Posted by: David Vernon | November 6, 2008

Commenting on Photos – The Next Step

The Tree Abstract 6Photographer John Paul Caponigro wrote a short and eloquent post today on photo comments.

Too many folks who comment on other people photos fail to get at the why of their emotions. “Amazing” or “Great shot” is too often heard. Ask yourself the simple question that starts you on a journey (no I’m not kidding). Why? Why is it amazing or why is it a great shot? We use a technique at work called the “Five Whys”. It translates into something like this if we look at the photo above (let’s assume it’s amazing).

Why is it an amazing photo? The colors are fantastic.

Why are the colors fantastic? They’re so bold and and unexpected.

Why are they unexpected? The sky and beans were probably not that color to start out but the tree looks realistic.

Why the difference? It lets the photographer create an abstraction that draws us into an otherwise normal scene so we can still focus on the tree.

Why does that matter? It creates a palette for to view the ordinary in a different way.

Now that you’ve asked yourself “Why” five times, you’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. Now instead of saying “Amazing picture” when you leave a comment, you can say “Amazing picture – the palette of the sky and beans really presented a fascinating contrast to the tree. What a cool way to offset the two. I would like to buy a 24″ x 36” print on canvas. Here’s my credit card number.”*

Or something close to that.

But at least you’ve given it some thought. You’ve looked at something and determined WHY it made an impact on you.

Giving constructive feedback to a photographer is part of the mentoring process too (we’ll talk about that tomorrow) and helps you both understand what you see. And that matters.

Just ask yourself Why.

On a totally side note, Caponigro has a link to a series of books he recommends that can help you become more critical thinking when it comes to looking at photography.  It’s worth a look.  Also, in February, Peoria photographer and Art Guild instructor Ann Conver is going to be presenting a took on photography critique at the Peoria Camera Club. Stay tuned for details on that.

  • – and for goodness sakes – don’t go leaving that comment on that photo – be a little more original would ya? At least ask yourself why five times before you do it.


  1. You know, I once read a similar article somewhere. I thought it was insightful and made alot of sense. Soon after I began traveling around on Flickr, leaving thoughtful, meaningful comments on photographs that caught my eye. Never critical, rarely less that glowing, but always explaining why I had chosen to comment and specifically what it was I enjoyed about a particular photo or photo element.


    Then one day someone replied to a comment that I left. “Why couldn’t you just say Nice Shot? Why all the insincere wording?” Well, the wording was definitely not insincere, but perhaps it came across that way. It takes practice to leave a great comment–perhaps that’s why so many folks say “Amazing shot!”.

    Amazing picture – the palette of the sky and beans really presented a fascinating contrast to the tree. What a cool way to offset the two. I would like to buy a 24″ x 36″ print on canvas. Here’s my credit card number.”

    Oh, right…I was supposed to be more original 🙂

  2. Wow! Nice post!

  3. Nothing like photographers with their clever senses of humor. Oh yeah – NOTHING like it at all.

  4. Any advice for what you should write when a photograph is so stunning and (your late to the party) 50 other people already wrote “Amazing shot” or commented on color, texture, light, composition, etc. and really you are just so speechless because the image is so good it evokes some deep rooted emotion and almost makes you cry?

    What do you say when there a no words that can say it as good as the image speaks for itself? “You Rock, I cried.”

  5. Nice Post, I cried.

  6. @ Alissa – Face it… Some people only want the “Nice pic” comment!

    They’re the same people who post on your stream with those “Your photo won my, I am trying to find a way to get more of my photos in Explore, award so please come and comment on some of my pix… please?!?!? No.. I really mean it. I’d love it if you could find a way to comment. Oh and here’s a big flashing animated gif to annoy you!”

    Hey Dave… I want to talk to you about getting an animated gif for the Peoria group! I think I found the perfect one!!!

    I don’t know what it says on the page but I’m sure it probably says, “This gif is so cool people will be knocked over lining up to join your group!! Ohh and get more images on Explore!


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