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And then it was gone


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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And then it was gone

14 May 2021 10:53AM   Views : 318 Unique : 159


Some people can’t take criticism, from a certain former president of a certain friendly country on upwards. I suppose it’s OK to be delicate, but if you don’t want to take it, you really shouldn’t dish it out – and you probably should also avoid putting yourself on offer, or calling anyone else a snowflake.

Now, I come to this as a member of the Critique Team – we’re volunteers, and beyond free membership of the site, are unpaid. We undertake to provide constructive and thoughtful comments based on our experience and knowledge of taking and processing pictures because we want to encourage new photographers, and perhaps inspire those who have become jaded.

Sometimes, though, it feels like a bit of a dead-end job. There are people who don’t read the instructions for uploading to the gallery, because… Well, I really don’t know why. But they ignore the request for details of what they were aiming for and what they did to get the picture looking the way it does, and whether they’re satisfied with it. And there are some who ignore the comments we make – not because they have busy jobs, but because they aren’t that interested.


We try hard to be kind and constructive, but sometimes there is an inconvenient truth to convey – a picture simply isn’t very good. We’d be doing everyone a disservice if we didn’t get this across. I’ve had my full share of constructive criticism in my career as an internal auditor (and plenty of practice at making recommendations for change to the unwilling and aggressive, as well), and I continue to be surprised at the range of responses.

All of the Critique Team love the people who respond and turn things into a conversation. We enjoy talking to the photographers who want to tell us more, who genuinely yearn to discover and learn new things, and it’s fine if they make mistakes, miss things out to begin with, and sometimes can’t get back online for ages. They are eager, they are delighted when things go well, and they really want to learn.

And then there are the other ones. They sometimes seem to withhold information wilfully, to test us, to see if we’re good enough to work out things that are vital to giving any helpful suggestions, and which are obviously important – things like not using a tripod because the shot was grabbed in a hurry, or taken through dirty secondary double glazing. When questions are asked, the response is sometimes aggressive.
It’s particularly aggravating when one of the less receptive contributors soaks up the comments, then deletes the picture, along with a cumulative hour or two of Critique Team input. We can forgive that pretty easily with a newcomer who hasn’t realised that their horrific mistake may help others – but there are occasional repeat offenders. And occasionally, someone really takes the huff and deletes their membership of the site altogether!


So if you’re going to contribute a picture to the CG, please be honest with us and with yourself. If it’s just that you want a social media style round of comments about ‘great shot’ and ‘awesome’ you really don’t want to post there. If you really do want to engage with people who love photography, we can forgive a lot, whether it’s asking for general critique of a bland shot that is actually an experiment with a new technique (so that comments on composition aren’t relevant) or a month’s absence because you were dealing with a family crisis – just put us in the picture when you can.

Grouchiness over. And we’ll be delighted to see you in the Critique Gallery, even if you simply want to share the thought that your latest effort is a a dead end, and you wonder if we know a way out. Literal dead end below is © Keith Rowley, aka Dark_Lord.



dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1859 England
14 May 2021 10:55AM
The shot of French Chloe at the top is purely a decoy to lure you in.

You may wish to apply your own critical faculties to the shots of the robin and the tulips.

At the end, Keith's shot of a lane with limited traffic options illustrates the sort of thing that can sometimes happen with bright ideas, when they turn out to lead to a (possibly unexpected) dead end.
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1859 England
14 May 2021 11:24AM
Immediately after posting my picture for the day, and marking it for critique, I received the following message from the site:

You have ticked the critique wanted box on your latest upload, this puts the image into the Critique Gallery and invites more serious comment and advice than you might otherwise receive.

A few important points:

Please check that the Exif (your camera settings) is showing. If it does not appear with the image, please add the information either as a Comment or by editing the upload.

Please let us know what advice you are looking for - eg on camera technique, composition, processing etc. Tell us about your intentions. If you have done any significant processing, say what you have done.

And most importantly - please engage with the Critique Team and other commenters. Reply to questions in the Comments section, let us know whether advice is helpful or not. You can nominate constructive/ helpful critique by clicking on the green nominate button next to the appropriate comment.

And feel free to ask questions! That's how the Critique Gallery works best.

Kind Regards,
The Critique Team

Every CG entry gets that message, and it indicates, clearly, that one needs to follow up one's post there, to find out and respond to what's said...
14 May 2021 12:04PM
The tulips are very pretty John but you should maybe have swept the path first before taking the shot!! Tongue

Reading your blog this morning has cheered me up no end! All of you at CG deserve a medal for your patience and tolerance (and for your helpful advice of course!) Smile
14 May 2021 12:34PM
Agree with Rose .... and I see that besides photography you have excellent communication skills John .... (was a Bank Auditor too lol) ... Big pat on the back to both You and CG .... keep the good work going ... wish you a splendid week-end.


Quote:The tulips are very pretty John but you should maybe have swept the path first before taking the shot!! Tongue

Reading your blog this morning has cheered me up no end! All of you at CG deserve a medal for your patience and tolerance (and for your helpful advice of course!) Smile

5 31 1 United States
14 May 2021 2:04PM
Sounds like the CG has gone through a tough patch.
A lot of people do not have the self confidence to hear respectful criticism. All they want to hear is how wonderful their picture is.

I have always found your, and the other members of the CG, honest input very helpful and always respectful.
You and the team have been very helpful to me, Thank You!
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.8k 2420 United Kingdom
14 May 2021 2:18PM
Years ago I blogged quite a bit on the comments that Critique Team members find ourselves typing most often. From the obvious - No, the sea doesn't slope at 20 degrees - to the frustrating - No you don't need 1/4000 second and 4000 ISO to photograph a flower. At about the same time I had some correspondence with a previous Team member who left because of boredom at typing the same thing time and time again.

Everyone is a beginner at some time and everyone needs to learn - so we need to be prepared to explain the same things regularly; but I do suspect that the capacity for learning has changed. I hear this from teachers all the time - students want ready-made answers, they don't want to have to put effort into learning. I see definite similarities between special effects filters and homework copied and pasted from Wikipedia. Is that unfair?

The lack of information from some uploaders really bugs me. Language is sometimes an issue, very often it is not. How can anyone get through the pop-up message and the subsequent pm, without taking a single word of it in? I also see the people who want to trip us up - throw in a composite composition or a replacement sky, or some really dire cloning, without mentioning it, to see if we spot what's been done. And yes, we get the people who just want to be told how brilliant they are. Somehow the main gallery is failing to deliver that, so the Critique Team is expected to step in.

But isn't it wonderful when people do respond, ask real questions, enter into the conversation, take suggestions on board, and we see them progress.

Ultimately I see the CG as being about giving people ideas to work on. That's how we all learn.
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1859 England
14 May 2021 2:20PM
Thank you, Julie - the path was unswept because it's not mine. Just walk past it several days a week!

George - thank you, on behalf of the team. We keep on trying our best!
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.8k 2420 United Kingdom
14 May 2021 2:43PM
I'll just add - I find it so frustrating when we spend a lot of time on an upload (generally that's 20 minutes minimum, and usually quite a bit longer), and it disappears. And then it reappears in the main gallery, either unchanged or without reference to advice received.

But my main gripe - people who are fixated on a particular technique - say stitching panos or simulating HDR - but see no reason to consider composition or other aesthetic aspects. With certain very specific exceptions (eg photography for scientific or medical publications) there is absolutely no merit in taking a technically perfect image if nobody will feel interested enough to look at it.

Oh dear, I feel a grumpy spell coming on, I could go on at considerable length.
ZenTony Plus
5 6 1 United Kingdom
14 May 2021 2:53PM
A while back last year I put a few pictures up for critique and not really knowing what to expect.
I found all the comments and advise to be thoughtful and most of all, helpful.
Surely the whole point of the critique team is to......ummm...... make helpful observations.
I learnt a lot and was most grateful. I have recovered enough now, maybe to have another go.
Be gentle John, Moira et all WinkWinkWinkWink
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 775 England
14 May 2021 4:10PM
An excellent blog John.
The critique team ae here to help, it's as simple as that.
Despite the frustrations that will inevitably occur, we all enjoy contributing.
It's an interesting point about repetition (of common errors) but as has been said everyone has to learn so there will be some repetition though I can't say it's too prevalent, not that I've made a detailed study.
What I find good is that all the Critique Team have different ideas so someones upload may generate different versions such as different crops or mono conversions. Not all will be everyone's cup of tea, the point being to think about possibilites.
Seeing is the most important part of photography.
As the saying goes you can lead a horse to water...

Finally, it would be very nice to see other members contributing to Critique Gallery uploads. Everyone has an opinion. As long as the comment is constructive, for example suggesting why a faster shuitter speed would be of benefit. And you may have direct experience of the process or technique in question and be able to be very hlpful.
saltireblue Plus
11 11.9k 75 Norway
14 May 2021 4:23PM

Quote: I hear this from teachers all the time - students want ready-made answers, they don't want to have to put effort into learning

Recently, on another photo website I frequent, there were, within an hour or so of each other, the following questions - exactly this, nothing else - from three new members who had joined that day:

What is the rule of thirds?
What is auto exposure bracketing?
What is focal length?
How to determine and adjust white balance?

It turned out that they were all students doing A-level photography and these were questions they had been set, so instead of using time to investigate themselves, it was deemed quicker and easier to join the website and ask for the answers. One of the Mods told them that the site wasn't a reference library and that they should do some proper research...
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1859 England
14 May 2021 4:31PM
Thanks, all - and I especially endorse what Keith says about contributions from non-CT members being a good thing. All are welcome providing only that the comments are constructive!

I have to say I get a particular kick from teenagers who remind me of the fun I had when I was first learning. When every new situation is a big adventure, and each new lens or accessory opens up wide horizons! As you say, Moira, we all had to start somewhere, and part of my motivation is payback for the people who helped along the way early on: Fred Jackson, who owned the camera shop less than 100 years from St Edward's Vicarage in Leek; Ron Young, my physics teacher, who allowed me to use the Physic Lab darkroom so often, numerous writers in Amateur Photographer, Photography, and Practical Photography, and Richard Farrer, who was manager at Saxons camera shop in Sunderland, and who sold me many interesting things that developed my addiction - most notably the £75 Leica IIIa kit that still provides me with fun and blog fodder!

All have departed to the big darkroom in the sky: all have left their mark on what I do and how I do it.
pablophotographer 9 1.9k 407
14 May 2021 6:56PM
Well let me add my bit here, I had told the Team but it never seemed to be materialised although I think it's a good idea. Imagine writing a long comment with suggestions for a main gallery picture and the site logging you out for wrongly perceived "inactivity". A warning pop up window could give the necessary time to click and continue writing before everything vanishes in thin air.

dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1859 England
14 May 2021 7:33PM
I don't think I've ever been timed out by this site, even when started writing, gone away from my computer, and returned hours later after it's gone to sleep.
saltireblue Plus
11 11.9k 75 Norway
14 May 2021 8:32PM
@pablo - there is no such thing on the site as a timed-out clock. Once you log-in, you remain active until you log out again.
Your browser or device on the other hand might have such a limiter activated...
DaveRyder Plus
7 5.4k 9 United Kingdom
14 May 2021 8:33PM
John (and others), although I have add to the CG recently on the occasions I have the feedback has been honest, accurate and most of all helpful.
I do think my images improved with everyone help and input. However as you say if you don't want honesty I'd be careful what you ask.

At least this is not at work - on more than one occasion I had discussions with HR after giving members of staff honest appraisals.

pablophotographer 9 1.9k 407
14 May 2021 9:31PM
👍 folks, I will investigate if it is the browser or the internet (dis-)connection which is responsible for causing this.
15 May 2021 7:49AM

Quote:@pablo - there is no such thing on the site as a timed-out clock. Once you log-in, you remain active until you log out again.
Your browser or device on the other hand might have such a limiter activated...

I never log out of Epz, ever. But from time to time I find that I have been logged out. There seems to be no pattern to the timing of these logouts, and it happens on my laptop using Firefox, and on my phone using Safari, though not necessarily at the same time! Two different devices, two different browsers, though I think it happens more frequently on my laptop. And I doubt that it's my wifi connection, because it never happens on either device on any of the other sites to which I am permanently logged in, only this one. The intervals may be as short as several days or as long as several weeks. Go figure...
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1859 England
15 May 2021 9:20AM
Dave - one of the best discoveries I ever made at work was in 1988 when I had my first appraisal at Coventry City Council. My boss (who is still a friend) made it an incredibly positive experience with a mix of forensic honesty and deep courtesy and kindness. Ever since then, he's always been in my mind on such occasions, whichever side of the desk I've been sitting.

It's a problem for some people because they've never met it, or have built an ego that is impervious to change...

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