Want to critique my photos? Well, buddy… SIT and SPIN.

So I was working on a presentation for a local photo club on how to give proper and useful critiques and I wanted to come up with a mnemonic to give people for remembering the parts that go into a good critique. I wrote them down and stared at them for a bit trying to see what kind of acronym would come out, and then there it sat… A mnemonic that people would remember even if they didn’t remember what the letters stood for… SIT/SPIN.

So, let’s break it down…

  • S – See: Take a moment to really look at the photo and absorb it. Look at the big picture, look at small sections for hidden detail, notice where your eye enters, where it goes, where it rests, where it exits. Try to see everything there is to see about the image.
  • I – Interpret: What does the photo make you think of? Emotions? Mood? What do you think the photographer was trying to accomplish with their shot? This step can seem silly to some people, but it’s actually one of the most useful parts. As someone with no emotional attachment to the shot, you can provide untainted feedback that lets the photographer know if they accomplished what they set out to do with the photograph. Also, this is the only step that the photographer can’t learn on their own.
  • T – Technicals: Go through the aspects of the photo that deal with skill using the equipment. Is it in sharp focus, is it exposed properly, how is the noise, etc.
  • S – Subjectives: Go through the artistic parts of the photo. How is the composition? The depth of field? Framing?
  • P – Praise: Talk about the things you like about the photo and why you like them. Again, this part of the critique some people find silly or unnecessary, but it’s a very important part of the learning process. You’re not giving praise to brace them for the impact of what they can improve upon. You’re maintaining their positive attitude to promote learning.
  • I – Improvements: Talk about the parts of the photo that could be improved and be sure to include how to improve it and why you think it would be an improvement. If there are many things that can be improved, focus on one or two that will have the most impact rather than overwhelming them. Remember that your critique is intended to improve the photographer’s future work, not the photo you’re critiquing.
  • N – Nutshell: Wrap up by going back through the highlights to condense any previous rambling you may have done into the concise couple of sentences you’d like the photographer to take away from your critique.

So there you have it. The next time you’re asked to give a critique… SIT & SPIN.

Slides from the presentation to the RCC:

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