Online critiques

I am now offering online critique sessions. No matter where you live, you can now “sit down” with me and get what I like to call a forensic critique.

If you’ve ever been to one of my workshops, you know how big I am on thorough, meaningful critique. My philosophy on portfolio critiques is to help you identify your tendencies in terms of style, composition, and technique, in order to improve and evolve your entire body of work. I don’t think it’s enough to simply nit-pick the technical merits of an individual image; your entire portfolio and direction will be considered.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SCHEDULE A CRITIQUE:

– Critiques are typically done via Skype.  If you haven’t downloaded or used Skype, it’s free and very simple to use, and can be used internationally.  Click here to download it.  If you aren’t able to use Skype, we can chat on the phone — just be sure you’re sitting at a computer, of course.  If you’re in the Denver area, you’re welcome to sit down with me in person.

– You can choose to submit your website or blog for critique, or you can put together a special set on Flickr, or some other format.  As long as images are easy to view, and there’s some way to refer to them (i.e. image numbers, galleries, just some way I can reference images to keep us on the same page.)  The format is really very unimportant.  I like to see at least forty images, but more importantly, I want to see the work you’re producing right now.  I’d like to see your personal work, your paid work (if you’re a working professional), and anything you aren’t sure about or have questions about.  Bottom line:  just throw it all in front of me and let me sort through it.  We probably won’t talk about every image, but the overall collection of work will help me get an idea of where you are, and who you are.  If in doubt, send too much.  I do ask that you please send me your work at least a few days prior to your critique date, to give me a chance to review it and make notes.

– In addition to your images, it’s helpful to write a paragraph, or even just a few sentences, about your work and where you are as a photographer right now.  Anything that’s frustrating you, or questions you’re struggling with, aspirations you have?  Throw them right out there.  The more you open up, the more productive our time will be.

– Scheduling can ALWAYS be worked out.  I say this specifically for international photographers.  I’m located in Denver, CO, which is the mountain time zone.  However, I’ve critiqued photographers in the UK, Asia, across Europe, in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand…don’t worry.  We’ll work it out.

– Critiques are $150US (PLEASE NOTE: effective April 5, 2013, this rate will change to $175US) and run approximately one hour. The simplest payment method is via Paypal.  The registered email address is cjnicolai08@gmail.com.  If you’d prefer a different payment method, please ask, and we’ll make other arrangements.  Payment is required to finalize your critique session.

When you’re ready to schedule your critique, please email me at cjnicolai08@gmail.com with the following information:

Name

Phone number

Skype name

Approximate time frame in which you would like to have your critique (i.e. next week, next summer, etc)

Days and times that work best for you, including your time zone

Your website or blog, if applicable

Any questions you may have that haven’t been answered on this page

Want to know more?  Here’s a bit I wrote a few years ago with more of my thoughts on what critiques can and should be.

*****************

Everyone’s a Critic

2012010

Critique is something near and dear to my heart. There’s nothing like an outside perspective on our work to understand where we are as artists, and how to get where we want to be.

I think, though, that there are misconceptions about what critique is and isn’t, or maybe what it should and shouldn’t be. For that reason, the word “critique” tends to strike fear in the hearts of vulnerable artists. I’d like to address a few points for your consideration.

Critique does not have to be brutal and abrasive to be effective. I really do not understand the mentality that a mean critique is somehow more effective. I feel just the opposite; an unnecessarily abrasive critique tends to instantly put the “critiquee” on the defensive, and the hurt feelings can prevent the critique from really being absorbed. It is possible to be just as honest and frank without ripping holes in the self-esteem.

Let’s say you went to your hairstylist asking for advice on how you could improve your look. Would you want the feedback to start with, “Well, your current hairstyle is ugly and makes you look like a troll?” Of course not. It’s not necessary.

Critiques that include the word “can’t” are rarely valuable. I hear this a lot. You can’t center your subjects. You can’t use high contrast. You can compose your shots like that. You can’t have that much DOF. Can’t, can’t, can’t. This is art, folks. There are very few things that can’t be done successfully. An effective critique will not tell you what you can’t do; it will help you identify your tendencies so that YOU can decide how you would like to address those issues. A good critique-giver will help you understand why certain things generally work, and leave it to you to decide what is right for you.

The best critiques take into account your personal taste and what you are trying to accomplish. Critiques based solely on the preferences of the critic will only tell you how to make that person happy. It’s much more valuable for you to get feedback on how to achieve the results YOU want. I may personally prefer muted color, but if you love saturated color, my job is to help you do saturated color well.

A truly effective critique should help you identify opportunities for improvement and direction in your entire body of work — not just nit-picking little things in individual images. At the end of the critique, you should have a very clear idea of what you want to achieve and how to achieve it. And a really good critique will also help you understand what you do well, so you walk away feeling positive and motivated. it is at least as important to understand your strengths as it is to understand your weaknesses.

Critique should never be accepted blindly. You’ve heard me say it before. Just because someone said it doesn’t make it so. It’s up to you to listen to what is said, consider the point of view of the critic, and decide if and how you will act on it. Only you can truly understand your sense of beauty and what you want your work to say. Apply what it makes sense to apply. You should never have to worry about offending the critic; the critic who demands gratitude and obedience is (generally) just plain old insecure.

  – CJ

7 thoughts on “Online critiques

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  3. I am really interested in having a critique done by you:)! I wanted to do it in March. I am currently taking MNLI and going to be taking 201 processing with Sarah Cornish in Feb. So I thought by March I really might have something good for you to look at! Lol! I really excited and need to do this. Should I wait until about Feb to sign up or March??? Thank you for giving people this opportunity:)

    • Amanda, great! I’m looking forward to working with you. I would recommend signing up as soon as possible, as my schedule tends to book out well in advance. Let’s get you set up and put a date on the calendar, and I’m always open to changing the date and time as needed when we get a little closer. This way, I don’t overbook and make myself any more crazy than necessary. 😉

      • Ok. How does evening of March 24, 25, or 26th look?? Is there somewhere I am suppose to be signing up at?? I know I am suppose to pay to hold my spot too, so if any of those days work I will go to my Paypal and secure my spot:) I will also send my info to your email when it gets closer. We haven’t signed up for Skype yet, but I can get that set up.. Thanks, Amanda Cross

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