Critique Me!

by Steve Simon

Diane Arbus once said that the more personal you get, the more universal and interesting the photographs become.

After years in the business and years more teaching and leading workshops, I know how difficult it sometimes is for photographers to share their work. I also now that good, constructive criticism is golden, and can make you see or understand something about your work that you never knew.

So, as tough as it is, it's ultimately a good thing to put your guts on the table (or posted to the web) and listen to how people react to your work and what they have to say. Sites like Flickr are a great way to get feedback on what you are doing and suggestions for making it better. It's a great opportunity for honest, constructive criticism you can use.

Of course not all comments or feedback will necessarily be helpful. It may just be a complement, but if you put it out there that you're looking for suggestions and reactions, that might get you the most useful feedback.

So if you want to start hearing what people have to say, here's an easy way to start. Sign up for your free Flickr account.

To upload images from Aperture to Flickr, it's simple. First I made a quick album with the images I wanted to upload. Then I selected them all, went to file> export to Flickr (I already have an account) added photos to a new photoset (chose email-medium) and voila, the images are placed on my Flickr page, ready to say to the world. "Critique Me!"

Aperture to Flickr.jpg

Once uploaded on the Flickr site, you have the chance to put new titles and descriptions if you want. Getting feedback on your work is about personal growth, and we all have the capacity to improve from where we are now. Last week's post about the prolific Gary Winogrand was a good example of how a photographer learns by doing.

Sometimes I hear from aspiring photographers how they envy the professional, shooting fulltime. But I know as a professional, the envy goes both ways. Those who don't depend on photography for their income, can pursue it purely for the joy of it, shooting what they like, when they like.

And so much of the professional photographers' time is spent doing non-shooting tasks that many part time photographers end up shooting more than full time professionals anyway! The grass is often greener...

I read recently how the amazing Josef Koudelka, now 70, plans on shooting as much as he can, because he can. Later, when he's older and it's time to slow down, he will spend time editing, printing, creating books and exhibitions, etc. I found this pearl, from a 20-year-old interview with the master and Frank Horvat.

"I don't know what's important to the people who look at my photos. What's important to me is to make them. I work all the time, but there are only a few of my photos that I find really good. I am not even sure that I am really a good photographer. I think that anyone working as I do could do the same. But my purpose is not to prove my talent. I photograph almost every day, except when it's too cold for traveling the way I do - as in this time of winter. Sometimes my photos are OK, other times they are not, but I think that eventually something will come out of my work. I don't worry about it.

I have done what I wanted, now I have to make good use of the time and energy that are left. Look: all these files contain my contact sheets - which doesn't mean that they contain many good photos, only that I have done a lot of work. It will take years to really look at all that. Even if I fall ill, or if I am immobilized for some other reason, there is plenty of work to be done."

Photographers like Winogrand and Koudelka inspire me with their work, and their work ethic. I need to get shooting more! How about you?

New Plug-in

Lightbox XMP is an export plug-in for Aperture, allowing you to export additional XMP info with your images, beyond what Aperture will do automatically. It is donationware. Get it here.


Matt Lew
2007-04-04 22:48:08
There's a plug-in called Flickr Export for Aperture here

which lets you export images to Flickr including tags etc.

Rory Tate
2007-04-07 07:02:03
What a useful and inspiring article. I love the part about work ethic and taking lots of photos. Also, his comment of having only a few really good photos. These are my own feelings as well. Successful art in any form is 90% plain hard work. Unavoidable.

Rory Tate
Canadian, OK

Fred Showker
2007-04-12 09:16:11
Seek out good watermarking advice before uploading your hard-earned work. Unless you password-protect the site, if you post photos -- people will use them.
Steve Simon
2007-04-12 09:39:54
Hey good point. I wish everyone would play by the rules, but it's not the world we live in.