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.
If you are involved in any way with the arts- be that visual, performing or written- you are subject to criticism. As an actress I have been very blessed, for the most part, with lovely reviews, but I have seen critics mercilessly skewer individuals or shows undeservedly so. My photography has yet to be critiqued negatively, but apparently that too happens.
Zhang focuses on the plethora of anonymous criticism we receive in online forums:
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.
He then refers to Anton Ego's wisdom.
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.
I'll add this:
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it.
Do not offer criticism if it is not solicited.
If asked, find something positive to say. There has to be one thing you can praise, if not as Zhang says "offer encouraging words of helpful criticism."