I’m probably not alone when I see many people on social media or various websites post a photo and ask for open feedback or critiques. You may have even done it before. For me, I’ve been very vocal that I would never just ask the public for feedback, and I have a big reason why…
Constructive feedback and meaningful critiques are a skill – plain and simple… absolutely zero doubt about it. It’s a skill that most people just don’t have because they were never trained in it or have not practiced it to a large extent. And just because you received feedback, doesn’t mean that person is right. And now you’re faced with figuring out “should I follow that feedback or not?”. So are you really in a better spot after asking for public feedback?
I personally don’t think so. And neither does the person in this video (Seth Godin) I’m sharing below. The segment I’m going to ask you to watch is about 4 minutes long. I’ll set it up by saying he’s being interviewed about a new book he’s written. Yeah, I know, he’s a professional writer and you’re a photographer, so what’s the connection? It’s HUGE if you sit back and are open to it. What they are talking about affects professionals, hobbyists, and anyone that makes something.
But… you have to watch for about 4 minutes. The conversation will tail off into something about his book but it comes back to a very important finishing statement. You’ll know you’re at the point when you hear Seth say (around 38:50) “That’s the way they work the best… So in this moment…”.
That final statement is powerful. It’s up to you to put together your support group or collaborators. I suppose that in joining a Facebook group, maybe you think you’ve done just that. But I think YOU need to take the responsibility to take it further. If you really want to improve, you need to figure out exactly who you need in your corner and I don’t believe that can be anyone on a Facebook group that decides to comment on your open request for feedback.
Thanks for the post and the Seth Godin connection. I did some surfing and came across one of Seth’s comments on criticism…
“You need to consider the source”.
“If a vegetarian rate a steakhouse with one star, that doesn’t tell you anything other than it’s a steakhouse.”
Criticism should come from someone who is on the same journey, someone who respects you, someone who’s engaged in your expertise – that type of criticism is PRICELESS!
Funny the paths that photography leads us.
I photograph what I like. Now the photos could be technically better as I try to minimize the impact of Adobe, et. al. But this is what i can see getting better over time, not necessarily best over time. I like it and can print it, and that is what counts. If I see my dog or cat on a railroad track it means something to me. That’s enough.
Heck, I like Scott’s out of focus photos of referees. Yes, he even autographed one of them for me.
A few years ago I wrote a book that eventually got published. Everything Grodin says is true: I asked for and received valuable feedback from a few “trusted readers” and my editor (who changed the title for the better) provided invaluable input. These were crucial steps and greatly improved the book. But photography is my avocation not my career. I do it for the sheer pleasure of learning new things and improving my skill, which is why I follow you and spend money on your courses, Matt. But I confess that so far I have never asked for feedback in any forum, have never submitted my photos for critique, nor joined a camera club. Perhaps I am being monastic about this and doubtless could improve my skills by asking for feedback from the right people. But at 74 years old, the feedback that matters most at this point in my life is my own.
Fascinating interview. Really makes me stop and think about asking people I don’t know on FB or other social media what they think about my photos. That said, I’m not sure now who I’d ask. But it’s definitely food for thought. Thanks for sharing it.
I agree with your sentiment. Before I ask another person to “evaluate” something I have done or created, I want to be sure that 1) they have my best interest at heart 2) they are qualified to give feedback and 3) they will not only explain what may be good or bad, but suggest steps to improve.
Having said that, I want to say how much I have enjoyed Seth Godin’s work over the years. I have saved many of his quotes. One of my favorites (may not relate directly to this post/comment) is:
“Everyone has an opinion, but no one has a guarantee.” – Seth Godin
Thanks for inspiring this conversation!
So true. We often lean on each other for feedback on our courses. We both know that the reason we are asking is not that we want casual suggestions, but because we need genuine help and we respect each other enough to know that it is a big ask. It takes trust though too, which is huge. Glad we have that.
To piggyback on that for photographers and their work. I have seen what happens when people let their guard down and ask for genuine critiques. It’s incredible how much they grow when they TAKE the advice instead of the offense. Our offense is our option. We can choose to be upset by the advice someone gives us and be offended by it, or we can use it as a learning experience to grow into better photographers.