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Your family and friends are raving about your work. Your Facebook friends are giving you thumbs up when you post your images. But is that enough feedback to know that your work is actually good? Given how many different images we see every day, shouldn’t people be able to recognize a good one from a bad one? And how can you be sure that your work measures up to the work of others? Here are 3 ways to help you:
1. Enter competitions. The moment you enter a competition, you must look at your work with a more critical, less personal eye. Be careful to not get too emotionally attached to the images you submit. Put yourself in the judge’s place and imagine their step-by-step critique regarding the composition, the depth of field, the lighting and so on. You can increase your chances of standing out by photographing an unusual subject or shoot something ordinary in an unusual way. Enter free competitions, learn the ropes, and look at the other entries. Competitions – and the rejections you are sure to get at first – are good ways to improve your photography, to push yourself towards new ideas and to get out of your comfort zone. And, of course, winning a prize in the process is fun, too!
2. Submit your work to stock agencies. Most micro stock agencies will ask to see a few test images before you can start submitting your work to them regularly. But beware! Stock agency standards are very high, so hold off on this step until you’ve acquired some thick skin and are truly ready to learn from this process. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned photographer, take their feedback as a valuable lesson. If your images are rejected – and at first many will be rejected – most agencies will tell you why. This is an incredible opportunity to learn how to examine your work more critically and improve your craft.
3. Portfolio review. At some point, every photographer feels the urge to send their portfolio to a professional and request a review. Don’t do it! They get dozens of such requests every day and cannot possibly be expected to spend hours reviewing images for free. Would you? Some reputable photographers will provide portfolio reviews for a fee, but ask first. Their professional feedback is another good way to get an idea of what your work is worth and of how you can improve it. Photography trade shows and mini-conferences often offer portfolio reviews, so be on the lookout for those opportunities. If you are in the US, check your local American Society of Media Photographers chapter for their events which might include portfolio reviews.
The most important thing to remember is that we, as photographers, need to be always learning and experimenting. Getting feedback from contests, stock agencies and portfolio reviews are ways to improve! Encouragement from friends is fine, but feedback from objective sources is critical.
Have you tried any of these ideas? If so, please share them with other dPS readers. We can all learn from each other!