Constructive Criticism: For Beginners

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It started like any other day for me. I’m just hanging out on Instagram, like I do daily (shameless plug), when I get a notification that a random stranger doesn’t like an image of one of my clients. Boo hoo.

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I click over to read the comment: “too much photo shop! don’t like!” No, the troll was not Donald Trump, although he certainly types like him. Just some random guy from New Jersey who wanted to make his opinions known on social media.

And we all have that right, right? We all have the right to like what we like, and dislike what we don’t like, and we should definitely explore elements that we’re drawn to in order to better define our interests.

But if I were insecure in my abilities and my personal style of photography, I’d probably be as bent out of shape as this guy. I’d probably be really upset and questioning whether or not my art is even good. Does it look photoshopped? Do people actually think I have the time to photoshop every single image from a full wedding? Are people going to start expecting that I will spend endless hours photoshopping their wedding photos? Should I start photoshopping my images? Will that make them better? Will it make them worse?

Thankfully, I’ve made a conscious effort to be selective with who influences my work. My old college professors, who have proven themselves more skilled and knowledgable than most. My peers and colleagues who have undergone similar training, and whose eye for successful art I would never question. My husband, of course, a creative director and successful designer who never hesitates to dish out the harsh criticism I need. And then- lastly (this is important)- my paying clients, whose honest feedback has helped me understand what the general ~untrained eye might be interested in. And that’s about it. I don’t let social media dictate my artistic style. I don’t let strangers’ opinions affect how I feel about my work. Because it’s important to protect your creativity. When you start a business- well, when you start anything really- people are going to have a lot of opinions about how they think you should do things. And you have to remember that their opinions do not matter. Unless they are the ones paying the rent, purchasing the supplies, operating the equipment, or signing the paycheck- they don’t deserve a say in the way you run your business.

So, when I saw that somebody had an opinion about an image that I worked hard on and felt personally attached to, I stopped and thought, “this is a really beautiful opportunity for education.” Opinions are wonderful things. Constructive criticism is better. What’s the difference? I would be willing to hear remarks about this photo such as, “you should remove the people from the background, because they’re distracting from the subject of the photo,” or “you should darken up the skyline to make it pop more!” or even “what if you lightened up their faces so that we can better see the look they’re giving each other, which will help transport us to this very moment in time when their eyes were locked on one another?” These types of remarks are helpful. They give me a supported opinion and a comprehensive solution. They show that the viewer has taken ample time to study the piece and react from an educated perspective (ooooh she’s an artiste!!). When somebody challenges you and your work like this- hold onto that person. They would make a good mentor.

Now, please stick around for upcoming blog posts where I talk about how to place things in front of your camera to create depth, what a dynamic image consists of, and of course- what a tree is. Peep below for some before and afters of placing objects in front of the lens.

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