Andre Cantelmo Photography | Photography and Our Inner Critic

Photography and Our Inner Critic

November 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Critique, the word inspires all sorts of emotions. Creative people love and hate that word. In the interest of keeping this blog entry on point, my comments are centered around photography, however I am sure there is universal appeal to the points I'll make. Each of us approaches our creative process differently, and with different goals in mind. Right now I will confine this discussion to Fine Art Photography. This process begins with the photographer looking inward, and examining his or her emotions that are triggered by what is in front of their lens. Here it is important to slow down and get an accurate read on how you feel about the subject directly in front of your camera. If you react significantly then technique takes over and the process of composition, design, and analysis begins. As an experienced photographer, you know to capture many angles and perspectives for the editing process back at your studio.


Post processing begins on a light box, perhaps in Adobe Lightroom. Your whole shoot sits before you on screen. The evaluation process should be methodical and true to your original emotional vision. Your inner critic surfaces and takes over. The easy stuff comes first, exposure, sharpness, and other technical standards are easy to judge and correct or reject. Once the shoot is winnowed down, the second tier of editing begins. You begin to look for the frame that echos the emotion you experienced at the moment you pressed the shutter button. It's quite difficult to be objective with our own work. We are literally emotionally attached to it and are not neutral. There is a tendency for us to like most of the work we produce. Logic tells us that great photographs are a lot less common than the good, fair, or poor ones.


Success requires us to slow down and look, “see” into our selected keepers at a much deeper level. This process could go in a few different directions. If we have a strong well developed inner critic we tend to find stuff few others will even notice. This is positive to the end user that is most important, ourselves. Our work should be exactly the way we want it to be. It's at this point we begin to notice small details that are just a bit off. An awkward reflection, or a tree branch where we don't want it, weird shadow effects, and other more subtle elements of our composition. Some or most of these unwanted details can be dealt with in our photographic editing software.


So now we reach the point where we want a physical print from the capture we just spent a good amount of time editing. Either we print it ourselves or send it to a professional lab service. Before we do that more decisions are needed. Decisions about paper surface, contrast, size, frame or no frame, and if we want to mat it or leave it without mat or frame. When we decide to print our own work, then a test print is just the start. Our calibrated monitor and printer has to give us exactly what we envision. Sending our capture file to a professional lab requires we previously set up printing defaults and even ordering some test calibration prints so we can judge what differences there are between our printers output and the pro labs output. At each point in this process, from the first moment we select our subject and look through the viewfinder, through each step, and on to the finished work, we have to deal with that inner critic that lives in our heads. This sometimes friend and sometimes foe guides us to make wise choices that affect how our work will look. Our first obligation is for our work to be exactly as our vision wanted it to be. When we get to showing our work, either in a gallery, or some other exhibition space then the public viewer gets to be the critic. We all know that can go in any critical direction. This is fine. Why? Because the first critic, (ourselves) is content with our piece and can rest with any comments that might come our way.



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