The Caring Trap
As a photographer, you probably care a lot about what other people think of your photos. Right? This is not a bad thing. The opinions of others is often the only way you’ll get the feedback you need to help you progress in the quality of your photography. But, don’t take it too far, or you’ll fall into a nasty trap.
The “trap” is the need you will nurture in you to constantly please other people with your photography. You’ll start shooting for others and not for yourself.
The opinions of others while they help you change your photography in good ways, can also cause you to change in bad ways as well. If, for example, you see others liking photos of elephants, let’s say, then you may start taking more photos of elephants in order to get more “likes” on your photos on Facebook or elsewhere. This is really bad, and it affects your “style.”
Your “style” is what makes you uniquely you. I know of a guy who photographs trees like a madman. He calls it “treeporn” and his photos of trees are amazing. This is his individual style. He like to shoot trees. I think that’s great. But, it doesn’t matter what I think or you think – it satisfies him, and that’s what is most important.
Your style will probably be the only thing that sets you apart from other photographers. I like to take vivid, high-contrast photos. That’s a part of my style and something that makes my photography different. Maybe for you it is your subject or your compositions, or something else. The point is that it is your own style.
But, you say, “what about constructive criticism, shouldn’t I listen to that?” Yes, of course.
Good criticism of your photography comes exclusively from your peers – those who are in your same “league” or above you in talent. They are the ones who you aspire to be. Get your criticism from them.
I’ve personally emailed photographers whom I admire and asked them to critique my work. I’ve also put my work out there on sites where photographers can see it and give their comments. Good places for these are the following:
There are probably many others. I primarily use Nature Photographers Network because it seems to get more critiques from professional photographers. But, it is limited to nature type photography.
Even with the critiques I get on Nature Photographers Network (NPN), I have to be careful not to take too much stock in them. I get critiques such as “there were no clouds in the sky.” O.k. it could make a better photo with clouds, but come on, I don’t control the weather.
Criticism is good if it helps you improve your photography, but it is bad if it alters your individual style. Keep a level head about you and don’t get too upset when you get negative criticism, and you will go much farther. Care first and foremost about what you think. After that, take in what others say, and use it only if it helps you technically or with your own style. Work for yourself first. Others second.
Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope your enjoyed it.