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.
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.