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How to critique a photograph

by Jens Birch

NOTE! This guide originates from an article in the Canadian Camera magazine (Spring 2004) by Andre Cabuche, AFIAP. If there is any issue with reproducing it here, it can be removed immediately.

The Administrators


The purpose of critiquing photographs should be to help photographers to improve their work through a better understanding and proficiency in the technical aspects of photography and the theory of visual literacy, and this while helping the photographer maintain his or her individuality and way of seeing.

The critique should attempt to open the photographer's own thought process; it should not be an attempt to change the photographer into a clone of the assessor - the very curse to creativity.

It is essential to determine the photographer's purpose for making the image: Was it to be a clinical study, story illustration, social documentary, fine art piece or perhaps an entry for a competition? Only then can the critique be properly focussed to assist the photographer along an effective learning path.


Editors, judges and evaluators all agree: a successful photographic image must have good technical quality to start with.

  • FOCUS: Is the image sharp? If not, is it intentionally soft and successful?
  • CLEANLINESS: Is it free of scratches, dust spots, stains, lens flare, etc?
  • EXPOSURE: Is it too light, too dark or just right?
  • LIGHTING: Is the lighting too contrasty, too flat or just right?
  • COLOURS: Does it have neutral colours or a strange colour cast?


Affected by the camera viewpoint and focal length of the lens. It can raise an image from a technical success to an artistic success!

  • BALANCE: Is the image aligned correctly or is it crooked?
  • LOGIC: Is the arrangement of the visual elements effective?
  • PURPOSE: Is there a strong centre of interest, pattern or design?
  • CLARITY: Is it simple, yet complete and without distracting elements?


The vital element for a truly great image, making it unique and memorable.

  • DYNAMIC: Does it grab and keep your attention? Does it have the "wow" factor?
  • PROVOCATIVE: Does it excite your imagination, or create a strong emotion in you?
  • CREATIVE: Does it show a familiar subject in a new, unusual and yet effective way?
  • UNUSUAL: Does it show a very unusual subject in an effective way?


Every one is free to give a personal weight to the different parts outlined above, but a serious critique should consider each and one of the points.

Now, browse the images at MyOlympus and give some constructive critiques! We all need that to improve our skills!

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