Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nice Capture

This post has been in my head for a long time, well over a year. It was going to be one of those pieces that would piss a few people off, so I sat on it while I tried to figure out how to word it. I was afraid it would come out too harsh and I'm kinda glad that I waited. You see I was gonna say that I thought it was wrong to tell someone "Nice capture" when they posted an image for critique that was, how can I put it gently...

Crap.

I was gonna say that if you have some skill and experience then you owe it to the community to give someone constructive criticism. By telling someone what they are doing right, and how they can improve, then you're not only doing the person you're responding to a favor but you're also helping everyone who reads your response. So in the end everyone wins and the macro discipline improves.

Telling someone "Nice capture" is like saying "Wow you found the shutter release!?".

But the more I post on the internet the more I've come to realize that there are a lot of people who really don't want constructive criticism. They'll post images that have some serious problems, problems that they'd have to be legally blind not to see, and what they want is for someone to tell them that they're doing great. So if anyone says anything other than "Nice capture" or "Well done" then they're opening themselves up to a wide assortment of egos, and some of them bruise like grapes. If you give honest feedback then you'll be viewed as arrogant instead of helpful -fuel for the trolls...

It's getting so bad that I've all but given up on giving constructive criticism, and not only do I now understand why some people will say "Nice capture" when a photo isn't up to par but I can also see why some have stopped teaching. The "students" don't want to be "schooled" -all they seem to want is the "diploma"...

On a semi-regular basis I hold classes on computers and networking. Every time I teach I end up learning something from the students. Either they bring fresh ideas to the discussion, or they ask questions that get me to think about a subject from a different angle. Photography is no different and healthy discussion, where people are willing to listen at least as much as they talk, is always a good thing. But unfortunately I'm just not finding much of that healthy discussion out there lately -too many egos and attitudes.

Too many trolls who only want to hear "Nice capture"...

17 comments:

macroinstantes said...

Nice post! Well done! ;-)

You are absolutely right, people don't want the truth.

Dalantech said...

LOL at "Well done" :D

I really wish things were different macroinstantes -but I'm just running into too many people who have a negative impression of me. People who can't stand anyone who disagrees with them -especially if that person is me. So I'm just gonna go out, take photos, and enjoy macro. Eventually the haters will fade out -their work won't improve enough for them to make a difference anyway...

excessmind said...

You are right, but one sometimes wants just this, an approval that he is heading in the right direction. "Nice capture" does it, an approval. If you have several smilies, or "wow"s, or "nice capture"s on a photo, you know that your photo might not be perfect, but there are at least several people who liked it. Most of the people in photosharing sites can't give any meaningful advice, and some of them just live on these small praises, you know those post-a-stupid-badge groups in flickr. But there are others, who watch and learn, so you shouldn't stop giving advices, just because you've stumbled on some haters who don't want to listen and already know everything.

Dalantech said...

I don't know excessmind -I think that only giving positive feedback might cause someone to "coast" and not work on the things they need to improve. I've actually seen it happen to some well respected shooters who start believing what their fans tell them (the subject of a future post).

As for teaching: There will always be this blog, and my tutorial section at Deviant Art but I think I'm gonna take it easy in the forum-sphere for a while...

logic said...

I think that only giving positive feedback might cause someone to "coast" and not work on the things they need to improve.

One other thing to consider: perhaps they've reached their potential, and aren't interested in improving any further? Oh, they might protest at that suggestion, but the simple fact could be that they've just reached the point where they don't want to "work" at their hobby any more.

On the Internet, everyone can sound like a professional, but not everyone aspires to be one. ;)

Dalantech said...

I can agree with your point to a degree logic: If they've reached their potential then why ask for comments and criticism -and then get bent when they get it?...

wdgg22FJP22 said...

I think you've hit on a central truth of life circa today. It's probably part of the fallout from the "Me Generation" we ushered in a while back.

So, for grasping this truth, and writing about it, I say "nice capture". ;-)

Dalantech said...

LMAO! Thanks wdgg22FJP22!

Next time try to pick a more difficult nickname to type will ya! ;)

Michael said...

Yeah, it's a shame that nobody sells little self-criticism devices that plug into the camera or something. It's probably the hardest aspect of photography to get a good handle on, and I can see where someone who isn't good at it might get insecure and uncertain when someone who can articulate the strengths and weaknesses of an image talks about theirs. But jeez, if I had to relearn how to critique (and I'm not saying I'm excellent at it) or relearn everything else about photography, I'd choose the latter.

This might just be a random impression, but I get the sense that a lot of macro shooters come from engineering or other technical backgrounds, and may have never been exposed to artistic critique to the degree that someone coming in as, say, a writer or designer. So for some, it may be less a question of not wanting criticism, but misunderstanding what it is, on a fundamental level. Like, in their minds it's signal, when really it's supposed to be a ground voltage.

Dalantech said...

What you've said makes a lot of sense Michael -especially if the shooter is technique driven and someone comments on their composition or lighting.

If I had to choose I'd actually take critique, because by being my own worst critic I've become a better photographer. No one, and I do mean no one, can pick my photos apart the way I can...

Kenny said...

Well, crap!! I KNOW I'm guilty of having said 'nice capture' at one time or another. Truth be told, I honestly don't think my skills are at a level to where I feel honest giving advice.

There is an old saw that goes something like this: if you can't say something nice--and I suppose you could substitute constructive or helpful--then don't say anything. A copout, maybe, but it's a way to go.

PvR said...

I think I'm at or perhaps still below Kenny's level of being able to offer helpful advice. I don't want to know what I may have provided as comments historically but lately I try to offer more than a throw-away one liner. However, one time I made the mistake of reading one person's profile where he professed that flickr was a big love-in and he would appreciate some honest critiques. I provided one wee comment on one of his images and I don't think it was a harsh criticism. His friends took issue with me, and I'm not sure he took it all that well either. I don't do that anymore.

It isn't much of a loss if I shut-up. Thankfully Dalantech is keeping his blog going. It may not be a personal critique but at least there is some ongoing available education.

As to the comment about people with technical backgrounds, I resemble that remark.

Dalantech said...

Constructive is good Kenny, and there are some out there that can take constructive criticism. But if I don't have something positive to say about an image then I won't say anything -much friendlier that way ;)

Dalantech said...

I resemble it too PvR, but I try to put composition and lighting first and technique on a back burner (or reserve it for tutorials and deconstructions). I know what you mean about offering feedback to someone who really didn't want it -been there, done that, wished I had fire retardant clothing...

Michael said...

"If I had to choose I'd actually take critique, because by being my own worst critic I've become a better photographer."

Yes, that's exactly what I was saying, or would have if I'd taken a minute to proof-read :)

Andreas said...

Great post. I love getting positive feedback but what makes me improve is the negative feedback. Like my diffuser thread. Getting only positive words would not have given me the light I wanted. More constructive feedback is welcome!!!

Andreas

Dalantech said...

I agree fully Andreas: I wouldn't be where I am today if Mark Plonsky had just patted me on the head and said "good boy"...