Thumbs' Up for Bad Photos and the "Dirty Window" Effect

in Editorial
By jazzcaster/Eric (9,242) Send mail to this user on July 25, 2009 11:05:10 PM CDT

I am one of those people who walks up to a dirty window, I mean really dirty, and peers through, trying to see what is on the other side. If I can make it out - tell what it is, I don't worry too much about the condition of the window. Before I met my wife, I didn't clean windows. My wife, on the other hand, routinely cleans the windows in the house. She is more focused on the window, me more on the scene beyond. Did I also mention that I love analogies? They are almost always flawed and imperfect, but they can be a powerful way of getting a point across when the listener understands the limited nature of the analogy. So let me rant a little while about what I believe a critique of poor photography should accomplish and why I occasionally give an unhelpful rating to thumbs' up critiques of bad photos. People who submit blurry cat photos or harshly lit snapshots of their grandchildren for critique have the approach to photography that I have to dirty windows. They see the subject and not the presentation - a favorite cat or beautiful grandchild - and are attempting to share their subject while completely oblivious to how bad a job they did at photographing it. For the sake of everything that is good, please don't encourage further unthinking snapshots by telling the photographer how cute their cat or grandchild is. Don't be afraid to break out the two red thumbs and give a critique that details how bad their photo really is. But, and this is important, don't insult their cat! If the entire image is out-of-focus, tell them. Don't just pick out one minor detail like the very OOF arm of the rocking chair that the cat is laying in and then give them one green thumb for encouragement. Even if they get the darned cat in focus on the neutral-color, carpeted stairwell, don't be afraid to give just one red thumb. Seriously, look at your critiques. If you have never given a red thumb, why are you here? Do you only critique images that don't really need it? Don't you have anything to offer beginning or very poorly skilled photographers? I have given many red-thumbed critiques and had the photographer delete the image. Yes, it can be frustrating. I've even critiqued the same image again when subsequently submitted (BTW that always merits one lower rating IMO). But if we continue to encourage very poor photography with green thumbs, well, we will continue to see the same people continuing to submit very poor photography. End Rant.

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From johnl/John (3,791) Send mail to this user on August 6, 2009 12:47:17 PM CDT

Well said. I agree with you. So many times (and I also include myself) we will post photos of our kids, dogs, etc because we are in love with the subject and feel that the photo warrants posting because of it's content. On the other hand if I shoot a photo of a rock on the sand - I try to make sure my composition, lighting, DOF, etc is as good as I can get it. A rock on the sand will not stir up in the hearts of viewers a fondness for the subject. At that point - all people look at are the points I used to take the shot (composition, light, etc). When I take a photo of my 6 year old when he is doing something "cute" I don't worry much about composition, lighting, etc (focus yes). When I shoot photos of him in his "Sunday clothes" at a predetermined location with a nice background and wonderful light - then yes I try to make the photo as technically good as I can. SO - I think critique should be handled on two different levels - one for snapshot types photos and one for those that are being presented as a photography - not a snapshot. My 2 cents.

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From convolvulus/David (3,066) Send mail to this user on September 3, 2009 7:42:22 PM CDT

Hi Eric I absolutely agree with what you are saying and there do seem to be a largish group of people out there that think that any sort of less than wholly positive comment (however deserved) should be given a negative rating. I think that possibly if someone wants to give a negative rating to the critique they should maybe say why (more than 15 words or it doesn't count) as I get particularly annoyed if I get a negative rating from someone who doesn't say why and especially if they have posted no critiques or photos. I really ought to have got past the points thing by now but it still does seem to matter. If I post a shot I wouldn't be happy if it got a negative rating. But I do post negative critiques myself, particularly if they say it is some sort of class assignment (they want you to be honest don't they? Oh, no they don't) I do think that the points system is part of the problem though. If you did away with negative scores and maybe scored photos from 1 to 6 that might be better I could go on at some length Dave

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From rbourne520/Randall (39) Send mail to this user on September 20, 2009 7:01:18 PM CDT

My favorite saying is this: "Good will always be the enemy of Excellent! If it's good then it's good enough." If someone thinks an image is good then why improve it? If others tell someone their image is good then he/she will never strive for excellence. I may think an image is good but if someone tells me it's not at least tell me why and give me some pointers because I want my photography to be excellent. That's why I'm here as well as all of your are here too.

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From rrayfield/Robert (53,650) Send mail to this user on October 25, 2009 9:57:21 PM CDT

Oh how I wish there was a zero thumb rating available . . . it's perfect for so many shots that don't touch me.

On the other hand, if you really want to help someone become a better photographer keep in mind that you catch more flies with honey that with vinegar!

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From gitlin/Scott (5,153) Send mail to this user on November 1, 2009 9:59:34 PM CST

For me, more important than the color of the thumb is the message. And a tone of impatience or ridicule in some critiques does not help anyone. A 1TD by definition is "1TD: Uninspired and uninteresting." I think members who post on PhotoSig have seen something that inspired them to such a degree that they decided to post their photo. They were inspired but the end result does not convey the message to the viewer. So is it a 1TD, or a 2TD hit head with hammer critique? More important is the advice, suggestions on how to improve.

This may be a generic thing first seen in the days of the Roman Coliseum after the gladiators combat was over.

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From oheyhurricane/Juliana (402) Send mail to this user on November 13, 2009 4:06:06 PM CST

It makes so much sense, because, in their mind-
anything that has to do with their grandchild or puppy is beautiful. So they get the satisfaction of what people that see an emotion from a beautiful picture get with just seeing their dog. Just because they see things differently, i feel obligated to give them a thumbs up for having the courage to believe it deserves a critique.

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From laurainga20/Laura (388) This user is a Premium Member Send mail to this user on January 4, 2010 9:44:37 AM CST

I agree. As for myself, If I dont think a photo is that good I just move on to the next. Im not going to take time to tell someone I dont like their picture. I was brought up to not say anything if you dont have something nice to say, so I leave my comments for the pictures I really like. I wish some people on here would do the same.

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From vonprond/Franz (20,495) This user is a Premium Member Send mail to this user on January 6, 2010 5:51:19 PM CST

Laura, if everyone followed that course of action nobody would learn anything. I have gotten most help on this site from those who provided me with an honest critique that showed me where I was going wrong. I am so grateful to those who took the time to explain things to me when they obviously (and often understandably, with hindsight) didn't like the photo!

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From sheenawilkie/Administrator (0) This user is a Premium Member This user is an Administrator Send mail to this user on January 7, 2010 8:14:56 AM CST

That defeats the entire purpose of photoSIG. If people are only going to offer niceties then no one will learn anything. I hope no one will do the same. I hope everyone here will tell people when their photo is poor that it is poor and why. Particularly when the vast majority of photos here are in that category.

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From nwickliff/Nakean (2,112) Send mail to this user on January 9, 2010 10:25:31 AM CST

Do people actually read what the thumbs mean? I have to say I've been guilty of never using the thumbs down. Think about it...."Uninspired and uninteresting"...well if you don't comment or critique the photo isn't it saying just this! How do you help someone make a photo more interesting or inspiring if it starts from nothing? 0 times any number is still 0! My major qualm is when an experienced photosigger critiques a photo they will never appreciate. IE: if you don't like HDR's then don't comment on them saying you don't care for HDR's but especially don't like this one. If it's a subject I'm not fond of I move to the next photograph. Would you want a seasoned whiskey drinker or a sommelier critiquing your beloved wine?

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From sheenawilkie/Administrator (0) This user is a Premium Member This user is an Administrator Send mail to this user on January 10, 2010 10:54:06 PM CST

Criticism should be objective. It's possible to not be a fan of a particular genre and still write a good critique. If you think a photo is uninteresting and you don't critique it how will the photographer learn how to make in interesting?

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From fengari/Kim (139) Send mail to this user on March 25, 2012 8:52:12 AM CDT

Not commenting or critiquing a picture doesn't necessarily mean it is uninspired and uninteresting. I often look at a picture and don't critique because of other reasons. Most of the time it is because it is a genre of photography that I'm not comfortable critiquing. For example: I have never tried my hand at model photography, and am not familiar with what that involves, so I don't feel right critiquing that as I don't think I could 'teach' the photographer anything. But that doesn't mean the picture was uninspired and uninteresting. I also think positive critiques mean more if people are also willing to give negative ones. Getting two 2TU critiques and two 1TD critiques is a whole different result than just getting two 2TU critiques. I would like to be able to 'know' the difference between the two.

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From simmer/Simon (2,724) Send mail to this user on April 14, 2010 10:29:02 AM CDT

Eric, couldn't agree with you more! One of the reasons I like this site is that photographers, most of them far more gifted than I, are willing to give me the benefit of their knowledge for absolutely nothing. I don't need them to lie to m., I've got a wife who is more than willing to proclaim me the next Herb Ritts, if I will just sit down, shut up, eat my dinnner, do the dishes and go to bed. I want to improve, and what better way than through the wealth of wisdom available on photosig. Simmer

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From scottmcfadden/Scott (402) This user is a Premium Member Send mail to this user on December 11, 2010 1:22:52 AM CST

I am one of these offenders..
and I dont feel ashamed for giving a thumb to a photo that I like..
Even if Its out of focus sometimes especially so,
Simply put your "Taste" is a perfectly complete technically perfect photo.
It shouldnt come as a surprise to you that some people refuse to allow people to walk off feeling humiliated.
A red thumb isnt humiliation no unless your new

Negatively rating people is far from the ideal
im sure photosig didnt want 50+ people seeing thier "score" in the minus balance.. i especially hate to see it.
Whenever i critique its always 99% of the time more then half a paragraph
Sharp junk or Out of Focus something im into.. im picking the one im into.
Great choice in topic

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From unicycletrumpet/Aaron (246) Send mail to this user on December 10, 2011 10:11:28 AM CST

At the same time, I have seen people do quite the opposite where the composition, lighting, DOF, color, etc has been really well done but the subject isn't too exciting. I really like that kind of stuff a lot because you are taking a mundane object and presenting it in a way that most people don't even think of. I have seen many people do a red thumbs down because "the subject isn't interesting" What do you guys think about that?

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From fengari/Kim (139) Send mail to this user on March 25, 2012 8:41:35 AM CDT

I did that today. I agree with you that it can be a very interesting thing to take a subject that is mundane and uninteresting in itself and make an interesting image out of it. It requires adding interest purely through your photography, by creating an interesting composition, playing with DOF, creating a nice lighting situation, taking the uninteresting subject out of its usual context and putting it in a totally new one, ... If you fail to make the image of the uninteresting thing interesting to look at, I feel that really deserves the 'uninspired, uninteresting' 1TD.

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From thewilkinsdistinctio/Ben (780) Send mail to this user on March 30, 2012 5:13:42 PM CDT

I agree with what is being said, in the original post, and I have no problem with getting or giving red thumbs if the picture is worthy of it. But, I would suggest that an explanation and some remedies for fixing a poor image is more helpful than only a harsh criticism, such as, "disturbing and unforgiving" - by itself, this is only an insult and not a critique. This said, I am new to PhotoSIG and I find that most people 'get it'. So, thank you everyone who are willing to be helpful to those of us who are still learning.

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