Zenfolio | Troy More Photography - Victoria BC | It's Good. It sucks. Everyone's a critic, but few are good at it.

It's Good. It sucks. Everyone's a critic, but few are good at it.

February 26, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

We've hit a point where feedback is too easy. We see our work judged by likes and retweets, and are inclined to accept it because it doesn't challenge us to look at our work with the kind of critical eye it needs.

 

I don't like my work being savaged. Nobody does, but we can't let that dissuade us from seeking out real critics. That's why I'll never go to Facebook expecting any useful feedback on my work. Your friends and family want to encourage and support you, which is their job. Others like to honour the old adage "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!". Strangers on the internet love to vent all their frustrations about their own inadequacies by telling others that they suck. Neither of these groups, one well intentioned, the other just sad, are actually very helpful to any artist.

 

Enthusiastic as some feedback can be, it can lull you into a sense of complacency. Keep in mind that there are people out there who are enthusiastic about Lucky Lager, Kraft Dinner, and paintings of dogs playing poker. Is that really the standard we want to set for our work?

 

If you are worried about your work being savaged, it's probably your inner critic telling you there's something wrong. In most cases you will have a hunch about what's wrong, and more often than not, it's correct. Yes, the composition is superb, and the subject compelling, but is the fact that it took you hours to get the right light dissuading you from accepting that it just isn't very sharp and accepting that you should have weighted the tripod? At the same time, is it worth it to spend days of planning, hours of preparation, and several attempts to get the shot you want, only to get "It's good." for your efforts?

 

Sunset over the OlympicsOlympic Sunset

I love this photo, but I should have removed those two blades of grass, or better yet, moved them before shooting.

 

We owe it to ourselves to face both our own criticism, and that of others if we ever want to grow as artists. Criticism has to be viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve our work. As hard as it is to hear sometimes, we need to seek it out and engage it. In the process we not only grow a thicker skin, but we gradually learn to avoid the mistakes that have been holding us back, and allow ourselves to reach a new level of mistakes that only we would never have discovered previously if our work had remained stagnant.

 

The other side of criticism is that receiving positive feedback from those who you trust to give negative feedback when it's warranted is far more satisfying than a bunch of "likes" under a Facebook post. Criticism can give you the encouragement you need when you realize you have met the challenge of impressing those whose opinion you value.

 

How do you find a good critic? You probably know a few at least. They are the ones you have always thought about showing your work to, but found excuses to avoid doing so. Your online options are vast, but require a little research. If the feedback you see in online groups consists of little more than verbal pats on the back, then it's just going to be a waste of time. Same goes for places where a lot of derogatory and snide remarks are allowed. Flippancy is not your friend. Look for places with detailed, and straightforward commentary are the norm. Join clubs, and/or photo walks where you can meet other photographers. You'll soon be able to sort out the gearheads, and the ego-strokers, and those whom you can develop an honest and respectful working relationship with.

 

On Taking Pictures photo community on Google+

 

We can't be slaves to our critics. We all have (or should have) some sort of artistic vision of our own to stay true to. But just like a light metre, a flash, or a tripod, we need to recognize our critics as helpful tools (sorry) that are necessary to our work.

 

 


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