Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Second Foray Into DMU Groups

A couple of years ago in November 2009 when I first started sharing images on Flickr I joined a Delete Me Uncensored group as I had heard that it was a good way to get better. The "sales pitch" is that the members of the group provide uncensored critique of the photo which helps you get better as long as you have a bit of a thick skin.

I was very insecure about my photography back then - not that I'm much better now - and so when I got trashed - and trashed hard - I decided that it simply felt too negative and I quit the group and ran away with my tail between my legs.

Fast forward to 2011 and I get an invite to join DMU3, yet another Delete Me Uncensored group. I figure that I've been getting critique for the last couple of years, my images have improved a bit as well, and my skin is a little thicker so in I go for round two.

The group is new and small and it is taking a while for the images to make their way through the pool. A few comments and votes seem a little out of left field and a few seem almost useful so I'm trying to stick with it.

The image above was added to the pool and I started getting comments like "Black frame + loss of details in mist = flush" and "Just the loss of detail for me. Flush."

This shot was taken at minus twenty-six degrees Celsius shortly after dawn causing fog or "sea smoke" on the harbour. How the hell are you going to get landscape detail in the fog? And even if you could, do you want it? I wanted the foggy, misty atmosphere to give it an ethereal feeling which is what it felt like when I saw it live. I immediately pulled the image and myself out of the group.

I'm sure if anyone from the DMU group, who enjoys being part of that group, were to read this blog they would say that I was a wimp and cry-baby. Honestly, life is just too short to put up with people who get their kicks out of insulting people. The reward is not worth the pain of hanging out with that crew. They seem to know and like each other so I'll let them play with themselves. I have many other places to get good honest critique from people who are nice and friendly.

Goodbye, DMU. I won't be back again.


TeresaA said...

I agree Glenn. I played in one of those for a while and had some interesting feedback, but most seemed to be people looking for ways that the 'rules' were broken so that it was to be trashed.
glad you were able to see the beauty in this shot despite what the trolls said!

Anonymous said...


Photo critique is hard. Really hard. It's great that you returned - even though you eventually pulled yourself out of the group.

This being said, and I have no affiliation with the group, I think they were really trying to improve the "next" photograph of this nature. If you look at the work of Joel Meyerowitz, and mostly the New York 911 images he captured on field camera, you can see the beautiful texture that can be captured from myst, fog and "atmosphere". It's often the contrast between haze and sharp object that really sells the idea.

Good shot. Next time try various focusing techniques to compare.

I'm constantly putting some of my images in front of the firing squad (not my flickr images, but prints). Keep in mind that even professionals are very critical of their own work and the work of their peers.


Iguanasan said...

Well, Anonymous J. I'm not shy for critique. I used to be but I've come to terms with having my photos critiqued. In fact, I welcome it, that's why I joined the DMU group. I want to get better and Thomas Hawk said that was one of the best ways to get better.

That group doesn't offer critique. Instead they offer the same hater mentality that I see on YouTube comments. It wasn't helpful.

I'd love to see the Joel Meyerowitz images to which you are referring, however, his Flash based site is painful to navigate and I keep getting directed to pages that don't exist anymore.

Maybe the problem is not my photography but my editing skills? I'd be happy to give a copy of the RAW image to someone so they can show me what I may have done wrong.

The next time it hits -27C in the harbour I'll make a bee line for the wharf and take as many different shots as possible but honestly, other than spending thousands of dollars on better gear, I don't know how I could have done better. That's not to say it can't be done better but it is to say that I don't know how and the DMU was not helping.

Jason Reed said...

The groups are fantastic! You are surely missing the point. Try Icebox before quitting altogether. I think they generally try a bit harder not to be an ass.

Anonymous said...


the photo is very nice, but what they meant, (i think) is that the white foogy bits are "burnt" as in overexposed, to the point of a loss of all information. Its always tricky in high contrast situations like this, but i'm sure that they didnt mean to see the landscape behind it.

also take the border advice with a pinch of salt. borders are HIGHLY subjective and some love them, some hate them.

just sayin.

Leesure said...

Full disclosure...I'm a moderator for one of those heinous DMU groups. Not the one mentioned, but rather one of the more active ones. When people bemoan the quality of the 'critique', this is my standard response...

They are NOT critique groups. Never claimed to be. It's a game. Pure and simple. If you happen to get 1 or 2 good and/or helpful comments, then it's a bonus. In the end, however, it's not the comments that teach you anything, it's the result. If a photo is deleted (or flushed) by 10 people, then you get a pretty solid feel for how the masses will feel about it. Likewise, if you get 10 saves(or frames), you can tell the same thing. Generally the comments are excuses to fill in the requirement, the simple decision of whether the photo is good enough is the really telling thing.

Oh, and they are not critique groups. That bears saying twice.

You'll note, however, that there are very few, if any, good critique groups on flickr (or elsewhere)...why is that? Because anyone whose opinion you should value has long since moved on from those types of groups. They have nothing left to gain, only much to give, and that sort of one way street gets old even for the most giving people. What you're left with is a bunch of wannabees who spew textbook shit about tilt and white color balance, crops and exposures while often missing the inherent value of the photo, the message or emotional impact.

UNLESS, they have a reason to stay...like witty conversation and a no-holds-barred commenting style...as you are afforded in the DM(u)'s.

So my advice is to take the comments with a grain of salt, unless they come from someone whose work you respect. In that latter case, take all they say to heart, even if it's "hold more detail through the fog"

In the end, the DM(u) style games have done more to improve my photography than any other single source. That's NOT to say it's the only place to look to improve, only that it's helped me more than other places.

Some discussion and debate on the topic of the value of the DMU's can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/censorshipsucks/discuss/72157627069821641/

Iguanasan said...

@Jason. I'll have to give it some thought but I like your enthusiasm.

@Anonymous_just_sayin. Thanks. I'll keep it in mind.

@Leesure. I knew they weren't necessarily critique groups but, honestly, when I compared the framed to the flushed it wasn't making sense and I'm not talking about my images necessarily. Some of the ones that got framed seemed to get framed because of the photographer not the photograph.

And while I didn't expect in depth critique the purposefully rude comments weren't helpful.

Your point about the people who have moved on is a good one and worth noting. Thanks.

I take all advice and criticism with a grain of salt unless it's from particular individuals for whom I have a lot of respect. My blog post wasn't so much a whining exercise as a commentary on my experience there. Maybe I gave up too soon. Maybe I don't understand what they have to offer.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Anonymous said...


It doesn't sound like their criticism was so harsh...I've been in some very intense groups, such as HCSP (Hard Core Street Photography), and they don't hold back. But that's what you need, because Flickr can be very detrimental to a photographer's progress. Everyone seems to love every image on Flickr, and a false sense of success is too easy to come by.

Also, keep in mind that most critiques are comparing it to professional work - a very high standard by any means. Without doing this, we're just fooling ourselves.

In any case, if you really want a critique of that given image, here is my take;

The problem with the image is not composition, but instead it's the execution. Landscape photographers (and we have to compare to the best, or else we foster that false sense of success, which doesn't help anyone with photography) spend a lot of time getting everything right. The image looks as if it's cropped, as there's a lot of noise. Is this the case? Also, the exposure is not correct, and the beautiful lush details of the fog are not communicated. This image should be about the fog and the atmosphere. In this case, the image doesn't capture these qualities.

When someone presents an image for critique, I assume that they hold it to a high standard. Ask yourself the following; If you were a professional landscape photographer, would you include this in your body of work? Does it meet your highest standards of photography? If you saw this in a gallery, what would you think?