Critique vs. Criticism
One of the most important tools for growing and becoming better as a photographer is a critique. As with anything, there must be an objective, knowledgeable voice that will let you know where you can improve. Critiques are not for showing you what you've done wrong. That is what criticism is. When you criticize or receive criticism, the only thing it does is show you where you've gone wrong. There is no direction leading you to how you can improve what you're working on and you generally (sometimes) didn't ask for it. The only thing criticism does is hurt (some) people's feelings or make them defensive.
Just recently I had a not-so-positive experience with a photographer. From what she stated, she has been shooting for about 3 years now. She posted an image she captured in one of the Facebook groups I'm a member of and asked, "What do you all think?" For those who know me, one of my life mottos is "If you don't want to know, don't ask." This was a perfect situation for that. She asked what we thought and I gave her an objective, emotionless, critique and explained to her what was causing her focusing issue and what could improve her image next time. I say emotionless because I don't know her nor do I have a grudge against her. I was merely trying to help her with her photography. Well, she took it as criticism. She private messaged me stating that I had made negative comments on all of her images. First off, I don't provide too many critiques in the first place because not everyone knows how to take a critique. Secondly, she must have only posted twice because I remember another critique I had given and the photographer was not ready to receive what I had to say then either. I'm guessing that was her.
So, anyway, she said quite a few things in her private message and stated that "People like you are the reason I am thinking of deleting myself from the group." Really? That's unfortunate. Normally I am Cheerleader Chastity, but not that day. I was more like Truthful Torrence. I apologized if I hurt her feelings because my intent was to help. Yes, I know it's not a "real" apology but that's because I don't feel I did anything wrong and I meant everything I said. Now, I didn't mean to hurt her feelings but that happens sometimes. I have had critiques done before. Shoot, I've even paid to have critiques done. Critiques are scary. Basically, you're being vulnerable by putting your precious baby out there to be judged. As Erica Badu said, "I'm an artist. So I'm sensitive about my sh*t." We all are. Nobody wants to hear/read that their baby is ugly. No one! But how are you going to grow if you don't know what you're doing wrong and how to make it right?
A lot of times people only want praise for their work and I totally understand that. Validation is a wonderful thing but not always an honest thing. Sometimes people think that being supportive, even on mediocre work is worthy of praise to make the person feel better and keep going. But what's the point of going on and not improving? I don't even give my son false praise. If he does something I let him know if it's really good or if I believe he could have done better and how. That's the most important thing about giving a critique. You have to tell them how to improve, not just that they need to improve. Otherwise, it's just criticism.
Back to the photographer I had the interaction with...I hope she was able to take her emotions out of what I told her. I hope she found value in it and I hope that she is willing to learn and grow. In fact, I told her that if she couldn't take a critique that perhaps she should remove herself from the group until she was ready to grow. I know, that wasn't very nice but it's was very true. She can stay in the group and continue to see other photogs' images. She can even post images if she likes but she shouldn't ask for a critique if what she's really looking for is praise.
(stepping off my soapbox now).
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