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Don’t let the critics run your work down

A good friend of mine, a talented photographer, was upset because a colleague had disparaged her work. It was poetic justice that shortly afterwards a top studio asked her to put on an exhibition.

How many times have I heard someone belittling someone else’s photos? I’ve lost count, but it’s something that boils my blood. Sometimes they bemoan, “not another boring (insert the name of a popular subject here) photo”.

Don’t listen to it! Your interpretation of how you viewed the world in a single moment is just as valid as the next person’s, no matter what their experience or qualification.

Photography, like all art, is subjective. My favourite image is not going to be yours. I suspect this is true because the images of which I am most proud obtain fewest ‘likes’ and comments on social media.

It’s fine not enjoying a photograph, but imposing that opinion upon others isn’t. Belittling any image is irrational. We’ve all met people who attempt to run others down, trying to give themselves kudos, but this rarely works.

Read the biographies of any of the greatest photographers. They succeeded because others encouraged them. Most did not have NVQs or degrees, nor did they win competitions. They set out to take great photographs and surrounded themselves with positively-minded people.

If you want to succeed at anything, find people who will encourage you and help you to grow. Shun those that denigrate you and your work.

They will also tell you that they continuously learn. Much of that comes from sharing their knowledge; they go out of their way to help others achieve. They are never competing with others, only with themselves. They are never running others down.

Every talented photographer I meet lacks self-confidence in their skills. This may be down to the Dunning-Kruger effect. People with low skills have a much higher regard of their ability than is the case. Their belief drops the more they learn until they are highly proficient, but think they are not skilled at all.

So never disparage another’s work. If it’s not to your taste, study the photo and work out why you don’t like it. Learn from it. Think about the meaning. Think how you would take the photo. What do those differences say about you?

Then thank them for sharing their excellent image with you. It will make you a much better photographer.

During May we are looking at varying shutter values. This week our key words are ‘Free’ and ‘Fast’.