Critique Guideline

This set of recommendations for critiquing photographs. It’s a starting point of guidelines to help with the critique process.  Remember, there are exceptions to every rule!

  1. Exposure: Look for a solid exposure. The image should not have any significant blown highlights or blocked shadows.
  2. Composition: Look for balance, a strong subject, and photos that have a beginning, middle and end. i.e. images that have depth. There should be a place for the eye to enter and exit the image. There should be no intrusions into the frame. The horizon should be level and the vertical lines straight.
  3. Background: Look for backgrounds that are not distracting and that do not take away from the subject. The image should avoid unfortunate juxtapositions like a tree growing out of the subject’s head.
  4. Focus: The main subject, or the important part of the image, should be in sharp focus. For example on portraits of people or animals, the eyes should be in focus.
  5. Story: Look for a story in the image. In other words, what is the photograph about? Is there too much or too little information.
  6. Technical Quality: Does the image suffer from camera shake, too much noise or chromatic aberration*? Is the white balance correct. Is the image over-processed? Is the color, amount and quality of light right for the image? Are there any distracting dust spots or contrast shifts?

In the end, how a photograph makes you “feel” is as important as any technical aspect.There’s no right or wrong in photography. These are some reasonably standard best practices, and serious photographers should know and understand them to become more proficient.

* Chromatic Aberration – Color distortion in an image produced by a lens, caused by the inability of the lens to bring the various colors of light to focus at a single point.