How to Manage the Criticism of Your Photos
Have you ever dealt with negative criticism of your photographs?
Have you ever felt totally discouraged after hearing or reading malicious reviews of your photographic creativity?
I have dealt with this situation before, and it is difficult to deal with.
Over time, I have developed a method that allows me to create a shield for myself in order to manage the criticisms concerning my photographs, whether they are positive or negative reviews.
I will explain it to you in this article. It is broken down into six tips.
Table of Contents
- The Little Story of this Article
- A Definition of Photographic Criticism
- The Purpose of Photographic Criticism
- Why You Should Manage Photographic Criticism?
- How to Manage Others’ Criticism of Your Photographs?
- Tip 1: Learn the Criteria Grid
- Tip 2: Find Out Who Is Criticizing You
- Tip 3: Define Your Photographic Why
- Tip 4: Focus On a Goal Rather Than Popularity
- Tip 5: Set Goals Over Time
- Tip 6: Be yourself
The Little Story of this Article
Several years ago, I wanted to be represented by a gallery in Paris. I had analyzed the style of the photographers who worked with it. I had three collections that matched the gallery's style perfectly.
My e-mail was ready. I had attached my artist statement, a cover letter and a collection of fine art photographs. In the message, I attached a link to other collections as well as a link to my portfolio.
I had taken a lot of time to prepare this project. I did not have the sales figures from the gallery, but rumor had it that they were excellent.
I waited a week before contacting the gallery owner a second time, as I had not heard anything. This is often the case with galleries, they may not respond for several weeks as they are in great demand.
Three weeks passed. I still had not received any answer. I sent a new message to ask if the two previous ones had been properly received.
It was after eight weeks that I received an answer. The waiting time was abnormally long, but I finally had an answer. I was pretty excited. I had proposed collections that had been selected by other galleries in other countries, and with which I had already made some good sales.
I was extremely disappointed when I read that the response to my request for collaboration with the gallery was negative. It is not so much the answer that left me stunned because that happens frequently, but the arguments which the gallery owner used against me. Not only did I believe that they were inappropriate, but I also felt like I could not understand the owner’s intentions with such a response.
“Never mind,” I told myself, “Life goes on.” I began looking in other directions.
Three months later, I received an invitation for an opening at the same gallery. A wildlife photographer whom I was familiar with and from whom I had already bought a coffee-table book, was going to exhibit his work.
I decided to go there to meet with the gallery owner and learn a bit more about this facility, perhaps to receive more answers. Living in Texas, I booked a plane ticket for a four-day trip.
When I arrived at the opening, I was cordially received. I introduced myself by mentioning my previous request for collaboration. I went through the fifteen or so works on display.
A pile of books devoted to wildlife photographs caught my attention. I took a copy and began to leaf through it. The photographs were technically poor. Artistic research was not the primary goal. I wondered what such a book was doing in a such luxurious gallery. The photos were simply a long report that seemed totally uninteresting.
Looking at the name of the photographer, I discover with amazement that it was the owner of the gallery. I almost fell over with surprise. How could he have managed to publish such a line of work? I remembered his harsh reviews of my collection vividly, and it seemed strange to me that such a strong critic of my work would not judge his own work similarly before publishing.
I realized then that I had been wrong this whole time. This gallery was not at all what I had been looking for. I had been desperate for answers, and once I received them, it took me a few days to realize that being in collaboration with such a place was not worth my time or effort. I had spent my money on that plane ticket for a trip that did not go as expected, but the lesson I received was well worth my time.
This experience taught me how I should receive criticism, and I have never forgotten that.
It was after this experience that I wrote a method for giving and receiving criticism when interacting with your work and the work of others.
This is what I want to share with you.
A Definition of Photographic Criticism
There are several definitions of criticism. I have chosen to elaborate on the following one.
“Criticism is the art of judging artistic works. It allows a person to give judgment.”
If I apply this definition to photography, then I can say that:
“Photographic criticism is the art of judging artistic or illustrative photographs.”
The Purpose of Photographic Criticism
Every year, I participate in a national photography contest in the United States. Each entry must provide four photographs printed and framed. This requires a budget of several hundred dollars. Thousands of photographers prepare this contest. There is no ranking as we usually understand it. Notes are given for each print.
It is not just the grades that are important to me. The most important thing is the criticism. I pay an extra $100 to receive the video recorded reviews.
That is the main point. Whether I get good or bad grades, it is essential for me to know the reasons why.
The purpose of a critique is to identify your strengths and weaknesses in your work, whether it is the composition, the framing, or the message transmitted.
For each print there are four judges. It is interesting to have objective criticism.
The purpose of the criticism is to help you progress by creating better photos. But it is also to help you better look at the photographic work of others.
Why You Should Manage Photographic Criticism?
The answer to this question is essential. Indeed, receiving criticism that does not go in the direction you want is often difficult to listen to. Many photographers take it badly. They get depressed. They feel devalued. Many people will stop practicing their photographic work altogether.
If you are among these people, here is what I recommend.
If you have chosen photography as a medium and if photography is your passion, then you should not take criticism badly.
A critic must always allow you to advance in your art, to go further.
A critic is meant to help you become a better artist.
A critic is meant to help you become even better.
Under no circumstances should bad reviews prevent you from creating. On the one hand, the person who criticizes may not have the skills and tools to do so. On the other hand, he or she may have bad intentions and the goal of his or her life may be to shatter the dreams of others by shaming them and their work.
Learning how to deal with criticism will allow you to build a shield that will protect you. You will be able to distinguish between interesting and uninteresting criticism. This will allow you to create even more interesting pictures that make sense and look like you.
In general, I have found that:
- Self-confident people tend to take criticism positively.
- People who lack self-confidence take criticism defensively..
How to Manage Others’ Criticism of Your Photographs?
Now that you have understood that managing criticism well will allow you to progress and create better photos, I will share some tips for how you can manage others’ criticism of your photographic activity.
When you are given a critique of your photographs, it should be based on precise and consistent criteria.
If it is not, then forget about it and go do something else.
Basic criteria must be well defined. It must be clear and equally applied to all judgments. If you do not know your own basic criteria that matter to you, disregard your critical statements. If you initially think “This piece has no artistic value” but you cannot state reasons why, then forget such judgment. It has no interest to you because you cannot identify what motivated it.
Never forget that photography is an artistic discipline. It allows a person to express oneself.
The art of criticism must consider the technical aspect of the photograph as well as the idea expressed by the author. Both criteria have value.
If you receive criticism and one piece of criteria conflicts with another in a significant way, then forget it. The criticism is out of place and is not logical.
Also, you cannot judge a photograph only according to your personal taste, as doing so is not enough. You need to know the techniques used and whether they have been applied correctly.
When you receive criticism, you should respond with kindness. The purpose of criticism is always to motivate and encourage the other person to overcome weaknesses in certain areas and to identify areas in which they are excelling and give praise where it is due.
If someone criticizes your photographic creations, look at how they present their argument before you assign value to their suggestions. Do their statements come from a place of respect and kindness? Or do they come from a place of jealousy or indifference?
Evaluate whether this person is legitimate; if they are an authority in his field, and whether you can trust them. Be careful and vigilant about people who criticize you. This is the best advice I can give.
A well thought out critique is a valuable as gold.
Now that I have explained why and how to deal with criticism of your photographs, I will give you five simple criteria for evaluating a photograph.
Six Tips for Managing the Criticism of Your Photos Well