The best thing about giving your views on a particular thing is that it enables the person in front of you to learn new things. It presents a new dimension to the same thing. However, the words by you can also have an unfavorable effect on the person who asked your opinion in first place if not presented properly. Being a photographer, you’re probably registered over many of the top photography forums & sites over the web. You read blogs, forum threads, address photography queries in person, over chat etc. It becomes more so essential that you communicate your views on a particular work precisely & in the same way you feel. It becomes vital that there is no chance for your words to be misinterpreted.
After reading through tons of forum threads, I’ve gained sufficient idea as to how people reply when asked upon their opinion on a particular photograph. Most of the commenters, reply in short one word/single sentence reply – “Nice Shot” or “This is a good photograph”. However, such comments often don’t give any fodder to the person who needs opinion to think upon. Neither does it contributes to the welfare of the community. In such a case, one should always specify what he thinks works in the photograph – Is it the angle of the lighting, the contrast or any other thing. Unless, you think the original poster seeking opinion has asked for critique or shortcomings, its best to not to mention them. Such a comment, should not only help the original poster in knowing the things he did right but also others who have been reading through the discussion.
Now in another scenario, when the original poster asks for critiques there is your chance to put out the things which are not working in the photograph. Even if the original commenter asks to be ruthless in critique, don’t be. Always be polite & give the shortcomings you see in the photographs. A bullet list works good. A demonstration/comparison with a similar picture you shot works even better. This helps further learning amongst the other members. Always learn to sandwich compliments under criticism as Rick Sammon advises. You never know but your words can shatter the morale of an amateur to a extent that he may even think of quitting photography. Even you were beginner at some point of time. Imagine how you would have felt receiving comments like “Sell off your Camera” or “Your photographs are rubbish”. Yes, I’ve heard of such comments shattering the poor amateur from within. So please be polite but honest with your critique. Being polite doesn’t means you should lie. Ask the amateur to try out certain things. Again mention him the things not working in the photograph. What would you have done differently had you shot the same subject. Share some of your personal blunders which would make the amateur photographer feel at home. He would be encouraged by such comments.
Last but not least, keep the brand wars(flame wars) out of the discussion as it ruins the atmosphere. I generally don’t even read such threads which often run into several pages of useless blabbering. Even personal remarks should not be refrained. Abide by the general internet ethics. If you don’t have anything to comment, its better not to. Giving your opinion as a photographer is a huge responsibility & you should not definitely take it lightly. Be a responsible commenter.