How to critique someone’s creative effort. Like social media there is an unspoken etiquette and protocol to be followed. However, as social norms continue to break down we would all do well to revisit some of those rules. So here goes.
Rule number one: don’t offer unsolicited advice—EVER. If someone wants your opinion or advice they will ask for it. Rule number two: keep it private. No one, I mean no one, wants to be patronised in public.
Rule number three: the (constructive) criticism should always be about the creation itself and not about the person (the creator—small “c”)—it should be meant to help and to educate the creative and their process and most certainly should not be about the ego of the critic. Don’t be that ugly little person who feels compelled to put down the creative efforts of others only to make themselves look better (smarter, more talented, more deserving). In reality that person only ends up looking like the small, insecure, petty and envious creature they are (the green-eyed monster is a sick little beast).
Finally, when asked to critique a creative’s effort be POSITIVE! Find two or three positive aspects of the creation and talk about them in some depth. And though there might be many things that need improving pick only one (the most salient one) to offer advice on. And for God’s sake resist the temptation to lecture—instead use phrases like: next time you might want to consider this or that. And try to differentiate between real technical flaws and personal preferences—one represents an opportunity for improvement and the other represents the creative’s artistic expression (two entirely different things).
A well-rounded critique offers both sincere praise and well-intentioned suggestions—praise should always comes first. A good meaningful critique is not rocket science or at least it shouldn’t be. By definition a critique is: a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory. Unfortunately, the word critique (like criticism) has come to mean: [an] expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes. A critique is an evaluation, an analysis, not an indictment.
Field Notes: My creative activities include: photography, writing and travel. When I’m asked (and only when I’m asked) to critique another photographer’s work I first look at the technical merits of the image: focus, exposure and composition. These are the technical aspects of a photo that need to be spot-on (but are often missing). Digital post-processing (Photoshop & Lightroom) is also fair game—many digital images are over processed. The rest has to do with storytelling and artistic expression—the creative’s vision. The vision is open to interpretation but not necessarily to criticism in my opinion. SFD