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A Photoblog Comment

As posted on Twitter: "you're photos suck.. no offense, you just throw them out there as if there is any content at all and you fail miserably."

I responded via email just to say "Your comment sucks. Guess we're even?" I couldn't resist. But that's beside the point…

Criticism like this doesn't bother me at all, and not just because the commenter can't use the word "your" properly. It's because it's nowhere near specific nor even really legitimate: what the heck does "no content" mean? No subject? Whatever…

Like most people who dabble in photography, I'm incredibly hard on myself. If I ever thought I'd mastered the art of photography, I'd probably give up. As it stands, my personal opinion of myself resides somewhere between "you suck" and "thank goodness you've got good equipment, because any fool could use it to get at least a half decent shot." The latter isn't true at all, and the former isn't either, but suffice to say I rarely think highly of any of my photographs, and when I do it's never "I should print that and sell it to people!"

Truth is, I'm pretty bad at taking a compliment from everyone. I'm so hard on myself, and I see only the things I can improve, that when someone compliments me I catch myself thinking for a split second that they've either got no taste or they're just trying to be polite.

The thing I've got to remind myself is that not only negative comments can lead to improvement. What's good in an image is just as worthy - or even more worthy - of recognition. Building a good or great photograph isn't just a matter of eliminating negatives, but accentuating the positives.1

Unfortunately, commenters on a photoblog rarely give any in-depth comments about what they like or don't like, and that's if they comment at all. Instead, most are happy to look at an image for a second if they don't like it, or maybe five or ten if they do. A few will rate the image using the little stars.

So why do I have a photoblog? For me. It forces me to post something every day, and since I refuse to post things I think are absolute crap (as in "even worse than my usual level of suckiness" :-D). It forces me to keep taking photographs, and not just of the same old things. And it gives me an area to experiment…

Yeah, the photoblog has ratings, but as someone said in a forum thread I started about one of my favorite images, "I think the rating says less about your image and more about the people looking at it." That's pretty much what I was thinking, but I hadn't quite put those thoughts into those words. Some of my photos are experimental. Sometimes the voting audience are the subjects of the experiment2.

Like this blog, my photoblog is primarily "for me." If anyone else gets a kick out of it or sees an image they like from time to time, that's a bonus. I do like having an audience, as it would be impossible to experiment without one and much more difficult to convince myself of the need to "self edit."

And by the way, I'm not saying that I suck as a means of fishing for compliments. Really. In the spirit of some of the stuff I've said, though, I would ask that any comments you make about my photographs - or anyone else's - be specific. Whether they're positive ore negative I don't care, but be specific about what you like or dislike. If you aren't sure, but you just get a general "I like this image - it makes me feel peaceful" then that's more specific than "I like this image" or "this image sucks."

Footnotes

  1. I clicker-trained my dog with pure positive reinforcement. As goofy as the analogy seems, I need to start doing more of that with myself as well.
  2. In particular, the first one linked here, the "Some" image. I think it's one of the worst ones I've ever posted, yet as I write this, it's rated 4.7. Go figure.

5 Responses to "A Photoblog Comment"

  1. Here's my honest opinion. I think your photography is very good. To me, the thing that stands out is composition. Some of that may be cropping a bit here and there, but the end result - for nearly most of your shots - is a shot that is pleasing to the eye.

    If I had one critical thing to say, it would be that some shots may miss focus a bit at times, taking away from the subject. Your "Birdhouse" shot is an example. The birdhouse itself is not in focus, just the bottom half. Same thing with the "Spider Web". It would have been a great shot if the entire spider web was sharp.

    This is coming from another amateur, so take it for what it's worth. Personally, I think you have more shots that are frameable than are not.

    1. Dave said on February 17, 2009:

      To me, the thing that stands out is composition. … I think you have more shots that are frameable than are not.

      Thank you.

      Dave said on February 17, 2009:

      If I had one critical thing to say, it would be that some shots may miss focus a bit at times, taking away from the subject.

      Thanks - I think that's valid criticism. <mode="self-dissection">Often it's a matter of shooting too wide open. Sometimes it's a matter of shutter speed (i.e. flowers in a light breeze) and/or technique. And other tims still it's my failure (early on, anyway) to recognize that my focal points - the center one in particular - are often quite a bit larger. The center focal point is something like 10x bigger than the little square in my viewfinder.</mode>

  2. Misusing "you're" for "your" would immediately make me laugh and discount his entire comment.

  3. You're post sucks!

  4. Great photoblog - please keep it coming. I'm new to photoblogging but looking to start soon. In fact I just registered a new domain name for it - photoblogging.com.au! Any tips to get started would be appreciated...


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