I’ve often wondered and asked myself just how valuable are these photo submission/critique forums? And yes, I think it’s a valid question that you don’t hear discussed very often.
When I first got more serious about photography I would hang about some of these photo critique forums taking in as much information as I could. However, it didn’t take me long to come to the realization that each time someone submitted a photo, they would be deluged with thousands of personal opinions about what they did wrong, what sucked about the image, or what they should have done to improve it.
If you are a beginner photographer, places like this can help you and they can hurt you. They can help you because some people do make valid critiques and submit useful information in an appropriate way. They can also hurt you in the sense that you must realize that people are giving their personal opinions. And that’s all they are – their personal opinions. They may not be based on any tried and true experience, but rather personal taste. They are describing what they would do, and that may not at all match your own personal vision. And quite often as I have witnessed over the years, the manner in which some people critique images is just downright unhelpful for providing someone new with any guidance or inspiration.
So if you are interested in photography and are relatively new, and wishing to learn new things and obtain some valid advice, my suggestions to you are as follows:
1.) Become proficient at the technical stuff and then forget it.
2.) Read E-books
3.) Sign up for photography webinars
4.) Take online courses
5.) Find a good teacher and mentor who who is not only great at their craft, but who knows how to teach. This kind of person is encouraging and understands the value and uniqueness of each individual’s personal vision. They will critique your images in an honest and helpful manner.
6.) Attend workshops with other photographers
7.) Look at great images always and ask yourself why they affect you the way they do.
8.) Watch movies and take note of the cinematography.
9.) Learn to be more sensitive and observant.
10.) And, as one of my favorite teachers Chris Orwig said, “To get good at photography we have to make choices that honor our own vision and voice. If you stay true to your voice, your art will find an audience.”