Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How To Use Criticism To Improve Your Photography

Photography criticism is a complex arena of thought. Whether a person enjoys a photo or not is emotionally based opinion in most cases and the audience that is looking at the photo is important. Placing an image on the Internet makes it available to many, but only a few may see it and it is difficult to know even who that audience is. There are some general ways to draw information from the criticism(good and bad) That can help a photographer improve.

Family And Friends

Your family and friends generally will not tell you if a photo is bad. It's far to easy just to compliment you and avoid the risk of harming a relationship over a simple photo. If they are a photographer too, they may offer some criticism, but it's still really tough.

One indicator that you've done well is when they ask for a copy of the photo, especially if it involves them paying for it. If they're willing to part with money, even a small amount, that at least shows interest in the photo. That interest may only be of a personal level though and may only indicate that the subject alone is the reason for their interest. Even so, the subject is the most important part of the photo.

Photography Teachers And Other Professionals

Criticism from photography professionals can be some of the best or worst that that you'll get. It depends on the person and their agenda. There is no possible way to teach without criticizing a student, but that criticism should only be constructive. By constructive, I mean that the student needs to be told what they could do differently to achieve better results.

Constructive criticism from professionals is rare because it takes their time and effort. Professionals do photography to earn a living and many don't make much money doing it. Unless their earning money from giving lessons, telling you how to do their job isn't going to pay the rent. If they're giving you constructive criticism, value it because something sparked their interest enough to make mention of your work.

Photography Forums

This is possibly the worst place to get criticism in my opinion. Anyone who's found their way to a the forum you're on was probably much like you and looking for answers to photography questions. They were looking to share their work and learn from others. Photography forums are the path of least resistance to that. 

People get addicted to the conversations and feel the need to give their input on everything, whether they know about it or not. I've seen very involved posts of someones opinion of a camera and they never even held that model of camera. I've seen photos that I thought were very good get scathing non-constructive criticism from a forum member, only to notice later that there it was nothing more than was revenge for a negative comment.

Most forums are free or cheap and worth every cent. 

Flickr And Other Sharing Sites

Flickr and other photo sharing sights offer an interesting perspective. It's not just photographers that go there like a photography forum. All types of visitors visit. The attitude is much more relaxed as visitors scroll through an endless stream of photos. If they land on yours and take the time to even like it, you know that at least you created a photo that grabbed their attention in some way. 

A Flickr success doesn't mean that the photo is a great photo, it simply means that attention was grabbed. People tend to like photos that they have a connection too. A poor quality photo here that reminds many people of something the like or experienced will do very well. It may have been "starred" for that reason alone.

My mindset is that photography is about sharing your vision of a split second in time. If Flickr helped you do that and the photo was grabbing enough to make it happen many times on that platform, it means you had at least a good concept. It may also mean that the photo had the right keywords and followed all of the platform's rules to get noticed frequently so consider this and don't get discouraged unless your view count is very high, but there is little action taking place with the photo. If that is the case, try some new ideas to see if the situation changes. 

Your Own Blog

Starting your own website or blog can be a good indicator of how good your photos are, but only after the technical aspects are mastered. It takes time to get the website ranked and there is quite a bit to learn about how to do that.

If you can manage to follow the directions at one of the free sites, like Tumblr or Blogger, it's easy to get started. This allows you to interact at many different levels. The website should be referenced wherever possible. On forums and social media, drop a link whenever it makes sense to do so.

The information gathered from the website will tell where interests are when they find the site, how long they stay on the site, and how they find your photos. If you're trying to gauge your photos by this type of information, a website is the way to go.

I've always thought the ultimate compliment one can give a photo is to buy it. Nothing says, "I like your work.", like a customer willing to put down their hard earned money for it. If e-commerce on your website just isn't your thing, give them away with a Creative Commons license. I've known a few photographers that have become well known just because of their generous licensing found on their website.

Art Exhibits

I wish I had experience with an art exhibit, but I don't. This is one on my bucket list. In order to sell photos at an art exhibit, a photographer needs to invest his money and this means you need the confidence that you'll sell enough photos to recoup that money. There is usually an entry fee and the photos need to be mounted and framed. I think this is the best goal for testing your own self-confidence and selling photos at an art exhibit would put you in a competitive sales situation with other photographers of the same confidence level.

Use Criticism Wisely And Enjoy Photography No Matter What

Learning to use criticism to improve your photography should improve your photos, not discourage your photography endeavors. Pick the most constructive criticism and continue taking and sharing photos no matter what your critics say. Some truly are out to discourage you!

Professional photographers have the edge in that they have to continue no matter what critics say. An amateur should have the same mindset. Those who do well in any endeavor tend to do it just because they love it and feel the need to practice their art no matter what. 

No comments:

Post a Comment