If you decide to invest your time and money into photography, you probably want to make strong photographs. We have a constant stream of tutorials to help you with that. In this piece, however, I’m not going to share tips on how you can improve the quality of your images. Rather, I will explore the psychological side of being a photographer: the sensitive side.
Photography in the Internet Era
The internet era opened the door to more people sharing their opinions on our photography. Many folks like to offer thoughtful, constructive feedback, while others may leave a one or two-word positive comment. Some people may struggle to connect with your photographic voice, and others will go out of their way to discredit your photography skills. All of this is unavoidable once we put our photographs online, but none of it should be a problem.
I’m writing this article because I know a lot of photographers (including myself) may struggle when criticism or negative feedback comes our way. We like the pats on the back and the confirmation of our talent. Yet we have the foundation of a gluten-free cookie and grumble with ease when someone questions our greatness.
Imagine this for a moment. You become a photographer, make strong pictures, share them online, and everybody loves you. From Sydney to New York, not a single soul has a negative thing to say about your work. Sounds fabulous, right? Think about it a little longer. Now think about what that really means.
Nobody’s Photography Is Perfect
Nobody in this life is perfect, nor is the photography they create. If your world is only full of praise, it means people are not telling you the truth. Lies lead to limitations, like not having a balanced understanding of how the world receives your work. Of course, nobody would receive 100 percent praise from an audience in the real world. However, many photographers like to curate their social media to make it feel like that. In my opinion, it’s the wrong thing to do.
While the cliche is that photographers are their own worst critique, I believe they’re also guilty of being their best source of praise. That’s not always a bad thing. It’s good to believe in what you do and why you’re doing it. But when that self-praise makes the ego fragile to the point you can’t accept criticism or negative feedback, it becomes a problem. The truth is that people questioning your photographs can be a catalyst for self-reflection.
Listen to Others in the Photography Industry
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came from an old photography friend. They said, “Your photographs are never as good as you think they are.” At first, I couldn’t wrap my little “I’m an artist” brain around what they said. However, it began to make more sense as the years went by. I’m fond of all my work, but when I go through my archives, I often think, “I wasn’t making the same caliber of work as I am now.“
Today, I’m far more resilient to people critiquing my work, and I’ve realized not everyone liking my photography is a good thing. I now listen when someone tells me a photograph doesn’t have the intended impact I wanted. I may not always agree, but I take time to see if I can take anything away from their words and implement it while I continue to create. To summarize, some people not liking your photographs allows you to find a way to improve your skillset and, as a result, make better pictures in the long term. That’s a good thing.
Creating Your Unique Style
There’s another reason not everyone singing your praises is good. It means you’re not creating imagery only because it’s trendy. I see too many photographers copy and paste the same aesthetic because that’s the “in look” at the time. Sure it will get them some shallow praise and give them an ego boost, but most people won’t remember who they are in the long run. Instead, they’ll be another photographer in the long line of photographers who all did the same thing. However, for those who dared to be different, who stood firm when people tried to knock them down and didn’t cave to popularity, they’ll have longevity.
I strongly believe rewards come to those who are patient and believe in what they do–while being open to advice and feedback along the way. So when someone is not connecting to your work, it can mean it’s because you’re giving them something they’re not yet used to and don’t yet understand. Be patient, keep crafting your style, and eventually, enough people will like your work.
Again, it’s better to have some people question your work than have everybody love it. Those of you in this game for the long run need people to question what you’re doing. It’s healthy and good for your growth. You don’t always have to agree with them, but at the very least, listen. Because by being open to not everyone liking your photography, you’re also being open to improving yourself. That’s far better than curating an “everybody needs to love me” type of atmosphere.
How do you feel about criticism of your photography? Are you open to getting help from others to improve? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.