For those of you who haven't looked at my profile, I enjoy photography. These days, I shoot photos of nature. There are a couple of places on the net where I upload my better shots for the world to see. One of those places is Ashrunner's Photo Safaris. I put what I consider my best images there. Some are from my past, but most were shot within the past couple of years.
Another site I post photos to is a nature site. There, photographers from around the world look at your shot, comment on it, critique it and grade it. The site also allows (if the posting photographer allows it) others to workshop the image, or "fix" the photo. I generally don't have a problem with this, as I process my photos to a look I prefer.
However, the critiquing is what I look for. People critiquing other photos say things like, focus is soft, image is washed-out, point-of-view would have been better if..., things like that. But some of what is said, isn't critiquing...at least not in my opinion. When another photographer comments on soft focus, that photographer is basing the comment on his or her equipment. Not all camera gear is created equal. If a photographer wants to take tack sharp images every time he or she triggers the shutter, they need high quality glass...and that costs money. A lot of people can afford such luxuries, but many can't. Every time I read a comment like that, it burns my ass.
Comparing great equipment to average equipment is asinine. What if the originating photographer wanted the image to look soft? What if the originating photographer was doing the best he or she can with the best equipment they can afford, which may or may not be great equipment? Telling someone something they already subconsciously know already is a great way to build animosity and discourage future work. So, if you're a photographer reading this and like to critique the work of other shooters, keep things in perspective when you talk about someone else's work. They may not have the resources you have and are only trying to produce the best image they can with what they got.
But the other things I mentioned above are good to point out. Telling someone how the POV change would have given the image more impact is a great way to improve someone's photography. I learned how to "frame" my shots by shooting, and listening to people when they asked why I did something and their comments to my reply. Constructive criticism is a great learning tool. But it also has to be done in a positive manner. Something like, "I see what you were trying to do with this image. I might have moved to this position to shoot it. Either way, its a good image." The person then looks at the mentioned angle, thinks about it, and it's in the back of their head for the next time they shoot a similar subject. Telling a person something like, "Point of view could have been better," tells that person absolutely nothing.
Then there is the critique about the processing process. That too is subjective to the individuals equipment. Someone who can't afford Photoshop is going to have a hard time duplicating the results of someone who has the program. There are good substitutes out there, but 90 percent of the tutorials on how to do something revolve around the defacto industry standard...not the programs on the fringes. Sure, many of the commands or actions are called the same, but they don't do things as well as Photoshop does. Then there is the hardware. A well calibrated system is going to produce consistently better results over a system which isn't calibrated. Calibrating hardware is available, works wonders, but again, not everyone can afford a good calibrating system. I personally shoot all my shots in AdobeRGB(1998) and process them with the AdobeRGB(1998) ICC profile. Every graphics program I have which allows me to select a color profile to use, has that profile selected. The images are converted to sRGB for uploading on the net.
And monitors aren't the same either. An older monitor may have its brightness fading slowly which is like a child growing. You never really notice it until you leave for a month or so and come back. I have that problem with my monitor. The brightness faded on me...enough to the point where images I post to various sites were washed-out. I never would have know that had someone not mentioned it. But I can't afford a new monitor. So, looking over the "workshop" photos, I realized that most images needed a boost of 20 percent or so in contrast. Once I started doing that, two words left most of my critiques -- washed and out.
For the most part, people mean well when they critique something someone else did. It's hard to look at something you have created in a critical enough way to tear apart the way it looks to the point of improving it. When I was a journalist, I would generally give my article to someone else to proof for me, as I would miss a lot typos simply because I saw what I thought I wrote. It's the same with a photograph. When I process my images, I do it to where I think the image looks best. And herein lies the need for sites where photographers critique other photographers.
But remember if you ever do it to critique style and content, not equipment capability.