How to receive criticism

So, we are shooting lots of pictures.  We are pouring ourselves into our work.  We’ve created a safe environment and are open to others ideas, suggestions, comments, and their recommendations.  We are posting our pictures for constructive criticism, feedback, and critique.  We’re asking questions and specifics as well as sharing our difficulties that we had during our workflow.  And OH, MY GOD, SOMEONE COMMENTED!  Now what?

Well, a good place to start, is think about it.  Roll it around in your mind.  Give it serious consideration.  Try to picture it in your mind’s eye.  Visualize it.  Then give it that same critical thinking process that we talked about in the article about that subject.  It works both ways, for offering critique as well as evaluating critique.  Ask yourself questions about the critique.  Is this person genuine?  Does he or she have a valid point?  Are they offering something that’s obvious?  Something that might stem from the basic rules of composition, color theory, exposure triangle, or some other photography basics?  In a word, what I’m trying to say is “Reception”.

So be honest with it and with yourself.  This is what it’s all about.  Where we push ourselves past our comfort zone, and in so doing initiate personal growth.  Opening ourselves to that vulnerability that we spoke about earlier.  Embrace this part of the process.  It’s what we’ve been aiming for.

Now, that you’ve asked these questions and thought about it and pictured it, take another look at your work.  Double check it.  Do you see what they see?  Even if you don’t agree with it.  Do you see it?  Could it work that way?  Get your camera out again, or sit down in front of your computer and try it.  Don’t just think about it, picture it, or ask questions about it.  DO IT! Do it, because it’s the only way you’re going to know for sure.  When you try a different exposure, or another process in Photoshop it opens your mind to be more objective; because you’ve giving it time and effort.  This puts you in the position of choosing between the two items that you are invested in.  Your original work and the one you just invested time and energy into.

This might be a good time to say that we should only try one suggestion at a time.  If you go in and try five different things and don’t like it, will you be able to objectively say that all five of these ideas failed?  Probably not.  But taking things one step at a time you can make objective decisions for each one.  Then you can apply some or all of these things that you’ve learned.  Not only for this work but hopefully retained for all future work as well.  This is the growth we spoke about.  This is where that happens.

Once you’ve tried it take your original work and the new reworked piece and look at them side by side. Compare them, and start again with the questions.  Is this an improvement?  Did it accomplish what the reviewer said it would do?  Now is the time to decide.  Did this work for you or not?  Either way engage the person that the critique.  Open that conversation, and watch the learning process continue.  As you and he or she, converse back and forth, they will have a better idea of what you wanted to accomplish.  You will get some insight into what they were seeing in your work, and why they were trying to help with a particular aspect of your work.  And more often than not you both come away with a better understanding of all things photographic.