In the Name of Constructive Criticism! Part 1 – What Not to Do

(As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had these things on my heart the last few weeks and when I remembered having published this a couple of years ago, decided perhaps I could re-publish. So here ya go…)


Before I go into this post, I’d like to start with a disclaimer:

I do not claim to know all there is to know regarding HDR photography (or even a smidgen, for that matter.) What I do know is based on my own personal experiences from the last year or so, while learning the do’s and don’ts of creating HDR images.

When I first saw an HDR image, I was blown away. It was a tutorial (probably on Digital Photography School’s site, although I don’t recall for certain.) I just remember looking at it and being amazed at how it could show such detail. So surreal looking. And when I saw the “before” photo, that did it! I had to know! What is this HDR stuff?

I told my dad (who is a fabulous photographer) and explained what I had seen. He kind of chuckled and began to tell me it was a High Dynamic Range photo. OK, so what in the world is that? As he tried to explain, all I got from the explanation was: It was a type of photography that came from shooting bracketed exposures (I didn’t have a clue what that meant) and that you processed it using special software. I had only picked up my first DSLR a few short months prior and was still trying to grasp the difference between aperture and shutter speed. So this was greek language to me, but I wanted to know more! One thing about me…if I’m determined, I will do what is necessary.

After many searches on google, reading articles on DPS, watching tutorials on YouTube and more, I decided to go out and give it a shot (no pun intended.) And off I went!

I downloaded a trial of Photomatix Pro, went driving around the rural areas west of Fort Worth and began shooting everything in 3 bracketed exposures. Still having no idea what I was doing, I loaded my RAW files into the software and began experimenting with the sliders. I produced several photos that I thought were amazing. Ha! I then loaded them on the two image sites that I use to display my photos.

I began getting comments. Most were kind and encouraging (and now I realize were mainly empathetic.) But then came the few that were done “in the name of constructive criticism” by those who you could tell were either needing to build themselves up or just plain arrogant.

Why do I say this? Because they left me feeling belittled, a failure, embarrassed. No one with a heart to help someone else learn the ropes, would reply in such a manner. I will add there were a few from people who truly did desire to help and gave me true constructive criticism. To this day I am thankful for their help and for their hearts. And I admire their works!

But let’s get back to the ones who addressed my faults in a degrading manner. Let me share with you what NOT to do if you really want to help someone learn:

First – Do not start by pointing out what is wrong with the image, instead point out what is good. Perhaps it is the composition or the lines the photographer has captured. Maybe it is simply the subject. If you start with a positive, if that is the first thing the person reads, then it shows you see good in them and their artwork. Gives them a sense of accomplishment from the start and then the constructive part is received in a…well…constructive attitude.

Second – Do not just point out the mistake or poorness of the image without giving tips on how to correct it, said in a positive and encouraging tone. If all you say in your comment is what you don’t like about it, then it leaves the recipient feeling discouraged with no help of correcting the issue. I know!

Third – If the entire photo needs help there is almost always a way to personal message the person as opposed to leaving the “your photo stinks” message in a public forum. There is nothing worse than finding out your amazing photo really stinks, in front of hundreds or thousands of others.

I remember being so excited to get those first comments only to be left disappointed and discouraged to find out that I had made the two biggest boo-boos in creating HDR work. And to find out in a thread of other good-hearted comments was nothing short of humiliating! I was so embarrassed.

Did I learn from them? You bet I did! But could there have been a better, less embarrassing way? I’d say so!

And this is the reason I am putting this post out there in the great big worldwide-web. In hopes that some who are just now finding and experimenting with HDR photography will learn from my mistakes. If even one person is spared the awkwardness of those “constructive criticisms” because of this post, my job is done!

Seeing how this post is going much longer than I had expected, I am going to break it up into two. So check back later for the Part 2 – The Two Biggest HDR Boo-boos!

Let Your Light Shine,

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