Ok, so I understand that we don't want to have critiques in PSE. I think I can even get my head around why. ;-)

Nevertheless, I'd still love to tap into this community (and this software) to do critiques. The other options out there either have lousy software or dysfunctional user communities. I really like the self-managing capabilities of this site, and the people here have been really impressive. I keep thinking that these raw materials could yield a really awesome critique site, too.

I know that a big issue is the non-definitive nature of the answers in critiques, but I don't think this is a showstopper. There are clearly questions on our site right now for which the answers are subjective. I know that the idea of accepting the "best" critique might not seem to make sense, but we see the analog all the time here -- a well-worded, well-explained answer will almost always be voted higher than an equivalent answer that's terse or cryptic. I don't see this as a showstopper, either.

So, is there any way to run this up the flagpole? Would something like this need to be a whole new SE site? I mean, if we can do meta.photo.stackexchange.com, why not critique.photo.stackexchange.com?

  • 2
    The license issue would need to be resolved.
    – mattdm
    Feb 25, 2011 at 5:13
  • @mattdm What exactly is the license issue? I assume you're talking about the "anything uploaded to Photo-SE gets a CC license" issue; if so, couldn't "if you want a photo critiqued, you have to give it a CC license" be part of the 'price' of the critique? Or are you talking about a different issue (and do you have a link? A search on Meta for 'license issue' only turned up questions about CC)?
    – user2910
    Feb 25, 2011 at 7:31
  • 1
    That's the issue, yes. That's a pretty high price to pay, since while I'm very in favor of open culture and sharing, I don't think the CC licenses are well-suited to photography.
    – mattdm
    Feb 25, 2011 at 14:02
  • 1
    Ok, I agree that's something that would have to be understood. Since the CC license is non-exclusive, would our exposure be limited to CC-compatible reuse of whatever images we post here? I imagine that in most cases, we're going to post small-scale versions of our photos -- possibly watermarked as well. As @drewbenn indicated, if there isn't a better way to handle this, maybe that's just part of the price of admission.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 25, 2011 at 15:30
  • So, just to be clear, whenever someone posts a photo right now (as on this question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2627/…), they're subject to the CC ShareAlike license. It also seems like critiques might fall under the "fair use" provision of CC. I'm on pretty shaky ground here, though, so if there's a lawyer in the house, I'd love to have a little dose of wisdom.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 25, 2011 at 15:46
  • We have discussed (and even tried out) critiques in chat: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/461/…
    – chills42
    Feb 25, 2011 at 17:50
  • 1
    True. I see there's a photo critique session currently scheduled to occur five days from now, on Mar 2, though I'm afraid I can't see the time it's scheduled to start. If you've participated in one of these sessions, I'd like to hear your assessment of how it went. My initial concern is that the interaction seems pretty transient (ie, you can get good feedback from people who are available at that time, but you'd miss out on those who aren't).
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 25, 2011 at 18:03
  • 1
    True, it is reliant on having a good attendance, but we keep record of the past events, so you can go back and take a look: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/info/14/…
    – chills42
    Feb 25, 2011 at 18:40
  • Thanks - that's helpful.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 25, 2011 at 19:08

4 Answers 4


The really seems like one of those "use the right tool for the job" situations. The Stack Exchange platform was built to be a kick-ass question and answer forum for questions that have answers (as opposed to a general discussion forum).

While it might be possible to shoehorn some sort of photo critique section into this site, it seems to me like any solution is going to be suboptimal. I'm certainly not one to speak for Jeff and his team, but I suspect they don't have the resources to develop a one-off solution for this site that isn't going to benefit their network as a whole.

We do have a question about Where to get photo critiques done - I'm curious if those of you looking for photo critiques here have tried out other venues and found them lacking...?

  • 1
    Yes, in fact, I have. One of the things that I really like about this site versus some of those others is the software itself. Frankly, I love the way this platform tracks updates to questions I'm interested in, and I think the reputation system here is heads and shoulders above what's found on other sites. The community of users on digital-photography-school is ok, but I haven't been floored by the quality of critiques there, and their forum software is, frankly, a PITA.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 25, 2011 at 16:38
  • 1
    I also looked at 1X.com - there are some amazing photographers there, but the site definitely leans toward the super-artsy, and the process for submission & critique is way too opaque for my liking. I tried submitting a photo for critique there, for instance, and it just dropped off the face of the earth - no "thanks but no thanks" -- no nothing. The whole "you must be at least this good to enter" vibe doesn't do too much to foster learning, in my opinion.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 25, 2011 at 16:42
  • 3
    I really agree with @D. Lambert. The structure, voting, comment system is actually ideal for photo critiquing. The site would need to be sectioned into three main parts, Q&A, Meta and Photos. As a software engineer I know that no changes to a large working site are trivial but they are certainly doable.
    – labnut
    Feb 25, 2011 at 16:48

By way of clarification, here's an example of the sort of critique I'd like to be be able to post:

I'd like a critique on the composition of this photo. Is the embossed logo on the bucket complex enough / interesting enough to work well as the subject of the photo?

enter image description here

  • interesting, to me this should be about the technique of capturing the embossed logo, and not so much "how does this embossed logo make you feel" Feb 25, 2011 at 0:30
  • 1
    @Jeff Atwood: but he's got the technique down just fine. And the question wasn't "how does it make you feel".
    – mattdm
    Feb 25, 2011 at 5:12
  • 6
    Actually none of the examples given here are critiques... At best they're requests for feedback. A true critique (by definition) would include only a picture from the person requesting the critique with no commentary or question, and the feedback would be in no way 'steered' by the person who took the photograph. (The potential to 'steer' the critique is generally why the person being critiqued is not allowed to comment or preface his or her work prior to the critique). Feb 26, 2011 at 0:35
  • 3
    Honestly, that's even better as far as I'm concerned. On other sites, I've seen critique requests require specific feedback areas. In part, I believe this is to cut down on vacuous comments, but if we let people vote down flip or superficial answers, I think this would be somewhat self-regulating.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 26, 2011 at 2:51

I am glad you brought up the subject.

Firstly, photography is first and foremost creative and secondly it is technical. So I think it is eminently worthwhile trying to see if we can attend to the creative side of photography.

Secondly it seems to me that the structure of this site is very well suited to examining the creative aspects of photos. The ability to up-vote/down-vote questions and up-vote comments is exactly what we need for critiquing photos.

Thirdly, the ability to make intelligent critiques of photos is important and should be encouraged.

Here is how I think it could work:

1) We put 'Photos' as a new entry on the top menu, next to 'Meta'.
2) Moderators (or others) create a new photographic subject or 'challenge' as a new question under the 'Photos' entry. The rules, subject and duration will be given here.
3) Individuals post their photos as 'Answers'.
4) Others can up-vote or down-vote the photo.
5) Critiques can be given in the comments to the photo (Answer).
6) Critiques (Comments) can be up-voted.

A person's reputation will become the aggregate of the reputation earned in the Technical section and in the Photo section. This is as it should be as photographers are first and foremost respected for their creative ability.

The up-votes people receive for their critiques should also contribute to their reputation since intelligent critiques are an important aspect of photography.

I think this is eminently possible since it would only require minor changes to the coding (OK, minor is a matter of debate)

And a final note. The person who posted the question (Subject or challenge) will select the winning photo. If it is not the photo with the highest number of votes then he must of course give a careful motivation.

  • 2
    I suspect that unless critiques were made Community Wiki there'd be a whole lot of room for abuse and 'gaming' the vote system as a result... Feb 26, 2011 at 2:34
  • It sounds more like a photo contest with a splash of optional critque. Which althougth useful, addresses a different need. One is competition and one is not.
    – rfusca
    Feb 26, 2011 at 3:09
  • @rfusca, that's just one to structure it. It can just as easily be structured for critiques.
    – labnut
    Feb 27, 2011 at 6:01
  • @Jay, your argument about gaming applies just as well to the Q&A section of this site. I am sure it happens, but by and large, competence and talent win out. So, in the absence of evidence about widespread gaming significantly changing the results, I would not use this argument to kill the idea.
    – labnut
    Feb 27, 2011 at 17:05
  • There's a lot more room for abuse when there isn't the potential for a right answer to keep everything in check. Feb 27, 2011 at 17:21

Wait a second -- photo critiques are allowed, so long as they are about a specific technique:


Should Photo Critiques be allowed?


What's the best way to ask a "How do I achieve this effect?" question?

  • 3
    Ok, so when I went to look up critiques here on Meta, I saw "Photo critique was voted to be off topic during the definition phase of the site, so I would say it should be regarded as such," and "Answer: (SiteName) is not a site for photo critique." I understand that if I already know that my photo stinks, I can ask for help about the specific stinkage I've already identified myself. I'm not sure I'd consider that to be a critique -- that's a "how do I fix this?" question, isn't it?
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 24, 2011 at 21:31
  • @d.lam they have to be focused critiques. Not "how does my photo make you feel inside" but "why is {specific thing in my photo} not working / can be made better?" Feb 24, 2011 at 21:59
  • 4
    I can't help thinking that other people share my confusion. If I search for "critique" right now, I see questions about how to give a critique and where to seek a critique, but I see zero actual critiques of photos. The wording on the accepted answer for "Should Photo Critiques be allowed" is really pretty unambiguous, isn't it?
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 24, 2011 at 22:59
  • Ok, Jeff, I upvoted this answer and added another answer to show an example of the sort of question I'm talking about. In your opinion, would the question below be suitable for posting on PSE? Given that very few people have seen this thread, I'd be open to tossing the question below out on PSE to see how folks react.
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 24, 2011 at 23:08
  • 5
    @Jeff: None of your examples are critiques. Feb 27, 2011 at 17:22
  • I upvoted this answer because the author of the first link is a total chode.
    – Alan
    Mar 3, 2011 at 23:29
  • @jay I have no idea what you're talking about. Can you elaborate? Aug 31, 2011 at 23:08

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