Caring what other people think of your work can be a hard thing to wrestle with when starting out in photography. In fact, it can be a tricky thing at any point along the photography journey.
But the power to make it easier lies in your hands.
Do you value every like, every share, every person reached and every comment? How do you feel about each engagement, online and offline? This will all be dictated in part by your age and experience of the medium, and in part by your confidence in what stage you’re at with photography.
At the recent Digital Imaging Show in Cardiff, portrait photographer John Denton made an astute point about NOT valuing yourself or your images through social media. Social media provides simple metrics through which you might choose to measure value: success, reach, audience, likes, comments and interactions.
Everyone likes to be liked. It’s a fairly basic human thing. But measuring everything by social media success can be extremely flawed.
Denton described the identifiable scenario of sharing an image online you’re proud of. Perhaps the creative process took some time: organising, composing, capturing and editing. You’re particularly pleased with the final result and really think you nailed it. You can’t resist sharing it in the hope your affection will be shared by your contacts.
After you’ve checked your feed for the tenth time in five minutes, you see someone else has shared a rubbish smartphone picture of their cat and it rapidly gets loads of likes and comments. There the road to madness leads.
It can be difficult not to feel burned and angry at how ridiculously unfair it is. But do not do let the online reaction of others, good or bad or non-existent, affect how you view your work – however hard that might be.
Equally, if you do receive recognition, you do have nice big numbers of followers, retweets and likes: don’t invest too much meaning in it. Sure, it’s nice to see and it can feel gratifying. YES! FINALLY! RECOGNITION! But when it comes to real life outside the internet, it might not actually mean that much. It also doesn’t mean your next update won’t comparatively flatline.
People talk, advocate and evangelise at length about social media and social media success. There are almost as many social media consultants as there are photographers. Take it all with a pinch of salt and find the right approach you’re comfortable with.
[Read: Life Rules – 10 Reasons Why There Aren’t Any]
As much as it’s a liberating force for good, our internet age and social media culture easily promotes feelings of anxiety. This is increasingly accepted and widely written about. It’s a trap that’s all too easy to fall into and worth bearing in mind. Knowing when to turn devices off and take a step back is a difficult but rewarding creative skill, well worth honing.
This blog post started life as a ‘Reasons You Shouldn’t Care Too Much What Strangers Think’. But the Number One reason stood out for me as a single post. (It also meant I could squeeze two posts out of the words.).
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