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A Note About Destructive Criticism: It Has Value

A lot of people are open only to constructive criticism, and only want to hear constructive criticism. Some people even think destructive criticism is rude. Sometimes I even see admonishments to only give criticism if you can be constructive.

That's never sat right with me. Destructive criticism can have value.

Let me give you an example:

Let's say you had a landscape photo, and a photo of the moon, and you composited them into a photo montage of a landscape with a moon. Then, let's say I came along and said to you "The angle of the light on the moon is from the right; the angle of light on the land is from the left; the picture looks fake".

This was purely destructive criticism. In other words, I didn't make any helpful suggestion; I just pointed out a flaw. Constructive criticism might be along the lines of calculating the date and time and latitude / longitude to rephotograph the moon so that it looks perfectly correct with the rest of the picture, and suggesting you re-photograph the moon for your composite, then and there.

Instead, I just told you what the problem is, and nothing more. And yet – if it was your picture – wouldn't you rather know that you made a mistake and it looks fake? Would you really rather stifle this destructive criticism, just because it's not constructive? Would you really rather not know the truth?

Personally, I'd rather know. Personally, I think I'm better off being more fully informed about the problems in my picture. Even if no solutions are offered, I'd rather know what's wrong.

Destructive criticism doesn't always have value, of course. But the same thing can be said of constructive criticism, too. Whether criticism is constructive or destructive, it can be true or false, significant or trivial.

It's also worth noting that destructive criticism is not the same as insults, since some people confuse the two. "Your picture is shit!" is an insult. (Though, even there, I enjoy hearing people's unfiltered reactions, as long as they're honest.) You can see how that differs in kind from the destructive criticism example above.

I suggest you open yourself up to destructive criticism, too, if you want to become the best you can. I suggest you come to see that it has value, too, even if it may sting a little.

Lastly, here's Caution: Sharp Curves. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a great evening,
malcolm walters's profile photoGanesh Dhas's profile photoYvonne van Barneveld- Hens's profile photoPiku Chakraborty's profile photo
Great commentary but I doubt many people are open to that kind of criticism.

I was going to make a flip remark about your photo, but it's just too darned good.
Well spoken words complimented by an equally engaging photo!
You see I see that as constructive. If someone tells me what is wrong that helps me take a better shot. Bring on those comments. What I consider destructive is when someone just tells you they do not like the shot....nothing to build on....nothing to change.
Good point and great shot! :) I love the title of the photo, too!
good article, but that particular example I personally wouldn't classify as "destructive criticism" especially if something good comes out of it when you learn something new, I would say its "constructive criticism with a distinct lack of bedside manners"
I agree with constructive criticism completely. Destructive criticism is good to a point, but that person should be open to saying there is something wrong and I wish I could tell you how to fix it if they have no idea. Then it is easier to swallow. You are more tolerant than I am! :)
Awesome, awesome shot! I have such a soft spot for garters.
Tuan Le
I haven't run into any destructive criticism on G+ yet so my images must be pure awesomeness! :D I appreciate any criticism as long as they're not being jerks about it. Great image by the way Mike. Maybe more tongue next time by pissing off the snake (constructive?) :D
+Patrick Galletti and +Wesley Yeoh

"Constructive" - builds up
"Destructive" - tears down

My example is strictly destructive.

The fact that destructive criticism can be useful is my point.
The body of you snake isn't in focus. Just kidding. Great bokah! Great Pic!
it can be a good place to start - you can't fix anything if you won't admit something needs to be fixed - but coming up with solutions is still the main point.
Wow! I love this shot! A different perspective to most snake shots that I've seen. That pale stripe looks wonderfully sinuous.

Good post about criticism too.
Swee Oh
OMG this is an amazing spot on shot. i didn't know you speak Parseltongue :p
Sorry +Mike Spinak, but I think your example of destructive criticism is off-kilter. Classic critique points out what is and what is not. Pointing out a fact-based unnatural phenomena in a retouched photograph as articulately as your example is quite constructive because you allow the obviousness of the problem to speak for itself. Saying that it looks wrong confirms the reality that it is wrong on a level that the art value of the image mostly likely cannot transcend. Technically, your example is more aligned with practical criticism.

Destructive criticism denigrates the artist as much as the work. It is mean spirited and intended to bring down. Yuck! I haven't seen anything of that sort around here. There is one fading critique website where the use of mean comments is the mode. I don't hang out there any more.

That all said, your example has triggered an informative thread so hooray for goodness.

+Giselle Savoie It's a Diablo Range garter snake.

+Marwan Al-Marri and +Franka M. Gabler They're very tiny snakes. I doubt this snake could've bitten my finger. Also, I was about 5 feet away; it would've been impossible for the snake to lunge that far, if it wanted to. And it didn't want to; the encounter was only for an instant, and then after a second of striking this pose, the snake fled.
Rob Dweck
First of all, great photo of the snake. The sharpness and blur are brilliantly executed.

Second, I'm probably splitting hairs, but I wouldn't classify the example you gave as destructive. You're not destroying anything by pointing out flaws. The photo remains the same and unless the photographer has a delicate ego, nothing destroyed there either. It could even be construed as constructive because even without offering a solution, the photographer might hear the criticism and use it to better the image and improve their technique, leading to better photos. Hey, it's constructive after all!
I think. speaking the true is always constructive. No manipulation, no speculation, no lies all the time is constructive, that is why religion is so destructive. They just divide people and plant intolerance. Politic just follow the money and money has not moral authority for nothing.
Sorry +Mike Spinak I do not have any destructive criticism to tell you ;-)
I like the dof and the composition with this swirling yellow line in the back of the snake, it is just perfect :-)
I think you use the wrong term. I think it should just be criticism. Constructive criticism is another thing and destructive criticism is a third thing - criticism given with the express intent to harm or derogate the person or the work.

Criticism is good, constructive criticism is great, and destructive criticism is destructive far more than it is criticism.
Zahra R
I think its all related to our comprehension about destructive and constructive criticism. actually I think the one you mentioned, was a constructive one! because it was helpful, not offensive. In my opinion every kind of criticism that makes you aware of your faults, can be constructive!
Nice but dangerous creature on earth.
it's very dangerous... dear...
Looks real to me. Is it as dangarous as it looks?
I think it's all up to how one takes the criticism, destructive or not. Personally, I try to think of everything constructively, and I usually learn something.
Even a strong critique can made in a constructive manner. I believe an oversight in your scenario above is that "the critique" is misconflated with "the truth" (singular). Unless the critic is omniscient, he should remain humble in his choice of words when critiquing others. If these are co-workers, they should already be familiar with the quality of work being delivered and with this individual's own set of standards in addition to those of his company. I'm guessing there's someone you're having trouble working with. Best of luck!
echoing kimmo's comment, i think your definitions are ambiguous. In pointing out the flaw in someone's photo, you are also clearly pointing out how it can be improved. That is extremely constructive.
That snake looks scary even 3D like ?
Do not like snakes but a very interesting photo
"You're picture is shit!" is not only an insult to the person at whom the comment is directed, but also an insult to grammar.
Hiss first if pray is fat; wrap around and stinch venom
Very good thought and article Mike. One of my boss said that if you look around there is never a statue of the critic.

I too would rather know, so that i can better myself. That is the ONLY way one can actually grow. Bit there are quite a few sensitive people out there no?
Interesting, especially the bit on the difference between Destructive criticism and insults
constructive criticism or destructive criticism when your life is on the line you need to hear it if you're not messing up from a veteran.
ur looking sssssoooooooooooooooooooo beuti
+Mike Spinak , I hate to be critical, but you are being constructive in your example. By mentioning what is wrong with the lighting you have implied the fix. You don't have to lead them step by step to the solution; let them discover that for themselves.

Destructive would be to just say 'this photo sucks'. As soon as you give a reason for why it sucks, you have pointed the person in the right direction for improvement. Provided, of course, they respect your opinion enough to have it matter.
People that get butt-hurt when they're told they're wrong or something else is wrong don't have the mental facilities to be in public.

There is no respect to be found in finding truth to be a bothersome thing.
wow! i love the way the bodies faded but the face isnt! i kinda hurts ur eyes!!!
Great picture by a brave person. Zoom lenses!
I believe the same would apply to normal posts, especially when debates and discussions are involved. A lot of people misunderstand the difference between constructive and destructive statements, thus quickly turning a comparatively civil discussion into a heated argument of proverbial shit-flinging.

EDIT: Examples of the two different types of statements:

Constructive: I disagree because you're misinterpreting the statistics.

Destructive: You suck, asshole. Fuck you and fuck your shit.
nice thoughts and good Photo face to face !
it depends on person to person thinking and most imp in thinking is how much it is evolved
if a lil boy has club dat picture den a destructive criticism wld just demoralise him..........may he never again try to use his creative mind........
but as his age advances n he becum one who is always willing to learn new thing wld appreciate even ur destructive criticism..................
so its on u .....................
its environment dat shape a boy into a wise man..................
Telling someone there is a flaw in their photograph IS constructive criticism. Destructive criticism would be more on the lines of "You don't know how to take pictures." It's not helpful; it is degrading; it does nothing to improve either the object or the person being criticized.
Dear Mike.
I fully agree with you Nice writeup.
At this juncture I would add my views little different way.
Basically, I dislike people praising me.. I often prefer people insulting me or criticizing negatively. This helps in three ways It demolshes or rather helps you shatter your self ego whom you have been overprotecting and nurturing over the years.Zero status symbol. Secondly, it increases your power of tolerence in this Zero tolerance planet.. Thirdly, it provides an insight as to the other peoples feelings and bent of mind.
.When you ignore your self, you become universal in tune with the universal mind. Then every criticism, gestures and conduct become part of your existance
I myself had once done course in professional photography in 1969 and it has led me to have fascination for nature and micro photographing.
Rajarshi, Mumbai, India
Nice post. I have seen this argument many times on forums and dont think it will ever be fully resolved. Partly due to the fact that different people want different things. I welcome all comments, but prefer a comment with detail and not just the usual "nice photo" even if it is negative. However I am guilty of the "nice photo" comment too, firstly because I dont want to offend someone who doesnt like critique. And secondly (and mostly) because I dont feel qualified to be able to make a judgment on someone elses work, and an opinion is quiet often subjective anyway. As for your snake photo I would say the DOF was too shallow for me, the eyes dont seem sharp, however that could be because I am viewing the photo on my phone, and everybody else likes it so I must be wrong, right? ;)
iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii it's not beautiful.
hiiiiiiiiiii...........hw r u??
I think that's a great thing! I often do destructive criticism unknowingly. So I understand why ppl get so upset and tell me I am being mean or rude. In my eyes I am trying to help them out, yet in theirs, I am putting them down. Well said sir, well said!
You could make your criticism better by suggesting how to improve the picture (e.g. flip one image so that the light appears to be coming from the same side) this then makes the criticism constructive. Constructive is better than destructive!
If someone credible told me I didn't know how to take pictures, I'd be glad to learn about my mistake. If someone who knew told me a certain part of my riding technique was dangerous, I'd thank them.
Destructive critism does not get the things done.. hence ranks lower than constructive criticism. Of course, you criticise because you seek improvement isnt it?
bt in d process, it shldnt happen dat u go observing only flaws in things..!!
Actually, in your example Mike, you did give constructive criticism. By telling the person what is wrong with their picture, you inadvertantly gave constructive criticism by pointing out what they need to do improve the image. Constructive criticism. Destructive criticism (trash-talk in slang) doesn't help anyone, even if it's truthful.
very well said...very helpful post about criticism.
I think your example about the moon is actually more like negative than destructive criticism. You've pointed out the technical flaw that makes the picture "wrong". That is helpful. You may not know or wish to provide the solution but it's still a starting point for the creator to take a step back and reconsider the execution, perhaps even improve it.

Destructive criticism, in my opinion, falls in the same bucket as subjective criticism. It's the expressing of an opinion (sometimes a condemning, sometimes a positive one) based on personal taste without providing any kind of feedback that can assist the recipient in any way. If you had said "I like that image" and left it at that, that kind of criticism is destructive. It's of no use to anyone. The artist has nothing to work with and no idea of what exactly he did to elicit such a response from you. Similarly, if you had said, "The moon is wrong" without supplying the wished-for state of the moon, the outcome for the artist would be the same.

PS: the snake image is awesome. I love the strong contrast of the sharply focused head with the blurred body. Combined, they form an hypnotic visual.
nature is a wonder,it also nature gift
A criticism is a critisism.. Will always be viewed negatively.. But there are always positive tinkers around..
oh that was very close
what is that snake it is like a that one in the movie aaaaa i know a i for got it again mayby i wiil just come back
aaaah i would run away when i see that!
dude thats awesome it's head it like all in focus but the body isn't
The title of "you're" picture is shit! Those curves are obviously not sharp at all!
/rolls eyes

jk ;-)
ok well atleast you dont have 3 of them in front of your door outside
I think the word you are trying to use is disapproval and not criticism, criticizing is not necessary a corrective exercise. Anyway, you made your point.
I think the example of 'destructive' criticism was constructive also.
how u got it?? :O soooo sssssssss!!
+Mike Spinak well spoken but difficult to practice. To offer negative criticism you have to be willing to withstand a verbal lashing by the author and perhaps dozens of people the want to be supportive of the person. I have offered an occasional destructive criticism here on G+ and been whipped to a pulp by a lynch mob ready to be supportive of the original artist. Twenty or 30 people jumping in after me to reassure the poster than their image is nothing short of inspirational.

Major G+ personalities support the "constructive only" viewpoint and it's very difficult to do otherwise in a social media environment. I had people tell me that I'm an a$$&%ç# for offering commentary. "How dare you question my art?" , "Who do you think you are ?" , "What business is it of yours ?". Even with sloping horizons people will defend their right to have it sloping

In theory what you say is true. In practice, you better have tough skin and not care about how many followers you lose when you start offering negative criticism. In your example, I might very well lash back at you that I know the angle of the light is wrong but that's exactly the impact I wanted to have on the viewer of the image. Why have you taken on yourself to decide what is right and wrong about my art ??

I think it might be appropriate, given your choice of images to say, "Tread lightly".
If the critic opinion is right, it could be spoken aloud. It could, but it doesn't have to be shared with anyone. Criticism depends on many different factors, as for example age or state of mind of the person you'd like to criticize.
"The angle of the light on the moon is from the right; the angle of light on the land is from the left; the picture looks wrong".

Your statement is not destructive criticism, it's a first impression statement with little thought behind the opinion and leaves the statement open as to why you think it is wrong. If you were to say why then it has the potential to become constructive criticism, and until you say why your opinion is not really helpful nor do I see a point in even giving an opinion until it can explained.

Your use of the word destructive is used loosely.

1. tending to destroy; causing destruction or much damage (often followed by of or to ): a very destructive windstorm.
2. tending to overthrow, disprove, or discredit ( opposed to constructive): destructive criticism.

There's no disproof or discredit in your example for it to be considered "destructive".

Saying something is wrong without a particular reason is far from being destructive. Bashing something with a purpose is destruction.

How can one improve if they don't know how to fix something - or what to fix? Saying something is wrong and leaving it at that helps no one until you ask why.
One last thing. A penny has value too but a dollar bill certainly has more value. To say something has value doesn't make it highly valuable.

Destructive criticism = 1 cent
Constructive criticism = 1 dollar

I'll go for the constructive criticism since it has a higher value and gives me a tool that I'm able to work with.
i guess the value you pay for the criticism depends on the person to who it is given to. i either get annoyed and not want to take ur criticism - constructive or destructive. or take it and get better
what a dangerous snske

destructive criticism

Criticism performed with the intention to harm someone, derogate and destroy someone’s creation, prestige, reputation and self-esteem.

Here is some constructive criticism: Do a little research on the subject first so you don't miseducate people.
I'd say an insult is destructive criticism, since insults are, by their very nature, destructive. Your example is actually constructive criticism since you pointed out a problem in a none insulting way.
Ron Lum

Interesting post you have here and I agree.

I'm trying to break into the web design industry here in Hawaii. Several weeks ago, someone came across my site and sent me destructive criticism via my contact form. He went to great descriptive lengths to criticize my site and called me a f*g, to boot. I was hurt and dismissed it somewhat, but I knew that my site was a work-in-progress and I had to make it look better. Although rude, it did have a message underneath: "your site could look better."

One thing I don't agree with: your example of destructive criticism is horrible! Someone points out you're wrong and you consider that "destructive?" That's soft ball. Real-life destructive criticism involves some personal attack and offensive words with the intention of making someone feel inferior.

I don't quite like the snake picture, cause my eyes literally started to hurt after as little as 2-3 seconds looking at the blurry parts, and each time I look at it, I instinctively look away quickly. There you go. :)

But I agree with the points you're making. However, it's difficult to invite people to give one the truth about one's work.
To let you enjoy: Your post is shit, because you use non-breaking hyphen, when you need to use dash! :-P
A lot has already been said, but I think that many people give destructive criticism just to criticize. They wouldn't point out the light issue, they'd just day the picture looks fake, it's all wrong. They're are those out there whose lives are so miserable, they have to makes others miserable. The same criticism could be given by simply saying, "did you realize the light is coming from two different directions?" Destructive and constructive at the same time. Even in your original statement, they pointed out the flaw. True destructive criticism would have been, "you can't take a good picture."
More good, less hate.
Human nature is rather difficult to understand! We like hearing only the good things which in no way can help us improve ourselves. Many times I find friends asking me to be honest about an issue. Unfortunately if I tell them what they didn't want to hear (i.e., the good thing) they won't take it kindly!
I think you're wrong, even your example is wrong. If you say: "The angle of the light on the moon is from the right; the angle of light on the land is from the left; the picture looks wrong". you're saying "Change the angle of the light or make the shadows less visible etc." Your are giving the point what is wrong exactly....thats contructive.
Destructiv criticism would be: That looks shitty.
Therefore think about your definition of destructive criticism and think about what contructive criticism could be. It's not always up to the critic to provide solutions but to provide a point where you can start working with.
I prefer destructive criticism... Reason being, often constructive criticism offers a route to a solution that I wish not to take, thus makes me feel stupid and implies that the person offering the advice seem above me in skill, especially if I refuse to take their advice. When most of the time, I just simply missed a detail, so it's better to me if someone tells me it doesn't look right; this then helps my own mind decide how to resolve it, thus making me feel capable and confident to troubleshoot on my own. For example, your baby is crying a fit, you must be new parents and not know what to do. My thoughts, "tell me about it, she's a handful!" Vocal response, "yeah, it's hard, we've tried this that, and even though this takes a while, it works best to calm her down." As opposed to "I see your baby is crying, it helps if you hold her like this, then it will calm her right down." My thoughts, "shut up, you don't know everything!" My vocal response, "I've tried that before, all it does is causes her to puke, cough, and get hiccups, which ticks her off more, and I'd rather deal with the mess!" Final thoughts... "Shut up overconfident wise crack!"
I agree. And by the way, great photo, loved the title!
Parlare male degli altri è semplice, non costa nessuna fatica; è il saper vedere il bene nascosto che esiste e il saper valutare le virtù altrui che costa fatica e non sempre riesce a chi non è dotato buona disposizione e di amore per i fratelli ...!!!
Mike, you evidently missed the point about insisting on positive criticism. Basically, it is very easy and quick to "blindly" criticize. (Politics anyone?) With true constructive criticism the author is required to take the time and effort to focus on the understanding and, most of all, to show a relative engagement. (Unfortunately, the engagement part is too often switched for position statement, or a negative comment in disguise.)
topu kd
kidding, but I do wish that the snake wasn't centered in the frame.
I agree with all those who see the example as constructive. Anything offered that you can say "good point" must be constructive. You come away from the comment able to improve things next time.
I'm afraid to look at this shot for too long, I'm afraid the damn thing is going to strike me!

+Mike Spinak I'm not sure that your example qualifies as destructive criticism when you've told the person what you think is wrong with it.

Steve Jobs' approach to criticism "this is shit!" on the other hand is destructive. Some people however have the stomach to handle that kind of criticism, they actually thrive in such an environment, but most people would rather be told why it's shit, if at all.
+Jason Ferris sound like your ego gets in the way of things too often when taking constructive criticism.
Leaving my two cents here as I had left on +Michelle Marie's post too. I'll start by pointing out most of the comments here are, ironically, quite constructive ;)

In regard to "destructive criticism," comments of this nature are typically quite empty. In regard to the moon landscape photograph, the "destructive comment" would be a bit more useful in your example, +Mike Spinak, had you at least provided your background. If you lack any experience in photography, what use is your destructive criticism if it lacks any basis? If the coment added "but I'm no photographer" or "and I'm a professional photographer," that at least opens the floor to be rebutted (while still a destructive comment) and allows the opposing individual to engage you further based on the background you give.

So is destructive criticism always a bad thing? Not always. It does provide an honest edge (which is good), but what other value does that bring? Depending on how it's delivered, destructive criticism is typically empty and closed-ended, thus, quite frequently lacks overall value.

Think about it from a marketer's standpoint. Criticism helps a marketer reshape their business models and products. But how are you supposed to meet the needs of critical consumers without understanding the basis of their critiques? Google+ loves listening to its community, for example, and making the G+ experience unique to the community based on constructive feedback, as opposed to making attempts to feed off comments like " G+ is not a good social network " Though honest in face value only, it lacks girth and overall value (i.e. What makes it a less valuable social network to you? Where is the basis of that comment (are you a FB only user, do you have limited circles/stream, are you a regular G plusser)? What is your comment in comparison to? Without following up a "destructive criticism" with backing, what is the overall value added?

Just my "constructive" two cents ;)
+Mike Spinak I gotta agree with Marie - you;ve got your terminology wrong. Destructive criticism is defined as "criticism performed with the intention to harm someone, derogate and destroy someone’s creation, prestige, reputation and self-esteem". Your example is not tearing anyone down; if anything you've given your reasons for not liking the picture - constructive.
une kam fobi prej snakes ,nuk i shohe dot me sy
On a side note, look at the ripples generated from this initial post and the type of engagement it created in such a short amount of time! Pretty awesome!
Maybe it's the example you used that doesn't quite capture the deleterious effects of the delivery of destructive criticism.
As far as I'm concerned saying your picture is shit or pointing out the flaws is inherently constructive. If it is an honest opinion and no malice was intended I would look beyond how it is said to what is being said. The person may just have a limited vocabulary or may think being blunt increases the value of what he says (it doesn't!).
If by destructive criticism you aim to break down the person and not the act or job or argument (Argumentum Ad Hominem) then stop it! It damages you, the one delivering it, as well as the one receiving it.
I woke up this morning to find quite a bit of feedback to my post. It will take me a while to read through it all, and respond to it all, but I'll try.

Have a great day.
Ive always suggested that in business meetings and everybody stays away from it. You should be motivating but at the same time objective if you want to get your point across.
+Michael Edwards, I understand your point. I'm not much of a rule of thirds man myself, rather, a golden mean. If you haven't heard of it, check it out. If you have, that's where I'd rather see the snake's head... or at least not dead center.
Great point. Nice argument, Mike. :)
Matt N
thats so hideous
What a crappy article. ;)
Ridiculous - "destructive cirticism" that points out problems without providing a solution is for politicians and hippocrates that have nothing better to do than tear someone else down.
If you can only take the time to shoot out offhanded, knee-jerk reactions without reflecting enough to provide something substantial, then keep it to yourself.
You're talking about "the rest is left as an exercise for the student." -- Without exercise, our abilities atrophy. An ANALYTICAL comment on the result of an action, is feedback not criticism. That's why I titled my writing teaching blog "editingcircle" not "critiquecircle" -- I'm against the whole nomenclature of "critique" not because it's destructive criticism, or even constructive criticism, but because it's crippling to the development of the artist.
S Lutz
now, thats cool
Yeah, I agree with this post. Constructive criticism is definitely handy: someone pointing out what's wrong and telling you how to fix it; but not everyone knows how to fix the problem they're seeing with your art. I'm perfectly fine with destructive criticism, though I have to say that it's not always accurate if a layman is looking at your work (it can still help, in the end).
Mike Spinak - No, destructive criticism is not all wrong, just as constructive criticism is not all right. But destructive criticism can kill good idea. You know what they say about throwing out the baby along with the bathwater. Constructive criticism can make the bad good, and make the good better or the better best. It's progressive. Destructive criticism edits, crops, removes, deletes. There lies the danger.
There's nothing "sharp" about the curves on this picture or the snake itself. Nice picture, stupid tag-line.

(Constructive or destructive I'm not sure but honest, yes.)
Or, if there is no solution to a problem, is it still a problem?
I quite understand what you are saying and agree with your view very much. (Not sure anybody else already mentioned this - as there are 368 comments above!).
This is quite true in every aspect of our lives, not just photos. Point is not to discuss and judge the person who wrote/took-photo/created etc.; but to analyze and comment on the subject put forth to the viewer (and of course not out of jealousy). And that exercise (a collective intelligence) improves a person's ability to do the work.
Great shot as usual, Mike. Very nicely composed.
love how it is foucused in front and blured in back
Of course, I'd always prefer to hear the truth, preferably in a polite way, rather than a sugar coated lie or just a vague comment in the name of encouragement or constructive criticism.
I'll get into more detailed responses, later, but for now, let me say this:

Try not to get too caught up in terminology. The terminology is irrelevant. For all I care, you can call it "Bob" when you point out a flaw and don't make any positive comments or suggestions, and call it "Elizabeth" when you say positive things and make suggestions.

Some people take issue with a mode of commentary which says nothing positive and doesn't make helpful suggestions. Somewhat like an "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" kind of attitude. And my point is that this strictly negative mode of commentary can often be valuable, and shouldn't be discouraged or rejected simply because it doesn't compliment nor suggest a solution.

If you would rather hear me say "Bob can have value, even if you enjoy Elizabeth more", then read it that way.
Warning: constructive criticism ahead: The problem with your post is that you are intermingling both definitions.

Constructive criticism doesn't try to destroy the work (in this case), it may, however point out flaws that the critic can't correct herself. Destructive criticism always tries to attack the work in and of itself ("that's just plain ugly", for instance) or, even worse, attack the creator ("you just have no talent for composing pictures")
I feel like changing the terminology would completely defeat the purpose of the post. You're no longer trying to prove the same point. I think what would have helped is to have PROPERLY defined each concept (destructive and constructive critism) before stating your opinion. Destructive critism can include suggestions for change too, but they would not be beneficial to the receiver. At this point, I'm confused as to what you were trying to accomplish with the post if the terminology doesn't matter at all...
Sean R
why is google+ featuring this crap in emails titled "Top 3 posts for you on Google+ this week"? There's my constructive criticism.
+Mike Spinak, like some others in this thread I disagree with the terms you used, but I agree with the sentiment.

I also wonder why when a person has a negative opinion of another person it is considered to be judging that person. But when one has a positive opinion of another person that is not considered judging them. For example if I see a woman walking down the street in a nice dress and I remark to a friend that the woman looks very classy, well, that's not a judgment, that's a compliment. But if instead I say that woman looks like she's strange, well, that's a judgment and I'm looking down my nose at her. Was I looking up my nose at her before? And precisely what was the verdict if I judged her by saying she looks strange? How many days in jail will she do?

We as people seem to really resent anything that doesn't paint us in a positive light. But most of us will say we're not perfect though.Well, if we're not perfect, how will we ever get better if we can never acknowledge our imperfections? Or, do we just say we're imperfect because it would sound crazy to say otherwise, but really in our hearts we truly we believe we are perfect - and it's the rest of the world that's got it all wrong?
+Chance Allen I used to teach a photography class, so I'm familiar with the 'golden mean/ratio'. For this particular image, I'm not sure it would be as striking with that kind of offset. I still think this is an exception to conventional rules. But then again, aesthetics is often a personal perspective.
This ctiticism u r talking about,i d give a second,thorough thought
I thank +Beth Steinbrueck's insightful post for taking the words out of my head. +Mike Spinak, it’s a little disingenuous of you to now say let’s not get caught up in terminology--especially after it was obvious that you are the one mis-using the very legitimate term of destructive criticism.

Assigning correct meaning to words matters when one’s goal is to communicate with other people (vs. the goal of some to simply see their words on screen or in print). It is even more necessary in an online thread like this when we have to count on words to convey meaning rather than body language or tone of voice that carries much influence in three dimensional encounters.

Perhaps your understanding of criticism would be more complete if you did a little homework prior to writing.

I appreciate your sentiment, but after reading your followup response, I wonder what your point was in starting it?

In my view, the difference between constructive and destructive critique is the question "do you want suggestions or do you want to figure it out youself"? The benefit of constructive critiques is providing new ideas while the err of constructive critques is solving it for them and robbing someone of their unique solution when left on their own. Both can be beneficial but it's up to the recepiant as to which is wanted. My thought is to ask which do you want before offering either.
If 'Destructive Criticism' can help something progress and move towards a better finished product. Then it's not destructive.
So if someone found your writing so obliviously benign that they wanted to poop in an envelope and send it to you in hopes you would stop posting, you would consider that worthwhile?
nice one. seems close, very close! were you actually that close? wasn't it scary? just a few small questions that have nothing to do with shooting ;)
Destructive criticism is useful if it's delivered objectively and from a place of mutual benefit. Unfortunately, most people use destructive criticism to attack the person and/or lash out for petty self-serving interests.

Personally, I think the subjective attacks are a result of living in a society where everybody is pit against each other in a competition for acceptance from the greater whole.

It's a societal pissing contest that we're trained to partake in from the moment we start school. Whether it's winning at sports, getting the best grades, being the most attractive, being the best parent, the most productive worker, retiring with the most money, etc.

The sad fact is, nobody is capable of being the best at everything; So the people most motivated to rise to the top of the chain are also the most likely to attack others as a means to 'bring them down a notch'.

To win means others have to lose but everybody ends up losing in the end. To not play the game means being labeled a deviant or social outcast.

I honestly wish I had been born into an era where integrity and dignity still had powerful meaning and teamwork and collaboration were valued above narcissism and self-interest.

tl;dr I don't think most people are capable of critiquing others objectively.
Mike, I'd have to diagree about the basic definitions used in your post. Destructive criticism, from my point of view, would be, "You cloned in the moon, you suck!" Pointing out that the cloned moon wouldn't cast the shadow as shown, I would call constructive criticism. It lets me know there is a problem I can correct.

Perhaps the most destructive criticism someone can give me is to say, "Wow, that's great.", if it isn't. If something I've done is mediocre, please don't imply that I should just keep on doing it that way!
+David Hoffman There would be something to take away from this comment: (a) that some folks don't like the moon to be cloned in (b) that I didn't do a good enough job that the cloning would be undetectable. To make it useless you'd have to reduce it to "you suck !" but then it's no longer a criticism, just an insult.
Very true, QT! Or (c) all of the above.
+Mike Spinak I hope you had a nice cup of coffee and a big pile of pancakes this am, since you just kicked the snakes hornet's nest. :0P. A thought provoking post indeed. I like your snake. . .though glad it's not truly as close as it appears.
Love the photo. In reply to your thoughts on criticism, the destruction tends to come from the way in which the criticism is given, not necessarily its content. Some people are less amenable to criticism, of any type, than others.
Good point, +Mike Spinak. I've not really experienced G+ as a space that is conducive to proper critique of imagery as yet. I am part of various online nature photography critique forums and am all for proper and honest critique. I always say - if you like it, say why (don't just say "very well done" - and if you don't, say why! The person might know WHY it doesn't work for them or what bothers them, but they may not have the technical proficiency or the expericen to know how to actually correct the mistake they are pointing out - and that is fine to me. I know enough people who can help me avoid making the same mistake whom I can approach for advice.

The big problem is that most photographers are intensely emotionally connected to their work (and so they should be), and for many people a "destructive" criqitue will feel like a personal attack. I don't think you can avoid that. Best is to remind them of the reason for your comment after they've thrown their toys out of the cot...if they still think you are a pig...let them be. Plant the seed and let it grow.
I find a simple and effective way to talk to artists about their work is to point out what caught your eye and what's not working for you......." I saw and liked this but I'm not (adjective) that. If you're taking the time to comment at all there was something attractive there also.
+Mike Spinak I have to say that you brought back old demons with your Destructive Criticism. (I am still processing all the flashback memories that made this man stand tall to this day.)
It is rather difficult, while perfectly understandable, for the majority to grasp how sharp curves can shape an individual!
I wanted to stop by to thank you for taking the time to look into and share your insights on "desconstructive powers"

It is constant learning curve we all trying to follow, while "fighting" to remain ourselves.
One of the greatest photo I ever seen. Hats off u Mike.
I couldn't more agree with you! I give comments but in the public I try to find something nice to say about every image. People won't show them if they think it is nice, good, outstanding of whatever reason. There is always something nice, interesting, powerful and or great to say about it. In a private community where we are to learn something from each other I try to be as nice as I can but I only say things that I mean! Or give advice in the following way... maybe if you...
Most of the time you recognize why people post that image and I adjust my comment to that. It's all about Respect, people forget that often i.m.o. Be nice but honest, give proper critics and help where you can. Share kindness and receive them back =) Plus if you think the image is good. Be creative... and everything is possible!

You image is just SuperB... Chapeau +Mike Spinak The DOF makes it really stand out and for those "sharp curves"? I know what you mean and it is great. I especially love the tone mapping.
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