To Share or Not to Share?
“Amazing,” Incredible,” Beautiful!” “Love it,” the accolades that can be heaped on an image posted on the web can give you that, ooooooie warm feeling all down under. I wonder, does that really help our photography though? I wonder this in part looking at images that sometimes get posted. You know the ones, you look at them, you look around the room, you look back and them and you simply shake your head. There are simply some images that definitely fit the, “In the eyes of the beholder” category. But with that addictive accolade drug if you hit it right waiting out there, many take the risk when they shouldn’t.
One of the hardest things to do in photography is be our own best critic. Ever wonder why that is? Ever wonder why a year after you look at your favorite image it is often not you favorite so much anymore? They are all wrapped up in the same issue, our own emotions! Yeap, we have an emotional investment with our photography and that’s how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to put our passion in each pixel to the point it reaches out and grabs the hearts of others. In that process though, something at times goes wrong. Our emotional tie to our photograph causes the blinders to come on.
Picking the images to share and those not to share is a hard learned lesson. It’s one that takes a whole bunch of time to master, if mastering is even possible. What was for such a long time referred to as editing images, the term editing is now more often thought of as post processing, rather than selecting those images that best tell a story, grab the heart. But editing is what a lot of posters need to learn.
Where do you learn this? Now we’re getting down to the $64mil question. While we love our families, they are not the best judge of a good photograph. Many put images into contests, which might be some valid measure but having been a judge in a few contests, I have my doubts. Having your images critiqued has always been a very popular method of getting feedback. That’s only if you can put away the hurt feelings, really hear what’s being said and then remember to act on what you’ve learned. So you might be asking then if these aren’t so hot, what is a good way to get feedback you need about your images?
I have two suggestions and I’m here to tell you that following them means grabbing the bull by the horns and going for one helluva a ride (hence my bull moose photos with the blog). Both of these methods require time, money and a real open mind. They require being honest with yourself, parking your emotional investment in the photo (not to be confused with the passion you put into the photo) and really listening to the reactions your photos bring.
The first way I’d recommend is a simple gallery showing. I’m not talking about trying to get your images in a gallery, but rather getting them on the wall at a restaurant, bakery, library or airport. Spend the time and money on getting that wall space, picking the images, getting the prints, getting them framed and then, and this is the important part, sit in the corner and watch the viewer’s reaction to your images! Ya, with pencil and paper watch the reactions or, lack or reactions to your photographs. And with both, figure out what is getting reaction and what isn’t. This is hard, I did it for years and while it taught me some things, I’m still learning.
The best way as far as I’m concern can really hurt the most, but it pays the biggest dividends. And that’s putting your images in front of those masters of visual communicating. The editorial photo editors are the best teachers when it comes to images that reach out and grab viewers. And they are the best, though at times very brutal, to tell you why your images don’t work. And that’s where the lessons lie, some of the very best in the world. Of course, this means you have to learn how to get your images to those folks in the first place and that is a whole other story for another day, or week.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to encourage you to keep sharing your photography and if that means you do it on the web, that’s killer! What I want to encourage you though is to share those special images, go with the quality over quantity approach. An editor told me long ago, “You’re only as good as your last published image,” a quote I always think about when putting out images. It’s a natural way to keep raising your own bar to put your best foot forward.