Our whole adolescent lives we do work for other people, well most of us do, except all those rebels out there. I’m looking at you: cast from the Outsiders. When we’re in grade school, we do our assignments to try and please our teachers. We want to see that look from them that says “good job, you did a wonderful book report.” We rush home with our report card, if it’s a good one, to please our parents. Or when we would do something we were proud of we would run to our mom or dad to show them. You see it when you’re out somewhere, and you hear, “mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, look at me, mom mom mom, look over here, mom mom” and then when the mother finally looks over the kid does something with a proud look on their face. Not everyone will admit it at that age, but everyone, including the greasers, are just looking for approval. This continues for much of our lives, approval from bosses, spouses, and peers. But there are some things you need to do for you.
The great thing about photography is that it’s totally subjective. I’m sure you look through magazines thinking, how did those images make the cut? Personally, I have no interest in sports photography, while I appreciate and respect those who can do it, it just isn’t for me…. but some people love it. You see it quite a bit with wedding & portrait photography. Someone will show images on Facebook and the comment list is extensive, with comments like “great capture” “such a wonderful photo”, and you’re sitting there thinking “that is just awful”. But with so many different people with so many different personalities, taste will not always be the same. Most people can not stand Bob Dylan’s voice, but I find it soothing. They’ll never be able to enjoy his skills as a songwriter because they won’t be able to get past that whine in his voice. All these different opinions are great. How boring would it be if everyone liked the same thing & believed in the same principles. If we liked all the same images, movies, music, food etc, there would be no diversity in our lives. Which is why when someone doesn’t like your work, or even when someone loves your work, you need to remember that it is only one opinion. Don’t base everything you do on someone else’s opinion. Sure if someone you greatly respect shoots down your work, it can be difficult to recover from that. While it is not something that is easy to hear, realizing it is only one opinion is a necessary skill to adopt if you are going to be successful and happy doing photography. Many photographers will be rejected many times over before landing a job they want, but it is that belief in their work to keep meeting with clients and pushing a portfolio that they believe in that eventually lands them the job they want. They learn what they can from the rejection, and take it with them as they continue on their path.
I find it very interesting how tastes can change over time. When I first got into photography I thought I was doing these awesome ground breaking photos where I would take shots of a night scene, leave the shutter open, and have these streaks of light from the cars rushing through my image. Come to find out everyone does this when they first start out… imagine my surprise. (Probably the same feeling Nickleback had when they first heard Creed) but, at the time, I was really enjoying those images and trying to find different ways to do it. Looking back at those images now, I’m not crazy about them, but in some way it is all part of who I am today. We are shaped by our experiences, and everything we experience through our life leads up to shaping who we are at this very moment. You need to go through every process you can when you’re starting out and learn from it all. People don’t generally start out doing only one type of photography. They’ll shoot landscapes, portraits, sports, macro images, shoot at night, during the day, trying to find their path. It is all the experience you gain when doing all these different types of images that shapes who you are as a photographer. I grew up playing sports 10-12 months a year, as did my brother. When I got into photography I would go watch him play & would occasionally take my camera. While I did get some images that I enjoy, it was through those experiences that I learned I did not throughly enjoy taking sports images. Experience is the greatest learning tool we have as human beings, and as photographers.
Whether you’re on a hired shoot or just out shooting for fun you have to be creating images that you enjoy. If it’s for a client you have to remember that you were hired because of your work they’ve seen. They have confidence in your style and technique and you should too. Yes you need to please your client, but you can’t always be asking them what they think, or be thinking about what they would like. You need to exude confidence in your work and believe in what you’re doing. If you’re just out shooting for fun, create images that you will enjoy. With all the online avenues available to show images, photographer’s will sometimes get blinded by comments, both good and bad. If you are setting up a certain shot don’t allow the thoughts of “well maybe I shouldn’t take this because John Doe didn’t like the last image I shot in this style.” Did you like the image? If the answer is yes, then really, that’s all that matters. While it is important to take other opinions into account, in the end, it is only your opinion that matters. Same goes for good comments you’ll receive. If you pay too much attention to the good comments you’ll find yourself making images for others. Hoping that you’ll have continuous approval by creating something that “they” will like. If you’re editing and you decide to leave out an image because you think others won’t like it, but you love it, you need to rethink why you got in to photography.
In this world you will never please everyone, and trying to is both mentally & creatively exhausting. You will find yourself lost in your craft and you will lose sight of what you truly love. Yes it is important to get feedback & learn from comments, but in the end you need to be creating images that move you, and that you believe in. We all want approval and we all want our work to be appreciated, but wouldn’t you rather be getting approval for images YOU are proud of?