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How to Filter Feedback About Your Photography

A guest post by Nicholas Moegly

feedback.jpg

As a photographer, you have most likely posted your work online or at least thought about it. When and if you do, you are going to get some sort of response from friends, family, and even complete strangers whether you ask for it or not. This is what is so great about posting photos online; you can get immediate responses and a large amount of them as well. Unfortunately, a decent amount of that feedback is going to be useless to you and can sometimes even be hateful. Trying to make sense of poorly written, negative, and even seemingly helpful feedback can be frustrating and difficult. This guide explains how to filter all of that feedback so you can actual benefit from it.

There are dozens of sites online where you can post your work and get feedback from other photographers, such as Flickr, 500px, Facebook groups, Twitter, photography forums etc. Feedback and criticism can be one of the best ways to help better your shots and help you grow as a photographer, but in order for that feedback to truly help you it has to be 3 things; constructive, valid and relevant.

Constructive or Unconstructive?

Constructive_Unconstructive.jpg

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Is this feedback constructive?” which means, did the person giving the feedback make a specific point or suggestion, and if the feedback was negative, did they offer a solution? People love to leave short comments online like, “This is awesome!” or “This sucks” but unfortunately, neither is very helpful. Positive feedback in this short format can be nice, but without knowing what it was exactly that made them enjoy your photo it doesn’t really help you hone that skill or repeat whatever it was that they liked. Negative feedback in this form is always disheartening to see, even if you know you should ignore it. Know this though, anyone who posts negative feedback in an unconstructive manner typically isn’t educated about photography, if they were they would have been able to elaborate on exactly why your photo isn’t good. Also, professional and skilled photographers typically don’t search through the internet putting down others. Only focus on feedback that is constructive and where a point is being made, or a suggestion is being offered. Which brings us to another point, validating the source of the feedback.

Who is Giving You Feedback?

Who.jpg

If the feedback you receive is constructive, whether it is negative or positive, you should also validate whom it came from. Imagine this, you are on one side of a solid door and on the other side of the door are twenty people of all different ages, skill sets, and education levels. You slip your photo under the door and those 20 people write anonymous notes on what they think of it and slip them back under the door to you. That is what receiving feedback on the internet can be like sometimes, especially if you post your work on sites like Reddit or forums. Obviously anyone can make a good point or give good advice, but for the most part, taking advice from a skilled photographer is going to be more helpful than advice from someone who’s never held a camera. So if you can, try to find out who is posting the feedback and take a look at their portfolio. Don’t be afraid to ask to see work from someone, because you owe it to yourself to find out if you should consider what he or she is saying before you change your style or process. Try to receive feedback through an open door.

Is it Relevant?

EditingStyles.jpg

The last thing you need to ask yourself is, “Is this feedback relevant to what I’m trying to do?” There are so many types and styles of photography, which means that there are different preferences as well. For example, some photographers like vintage, old film looking edits, and a lot of people really enjoy that style, whereas other photographers like very simple, clean, lightly edited shots, and a lot of people really like that style too. A skilled photographer who likes the more basic and simple style may look at a vintage, grainy edit and say something like, “I would recommend to take away the grain and light leaks, I think it’s distracting from the subject and it’s somewhat obvious that they were done in post”. Although that comment is constructive and they’re a skilled photographer, their style preference doesn’t match the other photographers, so that feedback isn’t necessarily relevant. Again, take a look at the people’s work that leave you comments, and based on what their style is you can see if their feedback was based on a stylistic preference that matches your own.

Using these steps you should be able to quickly go through comments and feedback and filter out what’s not useful to you and focus on the feedback that is. To summarize: ask yourself, “Is this feedback constructive?” if no, then filter it out and if yes, move onto the next step. Next, validate whom the feedback came from, anyone can give great advice but those who are successful in the industry will usually be the most helpful. Lastly, find out if the feedback is relevant to what you’re trying to accomplish or if it’s just based on a different style preference. The remaining comments and notes should be advice that you can actual consider when it comes to adjusting how you shoot and edit.

Now, with all of that said, do not use these tools to ignore all negative feedback and only consider positive feedback. The point is to filter out the feedback that isn’t actually helpful to you and leave you with the beneficial feedback, whether it be positive or negative. You’ll be amazed at what listening to a few bits of useful feedback from skilled photographers can do for your work.

Nicholas Moegly is a portrait and lifestyle photographer from Cincinnati, OH. He currently freelances and shoots for the magazine The Original Makers Club. His work can be seen on his portfolio site and his facebook page.

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  • http://www.flixelpix.com David

    Ignore it all. Take photos for yourself, for your own enjoyment. For every bit of praise there is someone ready to tell you they hate it. As long as the person in the photo is happy and you as a photography are happy then you have succeeded?

    I used to measure my photos by flickr explore, favourite stats etc, it is an empty chase. Forget stats – give me a story : http://www.flixelpix.com/blog/reportage-photography/

  • Jessica

    I don’t think you should “ignore it all”. I think what David is saying applies to the “Is It Relevant” part of the post. If you have a photo that is so underexposed you can’t even tell whether the subject is a flower or a rat, I think it’s totally okay to listen to somebody that says “Hey buddy, your photo’s a little dark. Maybe you should open up your aperture a little more”

    Or maybe your photo is too bright. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to listen to somebody that tells you how to fix it. Not listening to others would be like a clueless person picking up a DSLR and just taking a snapshot, not even thinking about the basics- composition, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc. The photo isn’t going to look as good because they ignored the person who said “You should check the settings before you take a shot”, or “A tripod might be a good idea with that shutter speed to help get rid of the blur”.

    So, should you listen to everything everyone says? No! Maybe you do like the graininess of a photo you took. Or maybe you didn’t want to follow the rule of thirds in it. Basically, there’s a difference between creativity and a purely bad photo.

  • Barry E. Warren

    Feedback can be very helpful. What you see, might not be what others see. I’ll take any feedback that anyone wants to give me.

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    A lot of online feedback is just positive, unless it is a critique site that is my own personal experience.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/10/pictures-from-malaysia.html

  • http://dewandemmer.com Dewan Demmer

    Online critique can be really quite harsh. Very often I will put an image on a forum with the intent to gain some information on how to change what I did to make get what I want out of it, and often I will get helpful and clear directions. The rest of the time I will get bashed for anything possible and which is no help at all, to the point that the opinion given can be rude, unhelpful and deconstructive.
    There will be people who will say hard things and not always be trying to helpful, thats fine once you get to know the tone you will be able to ignore them, although in the beginning it can be hard to ignore.
    I try to find common problems mentioned, so if 10 out of 15 people mention contrast or space then I will go and look at it again, if I was going for something extra with contrast and space it obviously did not work and so I must re-look at what I am doing.
    I am always open to opnions, the more constructive and to the point I think the better.
    http://www.dewandemmer.com/melissa-and-gareths-wedding-at-oakfields-farm-muldersdrift/

  • http://www.portraitinspiration.com Jai Catalano

    The difference between this sucks and this is great is absolutely nothing. They are both comments that have no depth, no point of view and lend no help to anyone reading it.

  • http://photos.rickscheibner.net Rick

    For my own photos, I value reactions over critiques. Did this photo cause you to consider it? Did it make you stop and linger for a few moments? Those are the ultimate hallmarks of a good photograph, and the starting point where I value feedback. When I’m giving feedback to beginners. I try to include those elements, as well as any basic technical information that might help them improve what they’re doing.

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    If the feedback comes from a fellow photographer I definitely give it more weight, or of course if it comes from the client as well! Most non-photographers just offer praise, which is nice, but I do realize that contrary to what my aunt thinks, I am not the best photographer in America!

  • Scottc

    You may be able to “filter” it in your mind but you can’t filter it on line. The “one-liners”are everywhere, and it’s not worth it.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/

  • Joe Bodego

    Great article, i’ve become a better photographer based on feedback but it was from a forum that was dedicated to Nikon Shooters. Today i use the Focussion site as flickr is useless when it comes to feedback, honestly i have gotten 1 feedback in 2 years. http://focussion.com/sincejan63

  • Regan

    Constant improvement is important to me and I’d rather have someone say something as all too often I don’t see that detail. I always try to be empathetic when I comment on pix. I only make unsolicited comments on pix that evoke an emotional response in my initial viewing. In critiques I share points that I’ve learned to deal with that particular fault. I grow from critiques, and I when I put a picture up, I’m hoping for some feedback. “Likes” to me are about the content, not the art unless I post it in my photo group. If a stranger says something nice on Flickr, great; jerks are jerks and they get there drug only if I play with them.

  • http://365canvas.blogspot.com/ Shobhit

    Feedback on my pics please…then I’ll see what I can do with it :)

    http://365canvas.blogspot.com/

  • http://365canvas.blogspot.com/ Shobhit

    A few from me…

    First on this page is my entry…

    http://365canvas.blogspot.com/2012/04/occupy-wall-street-4.html

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/iradick Ira

    Always a tough question. I post on Flickr to guage reaction to a particular photo or image.
    First question is are we on a level playing field?
    I tend to take online critiques with a grain of salt, although there are groups within Flickr that are by invitiation only.
    I value their critiques far more than on a site that is unfliltered.

    I also create digital art starting with a photograph. I know going in that this isn’t everybody’s cuppa tea, but when I get comments from people whose work I’ve been admiring, I really appreciate it so much more. That being said, I also submit my “straight” photography images mainly to show that I can shoot both traditional as well as very abstract.

    The short answer IMHO, is that as the artist it’s up to you especially when you spend the time to post process the image to bring out the best in in. If you are satisfied with the end result and know you’ve put the time in, then that’s it..

    Of course, if you’re doing a commercial shoot under contract, then the customer has the final site.

    If you’re shooting for the pleasure of creating images for yourself, then just put out the best work you can and have thick skin because “You can’t please em all’ !

  • R’laine

    Thank you for this very helpful information. Filters are good. And, as others have said, comments such as ‘This is great” or “This sucks” are just no help at all.
    I’m going to save this for future reference.

  • Andre

    If anyone would mind giving me feedback I would really appreciate it. Thank you
    http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/84615186@N07/

  • chris

    My problem is that nobody posts comments about my pictures on the sites I use to share them with. I have an account with Viewbug, 500px, and Deviant art. I get people “liking” them every so often, but never any comments. That bothers me because peoples comments and critiques would be very helpful.

  • Lister

    flickr used to be good for this IF you joined an active group and posted threads in the discussion forums of that group. But even the best groups tended to fade away after a while.
    That and flickr hasn’t quite recovered from the uproar over the poorly handled redesign of their UI. (poorly handled b/c it took several iterations for them to settle on one)- it isn’t as active there as it used to be.

  • Name Berrie

    Go over to – http://www.lightstalking.com – and post your pictures under Shark Tank. You should get lots of pretty good constructive comments. You can also check out commenters albums to see what style and ability they have…… (as per above).

Some older comments

  • Andre

    October 15, 2012 01:10 pm

    If anyone would mind giving me feedback I would really appreciate it. Thank you
    http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/84615186@N07/

  • R'laine

    October 12, 2012 06:36 am

    Thank you for this very helpful information. Filters are good. And, as others have said, comments such as 'This is great" or "This sucks" are just no help at all.
    I'm going to save this for future reference.

  • Ira

    October 12, 2012 03:19 am

    Always a tough question. I post on Flickr to guage reaction to a particular photo or image.
    First question is are we on a level playing field?
    I tend to take online critiques with a grain of salt, although there are groups within Flickr that are by invitiation only.
    I value their critiques far more than on a site that is unfliltered.

    I also create digital art starting with a photograph. I know going in that this isn't everybody's cuppa tea, but when I get comments from people whose work I've been admiring, I really appreciate it so much more. That being said, I also submit my "straight" photography images mainly to show that I can shoot both traditional as well as very abstract.

    The short answer IMHO, is that as the artist it's up to you especially when you spend the time to post process the image to bring out the best in in. If you are satisfied with the end result and know you've put the time in, then that's it..

    Of course, if you're doing a commercial shoot under contract, then the customer has the final site.

    If you're shooting for the pleasure of creating images for yourself, then just put out the best work you can and have thick skin because "You can't please em all' !

  • Shobhit

    October 10, 2012 10:00 am

    A few from me...

    First on this page is my entry...

    http://365canvas.blogspot.com/2012/04/occupy-wall-street-4.html

  • Shobhit

    October 10, 2012 09:57 am

    Feedback on my pics please...then I'll see what I can do with it :)

    http://365canvas.blogspot.com/

  • Regan

    October 10, 2012 05:01 am

    Constant improvement is important to me and I'd rather have someone say something as all too often I don't see that detail. I always try to be empathetic when I comment on pix. I only make unsolicited comments on pix that evoke an emotional response in my initial viewing. In critiques I share points that I've learned to deal with that particular fault. I grow from critiques, and I when I put a picture up, I'm hoping for some feedback. "Likes" to me are about the content, not the art unless I post it in my photo group. If a stranger says something nice on Flickr, great; jerks are jerks and they get there drug only if I play with them.

  • Joe Bodego

    October 9, 2012 10:23 am

    Great article, i've become a better photographer based on feedback but it was from a forum that was dedicated to Nikon Shooters. Today i use the Focussion site as flickr is useless when it comes to feedback, honestly i have gotten 1 feedback in 2 years. http://focussion.com/sincejan63

  • Scottc

    October 9, 2012 08:34 am

    You may be able to "filter" it in your mind but you can't filter it on line. The "one-liners"are everywhere, and it's not worth it.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    October 9, 2012 04:02 am

    If the feedback comes from a fellow photographer I definitely give it more weight, or of course if it comes from the client as well! Most non-photographers just offer praise, which is nice, but I do realize that contrary to what my aunt thinks, I am not the best photographer in America!

  • Rick

    October 9, 2012 01:31 am

    For my own photos, I value reactions over critiques. Did this photo cause you to consider it? Did it make you stop and linger for a few moments? Those are the ultimate hallmarks of a good photograph, and the starting point where I value feedback. When I'm giving feedback to beginners. I try to include those elements, as well as any basic technical information that might help them improve what they're doing.

  • Jai Catalano

    October 8, 2012 11:31 pm

    The difference between this sucks and this is great is absolutely nothing. They are both comments that have no depth, no point of view and lend no help to anyone reading it.

  • Dewan Demmer

    October 8, 2012 06:47 pm

    Online critique can be really quite harsh. Very often I will put an image on a forum with the intent to gain some information on how to change what I did to make get what I want out of it, and often I will get helpful and clear directions. The rest of the time I will get bashed for anything possible and which is no help at all, to the point that the opinion given can be rude, unhelpful and deconstructive.
    There will be people who will say hard things and not always be trying to helpful, thats fine once you get to know the tone you will be able to ignore them, although in the beginning it can be hard to ignore.
    I try to find common problems mentioned, so if 10 out of 15 people mention contrast or space then I will go and look at it again, if I was going for something extra with contrast and space it obviously did not work and so I must re-look at what I am doing.
    I am always open to opnions, the more constructive and to the point I think the better.
    http://www.dewandemmer.com/melissa-and-gareths-wedding-at-oakfields-farm-muldersdrift/

  • Mridula

    October 8, 2012 03:55 pm

    A lot of online feedback is just positive, unless it is a critique site that is my own personal experience.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/10/pictures-from-malaysia.html

  • Barry E. Warren

    October 8, 2012 01:00 pm

    Feedback can be very helpful. What you see, might not be what others see. I'll take any feedback that anyone wants to give me.

  • Jessica

    October 8, 2012 06:30 am

    I don't think you should "ignore it all". I think what David is saying applies to the "Is It Relevant" part of the post. If you have a photo that is so underexposed you can't even tell whether the subject is a flower or a rat, I think it's totally okay to listen to somebody that says "Hey buddy, your photo's a little dark. Maybe you should open up your aperture a little more"

    Or maybe your photo is too bright. It wouldn't be a bad idea to listen to somebody that tells you how to fix it. Not listening to others would be like a clueless person picking up a DSLR and just taking a snapshot, not even thinking about the basics- composition, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc. The photo isn't going to look as good because they ignored the person who said "You should check the settings before you take a shot", or "A tripod might be a good idea with that shutter speed to help get rid of the blur".

    So, should you listen to everything everyone says? No! Maybe you do like the graininess of a photo you took. Or maybe you didn't want to follow the rule of thirds in it. Basically, there's a difference between creativity and a purely bad photo.

  • David

    October 8, 2012 05:51 am

    Ignore it all. Take photos for yourself, for your own enjoyment. For every bit of praise there is someone ready to tell you they hate it. As long as the person in the photo is happy and you as a photography are happy then you have succeeded?

    I used to measure my photos by flickr explore, favourite stats etc, it is an empty chase. Forget stats - give me a story : http://www.flixelpix.com/blog/reportage-photography/

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