Are Facebook Photography Groups Worth It When It Comes to Constructive Criticism?

I'm sure most Facebook groups are started with the best of intentions so people with similar interests can share their passions. However, is the constructive criticism you get from Facebook groups really that helpful?

Social media has brought the world closer over the last couple of decades, and in many ways, that has been a wonderful thing. In other ways, exemplified quite stunningly by the recent release of The Social Dilemma on Netflix, social media can be far more harmful than helpful. When it comes to groups on Facebook, most of us join because we have a genuine desire to share our interests and passions with individuals around the world. I'm a member of surfing groups, photography groups, rugby league groups, and fantasy sports groups, to name a few. However, in almost all of them, especially the ones related to the creative arts, things can take a turn south pretty quickly sometimes.

In this video by The School of Photography's Marc Newton, he delves into constructive criticism and how it can actually be quite detrimental for photographers asking for help with their images. He lists a number of very valid reasons why asking for constructive criticism will do you no favors on social media. The one that resonated the most with me was the need for us to remember that public groups are just that: public groups that anyone in the world can join, which means you should be mindful of who is actually giving you the advice. He also offers some advice about the types of photos you should upload in order to get the best possible opportunity of receiving something helpful. 

Give the video a look and let me know your thoughts. Do you have any experiences, good or bad, with dealing with constructive criticism in Facebook groups?

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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I don't think public critique forums are worthless. If you're a beginner, almost anyone viewing your photo is going to be more experienced than you. If you're experienced, then you should be able to tell which advice is worth taking and which isn't. Personally, I take CC from anyone who's willing to give it, but ultimately it's my decision as to whether to act on it. And I personally enjoy giving critiques because I feel like it's an exercise that helps me in my own work.

That said, I went to art school, and agree that the critiques you get from professors and classmates are better than ones from strangers on the internet - I've gotten a few critiques from people who clearly didn't read or understand my description. And I've gotten a few mean ones, but they're so infrequent that I've forgotten most of them. But, photography is already an expensive hobby, I think free but inferior resources are often a better choice than paid superior ones. And while asking for specifics can be helpful, I think a lot of beginners, who really need it most, don't always know what questions to ask.

Facebook critique groups: where even the shittiest snapshot is a "superb capture".

Lolz I saw that one yesterday XD

Spot on.

There is nothing about FB that is worth it. It's basically the herpes of the internet.

A platform that promotes hatred and intolerance while simultaneously censoring artists is a horrible place to go for constructive criticism.

Only open your work to suggestion and criticism from the very _FEW_ you respect. Period. Everyone else has a keyboard and a logo and very questionable skills and Facebook photos with the saturation turned up to 11 and the over HDR turned up to 100 and personality problems and anger and jealousy and crappy filters on their iphone images and other that make them look 50 pounds thinner and whatever. "Open groups" are like going to all humanity waiting in the lines at the department of motor vehicles, announcing your a photographer and that you need them to tell you how to do it better. Good luck with that. Pick 5 great people you absolutely admire and trust and ask them about your work. :)

Very similar to something I was once told and like to heed: only listen to criticism from the people you’d go to for advice

I find most forums or groups are usually full of people looking for validation and it doesn't ever go both ways. When I first started out I was just looking for engagement on my post more than anything. Likes really mean nothing to me it was more about improving my skills. Rarely ever get comments and just likes but then you get a lot of spammers posting images looking for validation which is annoying more than anything. Critique someones creativity is always a touchy thing to begin with anyway IMO. Another point is it seems most of the post that get all the engagement are dudes that post pics of naked or half naked models which shows the creep factor more than the art factor....I'm just frustrated at the whole thing.

It definitely goes both ways - I often see people write “CC welcomed” then shoot down anyone who dares offer an alternative idea...

It turns out that "CC" means the desire for approval drastically outweigh their need to improve.

“Great shot.”
“Thanks a bunch.”
That's often all I see of the CC

Depends on the group and the moderation. I'm on a couple of groups, each owned by a single photographer who has a distinct philosophy. Those photographer's philosophies guide moderation and the tenor of critiques. They tend to lay fairly rigid standards for critiques, and that's fine. That' makes more like a classroom situation than a free-for-all.

Yep, this.

Yeah I like this. The only downside is ghat if it gets too popular it’s impossible for the single moderator to deal with it all (for no financial gain) so those groups tend to slide into oblivion sooner or later

It's not uncommon groups to have multiple moderators. Many are willing to volunteer their time.

Hell, even on this site, I wouldn't mind having spam-killer powers. :D

It's not impossible for a site owner with philosophy and vision to find assistant moderators who share that philosophy.

Except Facebook is a cesspool and it's a lifesucking malignant leech on society that causes much more harm than any perceived good.
You're completely missing the real problem with FB

Well, all my customers are on Facebook, so there's that.

Mine too and so is the company I work for. It's definitely not about my ideals. Doesn't mean Facebook isn't a cancer on society.

I dropped of of facebook six months ago and am so much happier for it. Never cared for photography on the platform - it regularly destroys photos with its horrible compression.

Life is better without FB, Instagram and Twitter. 2 years now. Life really is better without them. Now I have much more time to do things I really care about.


No. They’re a colossal waste of time. There’s only one group I liked enough to stay on the platform: Mike Kelly’s architecture photography group. It’s the gold standard for what all Facebook groups should strive to be. Unfortunately they do not and ultimately it was not enough to keep me on the platform.

At the end of the day, feedback from other photographers means little to me because they are not my clients. The only opinion that matters comes from those writing the checks. If they’re happy, everything else is noise.

Your last point is interesting because that can also come with problems. A paying client might sometimes have a certain vision that doesn’t correspond with your work or philosophy at all, so when that happens you really have to two choices (for the sake of simplicity): compromise your own ideals and take the money; or stand firm and perhaps lose a client

Work vs Art there Ian. I work. Work means keeping a financially viable business. That means paying the bills first. That means taking the job regardless of personal preference. The business is much more than just me and my personal ideals. It's not all about me, or you either Ian. Not when others financial wellbeing are involved. I work with clients I personally find repulsive. Ideals are a nice luxury. I'm not that rich.

It happens all the time. I often do disagree with the visions and aesthetic preferences of my clients. It is frustrating and a real pain in the ass. But it's really not much of a choice. I am not cheap. For what they're paying, if they want a certain look, then that is the look they get. I give them my 2 cents, at times a bit forcefully (I'll even do two versions of the shot and use the one I like for my portfolio), but at the end of the day if they insist then I oblige. I am not rich enough to live and die by my ideals. And I really don't care enough about impressing other photographers to worry about their criticisms.

Either way, getting feedback on that work from other photographers is pointless as
A) They weren't there and therefore do not understand the "how" and "why" things are a certain way. My client work is often influenced by the limits of the space that I am shooting. Someone can say "oh this shot would look better if you panned to the right and showed more of this." But I might have done it my way because there was a 500lb dumpster to the right. Sometimes I only have 7 hours to get 30 shots and have to prioritize speed. I really don't feel the need to constantly defend the compromises I make out of necessity.
B) I hold more stock in what my client's believe to be a good photo because they write the checks. Some of my best work, the stuff that's gotten the most likes on social, and oohs and ahhs from others have been my least profitable. Alternatively, I've taken some shots that most people would not look twice at. They won't win any awards, nor would they inflate my ego with thousands of "likes." But they're often the ones the clients paid the most for. It's very easy to take a beautiful image of a building designed by a world-class architect with the right attention to lighting and form. But the real money is often in polishing a turd and making a commercially viable image out of it.

Brilliantly said. The realities of work whether you sit at a desk in front of a computer or you take photos for paying clients......especially in these challenging times.

One of my commonly used phrases on the job, away from clients, polishing a turd and putting sprinkles on it,
Commercial work, in volume, requires compromise we all likely wouldn't make in our personal projects.

Good points.
Social media = have keyboard, will opinion.

Personally as a "self taught" photographer, my experience with receiving constructive criticism in Facebook groups has been really helpful, but perhaps my experience is uncommon. I think most people's opinions on my work are valid and there's something to learn from them, especially when it's the opinion of someone who's work I admire, and the more useless comments are pretty easy to disregard.

I have learn how the "block a person" works. It saves my day.
Some groups are fine with few trolls; people with way too may time in their hands.

As soon as you block them; you can start to get few interesting constructive discussions.

Some group admin are just troll as well and you should understand that you just have to leave these (Canon R5/R6 video group is one of these) for your brain health.

Haha, yeah, I'm definitely a blocker. I block annoying people or ones I have no intention of ever working with. I like my feed as useful as possible.

Facebook is shite. If you want to know who your real "friends" are, post that you're moving next Saturday and you need someone to carry your fridge down ten flights of stairs. Whoever show us, is likely a friend. Get off FB and stop Zuckerberg from making money off you.

I've only got one friend then lol.

Well, I joined F Stoppers and learned all my pictures were 2 stars at best! Lol