Above: Image by Gina Milicia
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Aside from “did you just finish the entire jar of Nutella?” the most common question I get asked is “do you like my photo?”
On the surface, it sounds like a perfectly reasonable question to ask, right? Most people ask this question as a way of measuring if it’s any good. Measuring progress is a great way to improve your photography but asking “do you like this photo?” is not the best way to go about it and here is why.
When you ask someone if they like something, what you are really asking is “what do you like?” and just because someone likes or doesn’t like something doesn’t make it good or bad. Taste is totally personal.
An example of this is my taste in music. If you played doof doof or techno dance music to me and asked me if I liked it, my polite response would be “it’s ok”. My inner monologue is more like “I’d rather eat glass and drink my own wee than listen to that”.
Does this mean that doof doof music is shite? No, it just means that I don’t like doof doof music.
The best way to improve your photography is to seek constructive criticism from someone who understands photography and knows how to deliver criticism in a constructive manner.
If you want to improve your photography, reframe your question. Instead of asking “do you like my photo?” try asking “how can I improve this image?”
Asking the right question to the right people is the best way to fast track your skills.
The best people to ask are the ones who are a few steps ahead of you in your learning curve.
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert sums this up perfectly in an article for oprah.com. Gilbert asks herself the following four questions before deciding if she will take someone’s advice or not.
1. Do I trust this person’s taste and judgment?
2. Does this person understand what I’m trying to create here?
3. Does this person genuinely want me to succeed?
4. Is this person capable of delivering the truth to me in a sensitive and compassionate manner?
Asking for constructive criticism can be scary. Nobody likes their work to be judged poorly but only ever seeking compliments will not help you grow as an artist.