The Importance Of Critique ::

March 9, 2009 | • Critique


I had a chance to sit down with Chase Jarvis a year or so ago and have him give me a solid critique of my work.  He was in town speaking for the PDN On The Road conference.  I always jump on the chance to have someone higher up the photographic food chain take a look at my work and give me feedback.  Critique from knowledgeable people will always help you grow.

I asked for you all to send me your work to be critiqued on the blog here and I now have over 150 links to websites with more coming in every few minutes.  I can’t get to them all.  I wish I could.  Maybe I’ll get to them when I can over the next year or so.  BUT… I am getting to some starting tomorrow.  

Instead of putting images here and critiquing them in writing, I’m going to go through the web sites via screen capture video and talk through their work. I’m going to have to keep it short and sweet. Last night I sat down to record the first three sites and I spent 40 minutes talking about three sites. I’m going to try to cut that down to 5 minutes per site, 3 sites at a time.

My Rules For Critique :

1. Tell you what you are doing right without patronizing you. 2. Tell you what you need to work on without holding your hand. 3. Give you a goal.

I’m not here to drag you down but some of you are going to get a pretty tough critique. I’ve had critiques of my work where I walked away fighting back tears because all that was important to me was ripped to shreds.  I am taking the stance of a photo editor or art director. Someone who is educated in the medium, knows how to discuss it, and give you a thumbs up or thumbs down. Critique isn’t to make you feel warm and fuzzy. It is a tool to help you learn and grow. Remember that. So…

Rules For You :

1. Don’t take it personally. 2. Don’t make excuses. 3. Don’t say, “Well, my client was happy with it.” See number 2.

Ok?  Ok.  The first installment will be on the blog tomorrow. 

Cheers, Zack 


  • Michael Sebastian said on March 9, 2009

    Zach, this is a great thing you’re doing. Paying Chase’s critique for you forward, as the saying goes.

    Sorry I didn’t know about your critique offer earlier, or I’d have sent my link to you. Next time….

    God bless you and your family at a time of sadness and loss.

  • Jason Grover said on March 9, 2009

    That would be so cool if you could critique your work.

  • Matt S. said on March 9, 2009

    I. can’t. wait.

  • David Burridge said on March 9, 2009

    This is just awesome. I would love to hear what Chase said about your work. But I’m pretty sure you could just as easily critique his. I think he would welcome the dialogue. I too would love to have you look at mine, but it looks like you have your hands full, and I’m pretty sure I will learn plenty just by looking at the others. Keep it up. Love what you are doing here.

  • zack said on March 9, 2009

    Keep them coming in – critique @


  • Craig Ferguson said on March 9, 2009

    Thanks for giving us this great opportunity Zack. Peace.

  • Chad Pennington said on March 9, 2009

    I don’t know why I feel like I am in trouble.

  • Wes said on March 10, 2009


    Giving to the community :)
    I’m sending you a mail…

    can’t wait

  • Janine said on March 10, 2009

    oh boy, can’t wait until tomorrow, to see the first episode.

    i love reality tv lol :)

  • Sam Coran said on March 10, 2009

    HI Zack,

    I will be attending 2 of your workshops here in Dubai. I wanted to attend all three but it will be way out of my budget. I will be attending the onelight and growing into a studio.

    It would be great if you could critique some of my photos at

    I don’t have a personal website because i’m not yet a pro but this is where i post my pictures.

    If you will incorporate even if it’s just SOME ideas from Photo 101(like the business part) into any of the two workshops that would be awesome! (^_^)

    Thanks in advance and i can’t wait for the workshops to start!

    see yah soon!


  • meg said on March 10, 2009

    Hi Zack, much as I would LOVE your critique I’m not asking for it as you will have already been inundated with many worthy candidates. I just wanted to say this is a great generous thing you are doing and I can’t wait to see the results.

    …and I loved your short vid for Kelby “Transform”. totally spoke to me, and many of my friends and no doubt many others too, thank you so much for that…

  • Andy said on March 10, 2009

    Can we ask what Chase’s critique of your work was? :)

  • Serge Van Cauwenbergh said on March 10, 2009

    I send you an e-mail yesterday. I’m looking forward to your input. Until a while ago I also fooled myself by saying “Well, my client was happy with it.” but I slapped myself in the face because I felt poorly with such an attitude…

  • Peter Olson said on March 10, 2009

    Getting a critique from Chase Jarvis sounds completely terrifying, but I imagine you got a lot out of it

  • Bill Bangham said on March 10, 2009

    Good solid advice, Zack.

  • Heidi Fazio said on March 10, 2009

    you are so generous! i hope you get to mine!

  • crystal thomas said on March 10, 2009

    I would LOVE to have you critique my work. Where do we sign up?

  • Ed Z said on March 10, 2009

    When I was in school I had a professor (Painting) who half the class loved and half the class hated. Mainly because of his critiques. He was *ruthless* – he would absolutely tear your work apart, holding nothing back. And I (along with others) loved him for it – why? Because I quickly realized that *he was right*. Every point of his critiques was spot on. I began to hang on his every crit, excitedly waiting for him to tell me how much my work sucked :-) And I came out of it a far better painting and a far better artist. His critiques were more valuable than a million “oh what a beautiful painting” ego strokes.

    I know sometimes it’s hard for us to emotionally distance ourselves from our work, as we put so much of ourselves into it – but when we are able to step back and look at it/critique it objectively is when the real learning starts.

    I guess what I am saying is “Bring it on, Zack!”

  • Christopher Vigliotti said on March 10, 2009

    Hit me (if you have the time that is).

  • Christopher said on March 10, 2009

    Your rules are so right on. If we didn’t want to honest feedback, why would we send you our stuff? If we wanted “oh that looks nice” type of comments, we could get that from our spouse (I love you honey!).

    Bring it on man!

  • Terrence Randell said on March 10, 2009


  • James said on March 10, 2009

    Your rules rock… honestly I get enough encouragement from my friends… i would pay good money for a critique from you zack… i guess that is why my wife and i are waiting for the next one light conference…

  • Richard Budd said on March 10, 2009

    That would be so cool if you could critique my work.

    many thanks
    RB :-)

  • John said on March 10, 2009

    Zach, can I just say that you’re the man! I didn’t submit a link because I’m just a hobbyist barely getting into this photography stuff with nothing to show. But mad props to the people who did submit. Thanks to you all, people like me stand to learn a lot right along with you in this informal “Master Class”.

  • Jeff Kennedy said on March 10, 2009

    Zack, I missed your call for website submission. I know I’m late but I’d love it if you added me to the bottom of the list. If you get to me great if not…oh well. Love your work and philosophy! (Hey, its true…but a little flattery never hurts either!)

  • Jon Freeman said on March 10, 2009

    Zack, First off, the critique your offering is so awesome. What a generous way to give back.

    Second, The video capture is absolutely fantastic. Now I can learn from others on what to do and not do. – Brilliant!!!

  • Robin said on March 10, 2009

    I am very much looking forward to seeing if I’ve been chosen for critiquing. I’m new, I need it, I want it and I’m eager to do nothing but grow and get better! Thanks for being you!

  • Tanya Plonka said on March 10, 2009

    Maybe if you offer this again, I will be brave enough to submit my work.

    Until then, thank you in advance for sharing these… I know we can find our own work within others’ work and learn a lot from this.

  • Tony said on March 10, 2009

    Zach, I read recently that one should not give away what one does, if one does it very well.

    I think this fits for you also. When you give stuff like this away you will get what you have which is an abundance of requests and no time to do them.

    I’m not saying profit from this. but I know your dad passed recently so perhaps you can work something out with a charity that supports his illness. You can then suggest that those folks that donate will get a quicker response or only respond to those that donate. It helps you, it helps the charity and it helps us.

    Just a thought but either way its great that your attempting to take the time to do it. You may also want to consider getting a guest to critique once in a while as well.

    Good luck, and my condolences.


  • Steve Kalman said on March 10, 2009

    Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
    – Christopher Hampton

    No submission for critique from me — my stuff is not yet ready for review.

    Looking forward to learning from what you tell others, though.

  • Gary Chartier said on March 10, 2009

    Hey Zack, I don’t have a website and I would love for you to look at my work. I could send a few thru email but I’m not sure thats the proper thing to do. It seems that you have a lot on your plate right now.
    My best regards to you & your family for your recent lost.
    I still can’t get my account working on the Onelight Forum.


  • John said on March 11, 2009

    I think I missed the submissions before – but hey, I’ll throw my hat into the ring – I’m also a fan of the rulthless critique. Bring IT ON.

  • Stefan said on March 12, 2009

    Hey Zack, thanks for doing this. Have been reading your blog every now and then and would love some critique on my online presentation. I promise I won’t cry 😉
    Enjoy the day,

  • Steve Pottenger said on March 12, 2009

    Before throwing my URL at you, I wanted to say thanks for taking this on. I know by now that I could easily be the 5000th request, so it’s a long shot you’ll have time to get to it. I understand .
    I’ve been shooting amateur photography for years, but have started to take on portrait work as a side job. I’d like to explore freelancing further to see if there is potential to do this full time. I know I have a pretty limited collection in my portfolio, but that’s where I’m at. ANY type of feedback on my work is welcome.

    Giving back to the photography community as you have is a great gift.

    My best,
    Steve Pottenger

  • galaxy said on March 14, 2009

    impact. what images from your collection, do you treasure most? from all you’ve shot.

    suppose you were on last days, what nuance, gesture, gleam, look, position, would you remember? what subject?

    greatest impact. stands the test of time. day in day out. has made most change on you. one look. altered you.

    what is that particular image(s)?

  • Alexander Jordan said on April 17, 2009

    hey zack,
    not been following your stuff for a long time but i really respect the way you go about it. keep it up im a big fan. Oh and feel free to critique my stuff if you manage to get through the huge list you already have.



  • Andrew Todd said on April 17, 2009

    Hey Zack, Would like to hear where you feel I’m at with my photos and where my direction should be.


  • Chris said on April 28, 2009

    Hey Zack, I my friends and family are about the only critique I hear these days and I would love the truth…from you :) Thanks and thank you for the time you put into all of this!

  • Chris said on April 28, 2009

    oops…my wesite…

  • Martin said on December 28, 2009

    Very cool – just came across your site, great work.

    If you get a chance take a look at mine (, would love to get some constructive criticism – I’m a newbie to “editorial photography” and want to take things further…

    Thanks and happy new year!


  • Johnny Marchisi said on February 17, 2010

    HI Zack,

    My name is Johnny and I have been shooting for 18 months…. I am making strides I feel, but being completely self taught has left major holes in my education and skill set. It would be a great honor to have you eye my work, thanks in advance, keep up the great service to us all with this site.


  • Vedran Sokic said on June 1, 2010

    I’m aware that this post will drown in the sea of other requests for a critique so the only nice thing about it that it’s a micro-part of Zack’s blog.

Speak Up

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *