Wow! Cool! Amazing! Fantastic! Beautiful! Great image! I love it! You can feel the love online -- on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, Picasa, Instagram, 500pix, BestCamera, and countless other image-sharing services, social networks, blogs, and websites. It feels good to give and receive praise. It can be motivating!
Ask For It
Do you want more love? Ask for it! There's an implicit request for feedback when you post an image online, where people can comment on what you post. But, when you post images without a request for feedback, the number of responses you get goes down. Without an invitation, people may be hesitant to give you feedback. Or, they may not know how far to go and end up not going far as you'd like them to. So, if you're looking for feedback when you post your work -- ask for it. You'll find people are quite happy to share their opinions with you.
Be More Specific
Love may not be the only thing you're looking for. If you're looking for more than love, there are many ways to find it. The way you ask for feedback can make a big difference in the kind of responses you get and how useful they are. If you don't make a specific request, the responses you get will be general and unfocussed. Conversely, you can qualify the type of feedback you're giving someone. State your approach before giving your feedback.
Ways To Give Feedback
There are as many ways to direct the kind of feedback you get as there are ways to give feedback. Here's a list of eleven different kinds of feedback and ways to ask for it. You can ask the questions of either single images or groups of images. (You can even use this list to easily copy and paste questions when you post images online. Or make your own!)
1 Numerical Ratings
Ask, "Please rate this image on a scale of 1-5 (1 is low and 5 is high)."
Optionally, you can ask for numerical ratings on a particularly element.
Ask, "On a scale of 1 to 5, how strong is the ___ in this image?"
2 Relative Ranking
Ask, "Please rank these images from strongest (1) to weakest (highest number)."
3 Core Strengths
Ask, "What's the best thing about this image?"
4 Strengths & Weaknesses
Ask, "What are the strong points of this image?"
Ask, "What are the weak points of this work?"
Or combine them.
Ask, "What are the strengths and weaknesses of these images?"
(It's SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) simplified.)
Ask, "What would you do to improve this image?"
Or, ask, "What would you do to improve future images like this one?"
6 Content / Form / Feeling
Ask, "Please rate the strength of these images in these three categories (on a scale of 1-5); content, form, and feeling."
7 Identify Themes
Ask, "Please identify any themes you see in these images."
8 Free Associate
Ask, "When you see this image, what do you think of? Please free associate!"
Ask, "What emotions do you feel when you look at this image? Don't hold back!"
Ask, "Please identify possible uses for these images."
11 Questions `
Ask, "Please list any and all questions you can think of when you look at these images."
This is just a start. There are many other ways to give and solicit feedback. Make your own list. Use anything from this list, whenever and wherever you please.
Being more specific will greatly increase the value of the feedback you ask for, get, and give. So, don't just post images and expect feedback. Ask for it! And get specific!
Feedback Is Valuable
Major corporations spend thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get user feedback on their products. They spend a lot of time refining the questions they ask before they seek for feedback. They know that doing this will make the results they get much more meaningful and valuable. You can get free feedback in your social networks. Imagine if that feedback was not only supportive but also helpful?
Giving Feedback Is A Skill That Can Be Learned
Giving feedback on images is not something that seems easy for many people.
For some reason, it seems much easier to give written feedback on something that's been written. We were taught how to comment on texts in school; it's a skill set we've learned and practiced. Unless you were an art history or a communications major, the chances are high that you weren't taught how to comment on images; this too is a skill set that can be learned and practiced. (Terry Barrett's Criticizing Photographs is good resource.)
Critical or Useful
Sooner or later, we all face the same question, "How do we give useful feedback that is constructive without being negative?" We've all learned that criticism can be constructive, but it's very hard to give it well. Tough love often gets so tough you can't feel the love anymore. Breaking spirits isn't useful; helping them grow stronger is. There is an art to giving feedback, one we can all learn and practice. It's quite likely that if we do this, we'll become better people and make the world a better place.
The new field of appreciative inquiry has a great deal to offer here. (For a quick primer, read Appreciative Inquiry by David L Cooperrider.) Psychologists use it. Negotiators use it. Businesses use it. We can too. Giving good feedback starts with a good attitude. Start with what's best about something -- instead of what's worst. This is a totally different attitude than asking "Is it good?", which is much too general. (Good relative to what? How good? Good in what ways?) Instead try asking, "What's the best thing about this?" After identifying core strengths, and only after, move to how something can be made even better.
The current culture for giving and getting feedback online is still developing. And you can be a part of the way it develops by participating. How? Give it. Ask for it. Receive it.
Follow John Paul Caponigro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jpcaponigro