What’s the goal?

Photographs, like anything, can only be evaluated in terms of the photographer’s purpose or goal. When we know the photographer’s goal, we can talk about how effective the photos are at reaching that goal. We can evaluate how well the technical decisions help achieve that goal. So to begin, it’s helpful to ask the photographer:

  • Why did you take this/these photos?
  • What do you want the audience to see?
  • How do you want the audience to feel?
  • What do you want the audience to think?
  • What do you think is successful about the images?
  • What are you unsure about or looking for specific feedback on?

Creative/Technical Elements

Knowing the goal, we can then evaluate the following technical elements in terms of how they contribute to the photograph fulfilling the photographer’s goal:

  • Choice of subject
  • Composition – arrangement of the elements in the frame
  • Number of elements in image: busy vs simple
  • Use of focus / depth of field
  • Palette: Color / black & white / split tone
  • Point of view: high / low / normal
  • Use of light and shadow
  • Focal length: Wide / Medium / Telephoto
  • Cropping
  • Aspect: Vertical / square / horizontal
  • Post-production effects


  • Be kind – Putting your work out there takes guts. Respect that and use words that build up rather than tear down.
  • Avoid opinions – Avoid saying whether you like or dislike something. Instead, say how you think the photo is effectively or ineffectively reaching the stated goal.
  • Be constructive – Every criticism should include a suggestion for improvement
  • Be humble – Don’t talk about your own work when critiquing someone else’s