The Three Types of Photographic Criticism and How to Handle Them


Part of taking photographs is the enjoyment you get with sharing them.  Along with sharing, comes learning, and along those lines are criticisms.  This article will show you how to handle the three types of photographic criticisms without getting overly frustrated.

Basilica del Pilar, sunset

Photo by Paulo Brandão

Unsolicited criticism. Sometimes we hang photographs in our home, post to our website, Facebook or have on display at local businesses and viewers will offer their criticism.  Sadly, most don't viewers don't understand how to compliment and usually look for flaws in the work.

When an unsolicited criticism comes, and it's negative, thank the person for their input and ask them what they would have done differently.  Don't defend your work, rather ask for their input.  If they can't offer you any, ask them to explain what they don't understand, or if they'd like to know how or why you shot and captured what you did.  This will, hopefully result in a conversation about the piece, rather than a debate about what is or isn't a good photograph.

Photo by Paul (dex)

This is good but… Posting photos to sites like Flickr and Deviant Art will without a doubt get you lots of exposure and room for comments, but the same rule applies here, most seem to offer negative criticism over positive compliments.

When you post to websites, or have pieces hung in public spaces, hearing this type of criticism can be really good.  Sometimes, as photographers, we fall so in love with how we made the photo that the end result might not show that, and someone who wasn't with you when you created it might not understand.  This is a key point to focus on as a photographer, conveying a story, evoking an emotion or, in some cases, purely making something pretty and enjoyable to look at.

Take mental notes to how and what people are talking about in the photo, are they valid points?  Could you have made improvements, did you really deliver your best?  These types of criticisms can be some of the most valuable to you, especially if you have a willingness to listen with to the unbiased opinions of others and realize they may see things differently then you originally intended.  Consider your viewer when shooting and choosing photos to display.

Photo by Mike Enerio

Sugar coated goodness. One of the positive things about posting photos to sites like Flickr is that you won't know anyone personally who leaves you comments.  Unlike friends and family who may sugar coat their criticisms in an attempt to not hurt your feelings or stifle your creativity, strangers often offer the most blunt and honest feedback.  This is not to say that some sugar coated goodness isn't nice to hear, but you'll need to be aware that there's a chance you're getting positive feedback from friends and family because they are your friends and family.

Not all criticism biased and the intention of most is not to be hurtful, but often times it can appear that way.  Photography is art, and art is biased.  If you can wake up every day and look at a piece you've done and feel good about it, that's all that should matter.  Above and beyond that is just silver lining.

About Author

is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.

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