Words of Wisdom Regarding Criticism by Anton Ego in Ratatouille

The Internet can be a tough place for photographers. One can pour an immeasurable amount of time, money, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into a picture (or a series of pictures), only to have his or her hard work torn to shreds by nameless and faceless commenters who hide behind the veil of anonymity.

If you’re this type of keyboard critic who never has anything nice to say — and it’s a fact that there are many of you reading this — consider these wise and poetic words spoken by the reformed critic Anton Ego from the Pixar film Ratatouille:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

The next time you see a photograph online, offered up to your judgement by its maker, take some time to consider that the person may have invested a good deal of himself or herself into putting that picture on your screen. At the very least, even if you hate what they have to offer you, you can be respectful and offer encouraging words of helpful criticism.

  • Charlie Boucher

    Very true :)

  • wwww

    Good work is good work. Bad one is bad.
    why expect good comments if it really is not good enough?
    I know people will say it’s all about perspectives and all that…but comments by definition can and should be given both subjectively and objectively.
    All that being said, harsh words that hurt people’s feelings too badly still shouldn’t be said I guess. Just because.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Well, there’s a couple things to consider here – one is that if you’re going to offer a critique it should be constructive criticism. That doesn’t mean just giving a pat on the back just to be nice – offer useful observations about the work. Also, if you’re in a creative field, you need to grow some pretty thick skin. Particularly in art schools, you’re subjected to some rather ruthless peer/teacher critiques – the more years spent tend to help build up some resistance…

  • Rich Meade

    Honesty is the best policy. If you want someone to hold your hand and tell you how great you are…get your mom to critique your work.
    I’m traditionally a very harsh critic. But I’m always making my points from the perspective of trying to help. Learning to eloquently and intelligently critique someone’s work, will make you understand and be honest with your own work.

    Blowing smoke up someone’s butt doesn’t do anything but inflate the ego…sometimes to the point that the person no longer has the desire to grow…and is left with an uneducated grandiose view of their work.

    Be truthful…be tactful…and always be able to justify your point of view…and you can really help people grow…as well as yourself.

  • Albi Kl

    The point is not to expect good comments for bad work, but to offer constructive criticism and at the very least to be polite.

  • Bua

    Ah the art and science of a good critique. Tricky subject. Never a right or wrong answer.

  • Joshua Morin

    This article sucks. Try harder next time :)

  • Aaro Keipi

    Q: How many photographers does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: Four. One to actually change it, and three to say how they’d do it better.

    From my time on forums and this site, I’ve learned that photographers (and those claiming to be photographers) are more critical than almost any other group of people (except maybe lead guitarists). I hate to pick on Petapixel, but I’d say on average about half the comments are useless nitpicking or just meanspirited criticism. Luckily, I’ve had time to formulate a philosophy on this:

    Advice on being a critic: don’t criticize pictures if the photographer doesn’t ask for it. You are always free to give your opinion, of course, but unless you are actually contributing something of value, chances are you’re being a dick.

    Advice on taking criticism: Look who is doing the critique. If their work is poor, then ignore the criticism. Easy as that. But if you admire their work, don’t take the criticism personally, and use it to improve your own photography.

  • Ian Lawton

    If you don’t want people expressing an opinion on your work, then don’t make it public. Simple.

  • madmax

    When a photographer is doing his best, harsh criticism is nonsense. But the point is that I can see very often people trying to “sell” their “art”: Hi! Look at me! I´m the most extravagant clown in the business! (do you remember in this web a woman in a bathtub in different locations, a dog standing over several objects, etc?) … They are not artists at all. They are only merchants expecting to sell their trash and don´t deserve any kind criticism from me.

  • OllieOh

    Nice one, Michael.

  • Michael Lieberman

    Agreed, but much like the artists, critics should know their audience. Some people take different kinds of criticism better. I have given help to friends and acquaintances, some require an incredible bluntness in the critique otherwise they just blow it off. Others require a softer touch.

  • DamianMonsivais

    Once ones work is presented to the world, such as on the web, It is open to criticism even if the maker didn’t asks for it.

  • Bob Helmig

    “Having the right to [be a dick] do something doesn’t make one right in doing it.” I don’t know where I heard that but it seems appropriate for this topic.

  • Goofball Jones

    Reading through the comments, I just knew most of the people here wouldn’t get the gist of the article.

    But my advice? Don’t enable ANY comments on any blog or news site. Disable all the comments here on PetaPixel. It will infuriate a bunch of people that just HAVE to tell others their opinion. But hey, if they want to spout their indignation at everyone, let them get their own blog!

  • Zak Henry

    Disabling the comments here would be unfair to the users that provoke relevant discussion relating to the article. I know I have learned a lot from both the articles and the comments.

    Heavy handed moderation is an option, though I prefer the model of the rest of the users determining what is good content and what isn’t. If someone posts something worthless/mean spirited donvote their comment and if enough people agree with your opinion they will be down voted into oblivion (assuming enough downvotes hides a comment with disqus).

  • lidocaineus

    Good criticisms (well thought out, sentences that make sense, opinions backed up by some rational logic) are invaluable. The problem is when you get stuff that basically says things like “This sucks.” It may very well suck horribly, but at least respect the photographer enough to give a reason why. If you can’t manage that, don’t bother critiquing.

    This also reminds me of folks who always talk about how photo school is a waste of time. While you can pick up all of the skills outside of a good photo school, a huge reason going to college and majoring in photographic arts can be a good idea is that it exposes you (no pun intended) to things beyond straight technique in one concentrated bottle – it’s also understanding theory and criticism, particularly how to use theory in applicable situation and how to properly give and take criticism.

  • Guest


  • Aaro Keipi

    You’re right, it’s true that you have the right to criticize it. Never said you didn’t. The question is: is it doing anyone any good if you do?

  • Nick Fancher

    I love that you used this clip. Not only did that scene make me cry when I first saw the movie, but it also perfectly summarizes the trolling that occurs in forums and blogs.

  • tiredofit123

    What it comes down it is does the what the critics say really matter–and is an essentially anonymous forum the best place to seek advice? People are emboldened by being anonymous, and tend to be both more harsh–but also you get everything online. You could post any famous news or Ansel Adams or landmark photo and it’d get snarky and rude comments. Conversely, if the forum required everyone to be registered under their real name with samples of their work to show they have the “cred” to criticize, the forum would be a quiet place.

  • SomeDudeThatCares

    SO True, So True!

    I am with a few of the others who posted here. I would rather have someone honestly tell me there thoughts of my work, be it the subject matter, composition, whatever.
    I hate getting the standard, “Oh very nice” or “Nice shot.” It tends to lead me on that your not giving me your HONEST opinion and trying to appease me in a way.

    If it is good, then alright, many thanks, if not, tell me in your opinion why you think it is bad. Remembering that art is “very” subjective and for the one who hates it, there may be one that absolutely loves it.
    Some photographers out there get this big ego because they get so many good comments or raving reviews, but there are so many out there that do outstanding work and put their heat and soul into everything they do, and it shows. Some just plainly are bad, simple [I hope not to be in that category, but it is what it is, if it is what it is].

  • Theranthrope

    Would you say the same criticism to the person’s face? Would you phrase it the same as if there wasn’t an internet in-between you and the person you are critiquing?

  • Zetsubunny

    Its so freaking weird how I stumbled upon this the EXACT moment he began to quote it on Disney Channel…