Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Get Out There: Critique This!

The Denver Darkroom has created a great opportunity for photographers in the Denver metro area to get feedback on their work. The school is holding it's first open "Critique This Thursday!" event. Everyone is welcome to attend this new bi-weekly event. Each critique will be led by one of the school's instructors or advanced students.

This week's critique is being led by Jefferey Rupp at 7 p.m. I will have to check my schedule, but I would like to attend this session. Learning to accept constructive criticism and understand how different people view your work can broaden your own photographic perspectives. Not everyone is going to love everything you do. Any opportunity you have to understand why an image "works" or "doesn't work" offers great insight and can improve your skills, even if you disagree with the critique itself.

I remember when I took Digital Photography class with the Darkroom, a course which was then being taught by Efrain Cruz before he started his own Illuminate Photography Workshop program. The final day of class included a "wine and cheese" critique of our best images by the Darkroom director Standish Lawder. Because I was so new and unsure of my own abilities, I remember being overly sensitive and having a hard time getting critiqued. Standish didn't like what I thought was one of my best images, and I was very upset and put-off by the critique. I took it personally, which is something you should never do during a critique.

It wasn't until later when I had calmed down that I could think clearly about what Standish had pinpointed as being problems with the image -- namely that a busy background was distracting and pulled away from the main subject. I kept looking at the image and trying to figure out how I could make it better. I even asked other instructors what they might suggest. During my first Photoshop class, I learned about "burning and dodging" to either darken or lighten an area of image. So I decided to "burn" out the background in the image. I wasn't entirely happy with the result, but I decided to turn it in for a Digital Photo Academy monthly assignment called "The Allure of Water."

Not only was that image chosen for that month's assignment winner, but it will also be a part of a 20-city exhibition DPA is hosting throughout the country beginning next month. If Standish hadn't told the truth about how he saw my image, I would never have been able to perfect it.

So, if you are in the area, drop by the critique at the Denver Darkroom on Thursday. If you can check your sensitivity at the door, you are bound to come away with some great recommendations for making your work standout.

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