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Have you ever felt that your photography isn’t improving as much as it once was? Do you feel that the level of your work is stagnating and not progressing much more?
Yet you keep reading article after article, either on the web or in magazines. You hope that one of them will provide the next breakthrough for your work and help you rip through the barrier that will bring your photography to the next level. You show off your work to friends and family, and you hear the resounding praises of, “That’s a beautiful photograph” or, “You nailed it”, or any other form of overly positive, loving feedback. The people that you show your work to love it, but you feel that it’s just becoming a little boring, and the next image isn’t really any different from the last.
If this sounds like you, don’t panic; you’re very likely not alone! Even better, there is a very simple remedy for this. This remedy will not only help you now, but also continue to help you well into the future, and at all stages of your photographic journey. You won’t need to read anything extra for it, nor will you have to buy any equipment. To break through this barrier you need to do one thing: be more selective with the feedback you listen to.
The trouble with feedback from people like friends and family is that, unless they are photographers themselves, they won’t tell you want you need to hear. Rather, they will tell you what you want to hear – which is generally positive reinforcements – however, when you come to think of it, no one really wants to hear that their latest photo is rubbish!
But it’s this honest, yet brutal truth, that will ultimately help you take better photos. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t the best feeling in the world when I was once told a collection of my photos weren’t that great. To make things worse, this came from a photographer whom I greatly admired and respected. It shook me up a little. It made me feel a little inadequate. It made me question if this was indeed the career for me, and if I actually had what it took to succeed.
But I needed to hear it. I needed to know what my work was actually like. Being continually told that my work was great and amazing wasn’t really helping with anything other than inflating my ego. I needed to hear exactly how a seasoned photographer viewed my work, and I needed to hear it honestly and clearly. This feedback set me on the direction that I needed to take to improve my game, and because it wasn’t sugar coated, I had no ambiguity about any of the feedback I had received.
This kind of feedback is not something that you will get from friends and family. You have to go out there and find a third party. A person that not only has no emotional connection with you, but also who knows one or two things about photography. By removing the emotional connection, you open the door for truth and honesty.
How it’s delivered, however, is a variable you cannot control. This means you also need to bring something to the table; a thick skin. Some photographers, just like doctors, are fantastic at delivering bad news in a nice subtle, even positive, way. Others will tell you how it is, warts and all, without the sugar coatings. But where do you find this third party?
There are many avenues you can take to find the right third party for getting feedback on your work. Social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, can be great. Facebook in particular has many useful groups where you can seek feedback and critique on your work. But if keeping it in person and face-to-face is more your thing, looking around at camera clubs is another option. The feedback you get at camera clubs may not always be accurate, but it is a useful tool to network with other photographers.
Just keep in mind exactly who your third party will be. You ideally would like your mentor to be involved in the genres you’re most interested in – there’s no point showing a wedding photographer, for example, a body of sport or landscape images. Also keep an open mind to having multiple people. This will help you smooth out any personal preferences each photographer may have, and find a more common denominator to look out for.
Being more selective with who you seek for feedback will help improve your photography immeasurably. It won’t always be easy to hear your work being torn apart, but if you keep at it and keep your chin up, you will come out the other side a stronger photographer and perhaps even a stronger person.