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Why and How: Managing the Criticism of your Photos in 6 Tips – Part 1

Have you ever dealt with negative criticism of your photographs?

Have you ever felt totally discouraged after hearing or reading malicious criticism of your photographic creativity?

I have dealt with this situation before. They are not easy to deal with.

I have developed a method that allows me to create a shield for myself in order to manage the criticisms concerning my photographs, whether positive or negative.

I will explain it to you in this article. It is broken down into six tips.

Landscape in black and white of Canyon de Chelly Arizona in United States. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Landscape of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona in United States.
 

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 said that they were excellent.

I waited a week before contacting again the gallery owner. I had not heard anything. But that is often the case with galleries. They are in great demand.

Three weeks passed. I still had not received any answer. I sent a new message back 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 had an answer. I was pretty excited. I had proposed collections that had been selected by other galleries in other countries. I had already made some good sales.

I was extremely disappointed when I read that the response to my request for collaboration was negative. It is not so much the answer that left me stunned because it happens frequently, but the arguments used by the gallery owner. I thought they were not appropriate. I did not understand them.

Never mind. Life went on. I was looking in other directions.

Three months later, I received an invitation for an opening at the same gallery. A wildlife photographer whom I knew by name and from whom I had already bought a coffee book was going to exhibit.

I decided to go there to meet with the gallery owner and get him back on track. 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 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 just a long report, totally uninteresting.

Looking at the name of the photographer, I discover with amazement that it was the owner of the gallery. I was falling down. How could he put a line of work forward? I perfectly remembered his reviews of my collections.

I realized then that I was wrong. This gallery was not at all what I was looking for. To say that I had been desperate for the answer was that it had taken me a few days to get over it. It really was not worth it. I had finally spent the price of a plane ticket, but the lesson was well worth it.

This experience taught me a lot about how I should receive criticism. I have never forgotten that.

It was after this experience that I wrote a method to criticize and especially how to receive criticism.

That is what I am going to share with you.

 

A Definition of Photographic Criticism

There are several definitions of criticism. I have retained the following one.

Criticism is the art of judging artistic works. It allows a person to give a 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 entrant must provide four photographs printed and framed. This is 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 get 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 for them.

The purpose of a critique is to know what the strong points of the photographs are, whether it is the composition, the framing, 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 Managing Photography 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. Among them, many people will stop this activity.

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 even better.

A critic is meant to help you become even better.
Aristote.

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.

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 found that:

  • Self-confident people tend to take criticism positively.
  • People who lack self-confidence take criticism defensively.
 

How Managing the Criticism of Your Photographs?

Now that you have understood that managing criticism well will allow you to progress and create better photos, I will explain how to manage criticism of your photographic activity.

When you are given a critique of your photographs, it should be based on precise and consistent criteria.

If not, forget about it and go to do something else.

Basic criteria must be well defined. They must be clear. They must be the same for all judgments. If you do not know these criteria, forget the criticism. It has no interest to you because you will not know what motivated it.

Never forget that photography is an artistic discipline. It allows a person to express herself.

The art of criticism must consider the technical aspect of the photograph but also the idea expressed by the author. Both criteria have the same value.

If you receive criticism and one of the criteria overrides the other in a significant way, forget it. Criticism is out of place.

Also, if you judge a photograph with your personal taste, it is not enough. You also need to know the techniques used and whether they have been used correctly.

When you receive criticism, they should always be kind. The purpose of criticism is always to move forward the one who submits to it and to enrich the one who practices it.

If someone criticizes your photographic creations, look at how they do it before you give him credit.

Look if this person is legitimate; if he is an authority in his field, if you can trust him. Be careful and very vigilant about people who criticize you. This is the best advice I can give you.

A well thought out critique is a valuable as gold.
Elon Musk.

Now that I have explained why and how to deal with criticism of your photographs, I will give you five simple criteria for criticizing a photograph.

Five Simple Criteria for Criticizing a Photograph

Click Here to Read the Next Part of the Article.

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