Commenting For Beginners (A Non-Analytical Approach)
by Don Zirilli (member, dpchallenge.com)
First of all, don't think that people don't want to hear from you. Comments are considered precious by most DPCers, many of whom consider any comment better than no comment. I cannot guarantee that your comment will be appreciated every time, but from my own experience leaving "non-technical" comments, I can tell you that the positive feedback I've gotten from my comments far, far outweighs the negative.
1. Don't fake it. Don't copy technical comments you saw on other photos unless you're sure they apply to the one you're looking at. Don't tell someone to put a subject on "the thirds" unless you (a) know what "the thirds" are and (b) know why this subject would look better on "the thirds." If you do have an answer for (b) it would be nice to include it in your comment.
2. Include your first reaction. Photos live and die on their visual impact, and one of the most powerful indicators of that impact is the first reaction it creates in a viewer. Describe how you felt when you first saw the photo, even if you can't explain why. Remember, the photographer is as human and fallible as you are, and has his/her own impressions about the photograph. Your impressions may never have occurred to him/her.
3. Show yourself. If you think something biased your opinion of the photo, mention it. This might be a mood you are in or an ingrained love or hate of the subject matter. What good is being completely objective when both the artist and the audience are not? We're just people. Revealing a little bit about yourself and you perspective helps show the photographer how the photograph is working in the "real world."
4. Think out loud. Work out your feelings and impressions by writing them in the text box. This saves you time and gives an honest evaluation to the photographer. My only caveat is that you may want to tone down your language if your reactions might be considered offensive to the photographer or the model. A good example of this is if you have a negative reaction to a particular model. That model could be the photographer, or the photographer's child. Be gentle with negative reactions.
5. Make associations. Describe the things that this photo reminds you of. Again, even if you can't explain why. These things might be other photographs or paintings, but they might be something entirely different. They could be movies, books, stories, people, memories, appliances, anything. This could spark all kinds of inspiration in the photographer as s/he sees the ways the photograph connects to a larger world of ideas and feelings.
6. Include the unexplainable. Twice now I've told you to say something even if you can't explain it. By only giving feelings and reactions that you can explain, you are limiting what parts of your brain you are using. And if you're anything like me, you need all the brain you can get! An expert photographer will use all sorts of techniques to create a mood. You might not know what those techniques are, but you do know the mood you are getting from the photo, and if you write that in your comments, the photographer knows if s/he has succeeded or failed.
7. Look and learn. While you are at DPC, you will probably be learning more about photography, but no matter how much you learn, you can maintain the nonjudgmental approach outlined above. Your knowledge will work itself naturally into your reactions, just like all of your other memories and experiences. While you are learning, I suggest studying other visual media as well, like movies and paintings. It all contributes to the same ability, one that can only benefit DPC: the art of looking.