Photography is a really competitive occupation. From feeling like you are competing for clients to work you post, competition reigns supreme. So does criticism. People criticize your style & use of light as well as your composition & the camera you shoot with. It can get ugly. Your toes will inevitably be stepped on & your ego will be pummeled. If you are thin-skinned, weak-spined, or just generally sensitive, you may want to pick another profession. It isn’t just from fellow photographers either. It comes from clients & prospective clients as well. They will pin you side-by-side to another photographer & dig apart your pricing, collections, poses, & all. They will jump from photographer to photographer in hopes of the best deal or better outcome of their camera-shy & uncooperative 2-year-old & then burn you at the stake when you can’t replicate it the next time they hire you. It is a hard business to be in.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from photography is how much growing can come from being critiqued if you look at it right. In many ways, if I had not been a professional photographer, I would not be here today. Aside from the design & graphics side of photography, I learned not only how to take criticism, but how to use it like a plant uses pruning. Pruning requires branches, blooms, & leaves to be cut off…lobed off in their prime, but it allows the plant to flourish the next season. If you don’t cut back a plant or certain trees, they will reach their peak & their blooms or size will never get bigger & more colorful or they will die off. BUT when you prune them, they make look bad at first, but the next season they are glorious & healthy.
Critiquing exeperiences, like being ripped into for your composition or non-traditional use of light are hard to swallow, but they require you to look more closely & carefully at your work the next time you shoot. This type of thing, in no way, is exclusive to photographers. Every business can use a little pruning. We never get better at anything, if we are never ever told we aren’t good enough. There are 2 ways of looking at this:
#1. Tough love: Get over it & move on. So someone didn’t like you or told you your product needed improvement. Take it at face value. Don’t attach your own feelings or bitterness or self-imposed short comings to it, take it for the exact words that were said: “your product isn’t good enough”, “your paper is too thin”, “I don’t like the way you wrote that”, “You used the thirds wrong”. It is what it is. Fix it. Use it to grow & keep on going. Your product isn’t good enough- how is it not good enough & how could you fix that? Your paper is too thin- you need thicker paper. That post wasn’t written well- change it or don’t & be ok with one person not liking it. You used the thirds wrong- how did you use it wrong & how can you use it better?
#2. A challenge: Use it to make yourself or your product or your service better. Steve Martin once said “be so good they can’t ignore you”. Do just that. Take the critique & use it to make your product/service/self better. Use them all. Use the daggers that people throw at you to build a bridge to the next level instead of using them to mark your tombstone. Don’t be a martyr, use their words to better your brand or business or even yourself.
Being humbled or critiqued is not a bad thing, stop looking at it that way. Kids who get the trophy just because they participate have no incentive to practice to be better- “we are all winners anyway so why work for it”. People who are never challenged or never lose, never get better. Don’t be that person. Don’t let your business be that business that dies off because it refuses to grow.
Girl, you have a long road of criticism & humbling & pedistool-falling-from in front of you, so put on your big girl panties, stop moping & get to work.