When we read books, listen to podcasts, or learn about how to improve— feedback is always one of the key elements.
But I just had a thought: what if we never got any feedback in our photos? Could we truly improve? And would we be happier, or more miserable? How would it change our personal relationship with photography?
Taking a break from uploading to social media
I love to experiment. One of them was to take a break from uploading photos to social media for a few weeks (sometimes months).
What I discovered is this: I focused on making photos to please myself, rather than others. I also found that I was less anxious, stressed, and addicted to always checking the feedback of others. Rather than asking myself, “Do I like the photo” — I would be worried about how many likes, comments, or the type of feedback I would get.
Other concerns: I felt frustrated whenever I uploaded an image that didn’t get as many “likes” as before. This would hamper my creativity, and depress me.
One of the reasons I removed comments from this blog is that it hurt me in two ways. First, whenever I got negative feedback it would put me in a sour or sad mood, which would prevent me from writing further blog entires. Secondly, whenever I got positive feedback I would get hungry and greedy for more positive feedback. And when I didn’t get as many positive comments as I expected, it would disappoint me.
Now I am a lot more productive, focused, and happy with my blogging— because I don’t get feedback on my writing. I write for the sake of writing, because it helps me distill my thoughts, and also to create information that I think will help some people.
I know not all the photos I take, all the videos I record, or all the articles I write will help everybody. It is impossible to please 100% of the people out there. But if I can even please 1% of my audience, that is good enough for me.
Whose opinion really matters to you?
To me, to have a friend sit down with me, over a cup of coffee (or fried chicken and beer, like I did with my buddy Josh White in Korea) and tell me they like my photos, it means more to me than getting thousands of likes on social media.
As humans, we want affirmation, love, and support from others. It is natural. My suggestion is to get that love from those close to you, those who matter to you— rather than strangers (even if they mean well).
And of course, your opinion is the most important of them all. If the internet loves your photos, your friends love your photos, curators love your photos, but you don’t love your photos— is it worth it?
What can you control in your photography?
We can’t control how people will react to our photography. But we can control the effort we put into our photography (how long we shoot, how often we shoot, and what our subject matter is), and we can control which photos to upload (or not to upload).
So my suggestion is this: only focus on the things you can control in your photography.
You can’t control whether people will like your photos or not. You can’t control whether you will get a good shot in a given day (getting a good photo includes skill and luck). You can’t control whether you will get a book deal, a big exhibition, or whether you can make money from your photography.
But you can control whether you enjoy your photographic process. You can control whether you work hard, stay focused, and find joy in making images. You can control your energy and attention to study the master photographers, and to empower yourself with great images.
Whose feedback matters the most?
So friend, my suggestion is this: don’t worry about feedback on your photos from those who don’t matter to you. Get feedback from those whose opinion matters to you. And taking it one step further; only ask for feedback on your photos that you like.
If you have a photo that you don’t like — why ask others if they like it?
Always seek to please yourself first in photography, then others.