I’m going to address some things that I have seen on a re-occurring basis. These types of exchanges are constantly re-appearing in online photography forums, especially those when people, often new to photography, ask for critiques of their photographs.
I will warn you that much of what I have to say some will think is offensive, others will believe it to be harsh and without respect or care for new photographers. If you aren’t prepared or willing to read some blunt and to the point thoughts of mine, which I am certain that many other experienced and skilled photographers, especially in the realm of professional would agree, don’t read below the “don’t read beyond here line.
****** Don’t read beyond here *******
Today, there is a growing number of people interested in photography. There is also a growing number who are interested in earning money as a photographer, to start a photography business. Some begin to think about starting a business because their friends and family are so proud of them and tell them how great their eye for photography is and how wonderful their photographs are. So, with camera in hand they make a Facebook page for their photography business. They design a “cool logo” or go to a place like Fiverr.com and buy one. They put the cool logo on their photos and make their “portfolio”.
Their friends and family line up for sessions, free or close to it of course. The new photography business owner then starts to use words like “clients”, “sessions”, “shoots” and “minis”. They then join a Facebook group frequented by experienced and skilled hobbyists and professionals alike. They upload some of their photos for comments and critiques, which they get. The experienced skilled photographers offer honest assessments of the work.
The new photographer is now crushed and accuses the experienced skilled photographers of being rude and mean, others new photographers jump on the “bandwagon”. Let me say this to those new photographers. YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY LIED TO YOU!!! I’ll repeat it in case you missed it, your friends and family lied to you. They did this because they love you and want to support you. They see your excitement for your new hobby and want to support you in your endeavor and there is nothing wrong with that. Why do I say that? Been their done it. I have had others do this with me in my early stages of photography.
Many new photographers say want “honest” critiques. (Note: when I use the term new is isn’t exclusively beginning photographers. It includes beginning photographers and those who have never progressed beyond beginning) It often turns out they really didn’t want an “honest” critique from experienced skilled photographers. They wanted what their friends and family gave them.
In many conversations I have had with experienced skilled photographers we have discussed what our real first thoughts are with some photographs, especially those used in conjunction with words such as, business, clients, sessions, etc. Most of the time our public responses are much more tamed, even when we are blunt. I, as well as most experienced photographers I know, avoid name calling and out and out admonishing the new photographer. Many times, I feel insulted that some photographers are billing themselves as a photography business and a professional, especially when the new photographer justifies their photograph with a statement similar to, “The client liked it!”. Of course they did. You know why? It cost them next to nothing or nothing. They got 100 free, or nearly free, photos on a DVD or flash drive.
The new photographers are also often touting the “I try to get it right in the camera so I don’t have to post process”, as if to imply that the experienced skill professional or hobbyist photographer only uses Photoshop or other software to “fix it” because they “didn’t get it right”. Photoshop and similar programs are tools. These tools are just as important as your other tools such as lighting, cameras, lenses, and tripods.
If you have read this far I’m proud of you, especially if you are a new photographer and at this point I would like to say that I welcome new people to photography. I support newcomers. I will work with them, help them, and reveal any of my techniques, workflows, and processes. I get it. I am passionate about photography. I dream photography. I wake up at night thinking about the next creative technique or photo shoot. I talk about photography, often to have my friends and family think, “He’s at it again”.
I wish that I had access to online forums and groups when I first started in photography. I had to learn it either in school where you very often got harsh, blunt critiques in open class. I had to struggle to learn by doing and deciding on my own what worked and what didn’t work. Today, we have open access to many great and skilled photographers and yet when we hear honest and blunt critiques where our work is viewed as less than good by those great and skilled photographers we become a victim of “that mean rude person” instead of paying attention and maybe, just maybe, learning something. Even after all the experience and training (yes I paid for classes, seminars, and lessons) I get some honest blunt critiques. One of my harshest critics is my wife, and I appreciate her thoughts and observations even though she isn’t a photographer but has learned by hanging out with me.
You need a person or people to be blunt and honest with you. These are the people who push you beyond your current skill levels, to take you to the next step.