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,
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