- Hide menu


Earlier today I tweeted that I had nearly 200 views on the above photo of Lisa Barker on Flickr but ZERO comments. That means 200 people looked at it, said “meh” and went on there way. A fair appraisal, I guess, it’s not a perfect portrait (no fault of Lisa’s) but I felt it sufficient to display to the world, hoping to get a few hits on some trouble spots I knew existed, but maybe I could sneak past a passive audience.

Boy was I right! Passive indeed, Flickr is a giant photography circle jerk, with lots of nice images, nice comments, nice feedback, and not a lot else. Everyone is so afraid to offer, or even accept (I’ve been reamed out for offering unsolicited advice, to which I’ve admitted, being in the wrong) criticism that it’s devolving beyond the cordial “nice shot” to absolutely nothing. It gets worse if you’re featured in Flickr’s own “Explore.” Explore should be a showcase of the best, the most striking 500 images of the day, and sometimes it is, but what REALLY happens is it opens your image up to comment spam. Just read a few under this photo of Claudia from the last blog post, which came in, initially, at #38 on that day’s Explore. Do you see those comments? It’s hard to separate the people from the bots. It’s frustrating and I’d love to just flag half of these “people” as spam – because they’re taking away from the other half that deserve a huge hug – If they were comments on my blog I certainly would have.

My frustration comes from a belief that it COULD be better, I think everyone uploading images to Flickr, publicly, are trying to get them seen, show them off maybe, but get seen, and as the viewer, this is an opportunity to interact. Say something nice, say something bad, say something constructive – you’re given a voice so say something! If you’re being honest and just offering up your opinion, you’d be helping any artist realize the subjective nature of the field and they can weigh their options from there. I will point out that anyone saying they’re open to comments, but shooting down anything remotely critical is likely a liar: you can turn comments off if you don’t want to hear anyone (and this is a valid option).

As for the above image? This is the edit, as a result of the feedback I did receive thanks to the lovely Nicole Young and her shilling my whining to her considerable twitter audience. I brought up details on the dark, black cardigan, the background, while toning down the brightness in her hair, slightly softened her skin (I’m not a fan of overdoing this) and a bit more light to her eyes. But, one comment was to get more light on her face and, personally, sorry, no. I like the shadow, the contrast of light was intentional even though cutting her back arm at the back wasn’t…
so there, I’m leaving it, and what do you think?

9 thoughts on “Feedback

  1. Tamara says:

    I know part of my problem is the lack of language. Alfie Goodrich wrote a blog post (can't find it, will keep looking) about people leaving "circle jerk" comments and how unhelpful they are. Embarrassingly enough, I read this post *right* after leaving a "nice bokeh" comment on his most recent photo (which I promptly deleted out of shame). I agree with him but I can't seem to find the words and I'm still learning how to verbalize. I just know when a photo needs to be remembered, so I stick a star on it. As for constructive criticism, it feels like I am saying, "well, darling, its a nice try, but this is what *I* would have done." There are a few of you who are fabulous at leaving comments and I appreciate them, I just can't seem to reciprocate. I'll work on it.

    ps. I saw the self-promoting gits leaving comments on your photo of Claudia to check out their photo, it's almost as bad as the flashing "awards" I'll see around.

  2. I gave up on Flickr years ago and I sigh in disappoitment everytime I have to view a photo there. The flashing buttons, "join my group" and vacuous comments or backslapping woefully bad images make me think that Flickr is not an audience I care for.

    I prefer using my photoblog and Twitter to reach out to people whose opinion I actually respect. I think it's only a matter of time before Flickr implodes or is shutdown.

  3. Christopher Dunn says:

    I just don't think Flickr has as many knowledgeable people as you think it does. It has a huge user base but a very small number of those are enthusiasts or professionals that would know how to properly critique a photo. Of those 200 views, I would bet 198 of them are people looking for pretty images and that is it – maybe a few more for you since you probably have a lot of photographers as contacts on Flickr. Compare that to POTN where they will gladly rip your image apart, even if you don't ask for it, because the users are almost all enthusiasts that think they know better – you have to be in order to be on a forum, right? Perhaps you are seeking criticism for your work in the wrong places? Just my view from my limited experience in online photo communities these past couple of years.

  4. Mervi says:

    Well the this is the thing with blogging as well: People are afraid of leaving comments. Like Tamara there was afraid of leaving a "nice bokeh"-komment (felt even shame about it) we are all afraid of leaving any sort of feedback. And like Jamie there said, it's hard to give constructive criticism. Especially when you start to think: "This is something personal to someone out there. How can I say the way they see the world might be wrong or would need some fixing."

    Commenting/giving feedback is difficult. It's lots of work and takes time. It's a shameful experience: What if I write something stupid. What if I make a typo. What if I write just "nice bokeh" and someone thinks I'm an idiot who has nothing to say. What if I agree or disagree with something and be judged about it.

    A friend said she doesn't like writing anywhere she cannot edit what she wrote. Therefore she doesn't comment on blogs etc.

    Of course it's good to think how often you yourself leave comments/feedback on other's photos (or blogs). Do you comment all the photos you view on Flickr? Do you comment all the blog posts you read. No, you don't. You don't even have the time to do that.

  5. Dustin Finn says:

    So, in the end, here is the bottom line. You used "Broad" lighting which is rarely ever flattering. Here her head is made to look larger on the right side with the light, which is why I was asking for balance of light on the left side of the photo…

    Short lighting, putting most of the face into the shadow presents visually a narrow and slimmer view to the viewer…

    I whole heartedly agree with your assessment of Flickr.

    Good Luck!

  6. Nicole Young says:

    "Photography circle jerk…" … first time I've ever heard that phrase before, lol. 🙂

  7. Ed Nixon says:

    Maybe you're mixing your social "metaphors" here: you seem to be expecting behaviours normal in the Art World while you're getting behaviours belonging to the "Friend World." I'm not saying serious critique and comment isn't possible on the web, through social media channels; I'm suggesting that Flickr isn't a community of practise for serious photography. It isn't an art world even though its owners try to make it that. Among all the other things they try to make it. This blog is a much more conducive environment for comment; its downside (if that it be) is that only your pictures are on view.

    Anyway, if you'd like a comment about the picture: I did see it on Flickr (along with 20 or 30 others from my contacts) and single thing that concerned me was the catch-light created by the ring flash. Ordinarily I'm not a catch-light fanatic, but in this case — maybe because it's shot so tight — I found it distracting. Obviously there are other ways to fill for this situation; I would have tried something else.


    PS: Here's a review of a book relating to the first part of my comment:


  8. Greg says:

    I'm a non-photographer who sees dozens of pictures on Flickr on a near daily basis. A great many of these are just… snapshots. The person isn't even attempting to pretend that they're a photographer; the site is just a repository for digital images, no different than PhotoBucket.

    In other words, I've never had the opportunity or need to investigate Flickr as a "community of photographers" and have therefore ALWAYS seen it primarily as just a "photobucket-alike" for people and their slideshows. I'm surprised you would want critique from that segment! There MUST be better online communities for expert and 'knowledgable enthusiast' critiques.

    As for the photo, I can say again as a non-photographer: I love it. I don't see any lack of balance, and although I am short on vocabulary to point out what's different about this compared to "typical" portrait photography, my eye recognizes that something is different and I LIKE it rather than find that something is "missing". Punch to the nether-regions if you had done yet another 'backlit hair highlights', 'excessively smoothed' or 'so much light you can't see the character of the face' glamour shots, so thank you for not doing it.

    Circling back around (see what I did there?) I guess I'm saying that I agree with Ed. It's a mismatched expectation.