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Mercredi, 08 Février 2012 14:00

Photographers: Chances Are, You Suck

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Of course, plenty of other times they’d publicly bust your chops, but that was a different time. Before we all became so polite. Back when respect was something earned and not a right of birth.

Do you know that feeling? The one when you’re showing images to someone (perhaps an editor that you were hoping to work with) and you get to that picture, the one that looked perfectly acceptable moments before, but as soon as you show it, you’re filled with regret.

Yeah, I hate that feeling.

There are plenty of things photography-wise that I’m not very good at. I’m not great at creating images, but I’m pretty good at finding them. I’m terrible at self-promoting, marketing and the business stuff makes me squirm. Yet I’m a decent journalist, travel well and strangers often accept me into their lives. (Maybe I’ve got one of those faces).

There’s nothing really exceptional or surprising about that evaluation. It’s fairly common among photojournalists.

So that’s me, those are my strengths and weaknesses. I also publish too many pictures on my websites. I’d look better if I kept the numbers down, but this post isn’t about me. It’s about you and why you suck.

There’s nothing wrong with not being any good at photography. Everybody started out bad and none of us do all aspects of it well. But it’s a crying shame to want to be good at it, to spend time and money trying to be good at it, and not getting any better.

This isn’t like teaching a child to read. Positive reinforcement is your enemy. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers … hate you. Instead of taking 10 seconds to say, “This doesn’t work. You need to do better,” they readily push that “like” button because it’s easy and they hope to get the same from you. But also because they’re cowards.

They’re afraid of the internet mob. Nobody wants to get on the wrong side of a mob, so it’s easier to play nice. Go along to get along seems to be the secret to a happy online life.

The first night before a shoot, I never sleep. It could be something easy, a situation that I know will produce a good image, but that doesn’t help. Fear of failure is a great motivator. The trick is to use it to get as well prepared as you can possibly be, and then ignore it once the shooting starts.

You shouldn’t be afraid of risk, just failure. I suppose that’s another trick.

So how do you become a better photographer when you’re reinforced with so much unearned praise from your interent buddies? What’s your motivation, to get a hundred likes instead of just 10? There’s an easy recipe for that. Start making pictures of cats. Better yet, kittens … kittens and children. You’ll soon be more awesome than you could possible imagine.

I only bring this up, because I stumble upon (as do you) so many Facebook groups (or other social networking sites) that are just filled with hideous images underscored with meaningless praise. I find it depressing. If nothing is bad, can anything be good?

More depressing, Google “great photography.” Better yet, don’t. Some things, once seen cannot be unseen (either me or Gandalf said that first).

There are some sites that are doing an amazing job at publishing great photography. If you want to become a better photographer, look at these sites. When looking at the work, ask yourself, “How would I have approached this situation?” and/or “Would I have done better or worse than this photographer?” Also pay attention to simple technical things, like what shutter speed or aperture was used.

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