I don’t want your constructive criticism

I’ve been taking photographs for a while now. I first got the bug when I was about 10 years old and took shots on a dinky little Kodak Instamatic that chewed through rolls of 126 film. When I was a teenager I started developing and printing my own black and white photos in the family bathroom using a second-hand enlarger I bought at a bring-and-buy sale. When I went to college I took photos for the college newspaper and did moody selfies  on a 10 second timer as I pouted down leafy avenues in a WWII style bomber jacket I erroneously thought looked cool. After college my first job was as a journalist for a computer magazine and I got to play with the very first digital cameras, the very first camera-phones and the very first DSLRs.

So photography has been my hobby and, in some ways, my job for some time now and I’m as keen on it now as I was when I was 10. I enjoy getting out and taking photographs whenever possible. I really don’t care what the weather’s doing, I’m happy to go out in all conditions, but I’m a sucker for bright colours and that of course means I love sunrises and sunsets. If I don’t go out for a few days, I get restless and can only last a few days before the urge to get outside with my trusty Canon gets the better of me.

As a result of all the above I take a lot of photographs and like most photographers, I like sharing those photographs. However as much as I love to share my photos online on photo sites and social networks, there’s one thing that I absolutely hate. So here, on my little old blog I would just like to declare the following.

I don’t want your constructive criticism.

Now I don’t want to come across as some smarmy arsehole who thinks he knows it all, because I really don’t know it all. Far from it in fact – there are huge areas of photography that are a total mystery to me – things like studio photography for instance – I haven’t got a clue. Ask me to photograph a model with strobes and I’ll probably pass out from the exertion of figuring it all out.

However none of the above matters for a single nano-second; if I put a photograph online then it’s because right then, at that moment, I’m happy with it. If other people like it too, then that’s brilliant. If nobody likes it, then that’s fine and dandy. Likes and dislikes I can deal with, because you can’t force someone to enjoy something, but ‘expert’ reviews I can do without. If I don’t put “CC welcome” at the bottom of my image (and hell is going to freeze over first) then please keep your unsolicited opinions to yourself.

I chanced on this colour toning by mistake. It could be processed differently, but I love it this way.

The problem with photography is that every single part of it, from the tiniest of details to the broadest of topics, is utterly subjective and every single photographer there is, or ever has been, does things their own way. So when you look at a photo you frame it within your worldview and you form an opinion of that photo based on that worldview. All of that’s fine, what is not fine is suggesting that your worldview is any better than mine or that the techniques you’d employ when taking a similar shot are in some way preferable to the ones I used.

You wouldn’t have saturated the image that much? Awesome. I don’t care. You’d have removed the power-lines? Terrific. I don’t care. You would have exposed it for slightly longer? Magnificent. I don’t care. You might have a thousand reasons why you think my photo has been taken or processed incorrectly and I couldn’t give a shit about a single one of them. I am not interested in making my photos look like yours, I am interested in doing things my own way, however good or bad that may (subjectively) be.

I would also like to point out that I do not expect to have high praise endlessly lavished on my photos either. As I said, it’s entirely subjective and what floats my boat may have all the appeal of a poke in the eye to you. That’s cool! Imagine how shit this world would be if we all liked the same thing. If you don’t like my photo, move on, there are billions and billions more out there, all waiting for you. Enjoy.

So if you’re one of those photographers who think it’s okay to explain how a photo could have been taken ‘better’, just stop for a second and ask yourself if the photographer is going to care what you think. If you were at a concert, would you leap on stage in between songs and suggest a different rhythm to the drummer? If you were at a gallery opening would you remonstrate with the artist about the angle of their brush or the colour of the paint? Would you charge into the kitchen in the middle of a meal and ask the chef to justify their choice of herbs? I’m betting you wouldn’t. So stop doing it on photographs. Unless someone asks directly for it – keep your ‘constructive’ criticism to yourself and take a second to try and enjoy what the photographer has created.

15 Comment

  1. Indeed, well said mate, and it applies to many things – art, design, etc etc. Everyone’s an expert… so leave it be!

  2. soooo – what site(s) were you getting unsolicited constructive criticism on/from?

  3. Christian Weilguny says: Reply

    ++ Agree 100%

  4. 100% agree, I cannot stand it. You took the words out of my mouth so perfectly.

  5. I think you have it about spot on there, besides, if you’re taking photos to please anyone other than yourself, except maybe a client if its work related, then IMHO you aren’t taking photos for the right reasons. Plain and simple

  6. […] few weeks ago, this blog post by an Australian landscape photographer was pointed out to me: I don’t want your constructive criticism. In it, he explains that he shares his photographs online because he likes them, and […]

  7. Indeed, Andy! You have got a point!

    However, why then you allow “likes” on your pictures? They are also a sign of (constructive) approval or disapproval depending on the number of likes you get… The difference is that there are no words but just blinks…

    And this is my constructive criticism not on your pictures (you should not allow any form of it) but on your text.

    Thanks.

    Bressan

    1. Mainly because there’s no way of disabling them. 🙂

      1. oh so you DO reply to some people (cough) – I didn’t get a reply…

        1. I work for a living (not in photography) and often approve comments when I’m at work on the WordPress app, meaning to reply later. Sometimes I have no intention of replying but approve the comment so everyone can see it. Yours is the former. The answer to your question is that it’s happened (at one time or another) on every site I’ve ever posted a photo on.

          1. ah ok, thanks 😉 & found you on Twitter too … https://twitter.com/andyhutchinson

  8. This is a great article and I’d like to put it in a publication I’m starting. It sounds like something I would write. BTW there are serious flaws with your website. Not the photos. Not even a subjective opinion. But any website where a moron like me can RECROP your pictures by changing the browser size sucks. I know you do not want to see how bad the formatting of this blog is right now on my big monitor. I know you must have been very careful when you cropped your stuff, but it’s all vertical slices in this format. Sorry about the CC but I couldn’t help myself. Please get in touch. You’ll see me as Clickittycat when I follow you.

    1. Weird. I have 27″ monitor and everything looks hunky-dory on it. It’s a responsive theme that reformats depending upon the browser being used. Any chance you can send me a screenshot of what you’re seeing? Email’s info@andyhutchinson.com.au – would appreciate it.

  9. Hi andy i start to follow your blog for just one reason: you wrote that post on 1x well and I’m on that site as you are. Of what has been said in this post are completely agree with you on every point.
    Best Regards

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