This has been one hell of a cursed critique! I apologize for being so damn late on this one. This critique alone had me re-thinking my whole “Moving to Motion” thing. 🙂

This time around I have four critique videos for you. The entire length of this critique is one hour and forty-something minutes. Think of these critiques like sitting in a college lecture. When I was in photography school it was not uncommon for critiques to last two to four hours and that was for no more than 20 or 25 students at a time. We made it through a little over 200 photos in this critique.

If the thought of listening to us for close to two hours makes you want to poke sharp objects into your ears then put your crochet needles down and just watch the 18 minute short form critique above. If you are wanting the full thing then you can see it in three parts.

#DEDPXL02 Critique Part 1 (30 min)

#DEDPXL02 Critique Part 2 (32 min)

#DEDPXL02 Critique Part 3 (44 min)

Meg and I are working to make each critique better, on point, and helpful. Any feedback you have for us please leave it in the comments below. Cutting this critique into a short form and then multiple parts for the longer version is based on your input. Staying on point and moving at a quicker pace is also something I hear and I’m working on that as well. In fact, I did edit out a number of points in the long form critique where I recognized that I was going on and on and on and on again… Like I tend to do.

Moving forward we will spend less time talking about the ground rules and grades. From here on out we will jump right into the critique and point new folks to the information they need to know about the critique.

Thank you for your patience on this one! Sorry it took so long. The next assignment will be posted this week!


Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. Jenny Mack

    You should make a ‘intro to critique’ video and put in all the front matter that you currently go over. Then it’s a simple ‘if you’re new, here’s the basics’ as something to point to.

    Plus it’s just one thing to update.

    • Zack

      You, my dear lady, are a genius. Jean-yus. Thanks!



  2. Richard Wintle

    Thanks again for this. I cannot fathom why anyone would complain about the length of this(!). Personally, I am going to enjoy every minute of the 1-hour-forty-something minutes. 🙂

  3. Jørgen

    Nothing wrong with the length. I would actually prefer more of the elaborations on strengths and weaknesses in pictures, even if that means fewer pictures would be picked out. There seems to be a lot of fillers where you go “C – next”.

    Love the banter and difference in perspectives.

    • Tommi

      I agree. If you want to make the videos shorter then simply drop out the photos you don’t have anything to say about. It’ll still be long. And interesting. And one of the best things to ever happen to the folks here.

  4. JD

    I like the loooong version….its interesting to hear what you two have to say.

  5. benjaminlea

    +1 for long versions. It’s great to be given a project to shoot but hearing you guys go into detail about crops, muddiness in post and just someone else’s point of view really me kick myself in the butt.

    I’ll never forget “head in a clean spot” and now “there’s a photo to be made in there”.

    You guys rock.

  6. Joe B.

    Thanks for the time you’ve put into this project. I’ve watched, enjoyed and hopefully learned something from the full critique.

  7. Ben

    I like the looong version, as it allows for the viewer to be exposed to a wider palette of work, and hopefully expanding our ‘field-of-view’, if you will, to ideas not yet created in our own minds.

    I try to put myself int the photog’s mind on every image you show, and don’t always agree on the critique, but ain’t that the primary definition of individuality? 🙂

    Thanks for the time you and Meg put into this, and thanks for helping me to become a better photographer.

  8. Howie

    THANK YOU for breaking the critique into segments. Makes life with a metered connection a bit less arduous (damn you Verizon).

  9. Jessica M.

    Add another vote for the long form, and I also appreciate having it broken into segments, but I don’t mind too much if it’s just one long video either. The only thing I’d like is for you to review MY photos as well as all the other ones. (Joking. Well, you know, mostly.) I think these are really great, and I’m looking forward to the next assignment – I hope it’s something new! And I love the banter between you and Meg. Don’t get rid of that, whatever you do.

  10. David P.

    I like the long critique broken up into segments. I wish you could cover all pictures cause I want to hear your thoughts on mine–but I’m sure everyone is thinking similar and there’s only so much time you can spare. 🙂

    I think that keeping a shorter timeframe on assignments might help keep things more manageable. Maybe even restricting the number of contributions a person can make during that time frame: Give ppl three weekends to shoot an assignment and then have them submit only their top two pix during a small, three day posting window. Then, give yourself time for doing the critique.

    I, for example, would like to look at everyone’s pictures, but checking the uploads on a daily basis to see the new ones is just too much. I’d rather have a marathon “check new uploads” session.

    Thanks, Zack and Meg!

  11. Timothy M

    Hey, I just appreciate the fact that you offer these critiques and that you take them seriously. I have not been a target but perhaps I may submit one day.

    Long or short your efforts are worth it, keep rollin’

  12. Jenny Mack

    Just finished pt. 3…

    I loved that you took the time to do 200ish images. I didn’t like the ‘speed run’ demo at the end, where you just spat out grades. The discussion is what makes it, but the stretching to find a crop or a meaning in a non-qualifying shot really does slow things down. That’s about the only speed bump that I think is worth bringing up.

  13. David

    Thanks Zack for giving us options. I think the most valuable thing we receive is insight into what you look for in an image and how an image gives that or falls short. I liked the discussion you had with Meg about where does post-processing fit into your judgment of an image.

    Rapid-fire grades with no context won’t do anyone any good (In my opinion). Sometimes with some of the “A”s, I wonder why it got that grade. Maybe my resolution is a little off and so is my taste, but when I saw one ‘A’ and heard that it needed no explanation, I was thinking, “I could use SOME explanation….”

    So, short format vs long format…. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings on it. I like the idea of both and each has its place. I believe that’s why you get such strong viewpoints favoring each side. I do like having the option of looking at the short video.

    What I appreciate most from the critiques is the commentary that gives us insight into how you see and think as a photographer and how Meg responds; what you feel makes a compelling image. Maybe a good rule of thumb, long format or short, would be, if you don’t have anything to say about it (outside of the grade) leave it out. That is just an idea. If that makes life harder, ignore that suggestion. You guys do enough already (and I really appreciate that).

    I love the critiques and I would hate to give you more work, but would it be possible to have an additional group for each assignment where you put the A’s for each for viewing? I rarely have time myself to sift through the thousands of images attached to each assignment, so sometimes it is during the critique that I am seeing these images for the first time.

    Thanks for all that you do. I appreciate you helping all of us on our journey to improving as photographers.

    Out of curiosity, how did this critique make you rethink your moving to motion?

  14. Sam

    Hey guys,

    Thank you for making these videos. They’re fun to watch and I learn something new every time.

    Here’s a suggestion: how about you post all the photos you rated as A so we can view them on your site? It would give us a chance to see the photos as the photographer intended and I’m guessing they would be happy to be recognized in that way.

    Keep up the great work.

  15. kumpu

    How about just sticking with A & B images?

    Like JØRGEN & JENNY MACK said, way too many ‘C – next’ phrases. Discard those, leave out F & D, stick with A & B and explain WHY they deserve A or B ?

    Less images, more explanation.

  16. Daf

    My 2 pence:

    I like a short form – I look at photo blogs during my lunch hour and it suits this purpose.
    I could then go back to the longer one if I have the time. (ha, as if)
    I like having at least a sentence to explain why the grade you give – so not the quick flick through you demonstrated. Longer explanation is good to sometimes when you feel like it.

  17. Daf

    Woo – here’s a bit of an idea – one you’ll likely hate because it means a lot more work for you.

    The Critique’s I’d be most interested in would be the A’s. I’d be much more likely to watch that than the whole thing.

  18. Marc

    Hey Zack

    +1 for the long version love your guys rambling.

    Like this thread needs more opinions, but I would suggest the following:

    – max. submission of 1 picture to be critiqued per assignment per person.
    – use two different hashtags: e.g. #dedpxl03crit for a submission to be critiqued and #dedpxl03 just to present assignment associated work to the community (that would work for 500px not sure about flickr)

    Thank you for doing the assignments and the effort you guys put into it.



  19. Adam

    I think in order to speed up the gathering for critique part – which is probably the most time consuming aspect of the critique – everyone should preface their photos name with DEDPXL3 (or whatever the assignment number is)

    That way you can quickly weed out the ones that didn’t pay attention to the rules. It’s a bit harsh, but you have been enforcing the shot date rule.

    Another idea would be to just limit the assignments to just flickr. It costs nothing to join and the photos look better on screen during the critique – you can’t see the meta data on 500px like you can on flickr.

    Just some thought.

  20. Paul

    3 vids for a critique….2 too many for me.

    I think fewer images with more of your thoughts is a better way for me to learn. Not least because you’re not going to have time to review all images anyway.

    Provide a 40 min vid with good reasoned critique and people will learn. My suggestion though would be to select some great, some mediocre and some utter trash then explain why.

  21. Ellie Gotchal

    I agree. More thought given to fewer photos… More SIGNAL, Less NOISE…

    speaking of signal, would love to hear your thoughts on the fuji cams and lenses. me, i’m finding that the xt1 and xe2 are nice, fun to work with, but canon cams (curse their weight, yes) just provide better files.

    whadday say, zackarino?

  22. Anthony

    More SIGNAL. Less NOISE.

    Couldn’t agree more with that! This is a cool, thankless thing you’re doing, I think most people get that. I don’t think it’s beneficial to anyone to just blast through a ton of photos and do a quick one-liner yay or nay type of thing.

    I say: Pick a time frame that you can commit to this. Let’s say 2 hours? Go with some kind of round number that you can reasonably spend on each photo…like…30 seconds? Toss in some downtime, commentary, all that jazz…that’s roughly 200 photos.

    Wonderful job you two are doing!

  23. JP Manninen

    Hey hey! Thanks for the critique, guys. I do like the long form since it’s kind of rare to get long form anything on the web, especially a discussion on photography and images. I know you go through tons of images but the ones you dwell on make for interesting and educational commentary. And then the ones you dismiss quickly are not any less informative–it’s fun to hear the snap judgment and I still get why a certain image is an immediate D or a B or an F based on the previous conversation. So I say go long.

  24. Ray

    Hey Zack & Meg
    I love the long critiques and appreciate all the work you are putting into them. It is obviously a runaway success and there are many more entries that you have time to critique. So why include those who didn’t make the effort to complete the assignment properly? I think it would be better to exclude them so you can fit in more than do meet the assignment requirements. I would have loved to get even a quick critique on my shot rather than see 3 shots from the balloon boob man.
    Keep up the fantastic work.

    PS I loved OneLIght 2.0

    • Ray

      Oh and I should add I love the banter too. But don’t let your spouse sway your opinion because we realise you are coming from different perspectives and appreciate both of them.
      All the best.

    • Jimmy Riviere


      I couldn’t agree more. And I hope, next time, my picture will be reviewed.

    • Natalya

      Ray, I think judging someone’s level of effort in completing the assignment based purely on their image is unhelpful, and unfair. I’m sure effort went into all the photos – balloon photog went to some effort to think about and arrange his composition, I bet – and you can’t gauge someone’s intention or thought process purely from the outcome. I can speak from experience: my photo was summarily judged not to meet the criteria, but I can tell you I put effort into thinking about shape & form, and believed I was carrying out the assignment, or I would not have posted it to the group. This is an interesting community and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops. It could become a really strong space for photographers to grow, develop, and have a bit of fun. It’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t become snippy, judgmental or mean.

      • Ray

        I wasn’t being snippy or mean and if I appeared to be judgemental it was not intended. You yourself have made some judgements about my comments which are quite incorrect. I was merely making the point that some shots very obviously didn’t meet the criteria and were given an F with no commentary. That takes up time that I would rather see given to those that did meet the criteria/rules (which are very clear thanks to Zack’s videos). And I wasn’t inferring anything about the balloon man other than he got three shots included when I would rather just see his best one critiqued and two other photographers be included (instead of two more balloon shots).
        I can see Zack & Meg have a great deal of work to do because of the huge popularity of these critiques. We all appreciate that enormously and know it is not possible to get through everyone’s work. So I am suggesting ways to get more shots into the available time.
        We all want this to work as well as it possibly can. We are all making our own suggestions and we all appreciate it’s Zack & Meg’s sandbox.

  25. anngeedee

    Would it help to gather images into groups of A’s, B’s, etc and then explain why they fell into the group rather than individually assigning grades to an assortment of a randomly generated selections? It seems pretty obvious when a photo falls into the F category, so probably not a lot of commentary would be necessary for that group, but it would be interesting to hear more about the C’s and B’s. What would help them move beyond mediocre and into stellar. Maybe giving some lighting suggestions or areas to research as a jumping off point for more learning & practice? Looking forward to hearing more about assignment #3.

    • Zack

      I’ve heard this kind of idea a number of times so I’m going to work on grouping them. Thanks for the feedback!


      • adam

        i like randomness of the current format. grouping them takes away any suspense and may even encourage viewers to switch off after seeing the a’s.

  26. Michael Matthews

    I like the option of choosing the short edit or the longer segments. My available time and/or level of interest vary. The quick-glance-and-a-grade format doesn’t fly. And you might consider making the short edit a “best of” compilation.

    As to long waits and deadlines — hey, you’re doing this at no cost to us and it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s all appreciated, whenever it appears and in whatever form you feel works.

  27. Adam

    A vote for long and short version, I like the randomness of not knowing if a good or bad picture is next and perhaps thats ok for the long with the short edit being in a D,C,B,A countdown, build up line up (no need to shame the E’s twice)

  28. david

    I like the longer critique, but the quick pass on many images seems to be an attempt to show a lot of pictures.

    A couple of suggestions you could try to fine tune things;
    Break the critique into 4 parts;
    1) A images with an explanation why
    2) B images with an explanation of what could have made them As
    3) C images with an explanation of why a picture meeting the requirements is still just a snapshot.
    4) the 20 you like best regardless of score and why you’d print them as wall art. (The short critique.

    It does seem wasteful to spend what seems like half your time trying to find something that justifies a poor grade. Generally its obvious and doesn’t need justification.

    Its reality that you are not going to discuss 90% of the images, even the A images if that was all you critiqued.

    In my view, the most valuable critique is when someone whose knowledge and insights I respect takes time to tell me how they perceive something good have been made great with a bit more effort.

    That encourages me to make a better image next time I’m out shooting.

    One man’s View

  29. adam

    many many thanks for critiquing my photo – the carny sitting with the wall of yellow solo cups.

    thats two critiques in a row for me. hoping for a hat trick with the shadow assignment

  30. Natalya

    Zack & Meg thanks for soliciting feedback on the form of the critiques. I’m willing to have these critiques go as long as you guys are willing to talk! But if you need to cut, I’m for quality/substance of critique over quantity of images graded. I appreciate the times when you look closely at a picture & explain what it is that works or does not work for you and why. That provides value to everyone watching.

    • Zack

      Glad to be of service Natalya!


  31. Eric

    Hey Zack,

    First, Thank you for this and also Megs insight and help to create something like this.

    Second, I’m kinda torn between wanting it to be long and educational but at the same time not over rambling.

    Third, have you ever thought about having some moderators that can straight out delete “F” photos from the Flickr group, 500, Google+, etc? Also I agree with someone else who commented above about limiting it to only ONE photo that people can submit to have critiqued. I personally don’t submit a photo to the group until the 3 week at the earliest due because I do try to only submit one photo unlike some who just spam the hell out of your group to have their photos seen.

    Forth, on a personal note I have a girlfriend who enjoys seeing you and Meg interact so well. I showed it to her to let her know she’s not alone in world and there are other photographers who’s significant others either are alone at home during shoots or help out in random things going on photograph based. Thank you!

    Lastly, again thank you for all you do and also your blog posts about the Fuji X system. I’m a convert from Canon and will never look back. The XT1 is my work horse now and I have a xe1 for a back up.

    Best Regards,

  32. Manuela

    How ever you are going to go on: thank you!

    For me, about an hour would be good. Also, only commenting on As and Bs would be fine with me.

    If you continue with short edits: make it a ‘best of’?

    Just giving out grades like you propose as one possibility wouldn’t be interesting for me.

  33. Manuela

    Just found out what would make me profit most from your critiques: see – the picture (not by me) gets a B – but without any information what it would need to get an A.

    That would be really interesting for me: what would have to be different in the picture to get from B to A?

    I know some of it comes down to personal taste / gut reaction – but you both are stunned by it at first but also very fast/firm with the B.

    It’s a building, btw:

    • Zack

      Great feedback Manuela.


  34. Deirdre Malfatto

    I love the assigments and love that you are taking the time to critique them. Thank you so much for this!

    My feedback:

    1) I’m not going to watch the short version if the long one is available, because I don’t want to miss a possible critique of my photo or other submitted photos that interested me. If you were to post a screenshot of all the photos you are critiquing in the long version, and I didn’t find any of those photos in there, I might watch the short version, but that seems like more work for you, and I’m not sure that’s fair. Maybe sitting through the long version is the “price” we participants should have to “pay” for getting to do this with you.

    2) If someone posts out of bounds, either because of the date or because they are clearly one of the unfathomable many who post to as many groups as possible without considering what the group is actually for, please don’t even bother including their photos in your critique.It’s a waste of time. Those people don’t deserve the attention you give them. Those of us who play by the rules would rather be rewarded by seeing you spend time on photos that were taken for the group.

    Again, thank you so much for this opportunity!

  35. Carrie

    I like the long version – never thought it was too long since I can watch it at my leisure.

    I would prefer to limit the number of entries more so that we don’t see 3 balloon shots in a row and also to help force us to edit ourselves down to our best shots. Maybe for like 3 per assignment (though I’m sure it wouldn’t be worth moderating but most people follow the rules pretty well).

    Also – for this last assignment in particular – I would love to see you pick a few from the pool that you thought were particularly well done/why with regards to rhythm. I think rhythm is hard to see and especially hard to purposefully create –

    Thanks for everything and always enjoy both the assignments and the critiques!

  36. Cal Mukumoto

    Thanks for all the time you have put into this project. I have enjoyed the assignments. I like your commentary so the long critiques are good. Just finding the time to watch them all is challenging. With that written, I got the drift with the shorter version. The only reason to wade through the longer version is to see if one of my own photos was chosen, sadly no again. The positive side? I am learning! Thanks so much! Cal

  37. Paul


    I think it is critical tht you include the ‘why.’ Without that, nobody is learning, and you are just making noise. Without the Why, you may as well not bother, because you simply become another finger pointing critic. I can get scored or graded by the general public on any number of groups, forums, and sites. The reason people are responding to you is because you are talking about why: right or wrong, rules and when to break them, opinions vs facts, all that stuff that gets lost in a public forum ‘critique.’

    The long form is signal. It is hard work, it sucks sometimes. But you already know that, and that is why you are doing it, right?

    Keep up the great work. Maybe I will actually do an assignment, I really should, but time… 🙂


  38. WhizzMan

    I find the use of a video just to tell a grade kind of abuse of the medium. You could comment with just the letter on the picture and use the video to actually critique stuff that people could learn from watching. Just watching a picture and hear someone say a letter and then move on to the next one doesn’t really educate me very much. Especially since you don’t have the time to grade every picture posted, I feel like it’s a 1/10 chance of hearing the actual grade you got for an exam but never hearing what you could do to improve it. In the end, what do I care if you give me a B or a C? If you don’t tell me what I should have done to get an A, you’re just some person with an opinion and I can get that on every street corner. Please stop with the grading (in the video, if you want to write comments on flickr I’m sure people will appreciate it) and pick images that are good examples of things to improve on. This will most likely save your time and make people learn more from the time you’re spending on this.

    Another thing is the time frame in which you guys are posting these assignments. I don’t always have the time to check if you guys put up something new, so now after two weeks not checking in I find I only have a week left to come send in a new picture for the new assignment. If you would post the dates (or just do “assignment of the month” or something) in advance, at least I would know when to check in for that. I appreciate you want people to check your web page often, but it’s kind of putting me off spending time on it, since your posting frequency is so irregular. I’m guessing you’re doing this sort of organic and trying to find time to fit this into your busy work and family schedules. Thats fair and we should all be happy you are doing this at all. The same thing applies to me and probably a lot of followers too. I had a conference to shoot that took all of my time for an entire week and directly after that I started a new day job that has taken all my time and energy.

    Maybe you could help everyone out by announcing the time frame for the new assignment a bit earlier so we know when to check what it is going to be and have the full time frame to plan a shoot? You don’t have to announce the subject when you announce the time frame and it will probably result in more people checking back and submitting images. With a little bit of planning you won’t lose time in the schedule and we can still do the same amount of assignments in the same time frame.

    • Zack

      Great feedback. Thanks WhizzMan. Taking notes.


  39. Kaisa

    I have really enjoyed the video critiques. So thank you, Zack&Meg!

    I like the fact that it feels more like a chat about photos as purely grading images. The feedback on how some photos could have been done better is really helpful. I have never taken a photography class in my life and this feels a bit like it could be discussing work. I find it quite admirable how you manage to give the feedback in a positive manner and really encourage people who got a C or D to find another angle etc. Therefore the comments on photos seem the most important part to me (as opposed to just grading them).

    While I did participate in the second challenge and my photo got graded I would still watch the critiques when my own photo wouldn’t be in it. Those videos is one of the few chances I get to hear people’s opinions on different photos and also see what other photographers and photography lovers out there are up to and how the approach the same task at hand. You know, like at school, minus the tuition fee and fear of failing. 😉

    I like that the long critique is cut up into parts ‘cos it makes it easier to watch it. I don’t often have time to sit through 1h45 all at once.

    So, I really have no critique. Just keep up the good work, guys!

  40. kate hailey

    First, thanks Zack and Meg for putting your time and energy into this.

    I think the elaborations are really helpful, the discussion of an image is where the education begins in my opinion. This of course takes more time.

    Perhaps those who’ve commented that the critiques are too long, might not want to hear that discussion, when they really need to… just a thought.

    thanks again!

  41. Diego

    Great work Zack and Meg.

    I have been following your blog for years.
    However I just noticed you have this new blog.
    I have been a fan of this video critiques.
    Looking forward for more of them.
    I appreciate the insight you get into a photographer mind when analyzing a picture or trying to improve one.

    I am currently doing a 365 project with cellphone camera only.
    This video critiques gives me a push to approach a little different the challenge each day to come up with a good photo of the day.

    Take care and keep with the good work.

    Greetings from Colombia.