guidance in these questions photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2296/… and photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7885/…. –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 12:46
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I don’t think coming up with a list of ‘acceptable questions’ would be very productive. Your original question (what is a point of interest in a photograph) and having it tied in to an example was good. Having a bunch of similar questions with different photos would probably be bad (they’re duplicates). My concern with a list of acceptable questions is that it would result in almost identical questions that from a search perspective (by future users) are meaningless. –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 12:46
    
@forsvarir Having a bunch of similar questions with different photos would probably be bad (they’re duplicates) In what way? Any example of a "similar" question? I'll get your point after that. Oh, you mean that if some one "else" too asks if the point of interest is missing in a new photograph, you'll consider it a duplicate of my question? If that's true, then I might ask the 15 unique questions, then no one else might be able to ask anything similar on their photos that'll be a duplicate according to you?? Nice. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 12:57
    
A good answer to the first question will generally be useful to people in a similar position in future (which the answers to your question are). There may be some subsequent variation in future questions, if worded differently, but if worded the same (which a list would seem to encourage), then why would the answers be different? The only reason is the picture is different. This creates two issues (for me), the picture itself isn’t searchable and partly as a result the answers are specific to that one question (there’s a too localized close reason for that). –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 13:38
    
@forsvarir This creates two issues (for me), the picture itself isn’t searchable and partly as a result the answers are specific to that one question (there’s a too localized close reason for that) This problem will ALWAYS be with the critique type questions. They are ALWAYS localized. Also, it wouldn't be fair that if I am allowed to ask the question x on my picture, others won't be allowed to ask the similar on their different picture. It is really for the site to decide whether they wish to allow somewhat localized critique questions or not. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 13:53
    
The point is if they read yours and the answers, they might not need to ask theirs, or they might word it a different way that puts a different spin on it. Your question isn't too localized specifically because of the 'what is a point of interest' element. You're right it is up to the site to decide where the line is drawn, I only get 1 vote, I'm just expressing my opinion that a list of 'acceptable questions' would lead down the wrong path. –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 14:06
    
@forsvarir Your question isn't too localized specifically because of the 'what is a point of interest' element. Because I actually didn't know the "meaning' of that term. But, that's rare. People usually know these terms, but don't know how these terms apply to their pictures! Perhaps I am getting a wrong notion here then, are we ONLY allowed to ask about the "meanings" of the sentences and terms here? or even questions like I have been told that there is no POI in this picture, but I can't see how, can anyone explain why my pic doesn't have a POI? Is this allowed? –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 14:20
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More than anything, I think it comes down to how the critique/question is asked. "Critique my photo, please" is a bad choice because there's no clear way to answer that correctly. But a better question/request for critique could be helpful and productive: "why doesn't my photo have the impact I imagined? I tried to recreate 'x' and create 'y' mood, but it fell short -- what did I do wrong?" I suspect the resulting discussion would be interesting, cite resources, provide insight, and be very worthwhile. How do we encourage well-written questions? (I added this statement to my answer, in fact.) –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 7 '12 at 15:35
    
@DanWolfgang Is this kind of question allowed? I have been told that there is no POI in this picture, but I can't see how, can anyone explain why my pic doesn't have a POI? –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 16:08
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I would say yes. You're asking a specific question. While the responses may offer conjecture and the answer may be somewhat subjective, there's a clear focus on the question and a clear goal to what the answer should probably entail. –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 7 '12 at 16:58
    
@DanWolfgang If the moderators think the same then that's a happy moment for me. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 17:00
    
@DanWolfgang But then, would someone else be allowed to ask the same question about their picture without being called it a dupliacte? –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 17:01
    
While there would probably be some duplication, I'd argue that posting a photo makes it at least a little bit unique, and therefore valid. –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 7 '12 at 18:44
    
@DanWolfgang I was also thinking the same thing. why are people yet against having a list of the type of non technical questions to be asked? –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 18:52

Great answers and comments so far.

It's often suggested if you want to improve your photography, you should study the masters (photographs and artwork in general). Learn to read and interpret art and photographs. Assisting in that could be very useful and appropriate.

I'd welcome limited and focused critique along the lines of what Stan and Dan said. Even better, and safer, might be to post up some famous photographs and ask questions about them - why are they so well regarded, is it the composition, the light, the emotion. Deconstructing (if that's the right word) some of these photos could be interesting and educational.

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why the downvote? –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 8:27
    
@Anisha - not my downvote, but on meta, downvotes just mean "I disagree". (notice that they don't affect reputation) –  mattdm Mar 7 '12 at 11:17
    
@mattdm I know, but if someone disagrees, they should also understand that other people are not mind readers. Simply downvoting doesn't help anyone understand the reasons. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 11:23
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@Anisha Kaul: There's been much discussion on the main meta site around commenting on downvotes. For me, I wouldn't expect every downvote to get a comment (particularly on meta) in much the same way that I wouldn't expect people to explain their upvotes. The suggestion that people comment is apparently there now for lower rep users: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 12:56
    
@forsvarir For me, I wouldn't expect every downvote to get a comment That's your personal opinion with which I disagree. Communication gaps due to a lack of proper English can lead to misunderstandings. We post in the threads to talk to our peers, not to the walls. Walls don't respond. I think humans should particualrily when they disagree so that a better suggestion or an answer can be provided. I am not least concerned with the reputation points. also, I know this has been discussed in the meta. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 13:03
    
@MikeW: I'm not sure about the idea of posting famous photographs (where would we stand on copyright for example) I'm also not sure they lend themselves to searchable questions. I guess an alternative that might work would be 'why is this photo recognised for it's good composition'... or maybe that would lead to a lot of duplicates... –  forsvarir Mar 7 '12 at 13:04
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I'm opposed to this idea of posting famous photos because it sounds like you're just saying "critique my photo" which won't get any legitimate answer. –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 7 '12 at 15:26
    
why are they so well regarded this would be seen as "What do you think of my picture" - pure discussion. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 17:39
    
@AnishaKaul: The discussion about downvotes and comments on the main site is here, although maybe things are a bit different on Meta. Note that Stack Exchange founder Jeff Atwood weighed in on that, so it's not just a personal opinion. –  mattdm Mar 7 '12 at 18:56
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@AnishaKaul: also, please don't use the back-quotes for quoting people. That's supposed to be for mono-spaced text for filenames and computer code. For quoting someone, use italics and double-quotes. " Thanks! (This one is just my personal opinion, but it's also the intention of Markdown.) –  mattdm Mar 7 '12 at 18:58
    
@mattdm "Note that Stack Exchange founder Jeff Atwood weighed in on that, so it's not just a personal opinion." Anything which is not a universal truth, and hasn't been scientifically proved can be qualified as a personal opinion/belief (even if it involves the founder) IMO! ;D ;D Anyway, in my starting days here I had a thread for this issue, and I do know that this has been discussed before. Ahem, FWIW I disagree with the founder's opinion. ;) –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 7 '12 at 19:07
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Yes, I see the questions I gave as examples might be vague and argumentative. My point was that Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capra must have done something right, compositionally, technically, or other, and their images could serve as good examples. Or Rembrandt or Caravaggio for lighting. No risk of offending them either :) –  MikeW Mar 7 '12 at 19:21
    
"No risk of offending them either :)" Good thing, that, since Carravaggio was apparently rather quick with a sword when offended. –  user2719 Mar 8 '12 at 17:22

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