Criticisms & Curation

Low Sun over Tetons Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E4 & 90mm – “Ferrania Solaris FG 400

I receive a lot of feedback—while most of it is positive, some of it is negative. Negative feedback isn’t inherently bad—in fact, it can be extraordinarily valuable—so I’m happy to receive it; however, not all of it is equal: there’s constructive criticism and destructive criticism.

Just guessing, about 70% of the negative feedback could be classified as destructive criticism, which is simply a put-down. It’s negativity for the sake of negativity. It’s meant to make the person saying it feel better about themselves by way of making someone else (me in this case) feel worse about themselves. People are mean sometimes, and that’s just the way it is. The world needs less destructive criticism and more kindness—the antidote is to be the kindness that the world desperately needs.

Constructive criticism is negative feedback that is meant well and is given with the intention of being helpful. Roughly 30% of negative feedback is constructive criticism. Within this, there are two sources: those who you should listen to and those who you shouldn’t. Just because someone has a complaint about something and they mean well doesn’t mean that you should listen to them. Do you trust them? Are they an authority or have some specific experience that makes them particularly qualified to offer quality advice? I would estimate that it is fifty-fifty on whether the constructive criticism is something valuable or not. That 15% of negative feedback that is constructive and from a trustworthy source is pure gold and much appreciated—well worth weeding through the 85% that isn’t.

Sometimes there are grey areas. Sometimes it’s not clear if the criticism is constructive or destructive, or whether the source is someone I should listen to or not. I tend to spend a lot of energy on these criticisms because I’m trying to figure out if there is value in it. So I have to process it. One such “grey area” criticism that I recently received is this: the pictures in one of my articles were not good enough for the words and subject—the article demanded better pictures to illustrate the point, and because the pictures weren’t good enough, I shouldn’t have published the article. Ouch!

Teton Blue – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E4 & 90mm – “Velvia v2

One thing that I’ve always struggled with is curation. Advice that I’ve received over and over and over again is that I should only show the best of the best photographs. If you only show the absolute cream-of-the-crop pictures, people will think you’re a better photographer. Perception is reality, right? People will think you’re a great photographer if all of the photographs of yours that they view are great. But if they start seeing mediocre images, they’ll think you are a mediocre photographer. The truth is that everyone—even the greatest photographers—captures “lesser” pictures sometimes, but some people don’t share those pictures, so nobody knows.

I think sometimes showing these mediocre pictures is more authentic and honest. I’m not sure where the line should drawn when trying to balance perception with vulnerability. Obviously you want people to think the best of you; however, if what you let them see is too carefully curated then you’ll come across as fake, or you’ll leave people disappointed if they do ever find out the truth. I find this to be a tough balancing act. I share more of my frames than most people do, and perhaps I do show too many “lesser” pictures, and that might not be good.

Because I share some of my mediocre pictures with you on this website, I’m able to publish more content. If I waited until I had 12 or more great photographs before publishing a Film Simulation Recipe, I’d have far, far fewer recipes. That’s always a struggle: quality vs. quantity. I have a large quantity of material, but have I not focused enough on quality? Have I sacrificed quality too often for the sake of quantity? Does the quality make the content relatable? These are questions that I ask myself, but I don’t have good answers to them. I hope that I can continuously review and refine what I do, and hopefully this website becomes better and better with time.

Am I not curating enough? I’m I publishing too much content too quickly? What is the right balance? I have to really consider these things. Perhaps these are questions you, too, are pondering. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if this is something you are working through yourself or have had to work through in the past. If you have criticisms, please try to make them constructive and not destructive, but I definitely want to hear your feedback, so leave me a note in the comments!

49 comments

  1. Bob_in_MA · April 24

    Ritchie,
    Since what your doing is providing us with an idea of how a simulation renders various subjects in various situations, its advantageous for us to see both what works and what doesn’t.

    If you were showing a portfolio to potential clients, of course you’d be choosier.

    Definitely, the more the better.

    Like

    • Matt · April 24

      Totally agree with this. There is a time and place for everything. If you’re building a portfolio, less is more. If you’re testing new recipes, more is more.

      Great photographers don’t waste their time leaving negative, nonconstructive feedback on people’s photos. You’re right when you say those people are just trying to feel better about themselves.

      Keep up the awesome work! Your film recipes have been a huge help 🙂

      Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

        I think, as I’ve had more time to consider this, that the criticism was destructive and not constructive. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to strive for better photography. I hope that I am always improving. Thank you for your input!

        Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      This website definitely isn’t meant to be a portfolio, but practical help. Hopefully it is. I appreciate your feedback!

      Like

      • Daan · April 27

        Going through all these comments I don’t think I have anything new to add. But to show my support I will publish a reaction:

        I use your sample photos as inspiration. Sure, some of it might not be your best work, but who cares? If I go on a afternoon walk or spent a day at the veggie garden with the family I take a lot of pictures myself, most of them are definitely not my best work, but they give me an opportunity to try new recipes. In short, just here to say: keep up the good work. Even the more mediocre pictures serve a purpose.

        Regards,
        Daan

        Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · May 4

        Thank you so much for your kindness! I don’t even pretend that I am a great photographer (because I am not), and when I have a camera in my hands I’m not expecting to capture great images (although on a rare occasion I might, subjectively speaking), but I try to be creative and capture interesting pictures nonetheless. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. I imagine that a lot of people can relate. I’m honored if my pictures provide you some sort of inspiration. Thank you!

        Like

  2. Alexander · April 24

    Ritchie,
    I’m looking at your sample photos only as samples. I never try to analyze it from the art of photo perspective. I analize it only as the result of JPG conversion and make a decision do I like it and would I use it in my work.
    I think you should not listen to these aesthetics which tell you that they don’t like your photos.
    Thank you for your great job!

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      Thank you for your input! I think maybe it’s important for me to understand what exactly the target audience for each article is. After all, you cannot please everyone, but I need to make sure that my content is at least to the standard of those who it is intended for. I think most of the time I succeed, and some of the time I don’t. There’s always room for improvement.

      Like

  3. jkwatrousgmailcom · April 24

    I think in the use case of your articles, quantity and variety of photographs is more important than quantity. Show us how the simulation looks in a variety of settings.

    The folks critiquing the quality of the photographs could, and I think should, take it as a personal challenge to prove to themselves that they can do better with that simulation. If they can, great. If they can’t, that’s a result too.

    Perhaps it would be useful to provide folks a chance to post an image in the comments for a simulation that they made using that simulation. The internet being what it is, though, that would require curation—though perhaps it’s possible to make it a perk for those who pay for the subscription and so people would be less anonymous and more accountable for the images they post.

    Personally, I’m a grateful subscriber to this site. I only use one of your simulations (Kodachrome 64) but see the site as a source of ideas and inspiration that I’m happy to pay to support.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      I like the idea of sharing pictures. That’s something that I would love to implement, but definitely tricky.
      I think it’s important for me to try hard, and do my best, but also keep expectations in check: I’m me, and not someone else, and so my photographs will not look like those by others, nor should they; however, that should never be an “excuse” to be lazy.
      I appreciate your input and support!

      Like

  4. Henry · April 24

    Hi Richie, we all take lots of not-so-wonderful photos, so if a few of yours fall into that category that makes us all feel better! In any case your central point is to illustrate a particular recipe SOOC, to give us all a chance to evaluate it, and ask ourselves “would I like this particular look in MY not-so-wonderful photos?”
    You’re doing a great job – please keep it up! Henry

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      Thank you for your kind comment. I hope that my pictures are generally “good” but I do know that I have room for improvement. I hope that they get better with time. What I wonder is if I should produce less content, and include better photographs with the content that I release (curate more), or if I am already on the right track (keep my current curation standards).

      Like

  5. Evan Pegler · April 24

    I think it’s definitely more helpful to include what could potentially be defined as a “mediocre” photo when depicting new film simulation recipes. That way we can get an idea of the overall aesthetic of the recipe with less potential to be distracted by a really great composition or intriguing subject, etc.  As far as constructive criticism goes, my only request would be more recipes for the X-Trans II sensors, as I’m cheap and only own and XT-1 and XE-2S!I would love something like an X-Pro 2 but they’re still out of my price range with the in demand used prices. Thanks for the frequent content and recipes!

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      I appreciate your input! I was working on a couple X-Trans II recipes when my X-T1 got a big spot on the sensor. It needs to be cleaned, so I got to get that done, hopefully soon. Thank you for your kindness!

      Like

  6. justingould · April 24

    I know exactly how you feel, Ritchie. I’ve been creating recipes myself (very definitely inspired by your work), and I have agonised about publishing them. I’ve now started a modest film recipes site of my own, but I am pretty sure I’ll get exposed as a photographic idiot, with recipes that only I enjoy.
    I’ve had to come to a position of comfort in that, and that I only have so much time to take samples, and there will be many conditions and subject types I just won’t cover. I’m going withthe approach that it’s free and people can make their own judgements, but I do hope that it doesn’t generate a lot of negativity.
    As for your site, I think it’s excellent, and the range of shots you take do more than enough to help people see what a recipe can do. From there on, it’s all on them to give them a try.

    Like

  7. Steven Smith · April 24

    I think the people criticising some of your photos are missing the point of them when they are a part of a film simulation article. Surely the image in one of these articles is to show the film simulation not the actual subject matter. If the image is high quality so much the better but when I am looking at the images I am looking at the look and feel of the film simulation and whether it’s a look and feel I would like to use to make images of my own.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      Thank you! What if it’s not a film simulation recipe? Do you find the pictures on this website to be at least adequate for the articles you read? Have you ever read on article here and thought the pictures weren’t good enough? I genuinely would like to hear your opinion on this. I appreciate your feedback!

      Like

      • Steven Smith · April 26

        I actually really enjoy your photography. You have a real talent for making what on the surface look like simple compositions into really interesting images. For example one of your images that I really like is Riding around the cones from the cross process article, the composition and use of focus really appeal’s to my sense of ascetics. Keep up the great work and remember negative criticism is usually spawned from jealousy.

        Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · May 4

        Thank you! A photographic interest of mine is to make interesting pictures of ordinary subjects that others might overlook. My family calls them “Ritchie pictures” lol. I appreciate your kindness!

        Like

  8. David · April 24

    Very well said, “and as you say that’s the way it is”
    However, when I am challenged negatively face to face, I always ask the question “how would you do it”?
    About five percent or less attempt to put forward a constructive answer. Most change the subject rapidly!
    This seems to align with your experience.

    This has happened over past decades, my considered conclusion is, what you are hearing is a repeat of something read in the media or on social media. Unfortunately we seem to have lost the ability to gather information and have our own opinions. Brains seem unconnected to reality!

    Reading your article, I do feel your pain, but how do we change the world?

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 25

      I don’t think that you can change the world, because “haters gonna hate” and negative people are negative, but I can choose to be kind, and you can, too, and that makes the world better. If enough people infuse kindness into their sphere of influence, it can make a noticeable difference. More kindness is always better. I appreciate your input!

      Like

  9. Walter · April 24

    Just keep doing what you are doing. Any growth that would be to come, will come. We are benefiting from your work here.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Randy Kirk · April 25

    Richie I like your photos just as they are! The main point of your blog posts, I figure, are to illustrate how the scenes and people you’ve photographed are rendered by the film recipes. And if some of your pics happen to look subjectively nicer than others you’ve chosen.. BONUS!

    Like

  11. The images in the recipe posts are to illustrate the settings that make up the film you are emulating. The fact that people are rude and ugly is just part of the ugliness of being online. Hopefully we can encourage you and help you see that you are feeling a spot in photography that is not only fun but needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ken Walker · April 25

    High Ritchie,

    No need to worry about the downright negative criticisms that you may get. As you say, possibly just people trying to make theirselves feel better about their own situation. That’s in everything, not just photography in my experience and I’ve never understood why they bother to respond in that way. Maybe their lives are unfulfilled or they haven’t thought through their comment before sending it, but in truth I think there is an element of dissatisfaction and nastiness that has crept into society these days that is just plain destructive. Some folk just get a kick out of abusing people, even if they don’t see the result. I think even positive criticism could be kinder sometimes.

    Keep up the good work because most people are appreciative of any help or advice they can get in photography, or indeed any aspect of life when it is so well intentioned on the part of the giver.

    Best regards

    Ken Walker

    Romford, UK

    >

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 3

      It’s hard to know why. I mean, if they can do it better, then do it. It’s probably more just being negative just to be negative, which ultimately is a reflection on themselves.

      Like

  13. Onno · April 25

    Totally agree with the above comments. Just keep on doing what you are doing, Ritchie. It’s wonderful. The purpose of the recipes is to show what they do with pictures; they’re not a showcase for an exhibition. Ans lots of your shots I really like, anyway! Your frustration with all the trolls on the Internet is clear and I fully relate to it; I wonder time and again why some people are so f&%$ negative all the time. Don’t let these small and mean people bring you down, though. As my kids would say to them: “seems like a “you problem”” 🙂

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 3

      I appreciate your kindness and encouragement! Interestingly, this website has been fairly troll-free since the beginning. Not immune, but definitely (and thankfully) sheltered somehow. Thank you for your comment!

      Like

  14. viewpix · April 25

    This is a problem homemade by photographing people. We cavort in online communities among ourselves and want to be painted on our stomachs. It is not easy for us to classify the people next to us better than ourselves.

    I think that’s not the case in other communities. A photo model is more likely to become a solo Instagram star than compare herself to many competing models in a Facebook group 😉

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 3

      It would definitely be better if everyone compared themselves to others a little less, and also compared others to others less. Everyone is different, and that’s good.

      Like

  15. Adrian D. · April 26

    I assume most people are here for film simulations. Just got an XS10; this is among 1st website that i visited. I’m here for sim simulations. Idea: maybe people could ‘post’ their pics with your simulation?!

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 4

      You are right! By a large margin, the film simulation recipe articles get the most views. That’s mostly what this website is about. I love the idea of being able to share pictures, but it’s not an easy thing to implement. Maybe someday, though. Thank you for your suggestion!

      Like

  16. theleshallll · April 26

    I’ve always liked this quote by Yogananda

    “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.”
    Paramahansa Yogananda

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Rudolf Remspoor · April 27

    Seeing all the comments on this article, I don’t think I have anything new to add. But I wanted to show my support anyway.

    Personally, I come here (and bought a subscription to the app) for the wonderful recipes and inspiration on how to use them. I really don’t care if the pictures you post with the articles reflect your best work, they are more than adequate enough. Besides, if I go on a morning or an evening walk or use my camera at the veggie garden with the kids (those scenery’s are a lot less photogenic than your scenery) I’m pretty sure most of the pictures do not reflect my best work (and I think this goes for a lot of people), but it’s fun to use the recipes in different scenario’s. I would not worry about it. Please, keep up the good work.

    Regards,
    Daan

    Like

  18. Francis.R. · April 29

    You are getting lazy after being mentioned in Ken Rockwell’s web, Rithie. By now we should have a Fujifilm X100R (Ritchie edition), where it is?
    LOL, just kidding. I have just read that comment, is trolling. Is not even destructive commentary, just mocking photographers. As a Peruvian we are used to roast each other. If that man had commented me that way I had replied indicating that the good technicalities of such lens of course wouldn’t be able to discern for somebody whose photographs surely are made through dual-sim Chinese knock-offs of smartphones, and whose definition of art probably is limited to close-ups of Kim Kardashian buttocks. I don’t spend serious answers to non-serious persons. I know this attitude can be difficult for a generous and kind man as yourself, from a more civilized country. Said that you are an artist, the way you get to play the camera like an harp to make it sing the way your mind foresee is something that very few people could get to do. I am sure the engineers that did the camera would have difficulties to do the same; and your photographs are expressive in a blog which, if photos weren’t engaging nor expressive of the film simulations, wouldn’t have an audience growing as Ken Rockwell’s family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 4

      Wow! I love the humor, blunt truth, and incredible kindness of this comment. Thank you!
      An interesting thing about the Ken Rockwell stuff. Someone told me (to the effect of), “I’ve known Ken for years, and many people have tried to get him to bite, but he rarely does. You got him to without even trying!” I know people either love or hate him, but I’m still shocked and honored that he actually tried one of my film simulation recipes. It still blows my mind.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Jerry L Reiter · April 29

    Richie, I am a grateful follower of your work with Fujifilm cameras. your website and all the content is a goldmine to those of us using multiple Fuji Cameras. what makes your recipes so helpful is the pictures you include. They provides a visual of what the recipe will look like in the different X Trans sensors. Many of the images are excellent, some are not meant for a photo book, but they do shed light on what you are trying to share with us – What the recipe with render with different scenes . I for one do not like every recipe, but without your photos how would i know which to try. thank you for all the hard work you do to help us be better photographers.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 4

      Thank you! Definitely not every recipe is for everyone, but I hope that everyone has a recipe that is for them. And I hope the pictures help in some way in people’s decisions of which to try and which to skip past. I appreciate your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Allen · May 1

    While there are criticisms, there are some praises and admires too. All the mind of the people like me, tend to just focus on negatives. Anyway, just keep going. In the forum that fujifilm was discussed, your receipes were well mentioned.

    Like

  21. raki2015 · May 1

    My opinion on the subject of photo quality.
    I think ultimately the photos are there for illustration and should not represent a selection of masterful photos. I find the type and quantity of photos for this purpose very good. If there is a masterpiece among them, so much the better.

    Like

  22. majortomg · May 4

    The photos are here to serve a purpose, to demonstrate the look of the recipe, and they do a great job of that. Plenty of them turn out to be really nice photos too!

    Just today I took your Nostalgic Negative recipe out for a spin to see what it looked like (very nice indeed!), as I can’t decide what recipe to use when I go on holiday in a couple of weeks (I like to stay consistent for the whole trip if I can). None of the photos I took today are of particular artistic merit, and I was not building a portfolio, but they did the job for the sake of demonstrating how the recipe handles for my use. That’s all that was required.

    I think I read the comments from a certain Confederate flag waver a couple of articles back. I wouldn’t even reply to muppets like him if I were you. Nobody needs to read that, and nobody would judge you for deleting such obviously destructive crap like that altogether. This is your corner of the internet and we all appreciate it!

    Anyway, I’m off to hover over the order button of a 33mm F1.4. Keep up the great work! Nobody is doing it like you.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 7

      Lol! I’ve been hovering over that order button since I had to send the lens back. I appreciate your advice and encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

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