Kristina’s recent post on her photographic audience got me thinking along similar lines, and I think we have different attitudes to our viewers.
I’m a selfish photographer, all of the photographs I take are really for me. Then why post them online, you say? The only way to improve photography is with dedicated practice, pushing yourself a little bit further as you go. The difficult part with photography is working out if you’re actually improving, and that’s difficult to do on your own.
I’m not saying that the number of magical Internet points a photo acquires provides any sort of correlation with the quality of a photo – a property that is rather subjective anyway – but comments do provide a good source of feedback.
The most useful comments for me are the ones that point out something I wasn’t aware of in my own photo. This can be positive or negative. Things like “The lighting looks a bit unrealistic in the background”, it may hurt my pride in the short term, but it’s something I’ll pay attention to in the future. Positive comments like “The shadows make interesting patterns” will mark that as something I should look out for in future photos.
No-one has a natural talent for photography, getting better is all hard work. It’s all too easy to plateau at a level you’re happy with, one where you generate consistent public-pleasing photos that didn’t require a great deal of effort to create. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. If you’re making a business out of photography, then that’s a good place to be, but if you’re doing this to further your artistic and aesthetic knowledge then sitting at a comfortable level of photography doesn’t help much.
As I’ve improved my own photography I have started to notice more of the subtleties in other peoples’ photographs. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing; on the one hand I appreciate good photographs a lot more, but the counter to that is my quality bar is much higher than it was. Photos I used to think were great are ruined for me when I notice bad framing, distracting elements or fuzziness of concept.
In conclusion, I get something valuable from posting my photos for the world to see, and like Kristina, it’s the feedback from knowledgable photographers that engage with my photos that’s most helpful.
P.S. I’m reading Geoff Colvin’s “Talent is overrated” at the moment which inspired a lot of this post. :)