How to deal with negative feedback about your photography. When you start hanging out with other photographers, it can be easy to start the dangerous game of comparison. Worse is when you begin listening to the criticism from others, even if they mean it constructively. If you find that your confidence has been rocked, even by the most innocent comment, it’s time to take stock.
Gina and Valerie chat about the strategies and mindset you need to adopt to make the most out of negative feedback.
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Here is a list of my favourite coping skills that I’ve picked up from other artists over the years and modified to work for me.
1 . It’s not personal
When I ask for constructive criticism and get told my art is stupid and my colours are dumb, it’s my images the critics are referring to, not me. This makes a massive difference to how I feel and react to constructive criticism.
2 . It’s often about them
Some people derive pleasure and a sense of superiority by bringing others down. The critique has nothing to do with your art or you. These people behave in a negative manner with all of their interactions. They would find fault in the Taj Mahal (too big), The Mona Lisa (too small), or Nutella (sacrilege!).
3 . Get opinions from the right people
Seek constructive criticism from the people whose work and opinion you respect. Whenever I need advice about my timing chain, clutch or brake fluid, I ask my mechanic Tony. But if I need advice about composition or exposure of an image, I’ll ask one of my mentors or peers.
4. Another perspective
Constructive criticism from the right people can fast track your growth as an artist.
5. Know the difference between positive critiques and trolling or backhanded compliments or put downs
Finally, focus constructive comments and try not to dwell on the negative stuff.
A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’ He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.’ – Sam Haskins
How to deal with backhanded compliments:
1. Don’t respond.
By staying silent you’re telling the person who gave you the backhand that their comment doesn’t even deserve a response
2. Thank them
Just say thanks
3. Accept the good, ignore the bad.
“Wow these photos are so much better than the stuff you usually post”
Say thanks, I’m glad you like these shots and ignore the rest of the comment
4. Address the insult head-on.
Thanks for noticing and what exactly do you mean about my other stuff?
5. Keep it light
Thanks for noticing I have a great camera, I taught it everything it knows!
“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a person’s growth without destroying their roots.”
– Frank A. Clark