From comments on this week's contest - Photo Competition 2021-11-15: Landscapes

Should we be free to gently critique pictures posted in the contests?

I raised this initially because I really felt one of the images would have greatly benefitted from being shot in the other orientation [or later cropped to it]. I'm not naming, because I don't want this to revolve around any specific image.
My comment would have therefore been just a gentle nudge in that direction - 'What would you feel about cropping this to [portrait/landscape] in order to hide this/emphasise that?'

Looking through the current submissions, there are a few comments. Some just reminders to add the camera data, others more towards critique.
I can see a couple more photos I'd like to add comments to - including two where there's a really obvious [to me] "fix" which would bring it right up to 'competition standard' [imho], which I could post a link to, as I've already tried the fix here.

I definitely don't think it's the place to tear someone to shreds over something as unimportant in the overall scheme of things as a photograph. This, if agreed upon, should remain gentle & helpful.
After all, though it's nice to try to help, it's not about forcing one's own opinion on someone, merely suggesting & seeing if that is accepted/welcomed by the OP.

3 Answers 3


At the very least, comments critiquing an entry should only be allowed if the submitter notes "critiques accepted" either in the body of the text with the photo submission or in a comment immediately below the submission (that is, a comment made immediately after submitting the photo). I've seen other venues where this is the general modus operandi and it seems to work better than free-for-all critiques.

  • Devil's advocate position: the SE comment system exists to seek clarification and/or suggest improvements to a post. Any posted answer is subject to criticism (whether the poster explicitly notes they accept criticism or not). Should PotW submissions be held to a different posting standard? If the user doesn't really want critiques, and receives a comment such as, "This is a really good photo. It could be even better if the horizon were level", should the comment be flagged and deleted? What is the flag that should be raised? Should moderators deny the flag based on "mod found no evidence..."?
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 4, 2021 at 17:13
  • [I'm not advocating my previous comment. Just exploring the devil's advocate take.]
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 4, 2021 at 17:13

I think it might be better to add comments and critiques after the voting has closed.

  • I'd considered that commenting during the contest may allow the OP to run their picture through post again, implementing the suggested changes if they liked them - though that may raise another question of …are they allowed to do that? [tbh, I don't have a hard & fast opinion on this either way].
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 21, 2021 at 10:24
  • 3
    If the poster is allowed edits, then there is the question of whether the voter voted on the original or the changed version.
    – Brad Lanam
    Nov 21, 2021 at 15:51
  • I may be mistaken, but I think everything is locked and can't be commented on after the voting period has ended?
    – Michael C
    Nov 22, 2021 at 12:50
  • Maybe the wrong bit is to try to use Stack Exchange community websites for contests...
    – MrUpsidown
    Nov 22, 2021 at 14:19
  • I had a comment on my view of Warwick, and at first, I was annoyed someone had been critical. Then I thought; you know what, they're right. It will encourage me to try harder next time to stick to the rule of 3, although I couldn't do much about the sky looking washed out; after all, it's in the UK! Perhaps the comment could have suggested how to get the sky back (when I take a similar style shot again). Nov 22, 2021 at 16:29
  • 1
    Michael is correct: my current practice is to lock the contest question after the deadline. Locking a question prevents future answers, votes, and even comments.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 4, 2021 at 17:14
  • 2
    @MrUpsidown Maybe the wrong bit is to try to use Stack Exchange community websites for contests... Perhaps. But on the other hand, we're a site about photography (it's our name, after all). To not have or feature actual photographs by our users just seems like a waste. A waste of branding, a waste of opportunity for community-building, etc.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 4, 2021 at 17:20
  • @scottbb what I mean is that the platform wasn't built for that. It is a derived use of the built-in functionalities. I do agree that featuring the work of the community members is a good thing. It would just be better if we had the proper tools.
    – MrUpsidown
    Dec 6, 2021 at 7:55
  • @MrUpsidown I understood your meaning. And you're right, it is a bit of "abuse" of the SE engine for this purpose. I also wish we had a better way of doing it.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 6, 2021 at 17:41

I'm not sure I agree with this answer (or disagree, for that matter), but for framing and discussion purposes: is the question is moot?

That is to say, in the Stack Exchange system, comments to answers (in this case, PotW submissions) are intended to provide a means to ask clarification or suggest improvements to the answer. Assuming they are well-meaning (and hopefully, gently-worded), critiques/suggestions as comments are just that: comments providing feedback. By posting something, anything, on the internet, are we not implicitly accepting a possibility that somebody will comment on something we said?

Ignoring the degree to which our PotW contests on main are "abusing" or "stretching" the Stack Exchange model, submitting a photo for a contest is just posting an answer to a SE question — we are making a statement, with some degree of obvious knowledge, effort, talent, etc., that competes with other answers/submissions to the same question. In that light, the possibility of comments to our answers is ever-present, and we accept that possibility along with the presumption that they will be delivered in good-faith (i.e., in conformance with the Code of Conduct / "Be Nice"). And we also assume the responsibility to respond and engage with those comments/criticisms in kind, with the assumption that they were delivered in good intent.

I guess this answer is suggesting that maybe we've been a bit too ... precious? is that the right word? maybe "handling with kid gloves"? ... with PotW submissions, regarding critiques in comments. The comment system provides means for feedback, why not allow it to work as hopefully intended?

  • 1
    @Tetsujin I'm sorry I took so long to respond to your question. I've been thinking about it and chewing it over. I tried looking for Meta discussions that addressed the "bad experience" regarding critique of PotW submissions that I alluded to in my comment to the question on Main that sparked this Meta question. I've found them, but it's tedious to pull together a narrative that I wasn't around for at the time. From what I can tell, ultimately it led to (or was at least part of) the departure of a well-respected and valued member of the Photo-SE community.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 5, 2021 at 18:50

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