A pretty radical idea I have: I don’t think there are any objectively “good” or “bad” photos– it is all interpretation.
1. Why do you care what others think of your photos?
First of all, if you care what others think about your photos, you are a slave. A slave to the opinions of others.
Why do you care what others think of your photos? You should be the final arbiter and judge of your own photos.
Only you can decide what a good or bad photo is.
2. I hate sunset photos.
Let me give you an example,
You can make a photo of the most beautiful sunset, and share it with Eric.
Eric (who hates sunset photos) will say:
I don’t like your photo.
Now, it doesn’t mean your photo is bad. That just means Eric has his own bias. He prefers urban, street photos. He doesn’t really like nature photos.
3. Not everyone likes street photography.
Another example, you make an incredible street photograph.
You share it on a landscape or nature forum.
You might have folks who dislike your photo. Not because it is good or bad. But because they don’t like urban street photos.
Lesson: Know who your audience is.
4. Color vs black and white?
Another example: some people prefer color, others prefer black and white.
Therefore, even if you make the most beautiful color photo, yet your viewer doesn’t like color photos, they won’t like your photo.
Or let’s say, your viewer is color blind. Then they will never be able to appreciate your art.
5. Some people can’t taste all flavors.
Cooking example: some people don’t have a developed palette. Some people literally cannot taste certain sour tastes, sweet tastes, or bitter.
Therefore you can make the most incredible meal, yet if your customer doesn’t have a good sense of taste, they cannot appreciate the great food you cooked.
6. Some people are racist.
Going back to photography, let’s say you make a beautiful portrait of a black person. But your viewer is a racist who hates black people. No matter how beautiful the photo is, your viewer won’t like it.
7. Only trust yourself
Okay, so I think we have established the fact that ultimately whether a photograph is judged “good” or “bad” is based on the taste of your viewer.
Some people like vanilla ice cream, others like chocolate. Some people don’t like ice cream at all.
So even realize, there are some people in the world who don’t even like photography. Some art critics don’t recognize photography as “art.”
My suggestion: ignore everyone else.
8. You can only please yourself.
I still respect and admire the feedback of Cindy, and a few of my friends regarding my photography.
But ultimately, “good” or “bad” photos is just my personal judgement.
You can never make a photo that will get 100% admiration from all 7 billion people on the planet.
So if you’re seeking to please everyone with your photos, you will just end up making McDonald’s Images– easily consumable, cheap, and lacking vision.
Or another food analogy: you will make pizza photos. (Almost) everyone likes pizza. But then, you will still upset low-card and gluten-free folks like me.
So the solution is this:
Only judge your own photos as good or bad.
You will gain 100% freedom in your photography.
To be honest, if you want maximum artistic freedom of your photos, don’t share on social media. Why? Let’s say you shoot nude photos, you cannot upload them directly to Facebook or Instagram, without black bars on genitals.
10. But how do I improve?
For me, I still try to improve my photography. I seek to improve and get better.
But I only judge myself.
For example, some strategies that have helped me improve my photography:
- Avoid boredom: If my photos are boring me, it means I’m not growing. So seek to make harder photos, that are less boring to me.
- Make photos that scare me: I don’t know what a good or bad photo will be. But I know photos that scare me.
- Visual complexity: I’m trying more untraditional compositions, to as Cindy says, “fux wit it.” Meaning, avoiding boring symmetrical shots. To tilt the camera, and integrate more “Dutch Angles” and diagonals into my photos.
It also means increasing the intensity or difficulty. Like adding weight to your maximum deadlift. Or doing one-handed push-ups, or doing more chin-ups than you can do in the past.
11. Don’t quantify your photography progress
Another tip: don’t measure your progress in terms of numbers.
Avoid social media like numbers, comment numbers, and follower numbers to “quantify” your progress.
Only follow your gut.
Conclusion: Why do you make photos?
For more inspiration pick up PHOTO JOURNAL: to track your personal photography, to meditate on why you make photos.
Ultimately for me, photography is this Zen experience– where I find more appreciation in being alive. And to find more fun and curiosity in life.
If you’re new to photography, start here:
- Free Photography Bootcamp
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography
- 100 Photography Tips for Beginners
- The 5 Minute Photographer
- A-Z: PHOTOGRAPHY DICTIONARY by ERIC KIM
- Why I Want to Be a Photography Newbie Forever
- PHOTOGRAPHY FLUX.
- 10 Creative Photography Assignments to Re-Inspire You
- 50 Photography Tips by ERIC KIM
The Fundamentals of Photography
- GET CLOSER.
- Keep or Ditch?
- What Makes a Good Photo?
- Why Photography?
- Everyone is a Photographer
- How to take better pictures
- How to take better selfies
- How to Paint With Light
- Why Bokeh is Overrated
- What is the Perfect Camera For You?
- What to Consider When Buying a Camera
- More Megapixels, More Problems
- How to Take Better Photos
- How to Capture Emotion in Your Photos
- How to Create a “Curiosity Gap” in Your Photos
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- 40 Practical Photography Assignments
- 15 Street Photography Assignments
- 25 Photography New Year’s Resolutions
- Street Photography Contact Sheets
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume II
- Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”
- Each Photo You Take is an “Attempt”
- How to Overcome Photographer’s Block
- Why Do You Need “Inspiration” to Shoot?
- How to Edit Your Photos
- Grain is Beautiful
- Are Filters “Cheating” in Photography?
- Video: Introduction to Editing, Processing, and Workflow in Lightroom
How to Create a Body of Work
Technical Photography Settings
Take your street photography to the next level:
- August 27 (Friday): SEATTLE MASTER STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP - [NOW LIVE!]
- September 11 (Saturday): DOWNTOWN LA ADVANCED STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP - [NEW!]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.