How to Win Friends and Influence People - A Guide to Commenting on Other People's Photos

How to Win Friends and Influence People – A Guide to Commenting on Other People’s Photos


The following post is from Australian photographer Neil Creek who is part of the Fine Art Photoblog, and is developing his blog as a resource for the passionate photographer.


Don’t just parrot the same comments over and over.
© Neil Creek

One of the ten things I hate about Flickr is people who don’t know how to comment on photos. In a recent post to my blog, I lamented the number of comments I receive on my photos which consist of only one or two words: “Frankly, I don’t care if you think my photo’s “Awesome!”, I care even less if you think it’s a “Cool photo”. I’ve put a lot of work into it, I’d genuinely like to know what you think of it and why. If you’re going to comment, why not take the extra 30 seconds, engage your brain, and say something insightful.”

In the lively discussion that followed, it occurred to me that these commenters may not just be lazy. Some said they don’t feel confident enough, or have enough knowledge to feel worthy of making a comment. Others said they have a hard time expressing their feelings. And some simply don’t know what to say. I want to help fix that.

Even though a discussion about Flickr prompted this guide, and the examples I use are all from Flickr, it applies equally well to any online photography or art community, where people comment on the works uploaded by others.

Why comment?

Comments on a photo really help the photographer. They can give confidence, offer suggestions and give ideas for future photos. A good comment can forge friendships, develop ideas and educate. Not every comment can be deep or insightful, but just expressing how a photo made you feel is very valuable to a photographer. Thoughtful comments encourage photographers and build communities, and that benefits us all.

What to say?

Starting from the assumption that you want to say something about the photo, ask yourself why?

To express your emotions

Obviously you can’t comment on every photo you see, but when a photo stands out to you, makes you think “wow!”, or makes you wonder how it was done, then it’s only fair to let the photographer know. They have moved you with their work, so you really owe it to them to return the favour. And if you’ve been moved, then you should have something to say. Don’t feel like you’re unable to express yourself in words, just think about it and write what comes to you.

  • What feature of the photo did you like most and why?
  • What emotion did the photo stir in you?
  • Did the photo remind you of something cool?
  • Is the subject dear to you?
  • Is the photo controversial, or does it get you worked up?
  • If you get stuck, use a thesaurus, seriously!

Here’s how I expressed my emotions about this photo:

running with the seagulls – CC eschipul

What a wonderfully lively and free image. It brings memories of a carefree childhood, when an open space was an impossible to ignore invitation to run for the sake of running. You did a fantastic job catching the seagulls take flight, and I’m impressed with the composition in such an action-packed shot. Thank you for sharing!

To ask a question

Photo communities are an incredible resource for learning photography, not just by participating in the many photography learning groups, but also by seeing how others take their photos. Many photographers thoughtfully include a lot of detail about how they took their photos, but this can be a lot of work, so it’s often left unsaid. If you see a striking photo and you’d like to know more about it, here are some of the type of questions you might ask.

  • What was the creative drive behind taking the photo?
  • How was a particular effect achieved?
  • Were the camera settings an artistic decision, and what was their effect on the result?
  • Why was this particular subject and location chosen?
  • How were you able to get a natural expression from the model/s?
  • What lessons did you learn from taking this photo?
  • Here are some questions I asked about this photo:

    Hello World – CC Mhogan35

    Absolutely striking photo! You described the process as including compositing multiple exposures. Was the model present for all exposures? The shadows appear to be clearly from a left and right source only. I love the starfield, was that a separate exposure, or was it in one of the other element photos? And finally, how did you achieve the evenness not only in the spacing of the lights, but also the smooth curve with their distance from the camera always being constant? Thanks for showing this beautiful photo and for giving so many details!

    To offer a suggestion or constructive criticism

    Just as you shouldn’t feel shy to ask questions, nor should you be shy to offer suggestions or criticism. Whether your suggestion is just a personal preference, a neat trick you have learned, or based on experience, most photographers welcome input that can help improve their photos. It’s important of course, not to be arrogant or derisive, but if you feel you have something constructive to offer, go right ahead! It’s nice to start by saying what you like about the photo, or you could end up sounding too critical.

  • Suggest a more effective crop.
  • The photo may inspire a cool related idea for another photo.
  • Politely mention a technical flaw that the photographer may have missed, such as a tilted horizon.
  • Suggest an alternative colour scheme, such as black and white or a particular monotone.
  • If the photographer asks a question and you can help, jump right in.
  • Suggest a creative element or subject that would work well with the photo.

Spread the word!

By taking a little more time to think about your comments, you’ll become a far more valuable and respected community member. Others will appreciate your effort, and likely return the favour, or at least want to know more about the cool person that left a nice comment. You will end up getting more out of the online photography community, and hopefully encourage others to follow your example, and that will be a good thing for us all.

Perhaps if you often get comments that haven’t had a lot of thought put into them, you can gently and politely suggest the commenters visit this guide. Send them the link, and maybe you’ll be able to make friends with a new, thoughtful commenter.

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Read more from Neil on his blog, including projects, tutorials and lots of photos. You can also connect with Neil on Twitter, where he is happy to answer photography and other questions.

Read more from our category

Neil Creek is a professional photographer from Melbourne, Australia. He has been shooting with a DSLR since 2004, and blogging about his experiences since 2006. Neil has authored five ebooks and a video training course, all designed to help others improve their photography. View Neil's folio at his home page. Learn about his publications here.

Some Older Comments

  • Thanh January 21, 2013 05:22 pm

    Not everyone has photography principle knowledge to give constructive criticism. Online users just comment based on what they feel. So, we can not change the way most people do now. However, I very appreciate your article and I will change the way I comment. Not for photo but anything else too.

  • Jeff October 13, 2011 02:11 am

    Great article. I think you touched on a very important subject here. As a photographer, it is important to receive honest feedback. It helps you grow and develop your skills further. I find a lot of the time people understand the effect / emotions you were trying to capture. I work with a Toronto Photo Studio that does a lot of artistic shots that are great and original for a studio and I strongly doubt the photographers would be as good if they did not receive regular feedback and constructive criticism. It is a form of art afterall.

  • Lauren September 29, 2011 08:47 pm

    I think the 'running with the seagulls' would of looked better with just the boy running. I love the distant look to the photo it's amazing! :)

  • Jason August 23, 2011 07:22 am

    Great article. Commenting in cyberspace gives possibilities for both photographer (he gets criticized) as well as for a person who comments.

    Let's not limit ourselves to cyberspace though. Real life is much more fun.

    I recommend reading this one:

  • Erica Jones April 4, 2010 03:04 pm

    The photograph of the beach makes me miss the water sooo much. Amazing pictures and truly helpful advice. Cheers!

  • Greg Martin March 10, 2010 08:30 am

    Nice photos, there is nothing I like better than looking at well cropped pics.

    Good info too.


  • Jan December 17, 2009 12:30 am

    Great tips Neil. Although I don't agree with some of the wording you've used, I do strongly agree with the thought process. Not everyone is articulate enough to leave inspiring comments, but we can hope! lol

    Photography is very subjective.

  • mtb August 29, 2008 05:23 am

    i tried to read every comment to your very provocative article . . . but skimmed the last few due to time constraints, so i hope i'm not repeating anyone else's point.

    i have never commented on someone's photo. when i recently began learning about photography, i read all the comments to everything that interested me. and i noticed often some commenters attack newbie commenters. one example comes to mind of a fellow commenter essentially responding to a newbie's questions with something like, "you obviously know nothing, so don't waste our time."

    i think this type of thing may have subconsciously frightened me away from ever posting any of my photographs (were i ever to take any i thought were good), because i can only imagine the criticisms i would receive. my fragile newbie self would not have been able to survive, i'm afraid. :)

  • Humour Articles August 25, 2008 10:07 pm

    I'm very impressed by all the thoughts and insights that went into this post.

  • Shane Williams August 12, 2008 11:34 pm

    This was a really informative article. You have changed the way I comment on flickr forever. I like to comment on photos when ive enjoyed them but have never really gotten emotional about them. Thanks

  • Hans July 28, 2008 05:39 pm

    Interesting article you have there; very thorough and im sure that it has helped many people....

    One thing though, you must keep in mind that with todays tachnology, a compilation can have well over a hundred pictures and one cannot have enough time to comment a whole paragraph for each photo. Personally, if one says my photo is good by saying "nice one!" that already, in itself, is an encouraging enough comment. When one comments in real life, how often do you see a Lay-man talking about lighting, background and whatnot? You want a comment? here's what I will give your photos....

    Nice shots man... You gotta teach me some day.

  • Ferguson July 25, 2008 01:50 am

    Thank you for use my photo in the (very interesting) article ;)

  • Photochick July 18, 2008 03:49 pm


    I do completely agree with all that you wrote, but my hitch on commenting is that I do see many wonderful photos, and read just as many fantastic posts. It would be absolutely impossible to actually comment on every one... The time it would require would take me all night! There are just so many talented individuals out there. Some inspire & encourage; others simply awe & astound. I wish there were enough hours in the day for me to say all that I would like to about all the wonderful things I see.

    Me personally? I don't necessarily need any validation for my photos. That may sound aloof and snotty, but that's definitely not what I intend to be. I only mean that if I put a photo onto my blog, I obviously must think it's good enough to be there. I haven't gotten into flicker or photo forums, and perhaps that's a mistake on my part. I admire those that do; I admire even more those who are able to comment on everything they love or are inspired by. Perhaps someday I'll find the time to be a great commenter!

    One more thing - I do have to agree with you about the short, tacky 2-word comments that may not even have any relevance to what's posted. This is especially true since @pete COMPLETELY exemplified the "ridiculous comment scenario" JUST to get hits & comments on his photos that seriously aren't that great. Sorry to be blunt & rude, but that's just how I feel.

    Thank you very much for a wonderful post, and the only thing I add is that some people (like I said earlier) just don't have the time to comment on all that they love. Tell people not to be discouraged by lack of comments though! Look instead at the hits your site is getting...

    If you have Statcounter (or something of the like) you can see the number of visitors & the URLs of those who visit you. Even if they don't regularly (or ever) comment, they must like what you have to offer if they keep coming back. :o)

    Thanks again for a great article. Take care & God Bless,

    All my love,

  • 0 W8ing July 14, 2008 11:39 am

    ***Claimer/Disclaimer: I am a Flickr member. I am also a member. I am a former photography instructor at Community College level. I am a former (10 years at it) newspaper photographer in a fair-sized city. I am retired from professional photography and have taken up the camera, again, for sheer creative exercise and a sense of accomplishment, as well as to link up with others.***

    Many of the comments, here, have said most of what I'd want to say/contribute, so I will leave those points alone, for now. The one point I Would like to make comes from a pivotal (for me) workshop I took at the formerly named Maine Photographic Workshops, under Sean Kernan ( ). When we had shot the day's assignments and gathered to look at them the next day, we were encouraged to comment, but in a way somewhat modified from the usual sense of "critique". Sean encouraged us, actually requested of us, that we start simple --Look at the image, and say what we see in it.
    That approach gets one past the whole notion of "knowing how to critique/comment" as well as transcending the wide differences in experience/expertise that the group brings to the process. Then, it does one other thing, elegantly, I think; it lets me know what likely got across in the photo. That's what I really want to know, basically; all else is tangential, is it not? I, personally and artistically, don't need an assessment of my work or even an extensive analysis of the technicals, especially from a broadly diverse community like Flickr. What I need to know is more about what got through. Then I can use that info in one or both of two ways. First, I can know if the sum total of my technique/choices did or did not add up to my intent, and adjust/re-evaluate said technique if my image went astray or aground. Secondly, it can clarify for me what an image may be about, when I'm not even sure myself, but am looking for a clue from simple feedback.
    That word is the key, for me: Feedback.
    Anyone can offer that. Anyone can look at a work, assume that the photographer made choices to make the photo just as it is, and look for what they can see in the photo.
    Your guidelines, Neil, can be just that.. guidelines to get started. When I am perplexed, at first, about what I'm drawn to or repulsed by or confused by in a photo, I just start with the simple "What I see is.. ", and that begins to peel the onion for me. Sometimes I even reverse my impressions of a piece, the further I get into looking at it... precisely because I am beginning to put my impressions into words --into clear communication-- and because I'm choosing to become familiar with the image.
    Maybe in that process, I'm learning more about what the photographer intended, or maybe I'm on a tangent, myself, that way; finally, though, the artist can take my feedback and combine it with the impressions of others and notice common threads. Don't get me wrong; I'm not advocating that a consensus of opinion has the final word on a photo. I'm simply suggesting that if several people see the same things in a photo, then perhaps that says something useful to the artist, especially if it's a surprise to him/her.
    The BEST part for the Commenter is that the process of taking in a photograph to that extent opens up new possibilities for himself/herself. I gain from creating feedback for another's work, in the long run.

  • 0 W8ing July 14, 2008 11:39 am

    When approaching another's photo with any intention to be appreciative or helpful, you might just start by saying, simply, what you see.

    (I'll follow up with more.)

  • Sahul July 14, 2008 12:22 am

    @Pete Langlois - I just chided you in your site for not commenting on Neil's article but instead want people to comment on your photos.

    @Neil - Beautiful photos are a plenty everywhere by talented photographers but what you sets you aside is your willingness to educate and share your knowledge. Bravo!

    I used to attend Photo Critique Sessions of our Photographic Society in my country of domicile. All the 3 instructors give critiques differently in their own style and content. One of them is very sarcastic and blunt but his session has the most partcipants. I like his sessions but some don't.

    I want to point out that no one way or one style of critique is correct nor are all the people would want to accept one way or one style of critique. Some like it brief and some like it with more content.

    Anyway, thanks for your informative article. I like your your style of critique too. :)


  • Micki July 13, 2008 03:56 pm

    It's all been said in one way or another and I can see both sides of the coin. Like some of you, I've been guilty of 1 or 2 word comments, same reason as you.... I'm a beginner and not worthy (in my eyes) to offer critique. I don't post a lot of pictures (to groups) because I generally know that my photos suck and a sure sign that I'm learning is that I can SEE what I did wrong.

    the one thing that I did not see mentioned (correct me if I'm wrong - it is late)..... TIME it takes. Yes I know you said it only takes 30 seconds (not for me - the beginner) but having a full time job, then take care of family, etc.. the time I have left I have to decide if I want to spend it on elaborate comments, or learning/advancing in Photoshop skill or better yet, go out and take photos.

    I choose to take photos, and I use manual / raw and just shoot. And sometimes, I do what my husband does.... 'sharp intake of breath', I shoot in auto mode, cuz if I stop enjoying it, I won't pick up the camera.

    Seriously, I will try to follow your guidelines for leaving comments, they are great tips. But totally understand everyone else and hope you guys know that I 'lurk' and do enjoy all your photos for whatever reason. :-)

  • cmertz2 July 13, 2008 05:57 am

    Neil, here's a critique for you. Your rant made some fine points here and there, mainly in its suggestions of critique questions and the like, should a person feel moved to do so. Personally, and to emphasize again, this is purely a personal preference, I'm completely comfortable with any expression or reaction my photos evoke in an audience, and appreciate their views no matter what the length; I think the ONLY time a reply such that you "HATE" is inappropriate is when the photographer is specifically and clearly looking for critiques on their work-- such as the DPS critique section of the forum, or where this is clearly posted on a website or page. I don't take it upon myself to presume anything about a person's mindset or photography, especially given that, as an art form and form of expression, there IS no right or wrong in this field. My preference on what to change or alter may or may not be appreciated, whereas support in the form of compliments, regardless of their size, is appreciated in most circles. You obviously appreciate criticism, and many of us do. Just as many people don't. We'll have to agree to disagree.

    But, lets work on your tone. You come off as incredibly presumptuous, pretentious and pompous, not so much in your article, but in your reactions to the posts. Like Josh Lloyd, I enjoyed your article until I began to read your comments. Your replies have somewhat soured my opinion of the whole thing. Our now infamous first poster "obviously had not read the article at all, and had used his quick response to insert a link to his own site, and what’s more beg others for the insightful comment he was not willing to give himself." Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. Not one to give the benefit of the doubt? But truly, I find it extremely rude of you to insinuate that those who don't mind, or even (wait for it...) appreciate (!!), the short comments need to work on their confidence issues. "At the risk of offending people (I think it’s already too late for that :) ), I suggest that those who welcome any kind of positive comment at all, may be those who don’t have confidence in their own ability and are looking for any kind of positive affirmation." Really Niel? I find that statement completely unnecessary, and I don't think the warning you tacked to the front of it excuses it. I think perhaps, you need to take your confidence and your ego down a notch.

  • Marg July 12, 2008 08:50 am

    I comment on many photos but have hesitated at giving criticism because I didn't think I knew enough to say anything valid. Your article has made me realise that I can write something useful - thank you!!

  • I just like to take pics July 12, 2008 04:42 am

    Stop being a grouch and stay off flickr if you are bothered by one or two-word comments.

    I don't think the majority of users feel the way you do.

    Flickr is not for pros anyway. Many pros don't even have the time for that site.

    Go buy an ice cream and relax.

  • sam July 12, 2008 01:44 am

    I will often begin a comment by saying "Wow" or "Great photo" but will then expand on that by saying something else like "I really like the subject and the bright, saturated colors" or "Your choice of perspective and subject really make this photo standout". There's nothing wrong with "Wow" in my opinion, but if thats all you ever say than whats the point?

    Thanks for the good article.

  • Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home July 11, 2008 11:04 am

    I am still very much in the learning stages with my 4-month-old DSLR. In a recent post on my photoblog I gave two shots with the same subject: one where the white balance was set wrong, one where it was correct. I asked for feedback (since I actually liked the wrong one better) and got the best comments. Yes, it was very helpful and meant a lot to me when people took the time to give such thoughtful comments.

  • Melissa July 11, 2008 06:24 am

    Let's keep in mind, flickr is first a social-networking site, and second a photo sharing site.

    If all you want is a serious critique of your work, flickr may not be the place for you.

    Personally, I appreciate all the comments I've gotten - long or short, insightful or silly. It means someone found my photo (in the vast sea that is flickr) and was moved by it. That's all I'm looking for.

  • Philscbx July 11, 2008 05:00 am

    Neil, nice shot of the Parrot. For a studio shot.

    I now have no freaking clue what to add for the shot, because You purposely removed the embedded exif information for the shot.
    You want feed back, but you left us with nothing to analyze of the camera used, lens, etc.
    It is in my opinion, not worthy of a comment. You even removed all major settings for people to save as a Fav. I don't get it.

  • Philscbx July 11, 2008 04:42 am

    everyone's a critic Says: 
July 8th, 2008 at 10:52 am
    “You don’t really have a natural eye for composition do you?”

    This really cracks me up, and in some ways, I almost say it, but add advice instead.

    A major difference is in the equipment being used by ones posting images online.
    1. You have those like on Flickr that are only using pocket cameras, but actually pull off some great shots.
    Those who comment on these tend to be the norm, very nice to great shot.

    2. Then there is the other end of the spectrum of shooters using $10,000 gear in their shoot.
    If people from group 1 comment on these shots, it will tend to be the same.
    They have no idea what was involved, and that's OK.
    Out of the 47 others who did post, you got what was needed.

    When I come across an image with already 50 comments similar, I tend to move on. I can't really add any more than what was already done.

    I might add the image to my favorites so they know I really do like it. It also keeps me up on who's style I prefer.
    Also it is more than likely that I myself envy the professional in hopes I might be there some day.

    Then you get the real talent coming through that know all there is and the pain of just the set up alone with the lighting, model, environment, and can give very honest feed back. They will input tips on the lighting in a way not thought of in the shoot.

    What I hate from this pro group is leaving out the exif information from the shot. This is very important for us to actually see the settings used.
    It's one of the best learning tools without having to ask.

    Lets see a raise of hands of those shooting only RAW?
    See my point? Maybe 1 in 50.

    As Neil pointed out, all good points, but they should have an optional link just for the input from the pro shooters who really know what's going on, or move to a pro site as many have.
    But keep in mind, those who say anything should not be criticized for a simple 'wow'. They might have been speechless for 10 minutes similar to a big bite of ice-cream brain freeze.

    I have discovered great pro's shooters on
    They tend to use gear like the Canon 5D, and L lenses in a studio setting.
    Someday, to get mine on there as well.

    I use common sites as Flickr for run of the mill shoots, and I'm mainly making it easy for others in the group to have access to them.
    I don't expect people to comment on them, and if they do, that's cool.

  • tyago_sylva July 11, 2008 04:40 am


    this is the best post I've read in a long time.

    I appreciate any kind of comments on my photos, but I agree that one well intentioned and insightful is worth 1000 two-word-comments.

    But when it comes to commenting other people's photos, I must say I find it difficult to put my thoughts into more than just a few words.

    I also agree that it might be a lot easier for Art educated people to provide better comments; I guess this post would be more complete if it provided some further guidance for those who have little or no Arts background.

    What I like the most about this post is (not only for the good comment hints and examples) the reminder that we should make an extra effort and complement others' work the way we would like our own work to be commented.

    Thank You.

  • dawn July 10, 2008 02:25 pm

    Interesting post. I think you have made some very valid points, and so have others. One of the things that has not really come up is that 1) there are times that a picture seems well-done in almost every way, and so there is little to say beyond a brief "wow" (admittedly this is not the norm), and 2) for those of us who post repetitively on specific sites, we will often come across the same individuals and our comments become redundant after the first one or two--either because the images are so well done, there is little to criticize or because 2) the individual either chooses not to pay attention or cannot implement the suggestions due to lack of experience or knowledge.

    And I think it's a valid point that criticism, however benign, is often not well received. My own personal experience has been that altho many ask for it, the request is often not sincere and people get defensive or feel little need to think on what has been said. For my own part, I'm busy and don't like spitting in the wind and wasting my time. So I will try to gauge the receptivity of the person in question before I say much of anything. Often, my comments are more about processing and how to use Photoshop, things many find useful and less threatening than comments on the images themselves.


  • Diane July 10, 2008 01:01 pm

    I'm surprised by the tone of this post. On the one hand, I think your suggestions in terms of what sorts of constructive comments are possible to make are good ones. If one IS uncertain about what to say, or if one is compelled by a very strong photo to say more, you've presented good ideas.

    Still, I'm bothered at your disregard for the folks who make shorter comments. I think it'd be appropriate to remember the context on Flickr-- there are thousands and thousands of photos, and anyone looking at Flickr can easily pass over your photos. The fact that someone took the time to stop at your photo, and was motivated enough by it to click onto your page and say anything at ALL to you is worth some respect and appreciation. Maybe people don't know what to say, or don't want to take a ton of time drafting a thoughtful critique... but the fact that they respected your photo enough to take their time to convey that your photo had some impact at all ought to be something YOU appreciate.

  • John P July 10, 2008 09:44 am

    In defence of Neil

    I think anne may have missed the point-

    "Then, you go on and on about HOW and WHAT exactly people should be saying in their comments to you of your photos. OMG!" - I understood he was trying to offer suggestions of how to comment on photos in general, not just his photos.

    "And people complain that America tries to tell everyone else in the world what to do - and here you are a little individual in Australia doing PRECISELY the same." - I didn't realise you were impaired in stature Neil. Try to stand tall man!

    "All I can say is that I know why I live in the West: freedom of expression." - Believe it or not on the internet (and even in Australia) Neil also is entitled to freedom of expression.

    I think this post has been brilliant. It has generated the debate I'm sure was intended. Lighten up anne.

  • Daily Phototherapy July 10, 2008 03:56 am


    Thanks for the great article. The suggestions were very helpful in that often times, we don't know how to express ourselves, or could use a new way of relating what we feel or think. The article was encouraging enough that it made me want to go out and find photos that really stimulate a response.

    Something I really appreciated was the categorization of the different kinds of response (emote, inquire, critique). These helped me stop and be more deliberate about my response to flickr or other photos.

    I also found out that when people leave a one-word comment or not so deliberate in their questions or remarks, it's more difficult to give them an appropriate response in return. I guess it's an issue of reflectivity.

    Thanks for the insightful article!


  • lindalou July 10, 2008 02:07 am

    I'm very new to photography, but loved reading all the posts. Hopefully, I can gain the respect of all you talented photographers and someday can offer some useful comments, but for now, lurking is what I do best and I enjoy so much the talent you all are blessed with. Neil: Love the parrot, the detail is spectacular as well as the color of the background, how did you come up with that? Was it done post-production?

    Great article, as well, with so many tips that I will refer to often. Thanks.

  • anne July 10, 2008 12:34 am

    Gotta say - the only reason I'm actually commenting at the moment is because a write-up of yours came out on Digital Photography School where you say:

    "One of the ten things I hate about Flickr is people who don’t know how to comment on photos. In a recent post to my blog, I lamented the number of comments I receive on my photos which consist of only one or two words: “Frankly, I don’t care if you think my photo’s “Awesome!”, I care even less if you think it’s a “Cool photo”. I’ve put a lot of work into it, I’d genuinely like to know what you think of it and why. If you’re going to comment, why not take the extra 30 seconds, engage your brain, and say something insightful.”

    In the lively discussion that followed, it occurred to me that these commenters may not just be lazy. Some said they don’t feel confident enough, or have enough knowledge to feel worthy of making a comment. Others said they have a hard time expressing their feelings. And some simply don’t know what to say. I want to help fix that."

    Then, you go on and on about HOW and WHAT exactly people should be saying in their comments to you of your photos. OMG!

    So, you think it's your job to tell people how to say and what to say, how to think and feel...which of course would naturally extend tyo you being most knowledgeable about best way to live someone' else's life too. Huh! And people complain that America tries to tell everyone else in the world what to do - and here you are a little individual in Australia doing PRECISELY the same. You have time for all that? Live and let live dude!

    What ever happened to people just wanting to express their simple appreciation? I suppose you don't appreciate appreciation. In other words, all these lovely people here who have taken the time to comment on your photo aren't worth a hill of beans to you.

    Don't waste your breathe everyone - he doesn't want appreciation.

    NOW there's a comment for you.

    PS - For the record - I originally put this on flikr, not originally having seen this option...but was subsequently deleted with Neil saying that it was inappropriate. It's all a matter of opinion, my friend. All I can say is that I know why I live in the West: freedom of expression.

  • Silke July 10, 2008 12:26 am

    I am an active member of a site where critiquing is considered a vital part of the process. Since we are limited to posting a single shot per day, there is more time spent on critiquing and we get more feedback as well.

    However, it is difficult to provide guidelines for people who simply don't know what to say except "Nice shot" (a "critique" that actually goes against the rules of the site). Your guidelines are therefore much appreciated by the numerous members who will be reading them since Lisa was kind enough to post a link to this article in our general forum:)

    We are also expected to provide notes with each posting, so your guidelines on the kinds of questions to ask about the photo are also superb in terms of suggestions as to what one might include in those notes.

    The one thing I might add to your critiquing guidelines is that constructive critiques go over better when they are written in the form of a sandwich:
    1)Something nice about the photo
    2)something that needs improvement and how to improve it
    3)A final nice thing about the photo

    The critique sandwich, in my humble opinion, offers a little honey to help the medicine go down I think.

    Once again, superb article and many hearty thanks

  • Ole July 10, 2008 12:10 am

    I fel hit by your blog. Thank you. You have given me lots of tools for commenting pictures.

  • Hayley July 9, 2008 08:31 pm

    I both agree and disagree with leaving such comments. Admittedly, I'm not a big flikr user but I am on other websites with similar features.

    For photos being displayed on a portfolio - I admit I leave, and enjoy being left, little comments like "Nice shot" or "I like this". I see it as a nice little bit of encouragement - it makes me happy, if only for a short time, and I hope the people I leave such comments for feel the same. I think if there's something specific about it that I like, it's good to express exactly what that is, although, like others have said, sometimes a shot is "good" just because, well, it is! I also think asking questions about how the shot was taken is a good idea too. But I think two or three words is perfectly adequate for "standard" situations like this.

    On the other hand, if I were to post a photo in the critique section of a forum or add a note to my photo stating something like "Constructive criticism wanted", I wouldn't be happy with a "I like it" or "I don't like it" - I want to know why! I want to know what I can do better next time (or things I definitely need to keep doing!). I want to know if I met the brief. I want to know how you interpret the photo. For these situations, I think the article offers some excellent advice.

  • Ben July 9, 2008 02:23 pm

    What you're doing is completely natural, and I understand. Still, I think you have a good opportunity here to work on your own communication skills. Regardless of what you DID or DIDN'T say or who you were trying to HELP, some people genuinely read your article and took away a different meaning than what you may have set out to convey.

  • Neil Creek July 9, 2008 11:12 am

    I think that I need to state what I thought was obvious - especially to what looks like a wave of digg user comments.

    Nowhere did I say "this is how you should comment" or did I tell anyone not to write two word comments. I'm not telling anyone what to do.

    What I DID say is that I don't like two word comments as much as I like comments with some thought put into them. I DID say that there are people who aren't lazy, yet struggle to think of how to write more insightful comments.

    The point of this post is to HELP people who want to say something meaningful about photos, but don't know how. If you only want to write a two word comment, go right ahead. It's better than nothing, but it'll be forgotten seconds after it's read. If you want to enjoy the benefits of an interactive community, a more considered comment will engage others far more successfully.

    To all those who say they don't like or would rather not have comments: Hello?! This is Flickr! The whole point is the community. If you just want to store photos online, use your ISP's free web space. Just dump the photos in an empty directory and give the url to noone. At the very least, set your flickr photos to private. That way you won't have to put up with condecending or sycophantic comments from anyone.

  • Barney July 9, 2008 10:23 am

    Interesting article. The author is correct in stating that more useful comments are appreciated by the photographer.

    I'm not so sure I agree with the question-asking suggestions. If someone asked me that many questions (as many as were in the example), I'd have a real struggle to keep from deleting the comment. Sure. I'll answer a question or two about an image. If you want more info, make a conversation out of it. When you ask so many questions in one paragraph, it feels very impersonal. That many questions makes me feel like you're interrogating me.

    Criticism, constructive or not, is very difficult to do right. I found the author's example a bit strong for my taste. The power of suggestion will often garner better results.

  • lani July 9, 2008 08:31 am

    thank you for this insightful article! i have been an avid flickr user since i began photography a year ago. i always put a lot of thought into my comments, but as a newbie i don't want to sound presumptuous. i'll definitely be employing some of your techniques and suggestions.

  • Cherany July 9, 2008 07:37 am

    Hmmm, I never thought about this before, but I'm glad you wrote about it. I've been commenting for a while on a certain photographer's work, and yes, most of my remarks have been, "Awesome shot!" or some equivalent. Now I'm embarrassed, because the photographer is wonderfully gifted and creative. Lesson learned. Next time, she'll get a real comment from me!

  • Ed O'Keeffe July 9, 2008 05:00 am

    Thanks for this Neil - I have recently started a critique blog where I comment on other photographers work daily and the tips and advice I just read really helps.

  • J Mathew July 9, 2008 03:34 am

    Thank you for the very helpful article. I love photography and I can tell if I like it or not but have never felt comfortable verbalizing my thoughts or on critiquing other people's photography, as I consider myself an amateur.

    I will definitely more conscious of your tips in the future. Your first tip reminded me of the statement from the movie "Immortal Beloved" about how music expresses the feeling of the composer. I know I would welcome knowing the impact of my photos on the audience.

    Thank you again.

  • Gary July 9, 2008 02:31 am

    This is the first comment I have ever made on any site. The topic strikes a chord, however, and I am glad it has been addressed. The real benefit of substantial comments (and I do not mean verbose)are for the readers as much as the poster. It takes FOREVER to scroll my way through the comments only to have to scroll all the way back to the image or article to remind myself of what one of the latter comments is referring to. Half way through these comments I had totally forgotten that there even was a parrot photo. It is worth it, however, if the comments are enlightening. (note: I find it obvious that most of the one and two word responses here are to effectively express disagreement). Thank you all for bringing insight to the rest of us.

  • Jen July 9, 2008 02:13 am

    Hm. It looks like I'm in the minority, but I don't welcome criticism, constructive or not, on many of the photos I post on flickr. If I'm open to it, then I say so in the caption, but uninvited commentary is generally ignored.

    I post to flickr not because I'm looking to improve my photography - I think there are better ways to do that than hit or miss comments from whomever drops by. I post to flickr because flickr affords a degree of websharing flexibility that violate other photo site TOSs.

    I have been "guilty" of leaving one or two word comments on the photos of others. (I don't actually feel guilty about it.) I prefer not to "fave" photos, so comments are an easy way for me to track images that stuck out for me but are not necessarily favorites.

    How about we all use flickr in the ways that suit, and don't browbeat one another with our opinions on the "proper" way to do so?

  • Tana July 9, 2008 01:39 am

    Personally, I find the examples of "correct" comments wordy and condescending. When I comment and say "Awesome" or "I love that!", it's because the photo struck a chord of emotion when I saw it. If you're a part of a group that focuses on critiquing photos, then such comments would not be appropriate and one would definitely want to be more constructive when commenting. But when leaving comments in general, you don't need to feel obligated to critique a photo in order to comment on it.

  • marcus July 8, 2008 11:25 pm

    @flo I've seen plenty of bad photos and rarely have I seen one that didn't have something positive that could be said about it. It's not necessary to make something up. Successful photographs involve a lot of different elements. Combining them successfully takes skill, but it's not uncommon for a photo to use some of those elements well, even if it's an accident. In Neil's example of the street photo, he says is "the buildings have interesting detail." If you're commenting on a portrait, you could comment on the expression on the subject's face, the location, the background, etc. Any time you open with something to indicates you have considered both the positive and negative qualities of the photo your input is going to be better received. And like I said before, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. It is disrespectful.

  • smpimages July 8, 2008 11:12 pm

    You know... I would like to see the 5 star rating being use as a part to comment on images.

    5- This picture moved me to hang around a while and enjoy.
    4- Made me smile as I connected with the image.
    3- I think it is OK but I want to move on to the next image.
    2- Too many images, too little time.
    1- "I wouldn't have shown that one".

    I am with the other commenters who are visual people and have trouble putting thoughts down in words. The numbering system would be quick feedback to the photographer and beneficial with SOME sort of feedback on many images.

    More thoughtful insight would be helpful from those who can express their thoughts in words also about what specifically they like or dislike about an image.

    Keep up the good work Neil.

  • Taka July 8, 2008 10:48 pm

    Why do you tell people how they should comment on flickr? You just describe the way you like it. But the question is if people show their photos on flickr in order to get those detailed comments. In fact I don't like it when some stranger is trying to be smart on my photos when I haven't asked for it.

    There are numerous sites on the internet which are especially meant to critically comment each others photos. Flickr has a couple of (maybe even many) groups which are intended to critically comment each others photos. If you add a photo to such a group, you know what to expect.

    But simply going around and commenting random images as prescribed, is just an annoyance.

  • Javier July 8, 2008 10:46 pm

    I usually leave very short comments because I really like a photograph, but I don't have anything constructive to add, everything was already said or simply the image does not deserve the time it takes to write the type of comments you wrote about.

    If you don't want such short comments just state it on the description of the photo. I know I prefer shorts comments to nothing, I can't expect people taking more than 20 secs. to comment when I'm competing with some of the world's best photographers for the attention of the people.

  • Deborah July 8, 2008 10:42 pm

    The first comment I received was the word 'cute'. I was so pleased. It had taken me huge courage to share online and I was so afraid of looking like a talentless fool. I am not stupid, I realise 'cute' is not a constructive critisism but it is a sign that my photo caught someone's attention sufficiently for them to take the time to tell me so. It was enough of an encouragement for me to post more, become more adventurous. I don't care if people send me a single word. My real life is full of people who interact with me to a greater or lesser extent, as a whole that is what my (and most) community consists of. Do all your friends talk to you at length about everything you put effort into? It all sounds a little high maintenance to me.

  • Megapixelicious July 8, 2008 08:18 pm

    I agree so much with this post... That is why stopped posting to groups who requires commenting prior to posting. I put a lot of energy in my comments and only got one liners from people who dont know much about photography anyways...

  • G. Chai July 8, 2008 05:25 pm

    Too many pictures, too little time!
    If a group imposes that comments be long (say, 20 words, for example), I don't mind posting a long comment if I find that group valuable and have subscribed to the group and found an interesting picture there. If there is no such restriction, isn't simple one/two-word appreciation (Awesome!, Nice Picture, Terrific composition, etc) better than none at all?

  • Neil Creek July 8, 2008 05:05 pm

    Wow, the galah reference was completely accidental! Nicely spotted John P :)

  • John P July 8, 2008 04:47 pm


    I appreciate your article and hopefully it will spur me to try to make intelligent comments where I am able (probably not that often). Like the parrot, beautiful photo, is the fact that it is of a galah intentional or just a freudian slip on your part? Does it represent how you feel about some two worder contributors?

  • Bakari July 8, 2008 03:33 pm

    Great Neil. Just joined up. And don't think about the number of members. 10-145 serious devoted members is better than 4000 lurkers any day.

  • mayk July 8, 2008 03:27 pm

    good article.

    is that good enough? sometimes a word or two means a lot :)

  • Neil Creek July 8, 2008 03:15 pm

    @Bakari I'm glad you asked! I actually just started up a Flickr group three weeks ago as a companion to my blog, so that my readers could interact with each other and share ideas, photos and talk more naturally than through comment on posts.

    You can find the group here: Learning Photography with Neil Creek. The group is all about learning photography together, rather than as a teacher to students. I have so much to learn myself.

    We don't currently have any organised critiques activities, although this week I am planning to start a weekly critique post on my blog where members offer one photo a week for critique, and I select five of them to write about for a blog post.

    Your comment has got me thinking that we could possibly expand upon that, and make a weekly critique thread where everyone in the group is encouraged to offer critiques on the photos members chose to offer for such a purpose. This would be in addition to my blog post. So thank you for the idea!

    You and anyone else are welcome to come and join the group. We're new, and relatively small (145 members at time of writing), but we're very active and growing fast! You can also participate in the weekly challenges we have there, and we're talking about running some photography games too.

    I hope to see you and many others there!

  • Harry Phillips July 8, 2008 03:08 pm

    I was part of the Plus/Minus comments group on Flickr until the admin got paranoid and weird then kicked me.

    It was a great group where you were forced to give meaningful constructive comments both positive and negative.

  • Bakari July 8, 2008 03:07 pm

    As a former English teacher and now a active member of Flickr, I can surely understand your frustration around this issue. Your guide questions are just what is needed because many people have not learned how to provide constructive feedback and criticism. At the same, I think the short comments are also a result of wanting to let your Flickr contacts and other posters know that you admire their work without taking that extra thirty seconds when you may already be spending too much time on Flickr, both as a commenter and a poster of photos. I fall into the latter category, though I have taken the time occasionally to provide extended feedback, just as I also receive it sometimes.

    I think one solution for those of who seek out thoughtful critiques is to join Flickr groups that are devoted to giving and receiving constructive criticism. I can't list any of the groups off the top of my head, but I have been involved in a few where entire threads are generated to provide constructive feedback on a photo.

    Neil, if you have such a group on Flickr or are interested in starting one, I'd be delighted to be a member. I'm not where I would like to be as a photographer, and it would be it would be very useful for me to get feedback and suggestions from other serious photographers, and I do likewise.

  • Björn July 8, 2008 02:57 pm

    Good pointers on where to start giving a critique, Neill.

    As others have said, someone actually saying they like or dislike your pictures in 2 words is a start. I think a lot of people on Flickr and similar sites don't expect (or want?) thorough critiques on their own work and maybe that's why they don't automatically give elaborate comments themselves.

    If I leave a comment I generally limit myself to a couple of short sentences saying I like it and what caught my eye in the first place. I make an attempt at a real critique only if someone asks for one or it's one of my contacts that I know likes detailed comments.

  • John Finkelde July 8, 2008 02:41 pm

    Well Neil you sure stirred the folks up!

    Your points are definately provocative & I actually that's good for this type of forum.

    Your reply to comments are tops & the whole thing has made me rethink my commenting style

    well done

  • Occassional photo critic July 8, 2008 02:41 pm

    Great observation. Your critical points, the list of items to discuss, will help me make better comments in the future.

    I've taking the liberty to link to this article from my blog - - in the hopes that this gets out to others.

    Thanks for the help and direction!

  • Alberto July 8, 2008 02:28 pm

    that's why i dont post on Flickr, they just make me mad

  • josh July 8, 2008 01:02 pm

    cool photo

  • nublet nob July 8, 2008 01:02 pm

    aweseome!!! noob.

  • Trent July 8, 2008 12:25 pm

    @ SPK

    You have a good point, arts shouldn't be for the initiated only

    however i think neil's pointers are a good.

    Take a few posters and look at their respective galleries...then it becomes quite obvious who should know better then just saying "good job", and who is starting out and/or might be lacking knowledge to be more elaborate (nothing wrong with that) but i think both could benefit from taking 10sec more before posting. It would help both the photographer and the viewers/readers. The important is to stay positive/constructive as even worse than a simple comment is artists putting everyone elses work down. The " you all suck i am god" syndrome.

  • MaxTon July 8, 2008 11:39 am

    Cool photos man...

  • Suomy Nona July 8, 2008 11:27 am

    Why would you want to obtain more in detail feedback from a mainstream site? Most people, even if they like your work won't bother to comment and those that do are just average people who just want to make clear that they liked your stuff above the people who didn't say anything. You also need to consider that most people are lazy and the reason is that if they bother to post then they automatically know what factors made your work likable, they are simply not in the mood of typing something that will end up arising the same feelings inside you. Why articulate something more complex? I think you are an over-receptive individual and need a constant supply of ego boost. I don't think there's anything wrong with this but you shouldn't really pay too much attention to this, if you like your work then you should be proud... want more detailed criticism? Upload your work to a professional photo website. Maybe it is time for you to move up and hang around other people like you.

  • joe July 8, 2008 11:15 am


  • everyone's a critic July 8, 2008 10:52 am

    Thank you for your wonderful advice. After reading this article, I am now tagging all flickr photos with comments such as "You don't really have a natural eye for composition do you?"

  • Neil Creek July 8, 2008 10:22 am

    I love the lively conversation going on here, and I plan to reply in more detail shortly, but in the little time I have at the moment I first wanted to address Josh Lloyd's response.

    I understand how you interpreted my first comment on this discussion, where I said "hate", however, I didn't mean to imply that I hate every short comment. My ire was raised specifically by the first commenter who obviously had not read the article at all, and had used his quick response to insert a link to his own site, and what's more beg others for the insightful comment he was not willing to give himself.

    I thought this was incredibly self-centred, rude and incredibly audacious given the content of the article upon which he was commenting. I hate that kind of attitude, and what is essentially comment spam, and I don't think it's unreasonable or cocky to do so.

    In quick response to everyone else, I think I see a pattern emerging from the comments of three different kinds of attitudes:

    - I agree, and I share your frustration.
    - Stop whinging, you should be greatful for whatever comments you get.
    - It's not so bad, I'm happy to get any positive feedback on my work.

    Each is a valid viewpoint, and the last two seem to be the same, just with a positive vs. negative spin. When writing my rant about Flickr, I deliberately took on an agressive, controversial tone. This was specifically to elicit discussion and debate, and that has obviously been successful.

    I DO appreciate everyone who finds the time to say anything about my photo, as many have said, it's better than nothing. But my appreciation is as shortlived and deep as the comment itself. I'll forget about the comment in seconds, and gain nothing more from it. So the comment alsmost needn't have been made.

    At the risk of offending people (I think it's already too late for that :) ), I suggest that those who welcome any kind of positive comment at all, may be those who don't have confidence in their own ability and are looking for any kind of positive affirmation. I think that most of you are better than that, and deserve more.

    The bottom line is, anyone will appreciate a meaningful comment more than a cursory one, so if it is within our power to write them, we should. That was the intended purpose of my article, to help out those who WANT to be more meaningful, but lacked the confidence or skill to do so.

    I hope those people will find value on this post.

  • Nashville Photographer July 8, 2008 09:52 am

    Great Photos! I kid I kid.

    I have been showing my photography professionally for over five years now in gallery settings. The one thing the really bugs me is the first thing a viewer asks is "is that digital?", not how it makes them feel and why.

    I have learned that showing photography on the web and the wall takes a great deal of educating the viewer.

    Also, those within art circles or those that have attended art school are groomed to constructively critique works of art. The general public is not and they generally fear sounding stupid or offending the artist. The latter is often strange to me because the internet can be an anonomous hostile place.

    I commend you for your educational efforts.

  • Brown Note July 8, 2008 09:46 am

    Here's a comment. Http://

  • Mike July 8, 2008 09:34 am

    Awesome! Cool post.

    But seriously, not everyone has the pretentiousness necessary to give the evaluation you seek. I'm kidding about the pretentiousness bit (sort of) but seriously, you can't expect everyone responding to your photos to have a photographer's mindset.

  • Ben July 8, 2008 09:26 am

    Personally, I try not to sound like James Lipton when I leave comments.

  • Linda July 8, 2008 08:37 am

    Hi Neil,
    While I agree a detailed comment is infinitely more instructive than an "awesome". I think, however, that simple word conveys impact and impression. I'm often wondering if my photos produce something other than an Ellenesque "anyway". Furthermore, some photos create such an impact that I am left speechless, save for a word or two. One further comment. If you receive an "wow" from me, it generally means that I've looked at quite a few photos before I even felt the inclination to comment, regardless of how brief.

    Consider an "awesome" the bird on the wing and the detailed analysis the bird on the dissecting table (thank you Clyde Kilby). For the study of birds (or photos), you probably need both.

  • Josh Lloyd July 8, 2008 08:33 am

    First off, I've read the whole article, read all the comments, and definitely got a lot out of the article. It will help me leave better comments, now that I know it's what others are LOOKING for. I completely understand why a photographer needs to hear criticism, as well as positive comments. I can see how short comments on a photo might get old, if you read them ALL the time.

    But, like so many of the other commentators stated, how can one "HATE", as Neil put it, someone who clicks on your photo to view it, pauses to appreciate and takes the time to tell you "hey, I love this photo!"??? Everybody is different. We can't expect everyone to write long eloquent comments about a photo. It's just not reality. You have to take the short compliments while you wait for the ones you "want". What ever happened to just appreciating the fact that someone just gave you a compliment, like Bobo said? I think it's sad that we always expect more more more. It is what it is.

    I enjoyed the article until I read Neil's reply comment. After that, he just sounded cocky. And that took away from the article. Just using that word "hate" to describe someone who doesn't compliment you the way you want them to! hmm...I don't get it. Feel free to leave short messages on MY photos, It just makes me happy that people are enjoying something that I'm creating.

  • flo July 8, 2008 08:19 am

    @marcus Of course it's good to always post something positive too, but just take this example from my own experience, I commented on a portrait shoot in regard to the use of a certain retouch technique/software, and then while the photo itself wasn't particularly terrible, it wasn't that good either, so I didn't make up something good just to say something good. There were enough other comments that were just like the type of commenter the author of the original post didn't like e.g. "Awesome", "Like the light" or whatever, which is far too general to be of any use I think. I was then accused of not being respectful enough, however, I think that you can only learn from pointing out flaws, not by saying how awesome everything is, and especially people who as it seemed to be sell their shots to others for money, should be able to deal with criticism.

  • Chris Osborne July 8, 2008 08:04 am

    I just can't agree with the culling point though. If you're using Flickr as an online portfolio then yeah, pick your best work and that's it. But if it's strictly an online backup, then why not have it backup everything?

    Nobody is forcing you to look at my photos. And I understand that having what is essentially multiples of the same thing is driving people away.

  • Martin July 8, 2008 06:58 am

    Personally I think a lot of people (including me) appreciate all kinds of comments on their photos, one word or a few paragraphs. Of course it's great when someone leaves a detailed comment and this guide is good for suggestions for doing that. They should certainly not feel like they have to.

  • Dabe July 8, 2008 06:39 am

    I too have been guilty of posting 'great photo' style comments in the past. I think that style of comment comes becuase people want to let the author know that they like their work, yet don't think to tell the author why they like it!

    I think next time I go to comment i'm deffinatly going to remember this article and think why i'm compelled to comment and actually engauge the author.

    Thanks Neil.

  • Mandy July 8, 2008 06:30 am

    I've only recently started to comment on photographs, and it is true that it can be hard to know what to say or how to express yourself.

    But the more I practice the easier I've found it, in fact it's quite addictive because some great conversations can start, and I get to know more about the photographer...

    I like the points you've made here, they've helped me even more.

  • jiminyClickit July 8, 2008 04:32 am

    Cool article! Awesome! And I couldn't agree more. DPS Forum Critique is another prime example of parroting, and we accept it as new members and new photographers' attempts to fit in, to at least say they like something, without yet having the language for it.

    But it can be frustrating when there are 5 of those and one serious Critique. Beginners like your work, and the composition is wrong.

  • Bobo July 8, 2008 04:26 am

    If someone walks up to me in the office and says "Nice suit"... I don't say:

    "Why? That doesn't help me at with picking out my outfit for tomorrow!"...

    I also don't ask "How does my suit make you feel?" (My next suit would be a sexual harrasment suit)

    If someone is kind enough to comment on my photo I am very grateful. I tend to get my best feedback from the "negative stuff". Where people point out things I missed... or different view points etc.

    If someone wants to explain what makes my suit so great... or why they don't like it (what do you mean the orange shirt clashes with the purple suit?) ... that's fine too.

    Some people express themselves sctrictly through photography... and are not blessed with great social skills... they can not always put their thoughts and deeper feelings to paper... at least I think that's what i'm trying to say :)

  • jbenson2 July 8, 2008 04:22 am

    Awesomely cool article, man!

  • Jim July 8, 2008 03:57 am

    Thanks for venting my frustrations for me. I love to comment, leave suggestions and ask questions. Yet I rarely get any of that myself.
    For those who don't feel they are technical or escalated enough to comment, do ask questions. Most people love to help out and respond to your questions.

  • Peach July 8, 2008 03:39 am


    Thank you so much for this article! I am relatively new to photography and although I have no problems expressing myself, I often feel too intimidated about posting photo comments because I feel like I haven't earned the right to make one yet. But thanks to your tips I realize that I don't have to sound so technical. I can simply let the photographer know how his photo moved or impressed me.

    And yes, I agree with you that constructive commenting is a necessary tool because we don't just post photos in order to be appreciated... we all want to grow and improve too. A simple "Great job!" or "Awesome!" or "Cool!" just won't cut it. While others may think that this is just a means to pander to our vanities, the truth is we need others to point us in the right direction, or to let us know that we are indeed going in the right direction. I don't know about the others but I sure could use all the help I can get!

  • SPK July 8, 2008 03:37 am

    Some people go to a museum to simply enjoy the sights. My wife and I are satisfied to say "wow, beautiful" to the Mona Lisa and then move on after studying her. We don't feel the need to analyze it - we just want to enjoy it!

    To infer that we are less important or less deserving than the critics who comment and "dissect" the art - is preposterous.

    If you want constructive comments on your photos, note that in the description section of your photo, otherwise close the comments section altogether.

    I, for one, am happy that someone took the time to look at my shots - let alone leave any comment at all.

  • Michelle Potter July 8, 2008 03:30 am

    PS. I am glad that you offered constructive suggestions on commenting. I am sure they will be very helpful for people who just never really thought about it. But I hope you do realize that for those of us who struggle with expressing ourselves, reading a 1,000 word article isn't going to cure it.

  • Anon July 8, 2008 03:29 am

    I would comment on this post but I'm afraid my comment will be critiqued. ;)

  • Michelle Potter July 8, 2008 03:26 am

    I have seen rants like this on Flickr, and I'm afraid that even with your helpful suggestions it only makes me feel like I should not comment on photos at all. I am a person who has a hard time expressing myself. I see a photo of a cute baby and it makes me feel happy. But I could sit there for twenty minutes and try to think of "why" or some more artful way of describing how I feel, and still only come up with, "Because it's a cute baby." I don't know WHY I think the baby is cute. Because it's a baby. I like babies. This baby is cute! I appreciate the photographer for taking and sharing a photo of this baby and causing me happiness, but apparently they don't appreciate me saying so.

    Personally, I do appreciate comments that are thoughtful and perhaps help me learn what about the photo is good or bad. But I also appreciate any comment that simply lets me know someone felt a little joy because she liked my daughter's smile, even if she can't express it any better than that.

    Maybe if I were better at expressing myself in words then I'd be into writing instead of photography.

  • Scatterbrain July 8, 2008 03:23 am

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. It was well thought out & contained a lot of useful pointers. I do try to leave feedback on flickr, but I often feel that as a relative beginner I don't know enough to comment meaningfully.

    I have in the past asked how a particular image has been achieved & have received some great pm's telling me what they were aiming for & how they managed it. There are some really friendly and knowledgeable people on flickr if only you make the effort to interract :-).

    To be honest I wish more people would provide more thorough feedback on my flickr pics as at the end of the day it's a great way to learn what areas are in need of improvement.

  • Linda July 8, 2008 03:12 am

    I appreciate you providing the tips for commenting on photos. I enjoy taking pictures but by no means am I anything but an amateur. But I do know what I like. So here goes:
    The parrot picture above- I appreciate the effort in taking a picture of an animal with lighting that shows off all the colors of the bird.
    On your site the photo- Hotel Balcony

    New Year's Eve 2006 overlooking Atrium from the 43rd floor, Sofotel Melbourne
    has wonderful angles that make the vision most appealing.

    Thanks for sharing. Alas, I can't get to Flickr from work so I can't see your folio.

  • Carole July 8, 2008 02:59 am

    I enjoy playing around with my camera, but I'm pretty clueless. So when I look at others' work, I don't always know "how" to comment, nor do I know much of the lingo, so I'm often reluctant. Therefore, I especially appreciate the tips about expressing emotion. Thanks for these suggestions.

  • OX4 July 8, 2008 02:30 am


    First time I've ever read a diatribe of yours, and I'm pretty sure it'll be the last. I supect that as an accomplished artist you feel it's necessary for everyone to live up to your standards, even with something as petty as comment writing. Take it from someone who's trying to make it in the world of photography: relax, and appreciate that someone even bothered to comment at all.


  • Trent July 8, 2008 02:29 am

    Hey Neil

    First thank you for the suggestions,if it can help a few people make better comments then its a big plus

    As someone new to photography i was amazed at all that flickr has to offer but very quickly got bored with the comments since they rarely gave me any insight. It just seemed like a bunch of friends talking to each other and/or a bunch of hyperposters that tries to look competent because they have 2 000 000 insignificant posts and 2 000 000 friends....... i just spend more times looking at the properties then posting, hopefully it will evolve in the right direction

  • My camera World July 8, 2008 01:37 am

    Thanks for taking the time to list important qualities that we need to properly critique a person's photo especially when it not for a judged competition, but especially for us as a community of photographers.

    One problem I encounter when providing comments on a person’s photo is the photographer has not provided any real information about the intent or the mood that the artist whished to achieve with their image.

    I also see a lot of commentors who quickly focus of the standard rules of composition and miss the fun and uniqueness that can be achieved by breaking all these rules.

    I have also noticed that if a person doesn’t like the photo the comment accordingly. A photo may not be to your taste but every photo as some good points and I really enjoy when a person takes the time to experiment. It may not be my favourite, but I enjoy more a photo even when its doesn’t work when the photographer plays with their creativity.

    Niels Henriksen

  • Ken Maurer July 8, 2008 01:36 am

    Thank you for your time in publishing this comment guide Neil. It provides useful tips for novice and advanced photographers. In defense of short commenter’s, I welcome two positive words as an acknowledgement of their viewing the image. However, I agree with you that they are obviously not engaging, and isn’t that the point of leaving a comment in a photo community? If receiving constructive criticism leads one to labeling the poster as a “jerk” then one is taking it way to personal. I agree that posting a constructive critique should include both strengths and weaknesses of the image.

    “No one so thoroughly appreciates the value of constructive criticism as the one who’s giving it. –Hal Chadwick

  • Raymond Chan July 8, 2008 01:36 am

    I find it annoying that many doesn't really ask themselves "why" they want to comment when it's only a one/two worded comment, especially when they comment on my shots. It's really hard for me to reply their comments and often only a handful of people really stop and think of what to comment before they really type it down.

    Anyway, great guide.

  • sanders July 8, 2008 01:30 am

    Hey the Dale Carnegey of the photography ;-)

  • marcus July 8, 2008 01:04 am


  • Neil Creek July 8, 2008 12:59 am

    @pete You are either being funny with your TWO WORD comment, or you didn't read the post at all, and just commented so you could just plug your link. Either way, you are exactly the kind of commenter I HATE, thus the point of my writing the article. Please, get your act together.

    @marcus I did actually make the point at the end of the paragraph on constructuve criticism, but it's definately worth repeating. As my dad used to say "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar" :)

  • marcus July 8, 2008 12:54 am

    I think it's that while you didn't say so, in your example of offering constructive criticism, you point out both the strengths and weakness of the photo. I've found that I'm very dismissive of critical comments on my photos that don't have anything positive to offer. I generally find myself labeling the commenter a jerk, even if he or she is correct. As your mother always said, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

  • Sonny Parlin July 8, 2008 12:51 am

    Yeah, I agree with you and I'm equally guilty of this on Flickr. I think part of the problem is that many of the groups on Flickr make commenting on one or more photos compulsory to adding your photos to the group pool. I don't agree with this philosophy, precisely because it breeds those short, useless comments. However, it's a necessary evil to post to many groups in order to get your photo viewed by the most eyes.

    I think groups dropping the requirement for commenting would go a long way to fixing this problem. I don't need to be "told" to comment. If a photo moves me, I'll comment, period.

  • Pete Langlois July 8, 2008 12:36 am

    Great tips.

    Anyone care to comment on my recent Macro shoot?