The “Nice Shot” Comment Myth

The "Nice Shot" Comment Myth

Don’t Let The Comment Haters Slow You Down

Most people appreciate and maybe even crave feedback, especially positive. When it comes to photography, there are those who are very comfortable providing constructive, well crafted critiques. These paragraphs of personal opinions are often (at least hopefully, always) provided with the best intentions in mind, to help the photographer understand what works, and what doesn’t, in a particular photograph.

But there has been a growing trend of fellow photographers withholding their positive encouragement for the most silly of reasons: embarrassment and shame.

How Can Leaving A Comment Be Embarrassing?

Recently I have seen or heard photographers suggest (or outright telling) someone that if they can’t “intelligently” explain why they like someone’s image, they shouldn’t bother posting a comment. In other words, if a photograph catchers your attention, you show your own ignorance by posting “Nice image!” Telling someone they are unqualified to post a comment on photographs is frankly one of the most degrading remarks one photographer can say to another.

I’ve heard HoustonPhotowalks.com members mention occasionally that they loved one image or another from their fellow community member, but didn’t comment because Joe Blow Pro Photog told them that “Love it!” Or “great pic!” is amateur. Frankly, telling you that you are not qualified to “like” a photo makes Joe Blow Pro Photog lame and amateur-ish. (Point him to this blog post is he disagrees).

All Feedback is Important

It’s true that learning to read a photograph, how to detect subtle use of intersecting lines, angles, strong color (or not), and other composition techniques is very important. And providing details when commenting on a work is always helpful and informative, even if that feedback may include some “suggestions for improvement”. The end result is that we help each other grow, right?

As we grow as artists, we slowly learn to talk the trade, learn the language, etc. And as we grow, we can spot areas that seem to “not work” both in our own photographs and others. These are important steps for an artist’s maturity. So by no means am I saying that learning how to “Read” a photograph or provide constructive critiques aren’t important skills to grow into.

But someone should never feel intimidated or uncomfortable telling another photographer that their work had an emotional effect … even if the viewer is not prepared to specifically explain why.

It is Rude to Look at a Sketch Without Making a Nice Comment …

We are not required to withhold friendly feedback for other art forms. If someone shows you a quilt, lawn, drawing, or pottery, do you withhold positive feedback because you don’t know specific technical terms?

If someone shows you their drawing with stunning detail, strokes, and perspective … do you just hand the image back with no comment because you haven’t taken a proper sketching class? No, you say “OMG”, because you recognize skill, and its polite and encouraging to our peers!

So if someone creates a composition that affects your perception positively, they have knowingly or unknowingly tapped into the skills of artistic expression. They would like to see your “Like”, “Fav”, or “Amazing” just as much as a three paragraph examination. Don’t let the rules of a staid and inflexible photography critiques keep you from telling a fellow photographer, “I really love your work.”

If you like it, Like it! Don’t be shy, don’t feel judged. The recipient will really appreciate the time you took to comment. Don’t let some cranky old photographer make you to think you are unqualified to like something … or to express your appreciation for someone else’s work!

Feel free to post comments on the subject, I’m interested in hearing your view … or if you find this article helpful.

About The Author

Joe Lippeatt is a photographer based in Houston Texas. He runs a photowalk group called HoustonPhotowalks. You can follow his Blog here and his flickr here. This post was originally published here.

Comments

  1. says

    It was really helpful. Receiving “nice shot comment” is a fulfilling experience for apparent reasons, but as you said is not the exact opinion a photographer may wish to see under their work _specially an amateur one like me. I always appreciate those comments but really adore the constructive ones, as they teach me A LOT.
    Thanks ;)

    • No says

      I can see your point – critique is an important part of learning.

      But – you can’t dictate to the people giving the comment what they should write. And for him to label “Good shot” comments as “amateur” is moronic!

      Also – there are a lot of people who just can’t accept even the tiniest negative comment without feeling that it’s a personal attack.

      You seem like you will accept a well written critique.. but many won’t.

  2. whowantstoast says

    I agree! I look at a lot of photos of friends/contacts on a couple of sites, and if I simply like something I say so. I also feel like it’s kind of obnoxious to always have a critique, you start sounding like a know-it-all, or that they didn’t realize they had great composition, tone, etc… like that all happened by accident until I came along to point it out. Nice article, by the way.

    • Grumzz says

      I often critique photos, even though I’m not a great photographer myself. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with saying you like and don’t like about a photo, as long as you don’t make it too negative. Saying you like the composition/tone of a photo in specific, only means you noticed that especially THAT aspect of the picture stood out to you as being really good. It’s not that different from saying you like the picture as a whole..
      And how does ‘I love how you placed the subject at 1/3rd of the picture’ (or something similar) sound like you think the photographer did that ‘accidentally’? To me it sounds like you’re emphasizing that it was intentional!

      Anyway, now I’m critiquing your comment on comments, so I’ll just stop now ;)

    • James Hedley says

      Exactly. I often type out a considered critique, read it back, realise how pompous it sounds, then replace it with ‘nice shot’.

      Hopefully people appreciate any kind of comment – at least it’s more personal that simply clicking a ‘thumbs up’

      • fahrertuer says

        It doesn’t sound pompous when done right, when done in a constructive way.

        At least speaking for me: I’d rather have someone tell me, why a photo I posted sucks than having a “Nice shot” comment, that says nothing, that is just brought forward as a way to say something without possibly offending the artist

        • James Hedley says

          As a professional photographer, it definitely sounds pompous to wade in and start critiquing someone’s images unless they ask for it.
          I guess it depends on the site to which it’s posted, but sometimes people are just sharing an image they’re happy with, and don’t need some smug know-it-all telling them what they already know.

          • lvnative says

            Agree one person had said she wanted lengthy comments but when i gave a small critique (I thought if one piece had been a bit sharper it would have had more impact) she was beyond not happy and went on a tear about how horrible all my photos were and that i knew nothing.

  3. says

    if someone ever told me that commenting “nice shot” didn’t display enough photographic understanding on my part to make me worthy of commenting, I’d laugh them out of the room. not because I’m especially knowledgeable, but because they’re ass hats.

  4. says

    What about “attention seeking” comments? Fairly often on 500px I see comments of the type “nice shot, please look at my pictures”.

    I get that a recently uploaded photo can reach the third page in a matter of minutes, missing potential views, but comments like this sound a bit desperate and, more importantly dishonest. It feels like the person is saying “I’ve been nice to you, so you owe me a visit on my profile”.

    • Grumzz says

      That is just terrible. Seen a lot at DeviantArt too.. I either ignore the message or look at their profile and see if I can comment with some useful critiques..

    • nik says

      Yes that’s really annoying comments, but i think ever more embarrassing on 500px is that ppl comment on photos that has more views if it is not even good, for example recent konstantin leylak’s b&w portrait has 4 pages of comments it look to me like plastic blow up doll with really bad skin blur,I just don’t get it!

    • ext237 says

      Agreed. A comment, even if “Nice shot” is about uplifting a person and acknowledging the image caught your attention. The “please look at my pictures” additional beg is lame.

  5. says

    This article is a bit of a straw man. In my experience what people are being asked to do is explain what they responded to, not display technical knowledge. A response can and should be on a more emotional and visceral level than a technical level. Is it so much to ask for a little bit of verbalization? It doesn’t have to be crazy or even art literate at all. For example, someone could say, “The reds in this picture really draw me in. They make me feel tense.” Surely something even this simple has more value than, “nice pic brah!”

    I don’t have any problem with people saying “nice shot” or whatever, but if we’re being honest it doesn’t really do much after you’ve heard it a couple times. Sure encouragement is nice, but pumping someone’s ego up without telling them what they’ve done right or wrong easily runs a greater risk of blinding them to their own faults (oh yeah!? well, five people told me this was great!!).

    Plus, you know, there’s the actual “like” button (which I use frequently).

    • ikke says

      If it’s a really good picture, everything stands out so well that I and probably more people can’t say ‘this is it’. If it’s only one or a few things that draw me near, it’s, in my opinion, not a good picture at all! To me it gets interesting when I can’t place my finger on it anymore.
      After all, it’s not the technics that make a good picture, but the eyes who appreciate it!

  6. fahrertuer says

    In general I prefer comments that say more than “Lovely” “Great shot” “Wow, dude…” (the three comments I get most often on Flickr)

    I don’t mind those. It feels encouraging. But at the same time it feels so generic, meaningless. As if those comments are just there to be nice, to be noticed, as if to compel you to return the favor. Even if the picture sucks.

    Even if you don’t know the proper terms: You can always say what you like about a picture. Colours, composition, mood. If there’s nothing you can comment about: there’s always the possibility to like, +1 or favorite the image. It’s got the same effect as saying “Good photo” or “Love it” and is just as welcome as a comment. Sometimes even more since it leaves out the possibility of overanalyzing an ambigous comment.

    And photographers aren’t unique in the search of meaningfull comments. Musicians are much worse. A few years ago I’ve been at the rehearsal of a friends band. After one song I really liked I told him that it’s a nice song. His reply: “Nice song? You know that ‘nice’ is the little sister of sh*t?”

    • Rick says

      I wonder how your musician friend would feel if the audience sat quietly through his performance offering no applause. After all, isn’t applause nothing more than the nonverbal equivalent of “nice song” or “well done”?

      I also really wonder how he would feel if during one of those moments of silence between numbers, if someone popped up offering a critique.

      • fahrertuer says

        Told him something similar. For him calling something nice means it’s just a bit above average. Not really great. Not really bad. Just OK.

        And that lodged in my brain because in a way he is correct. There are much stronger words than “nice” to express your feeling about something. And most often when someones says something is nice they most often actually mean it’s just OK, not good, or great, or bad.. It’s become a word used to sound approving without becoming too specific, that you can use whenever you don’t know what to say about art, people or the weather.

  7. says

    Let the images speak for themselves. I have a good eye. If I see a nice shot it will suffice for me to say, nice shot. If I want more information about the shot or how it was made then it would be appropriate to ask. If the photographer has a good eye then he/she doesn’t need my criticism (constructive or otherwise) and he/she doesn’t need my pontification about their success. It’s imagery, not literature.

  8. The JennCast says

    It is quite funny that we make an image as an artistic venture but tend to measure the quality of responses in technical terms. If the image elicits an emotional versus technical response, has it not achieved its purpose? My brother writes music and here is advice on constructive criticism: “You should entertain all feedback but that doesn’t mean you entertain it equally.”

    • ext237 says

      “You should entertain all feedback but that doesn’t mean you entertain it equally.” — Great quote!! My article wasn’t specifically addressing critical or negative comments, although some comments are discussing that. But if I ever do, can I steal your brother’s quote? Its more fun than “grain of salt”. Thanks!

  9. MikeStern says

    Thank you very much for writing this article. It speaks to many of us artists and photographers.

  10. MikeStern says

    To continue,
    Recently I wrote a comment on a photography blog and it ended up so terrible.
    A blog that has been one of my favorites for at least 2 years, reading almost everyday, recently posted an article specifically about raw image editing. I, while admiring his photography, particularly his writing, dropped my very first comment on his blog via google+.
    Besides my appreciating words of his work, I also shared my view of his raw editing. It was an honest and straight forward critique from an artist to a photographer. Mostly about him over saturating and sharpening his images on ACR. Only to my eyes I can speak of.
    First he wrote a comment back saying, he disagrees what I thought, second, he blocks me from his blog and commenting,
    third, he takes his article about raw editing off on his blog (not being so confident about it)
    Fourth the worst, he writes a new article on his blog all about it.

    Omg, what did I get myself in to. Embarrassing. Since I was blocked to write comments on his blog anymore, I had to find him on Facebook, wrote him a personal message to apologize and also to show him whom I really was, and not a crazy person commenting blogs like a lose cannon.

    I lost my appetite reading his website. But I see him doing better on his more recent editing of his photography.

    What such level of insecurity we artists and photographers go through when it comes to hear other’s critique to our work. My god.

    • ext237 says

      Wow, yeah, uncomfortable situation. But this could happen with critique of anything. I’ve seen similar responses to people arguing about programming/code. If someone asks for honest opinion, they should be prepared to receive it.

    • No says

      I wouldn’t have apologised, to be honest..
      His inability to accept both positive and negative comments is HIS insecurity and his problem..

      Not your responsibility to try to assuage his feelings.

      All I say is that all comments should be made in a polite and honest manners..
      “I find it a little over sharpened and a little too saturated for my tastes”
      NOT
      “YUK! What an over-saturated and over-sharpened piece of crap!”

  11. says

    “Nice Article” ;)

    Seriously – I agree with you. For me, when I say “Nice Shot” to people, yes, I can break it down for you technically as to why, but photography is more than just the technicals. A great photograph hits you emotionally – like in the gut. So if you want technicals, yes, I will tell you, but for a truly excellent photograph, you gotta get me to say just “Nice shot” and that is all that needs to be said – You got me!

  12. Mike Vore says

    One doesn’t need to know photpgraphy, woodturning, or any other art to like/dislike a work. “Nice Shot” does say a lot, that the commenter did get an inspiration, even if they don’t know why, and that’s a dammed good comment. For them trying to say why they like it some(many) times may be almost impossible.I’m trying to show off my work to the ‘common man’, and not really get a critique from a pro,

  13. Bill Binns says

    I have run into this on Flickr from time to time. I remember seeing a post in flickr ideas by a woman who said she blocks people who favorite her images if they do not also make a detailed comment. This kind of pathetic desperation for praise is one of the biggest problems I have with the flickr community (don’t get me started on the zillions of “post one / favorite 10″ type groups).

    I’m not active on 500px but from what i have seen, the problem is even worse over there.

  14. Carl Wells says

    When I post a photo I may leave a note saying ‘constructive criticism welcome’ I would welcome input from photographers aswell as less experienced alike as they are the people who are more likely to view my work anyway.
    In my replies to others I will only say what would be better if they have likewise asked for criticism other wise you can come across as abit of a know it all. So it that case I will only note why I LIKE it, and leave them to read between the lines or ask further if they want.

  15. Annelie Molin says

    I think it is rude to tell People not to comment if they are not in to the technical terms and maybe not so experienced in photographing and therefore not tell any about that. I think one shall be Grateful for all Nice comments. One can ask for deeper comments and constructive critisism but it is rude to tell People not to say their meaning. It is offensive.

  16. anonymous says

    Giving compliment is not wrong.. even we cannot elaborate why we like the photo. Sometimes we just like something, yet don’t know why we like it.

  17. Bob says

    I don’t care if people have the technical understanding of my photograph, if it evokes an emotional reponse enough to comment “nice shot”, I am happy. As I am happy if someone does critique the technical aspects of my image.

  18. No says

    I do both, depending in time and ‘quantity of like’..]

    Sometimes I just like a photo – it appeals to me, but with no real specific reasons.

    Sometime I love the subject – which is not really a reflection on the photographer’s skill; rolling green hills and valleys fit that for me.

    So – I might say “nice photo” ir such-like.

    Other times I might go into details about why I like it – they have captured the valley with a skill and choice of shooting position that appeals to me.

    But to say that you HAVE to write why you liked it is just the mewlings of an elitist arsehole.

  19. sbode says

    On the other hand some commenters tend to be TOO NICE! Saying an image is NICE when at best it is mediocre if even that.

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