Importance of Being Told (Nicely) Why Your Images Suck

Joan Genest’s critique of my photo was very detailed, advanced, and done in a very compassionate way. She never says that it sucks. It is a great image that is going to be used for a marketing campaign for the Seymour Fire Department and everyone on social media loved it. And, she points out a lot of things that I should have considered and will be much more likely to consider next time.

Colby McLemore has been blessed with winning numerous awards that could be considered useless.  He is an award-winning photographer, who has won numerous accolades over his career, including Tennessee photographer and East Tennessee Photographer of the Year, and a litany of others. While they have been good to help him build confidence, the awards themselves don’t have much value.

The critiques that one gets with detailed comments and feedback, though, are invaluable. The top winners are the ones that need the intricate criticisms of their work–an incredible value of the professional level competitions. During the competition and immediately after the contest, as well as later, video critique is invaluable. When you hear the critique in the video above, you might feel it was overly critical but such critiques have to be to help skilled photographers.

It is important that the feedback comes from connoisseurs of imagery instead of just the general public. Anyone can get a thumbs up on Facebook. At professional photo contests, only the best photographers can judge and critique. In the competitions I compete in, these judges must be consistent award-winning photographers themselves. They must undergo intensive judging training. It takes this level of ability to have the experience to take on their roles. The more advanced the people entering the competition are, the more advanced those critiques must be.

With this level of feedback, experienced photographers can apply the lessons learned on their next shoots. The more advanced you become, the harder it is to improve. Classes and workshops tend to have less meat than they used to. Learning mainly through experience can be time-consuming and expensive for your clients. Through consistently getting critiques from advanced peers, photographers can develop their craft quickly and efficiently.

OK, maybe the awards themselves are not totally useless. Awards are also great for marketing. You can put out there that you are an award-winning photographer. Although winning any award says something, some competitions are harder to win and more respected in the industry than others. So while awards may have some legitimacy, it is how the feedback affects future work that matters most. This is the real award for consistently doing competitions at a professional level.

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